Exposé on House of Tambuwal By Wasiu Olanrewaju-Smart
Since 1999 the House of Representatives has been playing pivotal role in ensuring checks and balances in government. However, from 1999 till date, members of parliament have engaged in crossing carpeting; from the Obanikoros, Ogunlewes, to the 37 New PDP defectors. The peculiar mess is that the losing party tongue lashes the political atmosphere with words of pretense to wool it’s loss. However, the credibility of defectors is at stake.
In December, 2013, 37 PDP House of Representatives members defected to the APC, swelling the status of the APC in the House. Meanwhile, few months away from the mass defection, APC lost 3 of its members to other political parties, Steve Karimi and Aboho Benjamin to PDP, Opeyemi Bamidele and Abiodun Akinlade to LP. Upon resumption in 2014, the APC also lost Hanaiya Francis, Ganama Titsi and many others up to Atiku Shamaki from Niger state to PDP. Recalling that APC with its simple majority status was able to balance political terror and also use it’s modicum of incumbency at the center to check the excess of the PDP led federal government ahead of the 2015 election. An example was when APC used its strength in National Assembly to filibuster 2014 budget on the ground that Mr. President is making Rivers state ungovernable for Gov. Amaechi. My usage of the word ‘balance of political terror’ typifies the Nigerian political system regarding the fact that total calmness doesn’t make an opposition party match the political machination of the PDP.
On October 28, 2014, Speaker of House of Representatives and number four citizen in the land also left his former party, PDP and joined APC due to political dynamics in Sokoto state, immediately after his defection his former party requested for his resignation. In trying to figure out the legal propriety of such request, it is worthy to note that this is not the first time in our political history where the sitting Speaker will be from another party other than the ruling party.
During the Second Republic, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke was the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives and was a member of the now defunct Nigeria’s Peoples Party (NPP).
Arguably, he emerged as a result of an accord between the NPP and the then ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN); same goes for Tambuwal. He emerged as Speaker through an accord between some members of ruling PDP and defunct ACN, ANPP and CPC as against the wishes of his party.
As students of history, also remember that the accord did break down at some point and Edwin Ume-Ezeoke remained as Speaker of the House of Representatives, in the case of Tambuwal, the brilliant lawyer still enjoys support of majority of the House members across party lines despite his defection.
It is important to note that the law did not state that anyone holding the position of Speaker and Deputy Speaker (Presiding Officers) must emerge from the ruling or majority party (it’s just a tradition and not law) and anyone already holding any of the two offices can only be removed by two-third majority of members of the House. Meanwhile, the House rules says that the position of House Leader, Deputy House Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Chief Whip belongs to the party with majority strength while the position of House Minority Leader, Deputy House Minority Leader, Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Whip goes to the minority party.
Out of the 10 principal officers of the House only the Speaker and his deputy are not obliged by law to emerge on party basis. In fact lawmakers at the inception of the assembly could decide to vote members from two different political parties into the positions of speaker and deputy speaker respectively.
So it’s not strange to the constitution and Nigeria’s political history that the Speaker retains his seat irrespective of his party, except if 240 out of 360 members of the House say otherwise.
Several APC lawmakers have defected to PDP and same Tambuwal read their letters of impeachment without hesitation, even though Senator David Mark refused to read such letters when it’s not in favour of PDP. Interestingly, same man perceived to be anti-Jonathan ensured that Mr. President’s request for $1 Billion loan to combat Boko Haram was approved under his watch as Speaker of the House. I think speaking truth to power even when it’s to your own discomfort doesn’t make you enemy to anyone.
It is surprising that PDP accepted APC lawmakers into its fold without requesting that they vacate their seats first. One of PDP stalwarts, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), once claimed that the provision of section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 constitution is irrelevant in the case of the 37 defectors, on the other way round same proviso was relied upon by those who defected to PDP. If APC had wanted to substantiate the view that the difference between PDP and APC is like that of six and half dozen, when the received 37 former PDP members it could also have chosen to disobey the court order restraining the House from effecting a leadership change. Today, Tambuwal is no more in PDP and same contentious judgment is now working against them. PDP and it’s gladiators can’t continue to treat the masses like a tenant. The people must be willing to raise their stake in the country to exert their status as the rightful owner of this democracy.
Recapping the intrigues behind the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker, PDP as a party did not want Tambuwal to be Speaker, because his emergence would alter the zoning arrangement in the party considering the fact that the speakership seat had already been zoned to South West, as faith would it the opposition succeeded in thwarting the zoning arrangement. As much as I do not celebrate cross carpeting I find solace in the strong character and unique leadership style of Mr. Speaker.
More importantly, we already have an existing court judgment obtained by PDP when 37 PDP lawmakers defected to APC, and the judgment says “HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SHOULD NOT CHANGE ANY OF ITS LEADERS”.
Like I said earlier the judgment favored PDP then but it’s now against them because their plan was to save the House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Adeola without foresight that someone like the Speaker could also swing the pendulum against the ruling PDP. Candidly, the 7th House of Representatives would soon expire so PDP should restrategize ahead of 2015 and stay way from another bandwagon trouble. In the interest of the country and federal government, there is no need to put the House in disarray or factionalize the House for as long as Tambuwal still promise to continue to work in the interest of Nigeria.
A united House of Representatives is needed for us to have a strong Electoral Act, Petroleum Industry Act, MTEF, 2015 Appropriation Act and ‘Extension of State of Emergency (if need be)’ and capture the National Conference report into the constitution.
*Olanrewaju-Smart is Research and Media Assistant to Minority Leader, House of Representatives, email@example.com
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org