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Dialogue as antidote to House minority leadership crisis

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By Orkula Shaagee, Abuja

For the first time since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the House of Representatives was engulfed in crisis over the leadership of the minority parties in the lower chamber of the nation’s National Assembly.

Though it is common sight to see lawmakers engage in mace snatching and open fight right in the hallowed chamber over political differences, it was the first time in the history of the third arm of government to witness lawmakers engage in open confrontation over the election of minority principal officers in the green chamber.

Penultimate Wednesday, the House of Representatives was thrown into crisis that led to attempt by some aggrieved members to snatch the mace.

The action followed the alleged rejection of a letter by House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila from by the leadership of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nominating Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers State) as the Minority Leader, Chukwuma Onyema from Anambra as Deputy Minority Leader, Yakubu Barde from Kaduna State as Minority Whip and Muriano Ajibola from Oyo State as Deputy Minority Whip.

Gbajabiamila however read a letter he said was sent to him by minority parties in the House signed by 99 out of the 147 members nominating Ndudi Elumelu from Delta State as Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu State as Deputy Minority Leader, Gideon Gwani as Minority Whip and Adesegun Adekoya as Deputy Minority Whip.

Despite intense protests from the opposition lawmakers, citing the various House rules to support their position, Gbajabiamila ruled them out and thereafter declared Elumelu and the others in his group as the House’s minority leaders.

Leading the protest, Chinda said the nomination of Elumelu and his gang as House minority leaders would not stand. He said series of inter-party meetings were held among the oppositio9n parties where all the issues of nomination were ratified.

“The issue is that of 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,” he said.

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Reacting, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila sets up a committee to probe attempt at mace snatching.

At the resumption of plenary the following day, Chinda and his colleagues took over the designated seats for the minority officers, and this delayed the commencement of plenary traditionally billed for 11 in the morning.  Gbajabiamila’s procession, including his deputy, Idris Wase, and other minority officers, led by Elumelu, did not enter the chambers until 12:10.

The Peoples Democratic Party also condemned the action, saying, “Gbajabiamila exhibited personal hostility, with threats that Chinda would ‘regret’ taking his rightful seat as the bona fide Leader of the Minority in the House.

“This vicious outburst by Gbajabiamila is a direct threat and affront to our democratic order. The rights of the minority members in the House of Representatives, the people of Obio/Akpo Federal

“The PDP, in the strongest terms, condemns this outburst and demands the Speaker retract his inciting threats against Chinda within the next 24 hours,” its Spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said.

He also called on Nigerians to hold Gbajabiamila directly responsible should any harm suddenly come upon Chinda, any member of his family or any member of the PDP in the House of Representatives.

Ologbondiyan said, “The PDP also invites the police and the Department of State Services to summon Gbajabiamila to explain the intents of his threats.”

He stated that the PDP remained committed to rules and the sanctity of the parliament.

Consequently, the Peoples Democratic Party later suspended Ndudi Elumelu and six other members of the party in the House of Representatives for “indiscipline, insubordination and disobedience”.

The representative of  Oriade/Obokun Federal Constituency, Osun State,  Wole Oke;  representative of  Onitsha North and Onitsha South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Lynda Ikpeazu; representative of  Ezza North/Ishielu Federal Constituency,  Ebonyi State, Anayo Edwin; representative of Kaura Federal Constituency, Kaduna State, Gideon Gwani; representative of  Aninri/Awgu/Oji River Federal Constituency, Enugu State, Toby Okechukwu; and representative of   Ijebu-North/Ijebu-East/Ogun Waterside Federal Constituency, Adekoya Abdul-Majid, were  the six other members of the party suspended.

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The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told reporters at a press conference in Abuja that the suspension was the outcome of the meeting of the PDP National Working Committee over the crisis that resulted from the struggle for the House of Representatives Minority Leader.

Ologbondiyan, who read the resolution of the NWC, said the committee reviewed the issues affecting the minority leadership of the House of Representatives.

He said the party noted the roles played by the affected Reps which resulted in the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, announcing the list of the  minority leadership of the House  different from the one submitted by the opposition party.

He said, “After the  preliminary examination by the NWC, it was evident that the roles played by the above mentioned members, bordered on indiscipline, insubordination and disobedience, contrary to Section 58 (1)(b)(c)(f)(h) of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).”

The Peoples Democratic Party also criticized the Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, for allegedly threatening the representative of Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency in the House, Mr Kingsley Chinda.

The main opposition party asked the police and Department of State Services to summon the Speaker to explain himself.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement on Friday   said Gbajabiamila had no justification to allegedly threaten   the factional Minority Leader of the House after overruling him when he wanted to raise a point of order during Thursday’s plenary.

Gbajabiamila had blocked moves by some Peoples Democratic Party members, including Chinda, to raise issues relating to the parallel principal officers produced by the minority parties on Wednesday.

Ndudi Elumelu and Chinda had emerged as factional Minority Leaders, with the House recognizing the former.

Still not backing down on its stand to have Chinda and other nominees from the PDP to assume offices as House minority leaders, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) set up a five-member committee to intervene in the dispute over the emergence of Rep. Ndudi Elumelu as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.

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The Chairman of the BoT, Mr Walid Jibrin, announced the decision in Abuja after the board’s meeting at the party’s national headquarters.

Jibrin said that the committee, to be chaired by a former President of the Senate, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, had seven days to submit its report,

“We have decided to wade into the fracas in the House of Representatives as regards the minority leadership.

“To that effect, a committee has been formed under the chairmanship of Ayu. Other members of the committee include Sen. David Mark, Sen. Ibrahim Mantu, Sen. Adolphus Wabara and Hon. Austin Opara as Secretary of the Committee.

“They have been given a week to submit their report to the BoT and National Working Committee (NWC) thereafter, a decision would be taken”.

Jibrin said that the BoT as the conscience of the party would always work with the NWC to avoid any form of conflict within the party.

He said the board passed a vote of confidence on the judiciary and expressed the hope that court decisions would deepen democracy in the country.

“We agreed again that our party will play the role of opposition. We are in support of the process going on at the Supreme Court and thirdly we congratulate the judiciary for a job well done.

“We are very encouraged with the judges and if they continue, our democracy in Nigeria will be better.”

As the logjam persists despite prolong protests, media war and threats, we advise the nominees and the opposition political parties in the House to explore the option of engaging the Femi Gbajabiamila led leadership in the House to a dialogue to find the way forward and a lasting solution to the wrangling.

We are aware that being the first time since 1999 that the PDP is taking the position of the opposition party in the House leadership, it will be a bitter pill for the party to swallow the garbage being thrown at them by the APC-led leadership.

NEWS

Buhari Swears in Seven New Ministers, Announces Minor Cabinet Changes

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President Muhammadu Buhari has announced minor cabinet reshuffle as he swore in seven new Ministers in the State House, Abuja, on Wednesday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the affected ministers swore in include Goodluck Opiah (Imo), Umar El-Yakub (Kano) and Ademola Adegoroye (Ondo). Henry Ikoh (Abia) Umana Okon Umana (Akwa Ibom), Ekumankama Nkama (Ebonyi) and Odum Odi (Rivers).

NAN reports that six of the ministers replaced six former members of the federal executive council, who retired to participate in the last party primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) while El-Yakub replaced the former Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, who was removed from office.

While announcing the reshuffle shortly before the commencement of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, the president approved Minister of State, Health, Sen.

Adeleke Mamora as new the Minister of Science and Technology; Minister of State, Works, Mua’azu Sambo also moved to the Ministry of Transportation as substantive Minister.

Umanna Umanna is now the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs while Minister of State Environment, Sharon Ikeazor has been moved to the Niger Delta Ministry as Minister of State.

Sen Gbemisola Saraki was moved to the Ministry of Mines and Steel as Minister of State while Umar El-Yakub is now the Minister of State Works and Housing.

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The president also approved Goodluck Apiah as Minister of State, Education; Ekumankama Nkama. Minister of Health; Ikoh Ikechekwu, Minister of State, Science and Technology; Odum Udi, Minister of State, Environment and Ademola Adegoroye is now Minister of State, Transportation.

NAN reports that before the swearing in, a minute’s silence was observed in honour of Mohammed Barkindo, the outgoing Secretary-General of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), who died at the age of 63, on Tuesday night.

Those physically in attendance are the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; and Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari.

Other Ministers who  were also in attendance include the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, Education, Adamu Adamu, Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

Others are, Mines and Steel, Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and Minister of State, Budget, National Planning, Clem Agba and State, Industry Trade and Investment, Maryam Katagun as well as all the newly sworn in ministers. (NAN)

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POLITICS

2023: Group Warns APC, Tinubu Against Muslim-Muslim Presidential Ticket

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Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, a group under the aegis of Defence Watch has cautioned the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tunibu against presenting a Muslim/Muslim ticket in the election.

The group made the appeal in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari titled: “APC’s Muslim/Muslim Ticket in Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: A Threat to National Stability, Regional Peace and Security’”.

The letter which was jointly signed by Alhaji Ahmed Adamu and Otunba Adeniji Adegoke, the group’s National Coordinator and National Secretary respectively, was made available to newsmen on Monday in Abuja.

According to the group, the letter, was copied to all heads of democratic and security institutions as well as other international concerns in the country.

It said a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not only be a threat to national stability, but could also retard the country’s peace and security.

The group said presenting such a ticket as being proposed by the APC, would portray Nigeria as an Islamic and a sectarian nation.

It said, the pairing of two Muslims would be ultimately resisted by the country’s millions of practicing Christians, moderate as well as progressive Muslims and civic groups.

It added that ethno-cultural associations and enlightened members of the international communities could also protest such a pairing.

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“We are therefore calling on President Buhari to direct the security forces to do the needful by advising Sen. Bola Tinubu, APC presidential candidate and the party on the possible threats this action could pose to security in the country.

“It is pertinent to note the serious implications of the action with regards to security, especially when one rightly imagines that Christians will feel threatened with a Muslim/Muslim ticket.

“They may resort to pulpit preaching and mobilization of opinions across the Christendom,” the group added.

It further went on to reveal that civil society organizations and students would likely protest if a Muslim- Muslim ticket was eventually introduced into the polity in manners that might constitute security concerns.

The group warned on the danger such political arrangement could cause on the continental security.

It noted that West African Sub-region and African regional peace and security were basically predicated on the presumption of Nigeria’s political stability.

“We therefore implore you to use your good offices to weigh in on Tinubu and the APC to thread with caution and refrain from unyielding desire to foist on the nation a Muslim Muslim ticket

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Bello Forwards Three Commissionership Nominees  to Kogi Assembly for Confirmation

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From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja

Kogi State Governor,  Yahaya Bello has forwarded  names of three Commissionership nominees to  Kogi State House of Assembly for confirmation

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Onogwu Muhammed disclosed this while speaking with journalists in Lokoja on Tuesday.

He said that the nominees  are;  former Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, (Kogi West); Dr.

Zakeri Usman and Engr. Mohammed Abdulmutalab from Dekina and Okene Local Government Areas respectively.

The Information Commissioner, Fanwo had resigned his appointment to contest the Yagba West House of Representatives ticket of the All Progressives Congress but lost.

It was also gathered that Dr. Usman if confirmed by the assembly, will replace the former Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Haruna Audu who was sacked by the Governor from office in April 2022, over allegations of misappropriation of funds.

Meanwhile, Abdulmutalab will also replace Engr. Abubakar Ohere who resigned to pursue his senatorial ambition.

Ohere emerged the Senatorial candidate of the APC for Kogi Central Senatorial seat, and would be slugging it out with Barr. Natasha Akpoti Uduaghan, the candidate of the main opposition- Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).

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