Peace has eluded the 8th National Assembly, an assembly that Nigerians expected much from. In over six weeks after inauguration, the NASS has managed to sit for six days amidst fights and controversies. Despite all the peace moves by stakeholders including the ruling APC, the crisis seems to be degenerating to a point where resumption poses greater danger, writes EMMA ALOZIE
Members of the 8th National Assembly perhaps never envisaged the debilitating crisis that has enveloped it. In the build up to the election of the leadership of the 8th NASS, all those who participated in the nocturnal meetings and intrigues that threw up the present beleaguered leadership never imagined that what they were doing was murdering sleep and that sleep shall elude them for a very long time.
Since Tuesday, the 9th of June when the life of this NASS leadership started, it has been steeped in one controversy or the other, defying all forms of amicable solutions.
Expectedly, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the party in the middle of this unending crisis, has been battling to resolve all outstanding issues, but curiously the efforts of the party seem to be counterproductive.
President Muhammadu Buhari who hitherto said he was not going to interfere in the affairs of National Assembly used the opportunity of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting to appeal to all contending factions to sheath their sword and respect party supremacy. The president’s pleas surely fell on unheeding ears as all the factions are in no haste to shift ground.
The efforts of Governor Tambuwal committee to broker peace seemed to have opened a little window of opportunity when the Dogara camp conceded the House leadership to the Femi Gbajabiamila camp. But it was a concession with unacceptable caveat. In trying to respect the letter of the party instructing it on who and who should take what and what principal office in the House of Reps, the Dogara camp had accepted the proposal that the party should determine who occupies the House principal offices of majority leader, and its deputy, chief whip and its deputy, but with the condition that the party must not choose persons from both the South West and the North East; two zones currently occupying the positions of speaker and deputy speaker.
In a letter addressed to the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the speaker of the House, Hon Yakubu Dogara gave reasons why the House cannot honour the directive of the party. The speaker explained that in deference to federal character and some extant laws, he is constrained in ceding the position of House leader to the South West, which already has the deputy speaker. The speaker explained that it would amount to shortchanging other zones that are yet to get anything.
According to the speaker’s letter, “We want to place on record, our unflinching loyalty and respect not only to you as an individual, considering your antecedents, but also to the party, APC, under whose platform we were elected to the House. We have no intention whatsoever of disobeying your directives or the party’s position on any matter. We would, of course, prefer a situation where we are consulted on matters concerning the House before directives are issued and made public.
“We feel strongly, that the issue of federal character in the election or appointment of principal officers of the House is a cardinal legal, moral and constitutional principle that should be respected by our party. It is however obvious from the letter under reference that this principle was not taken into consideration.
“Indeed, we expect that our great party, the APC, will ensure that “there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in (the) government or in any of its agencies.”
The speaker went to great length in tracing precedencies right from 1999 when federal character had been observed in the sharing of principal offices of the House and proposed what he termed an acceptable and all inclusive zoning formula, which would take the House leader to the North West, its deputy to North Central, Chief Whip to South South and its deputy to South East.
Expectedly, the Gbajabiamila group rejected the speaker’s zoning proposal arguing that the Speaker’sanalysis and interpretation of the constitution and House rules was fraught with several fundamental flaws. In a letter also addressed to the party’s chairman and signed by Nasiru Sani Zangon-Daura on behalf of the Gbajabiamila group, this group insisted on its earlier stand that the House leader must come from the South West.
“Whilst we maintain that our party’s mantra of ‘change’ for the growth and development of our dear nation requires that merit should not be sacrificed on the altar of zoning, we have painstakingly ensured that in the selection of our leaders in the House, all zones are represented, except the South East, which unfortunately, are currently excluded from holding leadership positions because the House Rules disqualifies ‘inexperienced’ members from holding leadership position.
“Unfortunately, all our party members from the South East are first term legislators. The South East can be adequately compensated through other means without violating our rule on appointment of principal officers.
“Hon. Dogara, in paragraph 7 of his letter quotes the provision of section 147 of the constitution which specifically requires that the President in appointing ministers, shall observe the federal character principle as provided in section 14.
“He has inadvertently made our point that federal character is applicable only to the executive and its agencies. If the framers of our constitution had intended same to apply to the running of the legislature Houses, similar provisions which mandated the president specifically, would have been included in the case of the National Assembly.