By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The House of Representatives is expected to resume on Tuesday after three weeks break occasioned by the leadership crisis bordering on the sharing of principal offices.
But emerging signals indicate that the House will not resume for plenary on the said date as the lingering crisis is yet to be resolved and may now resume on Tuesday, July 28. The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had, last week, while receiving All Progressives Congress, APC, Mobilisation Youth Forum, assured that the crisis would be resolved before resumption.
Dogara, who told the APC youth forum that “all of us are loyal members of the party,” however argued that the ongoing crisis was part of the challenges that resulted from the victory of the 2015 general elections.
But he assured: “Everything is being done in conjunction with the party; in conjunction with the leaders of the party to ensure that by the time we reconvene all the issues that were there would have been dealt with. I can assure you, that is the only way we can get things right.
“I don’t see these things as major crises as you rightly pointed out. Things must change, that is the matrix of APC, it was on that, that so many of you abandoned your comfort zone and voted for us to be here, so we understand the expectations on the part of Nigerians not only APC supporters alone…
“I hope we should be able to bury our differences so that when we resume announcement will be made for the remaining four leadership positions in the House of Representatives.
“I’m speaking on behalf of the House of Representatives; I’m not holding brief for the Senate. But I sincerely believe that by the time we resume this matter will be a thing of the past.”
But despite the assurance and his plea, the truth remains that all the actors in the crisis appear to have taken hardline positions. Worse still, the leadership of the All ruling APC also appears not to be ready to find a middle ground for the warring camps.
The House is expected on resumption to constitute the body of principal officers which has become the bone of contention, constitute committees and their heads which may also generate fresh crisis and also begin deliberations on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, ahead of the preparation of the 2016 appropriations and other oversight functions.
But with the reality on ground over the leadership tussle, it has become apparent that Nigerians expecting the crisis to be resolved as soon as possible will have to wait for more time to come for this to take place.
Inside sources in the House said that but for some external forces wanting to ‘humiliate’ the Speaker to teach him a lesson for challenging the decisions of the APC, the House leadership would have resolved the matter.
The sources also claimed that if the APC national leadership should respect the doctrine of separation of powers as has been exhibited by President Muhammadu Buhari who had vowed not to be dragged into the crisis and hands-off the matter, the Speaker and his deputy, Yussuf Lasun, are were capable of handling it.
“The uproar over leadership position which is supposed to be a party affair has become a national problem, trying to bring governance to a standstill. Other political parties in the House that may have tried to manage their differences, if any, cannot carry out the legislative duty they were elected by their constituents to perform because, the ruling party, APC, cannot manage the crisis and, by extension, its victory especially at the federal legislative level,”one of the sources said.
The House has to shift from the Tuesday resumption date because Dogara and his camp insist that the spirit of federal character where all the six geopolitical zones are included for principal officers ‘positions in the APC should be respected, while the Femi Gbajabiamila camp that has the blessing of the party leadership stand on the supremacy of the party and the need for the presiding officers of the House to carry out the APC’s directives.
The party leadership had specifically recommended Gbajabiamila from the same South West geopolitical zone with the deputy Speaker for the position of the House Leader and Mohammed Monguno, from the Speaker’s North-East zone, as the Chief Whip among others which the Dogara camp rejected.
Those opposing the directive claimed that with the Speaker from the North East and the deputy from the South West, it is unfair to give two positions to the two zones when four geopolitical zones are supposed to share the four positions, adding that going by the letter from the party to Dogara, the North Central and the South East will be excluded from occupying principal officers positions.
However, one of the supporters of Gbajabiamila, Hon. Philip Shuaibu, representing Etsako federal constituency of Edo State, faulted those agitating for zoning as he alleged that there was hypocrisy in their position.
He said, “The situation in the National Assembly today does not actually follow federal character. What the party has simply done is, we have accepted the Senate President, we have accepted the Speaker, how do we make the National Assembly succeed to make sure that it is positioned to drive the policy of change that the APC stands for having forgiven them for the first disappointment and what will they do?
“The warring factions, the people that believe should have won this election that the party supported lets streamline the positions to have them on board so that it will not be a win, win situation, there will be no winner, there will be no loser, everybody will be a winner and that was the principle that the party took for the present leadership that has been chosen.
“For me, a Rep from South-South, I will feel cheated that we are supposed to produce the Speaker, but the same people now that are talking zoning said South-South produced only four Reps, South-East produced only two Reps and they are using numbers, at that time, it favoured them.
“Now, it is not favouring them and they are talking about zoning. So, for me, I think the principle of zoning was jettisoned ab initio because the President and the Vice President are from two major zones, South-Eest and North.
“Now, if you check who is the Senate President, from North, who is the Speaker, from North, so if you are talking about federal character, as far as I am concerned, federal character has not reflected in who becomes Speaker and who has become the Senate President.
“So, it has been jettisoned, I support what the party has done but at the same time I think flexibility is the watch word and I am happy that the party was flexible to accept Saraki and was flexible to accept Dogara. They also should be flexible so that this row does not consume them.”
But another lawmaker from the South East and also a member of the APC, Hon. Austine Chukwukere, representing Ideato South/North federal constituency of Imo State, said it will be uncharitable to exclude South East from the principal offices going by the alleged humiliation, harassment and intimidation they faced before they won election in a zone that was dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party.
Chukwukere said that some of them in APC from the South East were tagged Boko Haram for bringing the party to the zone and that some of their supporters were beaten, arrested and detained, noting that some of his colleagues from other zones now supporting the exclusion of South East did not face the humiliating situation they faced during the general elections.
Besides the issue of principal officers, Dogara will also face another uphill task to constitute committees. Already, the signals coming from the Senate is suggesting that all is not well especially with the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules which said the new rule favouring equitable distribution of committee headship to the six geopolitical zones.
The Speaker draws his inspiration principally from the minority PDP and anything done to shortchange the party’s lawmakers in the composition of committees would be a threat to his position. The APC elements in the House will also want to have the upper hand in the composition of committee headship.