Fracas and commotion are indeed better words to describe what happened on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday when some dishonourable members went berserk, fighting and exchanging blows, thus reducing the lower chamber to a theatre of war.
The show of shame exhibited by the lawmakers over who gets what for the position of principal officers came to a boiling point on Thursday as the legislators threw caution to the wind and freely exchange blows.
Before the fracas, lawmakers from the North-Central and South-East had kicked against the selection process of principal officers in the House. In a separate briefing with House correspondents, the two caucuses called for fairness and equity from the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the selection process. Both caucuses argued that there was no way the two zones could be completely left out in sharing of principal officers of the House.
The North-Central caucus led by Hon Bahago Pategi (APC, Kwara) said that the party’s position was taken without consulting the caucus. Pategi noted that they were shocked when the party stated in the said publications that they arrived at the decision after due consultation.
“We are also amazed by the directive of the party to the leadership of the House to take necessary action on the purported choice made by the party, which we see as a clear usurpation of the powers of the zonal caucuses and their members as guaranteed by the constitution and the standing rules of the House of Representatives.
“We therefore strongly reject the purported selection by the party which we see as being in conflict with the principle of the Federal Character as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic,” Pategi pointed out.
He said the stand of the North-Central caucus was that there should be fairness and equity in the selection of other principal positions of the House of Representatives following the emergence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
The South-East caucus led by Hon. Austin Chukwukere (APC, Imo) said they rejected the distribution of the principal officers in the House which excluded the zone. Chukwukere said they cannot stand and let the party sweep them off their feet, adding that they had fought hard to sustain the party in the South-East. He, therefore, called on the leadership of the party to do what was right.
According to him, “It is disheartening that the zone has no slot in the sharing of principal officers in the House. We have six geo-political zones as well as six principal officers. So the party should accommodate all the geo-political zones. It is unfair to exclude one zone.”
While many have described the incident as a “legislative rascality”, others say it was “unparliamentary” for the so-called honourable members to wash their dirty linen in public.
However, those familiar with the activities in the Green Chamber will certainly not be taken aback because fight and exchange of blows are common re-occurring phenomenon being used to settle sharp and bitter disagreements in the House.
Similar scenario played out during the time of Demeji Bankole as Speaker of the 6th House of Assembly. Recalled that after Patricia Eteh was remove as Speaker, Bankole summoned the courage to re-assign committee to members, thus leading some aggrieved members to fight each other.
After 16 years of PDP in power, APC has not only become the ruling party, but also the majority party in the 8th National Assembly. Before the inauguration of the current Assembly, the leadership of the party was unable to reach a decision as to who gets what. Though majority of the APC and PDP lawmakers had insisted that they will elect their leaders among themselves without any imposition.
In order to insert its authority on its members, the party, in a mock election, picked Senators Ahmad Lawan and George Akume as the Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively, while Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Tahir Monguno as Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
This development did not go down well with some APC members loyal to the party, especially in the House of Representatives. In one of its caucus meetings, they resolved that the Speaker of the House must not only read out the letter from the party, but must respect the zones the party had zoned the various positions.
The leadership crisis in the lower chamber finally nose-dived on Thursday as the APC lawmakers in the House of Representatives freely exchanged blows with their PDP counterpart. The fracas disrupted House proceedings for close to two hours.
Trouble started when the Speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara, called for a motion to enable the House dessolve into executive session. The Ad Hoc Committee Chairman on Rules and Business, Hon. Orker-JevYisa, had barely stood up to move the motion when APC lawmakers led by Hon. Ali Madaki (APC, Kano) rushed to seize the mace, insisting that the Speaker must first read the letter from the party as regards the position of principal officers of the House. Unfortunately, they were over powered by the seargent-at-arms and other PDP lawmakers, who resisted the move.
While the fracas lasted, all the PDP members shielded the Speaker, from possible attack. During the crisis, Hon Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) were seen on different occasions conferring on the Speaker on the next line of action.
Gbajabiamila was strongly resisted when he wanted to address his APC lawmakers to calm down.
Incensed by the ugly development, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuf Lasun, threatened to fight whoever attacks him.
“I am a Yoruba man and I will fight,” he stated.
Calm gradually returned to the Green Chamber at about 12:35pm when most of the lawmakers began to take their seats.
In his brief remarks, the Speaker expressed dissatisfaction that despite the promises by the ruling party, Nigerians were yet to see any concrete change. Dogara instead called on the leadership of the party to concentrate on policies and programmes that will affect the lives of Nigerians rather than indulge in partisan politics.
According to him, “We are very fortunate; let me remind us of the fact that, we are very fortunate. In a nation of 170 million people, only 360 of us are selected or elected to represent the people and we should be grateful to our constituents for sending us here.
“To be candid, we have promised so much in the course of our elections and even the very party I belong to, the APC we have promised change and Nigerians expect us to really talk about those matters; those issues that bother them most, they want to hear us talk about unemployment, poverty; in my region they want us to address insecurity and as long as this House is divided and not united, we cannot achieve that.
“We have been down this tideous road before so I plead of us honourable members, that as leaders all hands must be on the deck to enable us achieve the desired unity that we need in other to move this house forward that is the responsibility we owe.
“As to the issues that led to the fracas today, we will sit down as leaders and resolve whatever the fight we have to ensure that this matter is resolved as quickly as possible and that is what we will do by the Grace of God.
He thereafter adjourned plenary to July 21, 2015.
Shortly after the House had adjourned, APC members loyal to the party told the House Press Corps that the fracas was in reaction to the illegal and unconstitutional action taken by Speaker. Hon. Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura (APC, Katsina), who spoke on their behalf, noted that in his usual tradition, the Speaker was bent on disregarding the wishes of the party caucus in the House. He stressed that under extant Laws and House Rules, the Speaker cannot appoint, select or dictate how party principal officers will emerge.
“We are aware of a letter sent by our party, the All Progressives Congress, APC dated 23rd June 2015 conveying the approval of the party’s principal officers vis a vis the APC House Leader, the APC Chief Whip, the APC Deputy House Leader and the APC Deputy Chief Whip for the House of Representatives.
“This letter from the party is in compliance with the expressed wish and mandate of the majority members of the APC Caucus in the House of Representatives.
“This action of the party and the APC House Caucus is in compliance with the Nigerian Constitution, the House Rules and Parliamentary tradition, practices and precedents in Nigeria and all over the World,” the caucus said.
Also briefing the corps, PDP caucus led by Hon. Leo Ogor described what happened on Thursday as “very unparliamentary”. Ogor expressed dismay on the incident, saying that it was a bad precedence for the APC. He, however, wondered what manner of change the party intends to bring to Nigerians.
Similarly, the House Ad hoc Committee on Media led by Hon. Sani Soro. (APC, Jigawa) said the conduct of APC members was contrary to the Standing Orders of the House. Soro pointed out that from what transpired on Thursday, it was obvious that the members were acting on a premeditated script, adding that some of them even carried placards with inscriptions on them.‬
“These members attempted to seize the mace, which is the symbol of authority of the House and other sundry acts of fighting, fracas, misconduct, disruption and committed unparliamentary actions unbecoming of the status of honourable members.‬
“The conduct of these members amounts to contempt of the House and is in clear violation of the Standing Orders of the House and Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act and the customs and traditions of Parliament.
“The House wishes to state that the action of these members is regrettable and not in consonance with the objectives of the 8th Assembly as the House was set to continue deliberation on its legislative agenda and other matters that directly affect the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.‬
“The House therefore sincerely apologizes to Nigerians for the ugly events of today. ‬
“We reiterate the admonition of the Speaker that the 8th House in fulfilment of its electoral mandate shall devote its time and energy to address the hydra headed problems facing Nigerians and not on matters not in consonance with our primary responsibilities.‬
“Finally, we want to assure Nigerians that the House under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, will continue to pursue the needs of Nigerians as enshrined in our legislative framework,” Soro asserted.

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