The chamber of the House of Representatives was literally turned into a house of discord on Thursday, June 25 as some federal lawmakers disrupted the plenary session over the leadership tussle in the National Assembly.
Trouble started shortly after the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara commenced proceedings when Dogara called on a member, Oker Jeff from Benue State to move for an executive session. This was not to be as Abdullahi Salame from Sokoto State and a few other APC lawmakers moved in protest toward the mace, the House’s symbol of authority in an attempt to grab it. The attempt was swiftly checked as men of the sergeant-at-arm prevented them from taking the mace away. The aggrieved lawmaker disrupted plenary by insisting that Dogara must respect the decision of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in terms of its preferred candidates for the principal offices of the House. As the commotion ensued, legislators loyal to Dogara shielded the Speaker from their aggrieved colleagues.
A few days ago, the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had written a letter to the Speaker informing him of APC’s unanimous decision to nominate Femi Gbajabiamila (APC Lagos) as the Majority leader of the House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC Kano) as Deputy Majority Leader. The party also endorsed Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC Borno) and Pally Iriase (APC Edo) as Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip respectively.
It was gathered that it was in a bid to compel Dogara to abide by the decision of the party that some of the legislators who pledged loyalty to the APC started chanting that the party is supreme at the commencement of plenary while other members who are loyal to the Speaker responded by showing solidarity with Dogara.
The Speaker was dumb-founded by the drama and show of shame displayed by his colleagues. He was surrounded by a few lawmakers. At some point, Gbajamiala who lost the battle for the position of Speaker to Dogara conferred with him along with Leo Ogor, another lawmaker. The disruption of proceedings lasted for more than one hour before sanity was restored.
When the House reverted back to plenary, the embittered Dogara expressed displeasure with the manner the tussle over the principal offices in the House has brought division among the federal lawmakers. He explained that although they were free to disagree, it should not be allowed to degenerate into a situation where lawmakers will engage one another in fracas. He appealed to them to always maintain order and decorum in the House. The Speaker said that the 360 federal lawmakers should count themselves lucky to be among the few people representing the 170 million Nigerians who have been yearning positive change. He recalled that during the electioneering campaigns, his party – the APC preached the gospel of change. He, however, said that the change Nigerians were expecting from them in terms of tackling the challenges of unemployment, poverty and insurgency in the North East may not be possible unless the legislators stop the bickering over leadership positions in the House and forge a united from. “As leaders, all hands must be on deck in order for us to achieve the desired unity to enable us move forward,” he said.
He promised that they would sit down and resolve matter that led to the disruption of the plenary. He then adjourned sitting till July 21 when the House will reconvene.