Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is former governor of Abia State and among Senators-elect of the 9th National Assembly billed for inauguration tomorrow. In this interview with Channels Television, he speaks on the jostle for the leadership in the 9th National Assembly, among other issues. Temitope Ogunbanke monitored the conversation
We have seen several perspectives on the leadership of the 9th National Assembly and it has been on for a while. And you said if it is not handled properly, you will contest for the position of Senate President. But you then spoke much later, saying that all was well. What is the current position now? Has the right thing been done?
We are in the process of doing the right thing and the South-East would be given space in the scheme of things. I have already endorsed publicly Senator Ahmed Lawan, which you know and I stand by that endorsement. I am now asking that the South-East should be given the Deputy Senate President.
Has that been given? There is high level discussion going on and I am sure they will do that and bi-partisan, it would be an issue on the floor of the House because the senators remain the 109 senators.
There was an interview granted by the Presidential Adviser of Legislative Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang in which he was quoted to have said that Lawan will emerge as Senate President; Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker and that the position of Deputy Senate president will go to the South-South and he was referring to Senator Ovie Omo-Agege?
I didn’t see that report. But, Ita Enang is not one of the 109 senators, who are going to vote on Tuesday (today). The 109 senators are the only ones, who have the right to say who will be what. Whatever is done outside the Senate Chamber is not workable. And most presidential aides have been telling lies in the name of President Muhammadu Buhari. I personally asked the President last Monday, when I visited him to tell me if he has endorsed anybody for the position of Deputy Senate President. Knowing President Buhari for who he is; I have known him for 32 years; he is a man who doesn’t do double talking. I have seen leaders who double-talk. I looked at his face and said ‘Mr. President, please tell me in one word,’ but he was very busy that day and they just scheduled me to briefly see him. I said ‘in one word sir, did you endorsed anybody for Deputy Senate President because the day you addressed us, you told us it is only Lawan and Femi that you have endorsed.’ He said he did not endorse anybody for Deputy Senate President. So, I told him that I am going down to announce that I will run on the floor of the House and he didn’t ask me not to run.
How far do you think you can go?
Very far with the help of my colleagues and bi-partisan attitude! It is going to be bi-partisan. In the Senate, 109 of us should not know any party. We should not be interested in any party. We are senators of Federal Republic of Nigeria from the day we take oath of office. Once you are inside the Senate Chamber, you don’t know All Progressives Congress (APC) or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); what you know is that you are senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Are you saying that there is no party supremacy at that point?
Inside the Red Chamber, party supremacy would be very little because the chairman, secretary, organising secretary and national auditor of the party are not going to be inside the Senate.
Even though you are a first term senator?
No, I am not a first term senator. Actually, one of my colleagues to be, Senator Jibrin Barau, jokingly said that I would be the oldest member in the National Assembly. That was because myself and Alhassan Doguwa, the Minority Whip, were in the National Assembly in the Third Assembly in 1991. So, I am a returning member of the National Assembly.
Let’s reverse trends of things to 2015. At that point when we were going to have the Senate President and also the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it didn’t quite go the way the party expected it to go. What guarantees that this time around, it might even work in favour of what the party wants?
The party has worked so hard for it to work. For me, the APC, PDP and YPP agreed that we should have a common candidate and that common candidate for now is Lawan. We have gone very far, I can tell you that. All of us in APC for now have agreed that whether Lawan is bad, good, evil or anything, we are going to follow him. Not following him without minding the rules of the law. We are not going to be switched to anybody. I am a personal friend of the President and he will not ask me to go against the law as a lawmaker.
But, there would be APC and PDP on the day of voting. How prepared are you because things may not work the way you make it sound easy?
There is no PDP or APC on the floor of the Red Chamber. After all, who is PDP, who is APC? Was I not in the PDP before? The political party is just a vehicle that carries us inside the Senate Chamber and when we get to the Senate Chamber, we become Nigerians who want to make laws for Nigerian people.
So, what you are saying for now is that members are supporting Lawan?
I don’t see any change in Lawan. Lawan is very experienced and focused. If it is a normal democracy, he is also entitled to be there because he is a very long serving senator. In our party now, there should be no contest against Lawan because he is already the Majority Leader. To be honest with you, I don’t see anybody questioning the ability of Lawan.
Even with Senator Ali Ndume, who is also from the North in the race?
Ndume is my friend and brother; he is like my younger brother. He is competent, but Lawan has been endorsed by the presidency, Progressives Governors Forum and party caucus, and the party is supreme.
You said the other time that on the floor of the Senate, party divide is not important…
Yes, because there is no national chairman of a party to whip me at the back on the floor of the House. There is not going to be national auditor and national secretary of the party to remind me that I am a member of APC. Once I am inside the Red Chamber, I become a Nigerian.
Are you sure that is also the position of the PDP or any other party …
If they are reasonable enough, the interest of the country must come first before party. If they are reasonable enough, they fought in 2015, the strategy was very wrong; some people went for a meeting and some people voted; it is not going to happen again. All of us will be there; one man to one man, one woman, one vote. We are going to face each other and tell ourselves the truth.
But the PDP has a very vocal about the fact that it could cause an upset…
I don’t see that happening because I am telling you in confidence that we already have 58 members of the APC. I was the 56th member that signed for Lawan and I don’t see any upset; I must be honest with you. But what we are just begging the PDP is that we want one Senate. We don’t want a divided Senate. We want Nigerians to enjoy democracy. We want to come up with ideas that will revive our economy than fighting.
But the chairman of your party seems not to share the same view. He said APC has gotten the majority and don’t need PDP. In fact, he said they will not occupy any committee chairmanship position…
That is the position of the chairman. Possibly it is not the position of the party because the chairman is just a member of the party; he is just first among equals. We still need to have endorsement from our National Working Committee and National Executive Committee of the party; that is when it becomes a law.
Could it be also his own view, when he said aggrieved members of APC can go to PDP?
Were you there when the chairman said so? You journalists sometimes put people on the spot. I am sure you brought me here this morning to make me a sacrificial lamb, but I am not going to allow that.
We are just asking a simple question
I am giving you simple answer. Once you are inside the Red Chamber, people shave party lines; they discuss among themselves. The legislator will do what is appropriate for the nation. But you just told us not long ago that the President has endorsed Senator Lawan and Hon. Gbajabiamila for leadership positions in the National Assembly. Is he not aware that when they get on the floor, things will change? The President didn’t say it is either you do it or I kill you. You know President Buhari is very calm; he appeals to all the senators. I asked him a simple question. I am not trying to reveal what I discussed with the President; I am just trying to give you example of what I asked him. If the President has told me that I should not run for the position of Deputy Senate President, I will not run because he is the leader of the party, assisted by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. So, if the leader of the party calls me and say, no you cannot run for this office, I will drop the ambition, but they would have equity to the South- Eastern part of Nigeria; they would have denied them fairness and our diversity will be in question. I am not running because I need an office; that office is not going to make any change in my life, but I am running because for fairness and equity, the South-East must have somebody in the hierarchy. Let me be honest with you, there are seven positions of the Federal Government; the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Senate President, Deputy Speaker and the chairman of the ruling party. So, how do you want out of this seven, nothing will come to the South-East? It is just what I am asking for; fairness. You people know my history; I have always been on the side of the people; from students’ union politics in University of Maiduguri till today; I have always maintained let us be fair and I believe in that.
But the position has not been officially zoned to South-East…
But you read Vanguard Newspaper
Vanguard was talking about South-South; Senator Ovie Omo-Agege by Senator Ita Enang…
Ita Enang is talking as a private man. In fact, I am sure he is speaking for himself; he is not speaking for the party. And let me be honest with you, even if the party asks me not to run, I will run on the floor of the House because to be honest with you, this is one position I have to fight for because you cannot leave the South-East behind.
Do you necessarily have to be the person from the South-East?
No! But if the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is given to the South-East today, I will not run for the position of Deputy Senate President any longer because that is more superior to Deputy Senate President. If you give the post of the Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-East today although I have endorsed Gbajabiamila for the position, I will drop. I am only asking for a fair and free democratic process of the Senate.
Some people would say that often time when leaders talk about zoning; they only use zoning for their personal interest. How would you respond to those who would say this is not really about zoning but about you becoming Deputy Senate President?
What is wrong with me becoming the Deputy Senate President? I have been member of the legislature and I have been a two-term governor. Whether it is personal or for the interest of our people, it represents the interest of our people. I am not shy in saying what I want and what should be done rightly. I have told you that if they give any other position that is as good as the Speaker of the House of Representatives to South-East, I will drop today. That is the issue.
What exactly do your people stand to benefit if you become Deputy Senate President?
Those people getting it, what do they stand to benefit?
What exactly do your people stand to benefit if you get the position as Deputy Senate President that they will not get, with you being a member of the Senate?
What you are saying is that there is going to be caucus meeting and the South-East will not have a member of that caucus. I am not fighting this for personal interest. What I am looking for in life is limited. I have retired as a man. I am trying to make sure that we help Mr. President build the country the way it is supposed to be. But, if you call it personal interest, why not and what is wrong with that? Am I not a human being? Those who are occupying the position, are they better than me? Is it because I am Igbo? I won’t take that from anybody. The issue now is that the South-East needs to be in the power bloc of Nigeria.
Why is that important?
It is important. Why are others there? When they discuss, who is going to take back the message back to the South-East? Who is going to build the party? After Buhari today, no other individual in the party can bring 10 to 12 million votes. You need to build APC in the South-East and you need the leadership to build it. You are not going to build it as individuals.
So, is it then a question of politics or governance for you?
It is going to be both governance and politics because they go together. If there is no governance, there won’t be politics and if there is no politics, there won’t be governance. I
think that is usually one of the problems that people have because there is a lot of politicizing of governance …
No, you have made six regions. You have seven meats in a soup and you want every region to take without the South- East taking. I don’t agree with you.
Does that mean that the South-East is in anyway disenfranchised or opted out?
Of course, it looks so because in 2015, you said we have no senator; now we have senators and we have members of the House of Representatives, and somebody is still telling me that South-East did not vote for APC. That person must not be thinking right. In my state (Abia) in 2015, the APC got three per cent of votes in the national elections, but in the 2019 elections, APC had 29.5 per cent; it is an improvement. In Ebonyi State, APC also performed well. So, from 29 per cent, if APC is going to do another election in four years, we will be increasing. So, we need this position and office to give service to Nigerian people and to also protect the people from South-East.
If all of these are geared towards having inclusiveness and having the sastern part of the country in running of affairs in this country, what then would you say is the path, especially now that we have Boss Mustapha at some point promising the East of the presidency in 2023?
Let us leave presidency in 2023, let us do what is needful now.
Is the present going to reflect what will happen in 2023?
Let me tell you, there is no time that is better than now. Now is the time, let us start today before we start to talk about tomorrow. Let us start today in putting ourselves properly where we are supposed to be.
Some will argue that the promise made by Mustapha represents the importance of having the Igbo to be part of the nation building and having good top leadership positions. Can the Igbo work in such unison, so that you will have the presidency in 2023?
Let’s leave the presidency in 2023. Leave us with one position; that is what I am telling you. Leave about the future. Who told you I will be alive till then? Who told you about people talking about 2023 would be alive till then? Let us talk about today. There is no time better than now and now is the time.
You spoke to the President and he talked about Lawan being the Senate President and Gbajabiamila as Speaker and didn’t talk about other positions…
He said he has asked the party to go and share equally the other positions to reflect the country’s diversity.
So if they are hesitant and that hasn’t been done till now; doesn’t that suggest they are taking their time to play politics?
It is the senators who would vote. People will nominate me and people will nominate other candidates and whoever wins will become the Deputy Senate President. If I win they should be able to congratulate me and if another person wins, I will stand up and congratulate him. That is what constitutional democracy is all about. It is not about fighting.
So, if it doesn’t come to the South-East, there is no problem…
As long as it is voted for on the floor of the House; there would be no problem. If the whole of Nigeria will reject the South-East, by saying we are no longer part of the nation, I mean it is okay. It is one of those things.
How will you receive that and how should that be redressed?
I will continue to be a lawmaker. First of all, my constituency voted for me to be a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not senator of Abia North. If I don’t win, I will congratulate the winner. But I will campaign bi-partisanly to all the parties to be included.
You insist that if the party says it is zoning the position to South-South, you will contest…
The party should be reasonable enough to zone it to the South-East. The party is already in crisis, so it should not break further. I am not threatening anybody but the leadership should not break the party further.
What crisis are you talking about?
The party lost seven states in the recent election, so it is a crisis. PDP didn’t win us anywhere; it is just the crisis inside the party. So, if the party is already in crisis, it should be able to do what is reasonably right in the eyes of man and in the eyes of God.
Senator Ndume has said several times that the party did not zone the Senate presidency and that nobody has called him to ask him to step down and he has the telephone numbers of all the senators; he is being speaking with all of them and nobody has asked him to step down unlike 2015…
We have no problems with that. We will see him at the floor of the Senate. He is our brother and friend. He is a Maiduguri man like me; there is nothing about that.
But if the President said he prefers Senator Lawan, why the dissent…
Senator Ndume to be honest with you was at the meeting. I was with him; although he disagreed. He showed his disagreement instantly.
So, that means he cannot be under estimated?
I don’t know what he is planning. But what I am saying is that he cannot say nobody told him; he was there when the national chairman said it. He was there when the President concluded his speech and he came out immediately to say ‘no I don’t agree.’
Kogi guber: Deployment of Bello’s ex-ADC invitation to violence, PDP tells IGP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said the deployment of CSP Usman Musa, former ADC to Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello to coordinate security in Saturday’s governorship election in the state is an invitation to violence and bloodletting.
The party in a statement Wednesday by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that CSP Musa has been compromised and directed by the governor and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to use excessive force, intimidate and arrest voters.
CSP Musa had been transferred to Lagos but PDP said he was deployed for the election to do the biddings of the governor and the APC.
“We have also been made aware of directives by the APC and agents of Governor Yahaya Bello to shoot and kill during the election to aid the manipulation of the electoral process for the APC,” PDP further alleged.
It called on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to immediately reverse the deployment as it could lead to a breakdown of law and order.
Edo APC crisis: NWC sets up Fact-Finding/Reconciliation Committee
… Gives nod to suspension of state party chairman
To address the crisis in the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC), the National Working Committee (NWC) has set up a Fact-finding/Reconciliation Committee.
The party took the decision after its meeting Wednesday but, however, it did not give the names of the members of the committee.
In the statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the NWC upheld the suspension of the Edo State APC chairman, Hon. Anslem Ojezua by the factional party executive in the state.
The factional state executive had on Wednesday suspended the state party chairman, Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, his Deputy, Hon. Philiph Shuiabu and the Secretary to Edo State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie.
The NWC was, however, silent on the suspension of the governor, his Deputy and the SSG.
Onilu, in the statement said: “The NWC has watched with grave concern the political development within the party ranks in Edo State and is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of events. We note that this is happening in spite of the various steps the party has taken to find an amicable resolution.
“Recall that party leaders such as the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Chairman, Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, and other eminent party leaders, had all tried at various times to ensure that the issues do not escalate.
“Sadly, these interventions have not yielded the desirable results.
“However, the immediate concern of the NWC is how to ensure that unity returns to the ranks of the party in Edo State. In achieving this, we have decided to constitute a high-power fact-finding and reconciliation committee of party leaders to meet with all disputing parties to ensure that all issues are addressed and resolved.
“Meanwhile, the meeting of the NWC, which held today, Wednesday, at the Party’s National Secretariat received a notification of the suspension of the Edo State APC Chairman, Anslem Ojezua by 11 of the 16 members of the Edo State Working Committee (SWC). We have reviewed the process they followed and conclude that they have fulfilled the required conditions.
“We therefore uphold the suspension of the Edo State APC Chairman, Anslem Ojezua while we await the outcome of the Fact-finding and Reconciliation Committee.
“Please note that the NWC’s objective and cause of action is strictly to address the root causes of the disputations and reconcile all parties to make our great party even stronger.”
Kogi poll: Large crowd at Ayingba for PDP rally
It was the ‘mother of all rallies’ on Wednesday at Ayingba, in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State, when the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engr. Musa Wada held his final campaign rally against Saturday’s election.
The mammoth crowd, which came from the nine local government areas in the Eastern part of the state, arrived the CMML Senior Primary school at Ayingba where the rally took place as early as 8am, to listen to the PDP candidate and his running mate, Hon. Sam Aro.
Our correspondent who was at the rally ground reports that the governorship candidate, who arrived Ayingba about 2:30 pm, could not get to the venue of the campaign ground until about 4:30 pm, due to the size of the surging crowd.
Engineer Wada, while addressing the people, attributed the large number of crowd to the people’s determination to eradicate the hungry-laden government of the APC in the state.
“Nobody gave you one naira to come here, you are here because of interest, determination and desire to yourselves, and the entire people of the state, from maladministration, poverty, lack of salary payment, development decay as characterised in the APC government in Kogi State.
“I want to assure you that your sacrifice to liberate Kogi State will not go unnoticed, because my first priority as governor, if Allah permits, will be total human and physical development,” said Wada.
Give chance for peaceful elections, NGO tasks Bayelsans
A nongovernmental organisation known as Search for Common Ground has tasked all the relevant stakeholders involved in the Bayelsa State governorship election to give peace a chance as Bayelsans go to the polls.
Speaking in Yenago on Wednesday, the Media and Communications Coordinator of the NGO said it was greatly concerned with this bad development, seeing the provocative actions of political party supporters and hate speeches coming from the two major parties in the state.
The group said: “This constitutes serious danger to the election and period beyond. For instance the carrying of coffins during campaigns with inscription of another parties name on it. The numerous verbal attacks by the governorship candidates and party supporters using online platforms to post derogatory comments about their opponents.”
The group said that women have expressed fear to vote after witnessing a violent campaign that included open death threats between opposition party supporters.
Tinubu: PDP ran 16 years of irresponsible govt
Deep reflection crucial in political leadership – Osinbajo
ational Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has described the 16 years (1999-2015) during which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ruled Nigeria, as a period of irresponsible, spendthrift governance.
Tinubu stated this yesterday in Abuja at the public presentation of “The Challenges of Good Governance in Nigeria,” a book written in honour of Chief Bisi Akande, the pioneer Interim National Chairman of APC and former Governor of Osun State.
The former Governor of Lagos State who bemoaned the challenge of governance in Nigeria even before the rebirth of democracy in 1999, described the period of military rule as one in which few people benefitted unduly at the expense of the majority.
According to him, not much changed with the return of democracy as the then ruling party failed to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of the people.
“This process went on for years. It distorted our society. Our institutions became so corrupted that they often worked against their stated purposes. Vice became virtue. Governance turned into misgovernance and then misrule. Wrong became right.
The social contract at the core of our collective existence was being disregarded if not discarded, not by the people but by those who led them. But justice and hope do not disappear,” he said.
Tinubu recalled that it was that scenario that propelled the formation of the APC to correct the situation of poor governance in the country.
He, however, lamented that certain forces which preferred the old order still erected obstacles to good governance in the first four years of President Muhammadu Buhari, by enthroning reactionary elements – Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara – as leaders of the National Assembly.
The situation, Tinubu said, created a sour institutional relationship between the presidency and legislature and hampered the delivery of good governance.
“You might recall that not too long ago the ability of this government to deliver on key aspects of its mandate was hampered because the National Assembly was controlled by reactionary elements that fought for business as usual and against reform.
“This situation has been corrected by the sovereign will of the people during the last election. What emerged is a new National Assembly leadership committed to progressive reform. As a result, we have seen the quick passage of the historic Deep Offshore (and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract) Act, which substantially amended the financial terms of deep offshore oil production. Because of this, government will gain billions of dollars in new revenue to be used for the development of our economy, its infrastructure all for the ultimate benefit of the Nigerian people.
“This achievement is not an isolated occurrence. It is a harbinger of other reforms to come now that the president has a reliable partner in the current National Assembly. History will look back and record this as a key moment in our progress as a nation. However, this moment would not have been possible but for the formation of the APC,” he said.
Tinubu paid glowing tributes to Akande, describing him as a mentor and friend, without whom the emergence of the APC could have been thwarted by forces out to frustrate the birth of a new political order.
“I have had a chance to take a cursory look at the book. The author has identified challenges to governance which are institutional, psychological, political and economic. Many of the issues raised in the book are matters of the deepest concern to our party, APC, and of President Buhari’s administration,” Tinubu said.
In his remarks titled “The Value of Introspection.”, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said deep reflection is crucial in political leadership and is the difference between transformational leadership and the banal.
“Anyone who has paid attention to Chief Bisi Akande and his political life will notice that he also observes that tradition of documenting his thoughts on governance, on the responsibilities of those who govern.
“So, you may have come across his books; “A Fresh Start in Osun State”, “Moving Osun State to Prosperity”, “The Inner Minds”, “The Drama of Fate”, where he reflects on the challenges of sub-national governance and his prescriptions based on his experiences.
“The deeply reflective style always endures and ensures that he always provides the personal human dance of fate and circumstances that attend all human effort in politics.
“A major benefit to society of the individual reflection of its leaders is that they explain complex ideas with their own peculiar wisdom and expression.
“So in trying to define this phrase that we use so often and we all seem to know what it is even without defining it, that phrase “progressive politics” or governance, Baba Akande simplifies it as a teacher would and I quote him:
“This tradition of converting the birthdays and celebrations of our leaders to moments of reflections is an important one and I urge that our tendencies continue to do so.
“I was privileged to speak on the subject of reforming our electoral laws at Chief Bisi Akande’s 70th birthday, how time flies. Every year since 2008, we devote the 29th of March to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s birthday to the Bola Tinubu Colloquium where we take as deep a dive, as a one-day event will allow, into matters of importance into governance or our political economy.
“It is the duty of leadership to continue to reflect, to write, to debate, the rigour of our thoughts and ideas and the discipline of execution that will lift our people from ignorance and misery to wealth and prosperity,” he said.
VP Osinbajo noted further that, “A tradition of our political tendency is that of introspection or reflection. By our tendency, I refer to that established by Papa Obafemi Awolowo, which in spite of its various iterations and versions, we all agree to describe as progressive politics.
In response to the eulogies heaped on him, Chief Akande expressed appreciation to the author of the book, saying it couldn’t have come at a more auspicious time than now when Nigerians want to ensure that good governance thrives in the country.
Akande described low quality of education as the greatest obstacle to good governance in Nigeria.
According to him, education remained the most important key to unlock human potentials.
“In Nigeria today, however, the numeracy and literacy contents of our education is too low compared with those of the people that once colonized and amalgamated our various communities into what they christened as Nigeria over a century ago.
“Our knowledge of science and technology remains so perverted by our low education that while the global economy is being driven by technology, industrialization and hardworking, Nigerian economy is largely being driven by prayers, rituals, and miracles.
“The truth is that the most potent and lasting miracles are found in workable planning-based accurate data interpretations, critical path analysis, and devotion to duties.
“Any country that fails to plan properly is planning to fail woefully. We therefore need to rework our school curricula, retrain our teachers and re-write our laws to give higher quality to our education. We must also reposition and re-restrategise our finances to spread the high quality of education to every corner of our country,” Akande said.
Reps’ minority leadership crisis and PDP’s dilemma
The crisis rocking the leadership of minority parties in the House of Representatives took a different dimension last week when the lower chamber resolved to investigate the Kingsley Chinda-led faction.
PHILIP NYAM examines the role of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and why the problem subsists
ince the emergence of Hon. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) as the minority leader of the House of Representatives on July 3, there has been no love lost between his team and the leadership of his party and the foremost opposition party in the National Assembly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Elumelu and his team made up of Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) as deputy leader, Hon. Gideon Gwani (PDP, Kaduna) as minority whip and Hon. Adesehun Adekoya (PDP, Oyo) as deputy minority whip had unsettled the PDP hierarchy, which consequently constituted a probe panel headed by former Senate President, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to look into the circumstances leading to their emergence and made appropriate recommendations.
The PDP had endorsed Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) as a minority leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema (PDP, Anambra) as deputy minority leader, Hon. Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna) as minority and Hon. Ajibola Muraina (PDP, Oyo) as deputy minority whip.
Unfortunately, the Ayu-led panel was also enmeshed in controversy leading to the resignation of its secretary and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Austin Opara before the submission of its report in September. The case of the panel was worsened following allegations of corruption leveled against it by Rivers State governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike. Subsequently, the Board of Trustees (BOT) itself also displayed a divisive posture when it disagreed over the submission or otherwise of the report of the panel. While, chairman of the BOT, Senator Walid Jibrin denied that the panel had not submitted its report, secretary of the BOT, and former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara confirmed the report had been submitted.
How it all started
On July 3, the House of Representatives plenary had proceeded peacefully until Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila attempted to announce the names of minority leaders through a letter written and signed by members of minority parties in the chambers. Hon. Kingsley Chinda, had raised a point of order, citing Order 6 Rule 1 of the house, which says members of minority parties in the house shall choose someone with experience to lead them.
He said the leadership of his party had written to the speaker to inform him of its choice for the positions, asking Gbajabiamila to adopt the list sent by the PDP. The leadership of the PDP had written to the speaker to state its preference for Chinda as minority leader, Chukwuka Onyema as deputy minority leader; Yakubu Barde, minority whip and Muraina Ajibola, deputy minority whip. The party said it chose the lawmakers for the positions ‘in accordance with extant laws, House rules, conventions and general legislative practices worldwide’.
“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after wide consultations with house caucus, the party leadership from the geo-political zones and the national working committee (NWC) hereby forward the names of the duly agreed and approved house minority leadership as follows,” the letter read.
But Gbajabiamila said there were nine minority political parties and the PDP alone could not determine who led the minority. He consequently ruled Chinda out of order and moved to read a letter, which he said was signed by 99 members of minority political parties on the leadership positions, but he was booed just as some lawmakers left their seats and started struggling for the mace.
Members of the sergeant-at-arms rushed in to prevent them from seizing the mace and some lawmakers started fighting in the process. It became a ding dong affair, but the rowdiness did not deter Gbajabiamila from making the announcement as he went ahead to read the letter, announcing Ndidi Elumelu as minority leader, Toby Okechukwu as deputy minority leader, Gideon Gwani as minority whip and Adesegun Adekoya as deputy minority whip. Shortly after reading the letter, the speaker then adjourned plenary to the next day as his supporters praised him while the Chinda group booed him.
Elumelu and his team was immediately congratulated by the party’s BOT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, who later recanted his congratulatory message. Other stakeholders in the party such as elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark also hailed the emergence of Elumelu. But the party’s leadership kicked against it and Governor Wike was also vociferous in condemning the actions of Elumelu and his group.
It was after this incidence that the PDP constituted the panel led by Senator Iyorchia Ayu to investigate. Other members of the embattled panel were former Senate Presidents Adolphus Wabara and David Mark, former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu and former Deputy Speaker of the House, Austin Opara, who was the secretary. The party had also suspended the Elumelu leadership alongside Hon. Wole Oke (PDP, Osun), Linda Ikpeazu (PDP, Anambra) and Anayo Edwin (PDP, Ebonyi).
But before the panel could submit its report in September, the centre could not hold again, and Opara, the secretary resigned his membership and his state governor, Wike dropped the bombshell alleging acts of corruption by the panel members.
The House last week resolved to probe Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) for allegedly arrogating to himself the title of the leader of the PDP caucus in the House. The House ethics and privileges committees, which has been mandated to interrogate Chinda is expected to also probe former deputy minority leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema (PDP, Anambra), the former minority whip, Hon. Yakubu Barde (PDP, Kaduna) and Hon. Ajibola Muraina (PDP, Oyo) for allegedly parading themselves as leaders of the PDP caucus.
The decision was taken followed the adoption of a matter of privilege raised by Hon. Ben Igbakpa (PDP, Delta) at last Wednesday’s plenary. Presenting his matter of privilege, Igbakpa informed that Chinda, Onyema, Barde and Muraina have been issuing statements as leaders of the PDP caucus in the House submitting that the positions are unknown to the rule of the House.
He argued that the actions of the quartet violate Section 24 of the Legislative Houses (Power and Privilege) Act, as well as the extant Standing Orders of the House.
Citing Order 1(1) and (2) of the Standing Order of the House, Igbakpa maintained that “it is common knowledge that on July 3, 2019, the Honourable Speaker, in line with Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (which empowered the minority parties to nominate their leaders), announced the Minority leaders of the House. This was consequently published in the votes and proceedings of the same date.
“In spite of this, Mr. Speaker, some members of this House, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Hon. Chukwuma Onyema, Hon. Umar Barde and Hon Muraina Ajibola parading themselves as PDP caucus leader, deputy caucus leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip have been issuing public statements outside the nomenclature of this House; misleading the general public and causing confusion and disaffection in the House of Representatives. This is a gross abuse of our collective and individual privileges…I hereby call on this House to investigate this and bring the perpetrators to book.”
In his ruling, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, who presided over the session, referred the matter to the ethics and privileges committee.
But reacting to the decision of the House to investigate him, Chinda insisted that he has the authority of the PDP to function as the leader of the opposition party’s caucus in the House. According to him, “I am the PDP caucus leader in the House with the authority and consent of the party. PDP is a registered political party and a creation of Law and not the Rules of the House. PDP has its leaders in units, communities, amongst students, traders, professionals, and parliamentarians. These leaders are recognised by the party as such.
“I have the mandate of the PDP to act as its leader in the House. Other minority parties are free to have their caucus leadership. I don’t see how that offends the Rule or law of the House or the constitution.”
The National Working Committee of the PDP also took sides with Chinda saying its suspension of Elumelu and some of its lawmakers in the House subsists. The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said, “The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wishes to clarify its position on the PDP Caucus at the House of Representatives as follows:
“That the suspension placed on some PDP members who connived with others to supplant the party decision with regards to party positions in the House is subsisting and has not been lifted.
“That the suspended members of the party cannot, therefore, conduct any business of the party at whatever level until disciplinary measures have been concluded.
“That the National Working Committee (NWC) in its wisdom, knowing that nature abhors a vacuum and consistent with its position on the matter which has not changed, directed that the affairs of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives be organised and managed by Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Hon. Yakubu Barde, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema and Hon. Muraina Ajibola.”
Ologbondiyan also stated that the Chinda group has the mandate and authority of the PDP to lead its caucus in the House of Representatives adding that the PDP “will not reward disloyalty and will not allow anyone other than the party to impose their choices with the sole aim of annihilating or stifling the voice of the opposition.
“All PDP National Assembly members and organs are to note this and accord the irreversible party choices the necessary support to execute the party’s mandate in distinction as they have been doing so far.”
Elumelu’s fight back
But Elumelu rose is stout defence of his position saying the statement from the PDP painting him as a disloyal member of the party lacks fairness and is an affront on the rule of law. Elumelu, who spoke through his special adviser on legal matters, Barr. Oyorima Idahosa said “the attention of the leadership of the Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives under Hon. Ndudi Elumelu has been drawn to allegations of disloyalty leveled against it in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday.”
He said “This is completely against the principle of democracy, rule of law and fairness upon which our great party, the PDP is founded and known since its formation 21 years ago.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Minority leadership of the House of Representatives was elected in strict observance of Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Rule of the House of Representatives.”
According to him, “Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution unambiguously provides that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House.”
“Accordingly, Order 7 Rule 8 clearly states that: “Members of the Minority Parties in the House shall nominate from among them, the Minority Leader, Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Leader, and Deputy Minority Whip.
“This, the overwhelming majority of the Minority Caucus comprising nine political parties (PDP, APGA, ADC, LP, SDP, PRP, AA, APM, ADP) did, and communicated their decision to the Speaker in a letter dated 2nd July 2019 and signed by over 100 members of the 147-Member Caucus.”
He contended that: “By parliamentary rules persons so elected become the leaders of the party caucuses in the legislature. While the party can GUIDE their elected Members through the zoning of various Minority leadership offices, it is not in the place of the party, by the provisions of the Constitution, House Standing Rule, and parliamentary traditions, to Appoint or Foist Minority or Majority Caucus leadership on its Members.
“The conduct of the lawmakers in choosing their leaders, therefore, falls within the framework of the spirit, ideals, beliefs and underlining principles of the PDP and our founding fathers, who championed the enthronement of the tenets of democratic practice in Nigeria.
“It would be recalled that a similar attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to foist leadership of the Majority Caucus on the National Assembly in 2015 could not stand as such obnoxious action was vehemently resisted by the Senate, which stuck to the list of elected leaders of the Majority Caucus submitted by APC Senators.
“The stand of our great party, which also had Prince Uche Secondus, the current National Chairman, as the Acting National Chairman at the time, is still very fresh on the minds of Nigerians. The PDP strongly criticised and lampooned the APC for impunity and meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of the parliament.
“It is, therefore, ironical that the same party, under the same Chairman, has now chosen the same path for which they pilloried the APC in 2015.
“It is even more distressing that the same party, under the same Chairman, has now branded the Minority leadership and their colleagues who transparently elected them, as disloyal for the simple reason that they strictly followed the Constitution, the Standing Rule of the House and best parliamentary traditions.
“Such malicious allegation is therefore totally insupportable as Hon. Elumelu and his colleagues in the PDP remain loyal and law-abiding members of the party.
“It is equally curious that over four months after various organs of the party set up Committees to investigate this matter and related issues bordering on PDP National Assembly Caucus within two weeks, the party has been reluctant and/or refused to consider the reports of these various Committees so that the issues can be laid to rest.
“Moreover, the endless suspension of loyal party members outside the provisions of the PDP Constitution, 1999 Constitution, and rules of parliament as palpably oppressive.
“In this regard, Hon. Elumelu and the members of the Minority leadership in the House respectfully urges the leadership of our great Party to weigh its actions and not allow certain individuals with vested personal interests to destroy the reputation and democratic foundations of the PDP, a party Nigerians look up to for direction at a time like this.
“Indeed, those who stand behind the scene spurring such disorder in our great party for their personal interests do not wish both the PDP and our dear nation any good.”
It is surprising that the PDP as a party is dilly-dallying on the report of the panel and has been unable to take a decision almost four months after the crisis. Now, with the Chinda led group, being endorsed as the party’s caucus leadership in the House, a decision that did not go down well with the Elumelu’s minority leadership, which saw this as a ploy to undermine their authority, the opposition in the lower chamber would be further weakened. This is the first time in the history of the House since 1999, that the biggest minority party would have two leaderships; one controlling the entire minority and another claiming to be in charge of the party. This scenario has been fostered by the inability of the PDP leadership to take a definite position on its stance on the emergence of the minority leadership.
Although the Chinda’s faction is laying claim to the superiority of the party, the Elumelu leadership hinges its position on the provisions of the standing rules of the House, which states that only lawmakers can choose their party leaders in the chambers. And with the leadership of the House led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, standing firm on the provisions of the House standing orders and rules, both the PDP and the Chinda faction may be fighting a lost battle and the PDP will be further polarised. Besides allegations of corruption, no leadership has ever been unseated in the House on account of not being the choice of a particular party. In 2011, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha (now governors of Sokoto and Imo), against the directive of the PDP contested and won election as speaker and deputy speaker respectively. The same scenario played itself out in 2015 when Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Hon. Suleiman Lasun Yussuff, went against the All Progressives Congress (APC) zoning arrangement to emerge as speaker and deputy speaker at the expense of Hon. Demi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno.
In both circumstances, the parties felt slighted but they had to allow sleeping dogs to lie because the majority of the lawmakers were solidly behind them. It is instructive to observe that Hon. Elumelu and his faction have the support of majority of the lawmakers from minority parties. In fact, from the figures presented when he crisis emanated, Hon. China’s faction does not enjoy the backing of any lawmaker from the other eight minority parties. Analysts are of the view that instead of forcing the Elumelu led leadership to resign, the PDP should have reconciled Elumelu and Chinda in order to forge a strong opposition in the chamber, if not the Gbajabiamila led leadership may not experience any strong opposition in its tenure.
Some have argued that the PDP cannot afford to thrive on controversy as an opposition party and must, therefore, mend its fences especially now that her presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has also lost at the Supreme Court against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Bayelsa guber: Ijaw Leaders Forum endorses Douye Diri
A group known as Ijaw Leaders Forum, in collaboration with the coalition of civil society, faith based organisations and some other groups, on Tuesday endorsed Senator Douye Diri the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Saturday’s governorship election.
Speaking in Yenagoa, at a press conference, the group, through it’s leader Timi Ogoriba, said that they decided to endorse Diri after a thorough assessment and evaluation of the unfolding political developments and electioneering process, the so far.
“We are convinced that Senator Douye Diri has the requisite pedgree, administrative knack, exposure, qualification and reach to turn around the fortunes and developmental challeges of the state,” they said.
Accepting that there were some mistakes in governing the state, the group maintained that: “In this connection, we wish to appeal very strongly particularly to the organised labour, professional associations, trade unions, artisans, students, women and youth groups and the Bayelsa State electorate to vote for Senator Douye Diri.
“A vote for Douye is a vote for prosperity, light, massive infrastructure and human capital development.
“We therefore endorse Senator Douye Diri, the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP, for Saturday’s election.”
Ex Gov Aliyu asks Sani Bello to account for N1.4bn saved for 5-star hotel
Former Governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu has again asked his successor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello to account for the N1.4 billion set aside in an “escrow account” for the construction of the Minna International 5-star hotel.
This is coming barely two weeks after the former governor raised the issue of $181million Islamic Development Bank loan which he facilitated for the dualization of the Minna-Bida Road.
He made the disclosure while speaking to journalists on Tuesday as part of activities to mark his 64th birthday in Minna, that he left the money in what he called an “escrow account” of the state.
According to him: “The N1.4 billion was left in the escrow account and was for the payment of the contractor when the job had reached a certain level.
“To my surprise, the contractor was invited by this government and given the whole amount, after two months he (contractor) disappeared from site and has not returned to finish the job.
“Am I to be held responsible? The government that invited and paid the contractor should be asked to account for the money.”
Furthermore, Dr Aliyu maintained that the vexed $181million was secured during the twilight of his government and must also be accounted for.
Accordingly, he said: “I negotiated and secured the approval for the $181million Industrial Development Bank (IDB) loan. The facility is not only for the dualization of the Minna-Bida Road, the other component of the loan was the construction of a Bilingual Language Centre in Minna; we presented five items before the IDB team only two were picked.
“I went to Jeddah to negotiate for the loan with some of my officials then, some of them are still part and parcel of this APC government. He, (Governor Sani Bello) can cross check from these people.
“The issue on the ground is not about EFCC or ICPC; let the government come out clean that it has not collected the money.”
Last minute court judgements won’t affect Kogi, Bayelsa polls – INEC
*PDP: Come out on modalities for the election
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has taken steps to ensure that this weekend’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states were not affected “by any 11th hour judgement.”
This is just as the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wants the commission to come out clean on the modalities for the conduct of the elections, particularly on transmission of the results.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lokoja, Kogi State Tuesday assured that the commission’s preparations would not be affected by court judgements delivered few days ago.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, last week, ordered INEC to include the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kogi State on the ballot for this Saturday’s election.
But Prof. Yakubu said such judgement was at variance with the decision of another Federal High Court in Abuja delivered earlier which affirmed the propriety of the commission’s action in a similar case by another political party.
“However, we will consider legitimate steps to address the conflicting judgements by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in the interest of our electoral jurisprudence,” he said.
Kwara story on ease of doing business will change — AbdulRazaq
• Gov lists strategies to change course
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has pledged to implement reforms to ease business climate in the state, saying the current narrative about it ranking lowest in the North Central region is unacceptable.
AbdulRazaq, who was represented by Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi, said various concrete steps are already being taken to make business transactions a lot easier and faster to attract investors.
The governor spoke on Tuesday at the North Central regional engagement on Ease of Doing Business which was organised by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and the Kwara State Government.
The event was attended by the Special Adviser to the President on Ease of Doing Business Dr Jumoke Oduwole; Secretary to the Kwara State Government Prof Mamman Saba Jibril; Chief of Staff to the Governor Aminu Adisa Logun; Kwara Commissioner-designates; PEBEC Enabling Business Environment Secretariat Project Manager Ayokunnu Ojeniyi; representatives of federal government agencies; several small and medium-sized enterprises; and regulatory bodies from across the region.
The governor expressed dismay at a World Bank report in 2018 which ranked Kwara 30th out of 37 states including the FCT — and the lowest in the North Central — in the ease of doing business.
“On the national average, according to the report, Kwara ranked the lowest among its peers in the North Central. In terms of starting a business, Kwara ranked 7th out of the seven states sampled in the zone, including the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja). In dealing with construction permit, we ranked 4th out of seven; in registering of properties, Kwara ranked 6th out of seven; and in terms of enforcing contract, Kwara ranked 7th out of the seven states/places,” AbdulRazaq said.
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