House of Representatives was Wednesday thrown into crisis that led to attempts by some members, believed to be of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) extraction, to snatch the mace over the Minority Leadership positions.
This is as Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House, allegedly turned down the letter sent to him by the leadership of the main opposition PDP nominating Kingsley Chinda as the Minority Leader from Rivers State, Chukwuka Onyema from Anambra State as the Deputy Minority Leader, Yakubu Barde from Kaduna State as the Minority Whip, and Muriano Ajibola from Oyo State as Deputy Minority Whip.
Gbajabiamila however read the letter he said was sent by minority parties in the House signed by about 99 out of the 147 members nominating Ndudi Elumelu from Delta State, Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu State, Deputy Minority Leader, Gideon Gwani, Minority Whip, and Adesegun Adekoya Deputy Minority Whip.
Despite protests from PDP members, citing various House rules, Gbajabiamila ruled them out and accordingly declared Elumelu Minority Leader, Okechukwu Deputy Minority Leader, Gwani, Minority Whip and Adekoya Deputy Minority Whip.
Reacting, the aggrieved Chinda group said the nomination of Elumelu and company as the principal officers for the minority party would not stand, stressing that some colleagues of his must had ambushed them.
Brandishing the correspondence sent by PDP and received with acknowledgement from the Office of the Speaker on June 26, the lawmaker said a series of inter party meeting was held among the opposition parties where all the issues of nomination were rectified.
He said: “The issue is that of the minority leadership. It is the standard practice in parliament that minority leadership comes from among minority parties and the correspondence is always sent by the major minority party, in our case that was followed.
“The PDP in discussion with other minority parties agreed on our leadership in parliament and forwarded a letter to Mr Speaker dated 21st June 2019 and a copy of the letter was received on the 26th of June 2019 in the office of the speaker. Another letter was also sent to the Senate President on 21st June 2019 and a copy of the letter was received on the 26th of June 2019.
“Yesterday, the Senate in compliance with parliamentary practice read out the letter from the APC and the letter from the PDP. The Senate President advised senators who were aggrieved to go back to their parties, conclude the issues and as soon as he received any other correspondence from any of the party that he will also read it on the floor.
“However and very unfortunately in the House of Representatives the reverse is the case. We came today only to hear our dear speaker attempting to read what he termed as correspondence from a conglomerate of political parties; that some members of the house have adopted some other persons as the minority leaders outside what was forwarded to him by the party and that he would want to adopt that.
“The basis is that from our rules particularly order 7 rules 8 that members of the minority party shall amongst themselves nominate the minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip.
“We all met as members of minority parties twice, did our nomination and we all agreed that the party should go back amongst the nominees and choose from amongst them and report back to us; the party did exactly that and reconvened and received the report of the party and we left satisfied. Only for us to attend plenary today to see this ambush, it is unfortunate and we are not going to take it, we must do things properly.
“We are members of minority party, our leadership would not be determined by the majority party. We are aware of the scheming of the APC that the target is that they are going to decimate the minority parties in the parliament and that they would decide who becomes minority leader in parliament, we will not allow that to happen.
“We don’t see ourselves as opposition parties, we are minority parties ready to provide an alternative government and we can only do that when this place is managed smoothly and responsibly and so we are ready to cooperate with the senate president and the speaker of the House of Representatives to ensure that we have a smooth 9th assembly but we are also ready to critically and also responsibly look at government policies and programmes and tell Nigerians what the truth is at all time.
“We stand on the letter from the party. As far as we are concerned our leaders have been selected and appointed by the party, it is only for the speaker to read the correspondence which he has, we don’t have any issue with our leadership. And of course from the party, the leadership that have been appointed; Senate minority leader Sen. Eyinaya Abaribe, deputy senate minority leader Sen. Emmannuel Bacha, senate minority whip Sen, Philip Aduda and deputy senate minority whip Sen. Shaibu Yao.
“In the House of Representatives; minority leader Hon. Kingsley Chinda, deputy minority leader Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, minority whip Hon. Yakubu Bade and deputy minority whip Hon. Moraino Ajibola and these are the minority leaders that we have in the 9th assembly.
“We already have our leadership in place, the obligation that the party owes the national assembly is to communicate that and that has been done and acknowledgment is here with us.
“The other duty of Mr Speaker is to read the letter that he received from the party which the Senate President has done. He is not to appoint, he is just to read the communication, which he has failed to do but rather attempted to appoint minority leaders which we are saying it is not the practice.
“We hope and pray and very sincerely the speaker is experienced, we know that he will be humble enough to realise and accept that mistakes have been made and that these mistakes will be corrected. The letter would have emanated from some members of parliament and like I have said these members are supported and they have the backing of the majority party.”
James Kwen, Abuja