2014: Year of fireworks, brickbats, intrigues in House of Representatives

The House of Representatives in 2014 would be the most interesting in 60 years, since the pre-independence elections to the Nigerian federal parliament in 1951. The stakes are dizzyingly high, but the odds, would be unprecedentedly higher.

Aminu Waziri Tambuwal

Aminu Waziri Tambuwal

The outgone year, 2013, set the tone for the pyrotechnics of the new year, when the sparring between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, got to a combustible peak last week when 37 lawmakers in the lower chamber of the National Assembly dumped the PDP, the platform under which they get to the House and defected to the APC. Though the PDP, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, in a knee-jerk reaction dismissed the defectors as a pack of irritants.

But before the sun set on the same day, the wounded party went to court seeking to declare the defectors’ seats vacant in line with section 68(1g) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

A member of the House on the PDP divide, Samson Okwu (PDP-Benue), boasted that it was a matter of time before the legislators who cross-carpeted, would regret the cross-over.

The opposition members have dismissed the argument by the PDP that there are no factions in the PDP and therefore the defections were unnecessary.

The APC lawmakers have argued that the said section 68(1g), on conditions for defecting have been clearly met with the defection of the 37 members of the House.

The change in the House was palpable and obvious, as motions, bills and other legislative items seen as having executive connection were shredded. But as if that was enough cataclysmic for the PDP to grapple with, more trouble is lurking in the corner in the new year, as there are indications that more lawmakers on the platform of the ruling party would in the coming weeks dump the PDP for the APC.

Twenty-nine members of the House of Representatives, it was learnt authoritatively by National Mirror on Monday, would defect to the APC between January and February.

A member of the House from Jigawa State, who is still in the ruling PDP told the newspaper that it was just a matter of time before the intending defectors perfected their act and dump the umbrella.

National Mirror also gathered that about four lawmakers who have lost out in the party in Benue State have concluded plans to take the leap and join the bandwagon of defectors in January.

A source who is one of the to-be defectors said: “Yes, we are still PDP members, but I can’t guarantee that in January we would still be there. It is not only in Jigawa, many other states too. We are not less than 29 moving in January.”

He however, did not confirm if the Speaker, AminuWaziriTambuwal, who is the only PDP lawmaker from Sokoto State on the platform of the ruling party, would defect to the APC in January. It would be recalled that 37 members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the PDP defected to the opposition APC making the APC the majority party in the lower House.

With this development, the APC now controls the lower House with a majority of 172 members while the PDP has 171 members, although for the APC to change the structure of the House, the party needs 181 members. There are 360 members in the House.

As things stand, should the 29 members planning to defect joins the APC in January, the party would have about 200 lawmakers in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, far more than the constitutionally required number to take over the House.

The earlier defection of 37 members which was announced by Speaker Tambuwal was contained in a letter written and signed by the 37 concerned members, dated December 18, 2013, titled: ‘Communication of Change of Political Party’ and addressed to the speaker.

The lawmakers, in the letter, explained that their action was as a result of the crisis in the PDP and in line with the provision of section 68(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution.

Tambuwal took a roll call of the defecting members who were welcomed by the APC leaders. The 37 lawmakers were made up of 11 from Kano, Sokoto (10), Rivers (8), Kwara (6) and one each from Bauchi and Katsina states.

It means all the 24 lawmakers from Kano, 10 out of 11 from Sokoto (except Speaker Tambuwal), eight out of 13 from Rivers, all the six from Kwara, five out of 12 from Bauchi and 13 out of 15 from Katsina now belong to the opposition APC.

Those from Kano are: NasiruSuleGaro, Ahmad Zarewa, Aliyu SaniMadaki, Bashir Babale, Alhassan Ado Dogon, MunirDangyadi, Aminu Suleiman, AbdulmuminJibril, Musa Ado, Mustapha Bala and Muhtari M.C.; Sokoto: KabiruMarafaAchida, Aminu Shehu Shagari, Isa Salihu Bashir, Abdullahi Mohammed Wamakko, Saalu Mohammed Nabunkari, Aliyu Shehu, ShuaibuGwanduGobir, Musa Sarkin Adar, Abdullahi BalarabeSalame and Umar Bature.

From Rivers were Andrew Uchendu, AsitaHonourable, Sokonte Davies, DakukuPeterside, MpigiBarinada, Pronen Maurice, Dawari George and OgbonnaNwuke; while from Kwara we have Ali Ahmad, Zakari Mohammed, AhmanPategi, Rafiu Ibrahim, Mustapha Mashood and AiyedokunAkeem. From Katsina and Bauchi states were NasiruSaniZagonDaura and Yakubu Dogara respectively.

The letter read: “We the underlisted members of the House of Representatives elected under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wish to inform you that we have joined the All Progressive Congress (APC).

“This action is as a result of the division/ faction in the political party that sponsored our election into the House of Representatives. (See House Resolution No. HR/36/2013, vide votes and proceedings of Tuesday, 17 September, 2013 as attached). “Furthermore, we write to inform you that following this division, the faction of the PDP, which we belong to, has formally merged with the All Progressive Congress, APC.

“This communication is made pursuant to section 68 (1) (g) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, for your information, guidance and records please”.

With the defection, Speaker Tambuwal, his deputy EmekaIhedioha, House Leader, MulikatAkande-Adeola, Chief Whip, Mohammed Bawa, Deputy Leader, Leo Ogor and Deputy Whip, Muktar may vacate their seats should they remain in PDP. Besides the defection headache, Jonathan would be faced with the possibility of removal from office.

The House would later in the year pass a Bill to shorten the process of removing a President from office to allow for easy impeachment by the House and the eventual removal of the President by a two-third majority in the Senate.

The House, being a more progressive and tough arm of the National Assembly would hold the ace in 2014 and grab the Presidency by its balls. A harbinger of tough times for Jonathan came on December 19, 2013, when the Finance Committee of the House sent out the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. NgoziOkonjo-Iweala for ‘lying’ to them that she was sick and could not respond to 50 questions on the economy in 2013.

There would be greater challenges for the Presidency in 2014, when the House would also present a damning verdict on oil theft in the Niger Delta. A pipeline protection contract is handled by the President kinsmen. Another report that would cause commotion in the hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives in 2014 is that of the Public Accounts Committee alleging that the Presidency squandered trillions, dispensing favours to cronies at the expense of development in the country. With a barrage of attacks from all angles, it is doubtful if the Jonathan Presidency would survive beyond 2015.

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