By Emmanuel Aziken
It had been believed that the pause in the faceoff over the choice of the minority leadership of the House of Representatives would over time heal through a political solution.
After all, time heals wounds. However, a pointer to the contrary emerged last weekend when the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in a terse communique disowned the Ndudi Elumelu led minority caucus of the House of Representatives.
It is the worst relationship between a major party and its National Assembly caucus since the onset of the Fourth Republic in 1999.
Not even the crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC at the onset of the 8th National Assembly in 2015 has been compared to the development in the House of Representatives between the PDP and the leadership of the minority caucus.
A statement issued by Mr. Kola Ologbondinyan, the party spokesman penultimate Friday had rekindled the issue when it reiterated the suspension of Elumelu and those the party alleged collaborated to sabotage its plans for the House leadership.
The party had deposed thus:
“That the suspension placed on some PDP Members who connived with others to supplant the Party decision with regards to Party positions in the House is subsisting and has not been lifted.
“That the suspended members of the Party cannot therefore conduct any business of the Party at whatever level until disciplinary measures have been concluded.
“That the National Working Committee (NWC) in its wisdom, knowing that nature abhors a vacuum and consistent with its position on the matter which has not changed, directed that the affairs of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives be organized and managed by: Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Hon. Yakubu Barde, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema and Hon. Muraina Ajibola.”
Those who were suspended alongside Elumelu were Wole Oke, Lynda Ikpeazu, Anayo Edwin, Gideon Gwadi, Toby Okechukwu and Adekoya Abdul-Majid.
They were all alleged to have been engaged in subverting the party’s nominations for the minority leadership positions in the House.
The PDP had nominated the quartet of Chinda, Barde, Onyema and Ajibola to fill the four positions available to the minority in the House leadership. However, Elumelu had emerged from consultations with other minority parties in the House and was accepted by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to the fury of the PDP.
The PDP’s action was to slap the suspension on Elumelu and his cohorts. A move by party elders mostly former presiding officers of the National Assembly derailed after Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State accused the high powered committee including Senators David Mark, Adolphus Wabara, Ibrahim Mantu, among others of corruption.
However, besides this festering issue, the PDP national leadership is also piqued by the open role Elumelu and his associates played in betraying the party’s position against the emergence of Gbajabiamila as Speaker.
It was perceived that it was to slight the PDP that Gbajabiamila was quick to endorse the leadership of Elumelu.
As Ologbondinyan said:
“The PDP under our leadership will not reward disloyalty and will not allow anyone other than the party to impose their choices on us with the sole aim of annihilating or stifling the voice of the opposition.”
The Elumelu leadership has following the latest statement of the party on the issue been seeking to build peace with the party and at the same time projecting the reasons for what the party saw as betrayal.
The Elumelu leadership has on its part sought to present the fact that no single party no matter how big has the monopoly of presenting the leadership of the minority caucus.
Responding through his special adviser on legal matters, Oyorima Idahosa, Elumelu observed that the election of the minority leadership caucus followed the constitutional procedure.
He particularly drew reference to Order 7 Rule 8 which states that “Members of the Minority Parties in the House shall nominate from among them, the Minority Leader, Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Leader, and Deputy Minority Whip”.
“This, the overwhelming majority of the Minority Caucus comprising nine political parties (PDP, APGA, ADC, LP, SDP, PRP, AA, APM, ADP) did, and communicated their decision to the Speaker in a letter dated 2nd July 2019 and signed by over 100 members of the 147-Member Caucus.
“By parliamentary rules persons so elected become the leaders of the party caucuses in the legislature. While the party can guide their elected Members through the zoning of various Minority leadership offices, it is not in the place of the party, by the provisions of the Constitution, House Standing Rule, and parliamentary traditions, to appoint or foist Minority or Majority Caucus leadership on its Members.
“The conduct of the lawmakers in choosing their leaders therefore falls within the framework of the spirit, ideals, beliefs and underlining principles of the PDP and our founding fathers, who championed the enthronement of the tenets of democratic practice in Nigeria.”
The PDP’s response is perceived to be a result of the party’s frustration in stopping the emergence of Gbajabiamila as Speaker. The party’s frustration was not helped by the lack of coordination and incapacity to rein in its members many of who took front roles in the campaign for Gbajabiamila’s emergence.
It would be recalled that a similar attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to foist leadership of the Majority Caucus on the National Assembly in 2015 could not stand as such obnoxious action was vehemently resisted by the Senate, which stuck to the list of elected leaders of the Majority Caucus submitted by APC Senators.
It is thus surprising while the PDP is engaged in fighting what is obviously a battle it cannot win in the face of the law and the rules of the National Assembly. This is against the fact that a similar fight by the All Progressives Congress, APC to foist its own list of leaders on the Senate in 2015 was frustrated and came to nothing.