DEMOCRACIES thrive on checks and balances. In the absence of formidable opposition a multi-party democracy can transform into a one party-dominated state, which is a prelude to misgovernance, civilian dictatorship and instability.
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The protracted crisis in the Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives, should worry all democracy stakeholders. At the centre of the crisis was the refusal of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to adopt the list of House members recommended by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, as officials of the Minority Caucus.
The party had recommended the quartet of Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, Hon. Yakubu Barde, and Hon. Muraina Ajibola as Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip, and Deputy Minority Whip. This move was despite the fact that the 147-strong Minority Caucus also comprises eight other political parties in the House.
Some 111 of the members, including elements from the PDP, met separately and adopted the quartet of Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (Minority Leader), Hon. Toby Okechukwu (Deputy Minority Leader), Hon. Gideon Gwani (Minority Whip), and Hon. Adesegun Adekoya (Deputy Minority Whip).
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila recognised the leaders elected by the Minority Caucus. The development has pitched the leadership of the Minority Caucus against the PDP leadership, leading to a communication gap and lack of effective opposition in the House of Representatives.
While the PDP vows sanctions against the Elumelu-led Minority Caucus, Speaker Gbajabiamila’s House leadership is also threatening sanctions against Hon Chinda for claiming the status of Minority Leader.
PDP should realise that it needs a united front in the House to bounce back in providing effective opposition. Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution unmistakably permits the Senate or House of Representatives to regulate its procedure. Also, Order 7 Rule 8 of the House Standing Rule clearly provides 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.”
Whereas the PDP or any party may have their preferred candidates for such offices, it should always toe the path of democracy and the rule of law by lobbying its members towards electing such persons. Where lobbying fails, it must abide by members’ popular choices, more so when the opposition is a conglomerate of many other political parties.
The PDP leadership must quickly resolve the differences among its members in the House of Representatives because the months ahead require a strong, united opposition to stand against unpopular legislations that may surface, such as “third term”, the forceful confiscation of people’s lands for Ruga and other bills that could threaten our democracy and human rights.