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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How Gbajabiamila emerged House Leader

Finally, Gbajabiamila Emerges House Leader

29 Jul 2015
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  • Senators pass vote of confidence on Saraki, Ekweremadu, Akpabio is Minority Leader  • Buhari seeks confirmation of service chiefs   • Court clears Senate President to constitute standing c'ttees

Omololu Ogunmade, Senator Iroegbu and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja   

Having lost out in his bid to emerge Speaker of the House of Representatives last month, and after weeks of insistence that the South-west zone could not occupy two principal positions in the lower legislative chamber, Speaker Yakubu Dogara yesterday finally announced Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the House Majority Leader.

The truce leading to Gbajabiamila’s emergence was brokered following a meeting by the two warring factions in the House with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday. At the meeting, the president had directed them to resolve the matter before the resumption of plenary yesterday.

Other positions announced by the Speaker yesterday were: Deputy Leader - Hon. Buba Jibrin (North-central); Chief Whip — Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa (North-west); and Deputy Chief Whip — Hon. Pally Iriase (South-south).

Dogara also announced Hon. Leo Ogor as Minority leader, Hon. Chukwuma Onyema as Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Yakubu Barde as Minority Whip, and Hon. Binta Bello as Deputy Minority Whip.

The speaker made the announcement after returning to the floor of the House following a brief departure for an undisclosed reason, which also saw Gbajabiamila, Doguwa, and Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumim briefly depart the session.

The distribution complied with the zoning arrangement of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which at the resolution meeting in the early hours of yesterday kept to its zoning arrangement, but removed the names of nominees for the positions.

The party decided that its zonal caucuses should elect those who should occupy the positions.
Speaking with newsmen briefly after he emerged majority leader, Gbajabiamila said the events of the last 48 days were reflective of democracy in action.

“That’s what politics is all about – everyone trying to outwit one another for the greater good of the country. And I am glad that everything has panned out the way it has panned out.

“You will now see the House you knew in the last four years back in action, working for the people, working for the nation. I’m sure we'll have a lot more to say tomorrow,” he said.

The Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Sani Zorro, briefing newsmen after the session also said the wrangling that plagued the lower chamber in the last few weeks was normal in a democracy.

“We made it clear to you that our problems were transitional. What transpired today was the triumph of internal democracy in the House of Representatives. This has always been the case when the House comes in afresh,” he said.

Zorro added that the speaker adopted a formula that catered to the interest of all contending groups, “even non-APC members”.

“What President Buhari did at the crucial 20-minute meeting was a fatherly engagement. It has clearly shown that he is not a dictator as our opponents tried to paint him. He didn’t interfere and that also made the party cautious. The president is a game changer,” he said.
Zorro assured the media men that the lower chamber, henceforth, would be rancour-free.
Earlier at the resumption of plenary at 11.40 am, proceedings had gone on smoothly.

Dogara, on behalf of members, apologised to Nigerians for the fracas of June 25, which forced him to declare a recess.
He cautioned that while the members were a product of the overwhelming mandate of change from Nigerians, the patience of the people with the government had been tested, as public expectations for good governance was at its peak.

“The Eighth Assembly has a very crucial role in the political history of our dear country. We are saddled with the responsibility and special privilege to midwife the first government of complete democratic transition in which an opposition party has assumed the realm of government, the first in our political experience,” he said.

Dogara wondered why after conducting the elections of the two presiding officers of the lower chamber on June 9, the democratic culture and maturity suddenly became elusive in the effort to conclude the composition of the principal officers.

He however commended the president and other leaders of the APC for not interfering in the election of June 9.
“I am persuaded that they do not regret reposing such confidence in us. In this regard, we owe them, ourselves and indeed all Nigerians a duty to prove that we can conclude this process rancour-free and without denting our party’s democratic credentials. This we can do and I am confident that we shall,” Dogara added.

In the same vein, Doguwa also apologised to the speaker and to Nigerians for the disagreement, which degenerated into the lawmakers’ throwing punches at each other.

Members of the House resorted to fisticuffs after Dogara refused to announce the principal positions as contained in the letter by the APC Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, on its nominees for the posts.

Dogara had cited the need to adhere to the federal character principle by accommodating all the six geo-political zones.
Dogara and his supporters had argued that Gbajabiamila could not be House Leader since the deputy speaker, Hon. Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun, was also from the South-west zone.

In the Senate, however, indications that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has substantial influence in the Eighth Senate played out yesterday when Senator Sam Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) moved a motion, supported by 80 other senators, to pass a vote of confidence on Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. The motion was seconded by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West).

Even more interesting to observers of yesterday’s plenary in the Senate was not the motion, but its passage without a dissenting voice among members of the Senate Unity Forum loyal to Senator Ahmed Lawan and the APC at the plenary.
The vote of confidence was also passed on the entire leadership of the Senate.

The motion was moved after Anyanwu cited Orders 42 and 52 from the Senate Standing Rules after the chamber’s four-week recess.
The orders allow the mover to raise a matter hitherto not on the Order Paper once the Senate President is satisfied with it.

While moving the motion, Anyanwu said the Senate noted with dismay what he described as the continuing harassment of both the Senate and senators, the management of the National Assembly, as well as the spouses of senators by security agencies.

According to him, the Senate, undeterred by the development, would continue to perform its constitutional duties without fear or favour, adding that the parliament was determined to focus on matters of interest and importance to the ordinary people.

Furthermore, Anyanwu said the need to pass a vote of confidence on the two presiding officers of the Senate and the entire leadership had become imperative in view of sustained interference in the Senate’s affairs by those he described as detractors, propagandists and selfish politicians.

He also called on the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security agencies in the country not to allow themselves to be used by anyone to harass, intimidate or blackmail the Senate, senators or their spouses.

Having read out his motion, when the Senate President called for a voice vote on the matter, there was not a dissenting voice in the chamber. Even members of the Senate Unity Forum who were expected to contest the motion, maintained a deafening silence.

Closer scrutiny of the list of 81 senators who signed the confidence vote showed that six members of the Senate Unity Forum had jettisoned Lawan, Saraki’s rival, to team up with the latter’s supporters.

The six senators were the former Speaker of Oyo State Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo Central); Lanre Tejuosho (Ogun Central); Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West); Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central); Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe East); and Kabiru Gaya (Kano South).
Also, 35 of the senators were members of the APC, while 46 of them were from the PDP.

Anyanwu, while moving the motion, said many more senators, including perhaps the remaining two PDP senators whose names were omitted on the list, would have appended their signatures to the vote of confidence but were not opportuned to do so when it was being compiled.

While acknowledging the vote of confidence on behalf of the Senate leadership, Deputy Majority Leader, Ibn Na'Allah, thanked the senators for the confidence reposed in the leadership, promising that the confidence would be reflected in the decisions to be made by the leadership.

Some independent observers noted that the vote of confidence reposed by 81 senators on Saraki and his colleagues had effectively sounded the death knell for the struggle by the Senate Unity Forum led by Lawan against the Senate leadership.

Also yesterday, Saraki announced the appointments of Senators Godwill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom North-west) as Senate Minority Leader; Philip Aduda (FCT) as Minority Whip; Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba South) as Deputy Minority Leader; and Abiodun Olujinmi (Ekiti Central) as Deputy Minority Whip.

In reaction, Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central) said the emergence of Akpabio as minority leader was in violation of Order 3(2) of the Senate Standing Rules, which provides that appointments for principal officers shall be in accordance with ranking (seniority). But he was ruled out of order by the Senate President.

The position, however, of the Senate Whip remained vacant yesterday, as the South-west to which the office had been zoned was yet to submit the name of its nominee for the post.

Also yesterday, the Senate President read a letter from the president, seeking the confirmation of the newly appointed service chiefs.
The service chiefs are Major-General Gabriel Olonisakin as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General T. Buratai as Chief of Army Staff; Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Sadique Abubakar; and Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas as Chief of Naval Staff.

Saraki promised to constitute an ad hoc committee to screen the president’s nominees due to the non-availability of standing committees of the Senate.

Saraki also asked senators to begin to submit the names of committees in which they want to serve.
In a related development, the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday refused to grant an ex parte order seeking to stop the Senate President from constituting the Senate standing committees.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole, while ruling on the ex parte motion filed and argued by Manman Osuman on behalf of five senators led by Senator Marafa, held that there was nothing urgent in what the plaintiffs were asking for.

Justice Kolawole said that the Senate Standing Orders of 2015, upon which the plaintiffs predicated their ex parte motion, had been in existence since June 9 when the Senate President and deputy were elected, and as such, the issue of urgency raised by the five senators was self inflicted.

The judge held that rushing to the court 24 hours to the resumption of the Senate plenary will not be indulged by any law court, because the issue of urgency was belated.

He wondered why just five out of 109 senators came to court to challenge the internal affairs of the Senate carried out on June 9.
Justice Kolawole argued that the court was not created to supervise the internal affairs of the National Assembly, except if in the conduct of its internal affairs, there was an infraction of the constitution.

He held the view that when the National Assembly has misapplied its own rules, the courts must be wary of intervening, “it should even be more wary when the intervention is sought as an ex parte”.

According to him, “The dispute that arose from the outcome of the elections that produced the senate president and its deputy was the internal affair of the Senate and that court will hardly intervene.”

He said the Senate was convoked on the authority of Buhari and the elections that followed did not go down well with some members, adding that it was a normal thing in a democracy for the majority to have their way and for the minority to have their say.
Justice kolawole also held that the Senate’s Standing Orders under consideration has “no substantial infraction on the 1999 Constitution to warrant court’s intervention”.

“I find myself unable to exercise my discretion to grant the injunction being sought by the plaintiffs to stop the defendants from carrying out their constitutional legislative duties,” he said.

Justice Kolawole therefore refused the application and ordered the plaintiffs to put on notice the defendants in the suit, who include the Senate President, Deputy Senate President and the Clerk of the National Assembly. He thereafter adjourned the case to August 5.