The House of Representatives is facing a huge challenge. No time has this been profound than the last few days. The reason is not farfetched. Tuesday’s formal declaration of some members of the G7 governors and PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) has unleashed a new political air on the National Assembly. It is more pronounced in the House.
The reason for that is understandable. The lower chamber, apart from being more in number is peopled by younger politicians who are wholly dependent on their governors. For that, the lawmakers have frenetically been with their governors since the crisis in PDP erupted. To demonstrate how passionate they are in the squabble, loyalists of the Kawu Baraje-led faction and that of the National Chairman of the party, Bamanga Tukur have at a point engaged in a free – for -all. That was when Baraje and the re-bel governors visited the chamber in September.
Although the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambulwal intervened and stopped the face-off from degenerating, it did not forestall future clashes between the two divides. They shifted their disagreement to the chamber. The PDP members persistently aligned with the APC lawmakers to defeat any motion or bill that were in the interest of the Presidency. It was clear that it was a matter of time before the marriage between the APC and PDP would be consummated. So, when last Tuesday, some of the G7 governors announced their movement to APC, it was received with an unusual giggling by the PDP members. A different air enveloped the House. Even those who were hitherto passive about the situation in the PDP in the chamber quickly put away such garb and stepped out to speak their mind on the development. Of course, those loyal to Tukur did not see any reason to celebrate the exit of the rebel governors. Instead, they upbraided them and shrugged off fears that their departure will mark down the influence of the ruling part.
Tambuwal was circumspect in his handling of the issue. He declared that it was at the discretion of the House members to know whether they will follow their governors or not. In a statement by his media aide, Mallam Imam Imam, the Speaker said they will follow due process if they want to cross-carpet to APC.
He said: “Members of Parliament (MPs)will decide collectively on when to defect. They have their internal process if they decide to cross-carpet, let’s wait and see whether they can activate the process or not.” If Tambuwal was imprecise in his comment, the Chief Whip of the House, Hon Mohammed Ishaka Bawa (PDP,Taraba) was unmistakable about where he stood on the matter. He said the G7 governors had the right to join any party they like. He said that their departure from PDP will not affect the ruling party.
He said: “As the Nigerian constitution provides, they have the right to freedom of association; they have the right to launch any political party of their choice. Nobody is in PDP by force. You can decide to leave at any time you wish to.
“But what I want Nigerians to know is that PDP will continue to wax stronger despite all that is happening. This is not the firs time in PDP; this is not the firs time in the political development of Nigeria. I’ll like to take you back to 1983 when some progressive governors decided to leave their party; we have Nwobodo; we have Abubakar Barde, Abubakar Rimi and a host of them who left their party, but what was the result after they left? “If that is their wish, the constitution guarantees them that freedom. In PDP, we have 1001 ways of consolidating ourselves.
In 2011, there were some strong members of the PDP that left, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, but the PDP still won. “It depends on the calculation and the members that show inter-est. Is it all members that show interest? We’re not aware of any member that is to move with his governor. Until a letter is being sent to Mr Speaker and read on the floor of the House before w can decide to count to know the number of people who defected. PDP will never be minority in the House up to 2015; I can assure you that. The members will not automatically leave; they’ll remain in the party.”
Supporting Bawa’s views, Hon Nnanna Igbokwe (PDP, Imo) said the development will only make the ruling party to strategize and focus on things that will make it to meet the needs of the
populace who he said are the ultimate decider of who should be elected into office He said: “They are free to join any party they like, that is the beauty of democracy. But to say that it will affect the PDP, I don’t think so. This will make our democracy to become more robust, it will make us to go back and strategize. I would love that the issue causing the standoff was resolved amicably. PDP is a big party and I know that it will overcome the challenge posed by the exit of these people”.
But Aliyu Madaki(Kano,PDP) differed with Bawa and Igbokwe. He praised the move and announced that they will follow the governors to the new party. He said: “We’ll follow our governors; there’s no doubt about it. We can’t continue to stay and face injustice. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, and this will eventually change the leader-ship in the House.” Similarly, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Suleiman Abdurahman Kawu Sumaila, said it was a welcome development. He said: “We received with joy the long-awaited merger of our beloved political party, the All Progressives Congress with the group of G7 governors of the PDP.“It is a welcome development that will forever shape the political history of Nigeria.
With this merger, a new chapter has now been opened in our collective struggles for the emancipation of the Nigerian people from the 14 years of internal slavery, bondage and suppression under the PDP. “However, I will like to use this opportunity to reiterate the fact that this marriage can only be sustained in an atmosphere of justice, equity, fair play and respect for the tenets of democracy.“The APC is further emboldened towards our resolve to unseat the PDP from all positions of government through the ballot box revolution in all elections.”
He continued: “However, to sustain our new marriage and nurture it into maturity, we all most not only profess our democratic credentials, but we must be ready to be fair, just and inculcate democratic norms and values and bee guided by internal democracy and obedience to rule of law. “The G7 governors were forced to leave the PDP because of injustice, they too must now be ready to do justice to all and give room to all party members and chieftains to aspire for any position without being molested.”In his own reaction, the
Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said: “We receive them and all others who are committed to change and who are progressive in inclination with open arms. The change that all Nigerians desire has only just started” Similarly, Hon. Dakuku Peterside (PDP, Rivers) described the development as a “watershed in our democratic journey and hope rekindled. The beneficiary is the Nigerian people, democracy and democratic culture can never be the same again and our democratic institutions will be strengthened by implication.
Never again will the people be taken for granted.” Hon Abiodun Faleke (APC, Lagos) also said the development was “the best for Nigeria at this point of our democratic journey. The House of Representatives will witness better performance with this development, I believe.” The same stand was taken by Hon. Aliyu Madaki (PDP, Kano). He said: “This landmark event has shown us that our democracy is growing and strong too. If people can have the freedom to choose where they want to belong, I think, as a people, we should be commended. “For me, I see this as a way forward for our democracy and with this, the future is not only brought for our democracy but the entirety of Nigerian people. “I believe Nigerians will see begin to see a more vibrant federal legislature because there is a new order in place”.
The focus has now shifted on the implication of the marriage with the APC. At present, PDP has 208 members, while the op-position APC has 138 members. With the exception of Jigawa and Niger States whose governors said they are still part of the PDP, Kano, Kwara, Rivers, Adamawa and Sokoto states have a total of 48 lawmakers out of which about 40 are said to be with the PDP.
Should the 40 PDP members in the five G7 governors state join the APC, the party’s lawmakers will now be 178, while the PDP will be left with 168. This will ultimately make the APC to be in majority forcing the PDP to take the minority seat. This situation holds an uncertain future for the leadership and principal officers of the House. It mean that APC can upstage Tambuwal and his men. The principal officers who ar of the PDP stock are, naturally gripped by fears over this development. They only rely on the support of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party lawmakers to stave off any onslaught from the APC.
APGA has five members, same for Labour . Tambuwal may survive any move by the APC as the party has always considered the speaker as a good leader and an ally. However, it is doubtful if it will spare the House leader, Mulikat Adeola-Akande and other principal officers one of the APC lawmakers, who does not want his name mentioned told Saturday Sun that “ no member of this House -whether PDP, APC, APGA or Labour would want Tambuwal replaced. He has shown good leadership, he has been fair to every member and every party, he has been transparent and focused. We cannot say the same of other principal officers. APC will do the right things when it comes to these principal officers”
The situation is made worse for the PDP caucus in the House by the fact that though some members may not be disposed to moving to APC, they are unwilling to move with the PDP in anything concerning the House. Some of the lawmakers who take this type of stand are from Niger, Jigawa, Bauchi and Gombe. PDP cannot rely on them to fence off whatever tackles that would come from APC lawmakers. The next few weeks will prove how the final destination will loo like. For now, plots, alignments and behind the door meetings remain the regular features in the chamber.