The House of Representatives erupted into chaos yesterday as the visit of the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led New People’s Democratic Party, nPDP, National Working Committee, NWC, and the dissenting seven governors ended in fisticuffs.
The fight erupted among the pro-Baraje and pro-Tukur members of the House.
The National Chairman of the ‘old PDP’, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who was scheduled to brief the House, was forced to call off his scheduled visit to avoid a clash with the Baraje-led PDP members.
The Barajeled members in the House yesterday claimed that they had risen to 108 from 57 members, their leader, Hon. Andrew Uchendu (nPDPRivers) said.
The storm started on the floor immediately after the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, read a letter from the New PDP signed by the National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, announcing the planned visit of Baraje, the NWC and the aggrieved governors to address the House’s PDP caucus.
The announcement caused disagreement in the House as both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ PDP members engaged one another in a shouting march. For over 20 minutes, the chamber was tense with expletives as lawmakers hurled expletives at each others with some leaving their seats to clusters around the Speaker, his deputy and other principal officers to either protest or welcome the Baraje team.
As soon as nerves became calm, Tambuwal explained that the leadership of the House decided to welcome both Baraje and Tukur at their behest only for Tukur to withdraw his letter of request later. “I think I need to make two points clear.
One, there was a communication from our leader, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, on the same issue; he wanted to come and address the PDP caucus. Now, Tukur withdrew his letter only this morning and I couldn’t have read his letter having withdrawn it. “The whole thing is, we are not going to receive them on the floor.
He (Baraje) will address us at 3p.m. in Room 028 new building.” Baraje eventually arrived at 3.47p.m. where Tambuwal and the House leadership were already seated to receive the factional leader. He was accompanied by the seven rebel governors, members of his NWC and some senators.
But shortly after the proceedings commenced, Hon. Henry Ofongo (old PDP- Bayelsa) along with Hon. Patrick Asadu (old PDP- Enugu), Hon. Kingsley Chinda (old PDP-Rivers), Hon. Betty Appiafi (old PDPRivers) and other pro-Tukur members came into the hall, shouting ‘point of order’, ‘no way’, ‘Bamanga is our man’ and ‘Na Bamanga we know,’ as commotion enveloped the hall.
This angered the pro-Baraje lawmakers led by Hon. Aminu Suleiman and Hon. Asita Honourable as they grabbed Ofongo by the collars, attempted to gag him and stop him from proceeding to where Baraje, the governors and other members of his entourage were seated.
The commotion that ensued lasted for almost 20 minutes as the pro-Tukur lawmakers, made up of Bethel Amadi (old PDPImo), Friday Itulah (old PDP-Edo), Betty Apiafi (old PDP-Rivers), Bitrus Kaze (old PDP-Plateau), Samson Okwu (old PDP-Benue), Tijanni Yusuf (old PDP-Kogi), Kingsley Chinda (old PDPRivers) and others disrupted proceedings at the meeting.
However, House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, went ahead with her welcome remarks, saying that she hoped the visit would serve as the beginning of the resolution of the crisis in the party.
Tambuwal said democracy could only prosper with a strong democratic culture, adding that “democracy belongs to all Nigerians and not the politicians alone so they should refrain from heating up the system.”
But the pro-Tukur lawmakers continued shouting throughout as Baraje addressed the gathering. Leader of the New PDP House caucus, Hon. Andrew Uchendu, told journalists after the event that the action of the pro-Tukur lawmakers was characteristic of “the impunity and lawlessness associated with Tukur and his exco”.
He said they were the authentic PDP as their membership had risen to 108, thus controlling the majority in the House.
Uchendu said despite series of meetings between the factions, “there is no ceasefire,” and that the war between the factions would continue. Tambuwal cautioned politicians to shun comments capable of heating the polity.
“We must abstain from making comments capable of heating the polity unnecessarily. I want to caution that Nigerians need a peaceful atmosphere to conduct their businesses,” he said.
He also enjoined politicians to place national interest above personal interest. “Let us therefore make conscious effort to allow national interest take the driving seat and not our personal ambitions”.
According to him, members of the House are concerned about the development in the country, especially the face-off within the PDP.
He noted that the development had exposed the status of culture of intra-party democracy and inter-party intolerance.
The Speaker said that democracy could only flourish where there were strong political parties and well developed institutions and an enduring democratic culture.
Earlier, the members had unanimously passed a vote of confidence on Tambuwal and his leadership dispelling rumours of impeachment and reaffirming their unity.
This followed a motion under matters of urgent national importance sponsored by Hon. Kingsley Chinda (old PDP-Rivers) and supported by Hon. Uzor Azubuike (old PDP- Abia).
The Baraje-led PDP was also in the Senate yesterday where they had an audience with the Senate President, David Mark who counselled the splinter group not to continue to stoke crisis within the PDP but to make peace with the leadership of the party so that the party would return to its old family status. Mark, who spoke while responding to the address of Baraje, also pledged his loyalty to the Tukur-led PDP.
He also assured that he would not allow the crisis in the party to filter into the National Assembly, stressing that the legislators as the representatives of the people of Nigeria should not be involved in unnecessary political crisis.
All the seven splinter governors of Rivers, Adamawa, Kano, Jigawa, Kwara, Kano, Sokoto and Niger states [Rotimi Amaechi, Murtala Nyako, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Sule Lamido, Abdufatah Ahmed, Aliyu Wamakko and Aliyu Babangida, respectively] were on the visit. Mark said: “I will remain in PDP. I will not allow this house to fall on anybody. Dialogue will always bring progress.
There is need for this dialogue and meetings for us to exchange ideas. “My prayer is to have a united National Assembly and this unity should translate into the two chambers.
I have not declared any seat vacant and I am not prepared to declare any. I will support fairness, justice and equity. “Whatever happens, we should remain one PDP.
We should not pour fuel when there is fire burning. We all admit that there is problem and we are out to solve them.” In an address, Baraje stated that PDP had in recent times started declining in its democratic image.
This, he said, is mainly due to lack of internal democracy as a result of undue interference of the Presidency, especially as it concerns the election of national officers, which has affected the quality and style of leadership that now takes pride in illegal dissolutions of state party structures and other acts of impunity.
He said it was in line with this that some governors, former governors, some party elders and indeed, members of the National Assembly decided to act to rescue the party from undemocratic tendencies and by extension, save the country from collapse.
Baraje said most of these issues, which included the crisis of the Rivers PDP, the suspension of Governor Amaechi from the party, the election of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, the unconstitutional dissolution of the Adamawa State Executive Committee of the party and the exclusion of important stakeholders from the running of the party and government have already been reported to Tukur and President Jonathan, but unfortunately, no serious action has been taken towards correcting the anomalies.
In a related development, Senator Mark has criticized the activities of those he described political jobbers, sycophants and hustlers who stoke unnecessary tension within the nation’s polity two years before the 2015 elections, describing such situations as unnecessary and avoidable distraction.
While urging restraints by all Nigerians, the Senate President called on his colleagues as elected representatives of the Nigerian people to rise up to the occasion and act as stabilisers of the polity.
In a welcome address to the senate yesterday, Mark regretted that, “It is disheartening that even though the general elections of 2015 are two years away, political jobbers, sycophants and hustlers have prematurely seized the political space, and are being allowed to set the tone of the national discourse,” stressing that, “This is an unnecessary and avoidable distraction by characters or hirelings who are desperately in search of relevance.”
He noted that unfortunately, such people, “employ every weapon, including threats of war and open sabre-rattling to advance their partisan causes. I am therefore compelled to urge restraint and call on all putative contestants to various political positions in 2015 to advise themselves and call their various supporters to order.”
According to the Senate President, “Political jobbers and warmongers do not serve anybody’s interest but theirs. They exploit our collective fears and fan the embers of hatred, acrimony and division.”
Mark called on the security agencies to take any threat bordering on treason very seriously and thoroughly investigate such and take appropriate measures irrespective of who the culprits are.
He noted that the greatest legacy, “we can bequeath to posterity is to collectively build a Nigeria that is more functional, more dynamic, more peaceful and more democratic.”
Mark urged that the objective of all Nigerians should be to build a nation whose unity is an article of faith based on equity, fairness, justice and equal opportunity; a nation where injustice to one is injustice to all.
He observed that national redemption requires renewed and concerted focus on governance at all levels, in every tier, stressing that, “concerted focus on governance entails keen and constructive engagement between all the arms of government.”