Despite their suspension by their party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the four lawmakers that emerged as minority leaders of the 9th House of Representatives on Wednesday would remain in their positions, according to a report.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had on Wednesday announced Ndudi Elumelu (Delta) as Minority Leader; Toby Okechukwu (Enugu) as Deputy Minority Leader; Gideon Gwoni (Kaduna) as Minority Whip, and Adesegun Adekola (Ogun) as Deputy Minority Whip.
The announcement followed the endorsement of the names of the new minority leaders by majority of PDP members and all the other smaller opposition political parties in the House.
But the PDP national leadership had nominated Kingsley Chinda (Rivers) as Minority Leader; Chukwuka Onyema (Anambra) as Deputy Minority Leader; Yakubu Barde (Kaduna) as Minority Whip and Muraino Ajibola (Oyo) as Deputy Minority Whip.
The development led the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to summon the four new opposition principal officers and three others, whom they accused of defying the party’s directive, to a meeting on Friday. The three others were Wole Oke (Osun), Linda Ikeazu (Abia) and Anayo Edwin (Ebonyi).
However, the seven lawmakers could not attend the meeting as they were said to have left Abuja to various destinations on Thursday afternoon, while the PDP’s invitation for the meeting came late in the evening.
Following the lawmakers’ inability to honour the party’s invitation, the PDP NWC suspended all the seven of them for one month.
But some of the PDP lawmakers who spoke in confidence for fear of victimisation said nothing would change as far as the minority leadership positions were concerned.
Besides, a PDP member said the suspension would only affect their participation in the activities of the party but would not in any way affect their membership of the House.
Asked if the four principal officers would vacate their seats to allow those nominated by the party to occupy them, a PDP lawmaker said, “Certainly, no. It’s of no effect. They have come to stay, and nobody would change that.”
On what they would do to resolve the matter, the PDP member who is one of the staunch supporters of the four opposition principal officers said, “It’s a family affair. It will be resolved amicably.”
Elumelu had while reacting to the suspension said he was surprised and shocked that the party could take such a decision without giving them fair hearing.
“I am surprised and shocked that the National Working Committee of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can sit and take a decision without giving room for fair hearing.
“I lost an aunt and left Abuja for Delta State after plenary on Thursday. My gateman received the letter at 7.45pm and he called me at 8pm. I tried to reach out to the other members named in the letter to see if they could be at the meeting but they were also out of town.
“Out of respect for the party, I instructed my special assistant to write to the party and request a new date. I expected that if the date we suggested was not convenient for the party, they would have proposed a new date. I have great respect for the party and I am ready to serve.”
Also reacting to the development on Friday evening, Oke said he was shocked that the PDP could “suspend its most loyal members for towing the path of honour.” He said he was duty bound to “advise appropriately as one of the ranking members of the House,” particularly on the minority leadership question.
It was learnt that the development was already causing bad blood among members of the PDP, which boasts of about 130 members in the House, who are sharply divided on the matter.
Some fear that the development may affect the take-off of the entire 9th House, but it is believed that only the PDP members are in disagreement with themselves, and those against the new opposition principal officers are in minority, hence they would not succeed in causing trouble in the House.
Another lawmaker familiar with the happenings said should PDP insist on having its ways, the matter may end up in court.
Yet another source said PDP had gone overboard by ignoring other smaller opposition political parties in the House and unilaterally picking opposition principal officers without consulting the rest.
“Ordinarily, the positions are supposed to be shared among all the opposition parties in the House, because as our rules say, and as re-echoed by the speaker on Wednesday, the positions are meant for all opposition political parties in the House.
“There’s a precedence already. When the current Speaker belonged to the defunct ACN, which had the highest number of members in the opposition, other smaller opposition parties were accommodated in the minority leadership.
“In the case of this current House, there are other minority parties that have about 20 members, and they should be considered too, or at least they should be consulted and carried along. But PDP went and did everything its own way.
“The members of the other parties as well as a large number of PDP members sat down and elected the minority leadership, which is the right thing to do. I think that’s why the speaker recognised them,” the source said.
Though none of the members of the smaller opposition parties is among the minority principal officers announced on Wednesday, they were said to have endorsed the list completely, with over 100 members of both PDP and other opposition parties signing in support of the Elumelu group.
Newsmen report that between 2007 and 2015, the current Speaker Gbajabiamila served as Minority Leader when he was in the defunct Action Congress of Nigerians (ACN), while his deputy Abdulrahman Kawu Sumaila was in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Similarly, between 2011 and 2015, when Samson Osagie of the then ACN served as Minority Whip, his then deputy Muhammad Garba Datti was then in the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC).
A PDP member who was not happy with the current development said: “They’re accusing our colleagues of siding with Gbajabiamila, who is an APC member, but they should be ashamed of themselves.
“When they asked us all as senators and reps of the party to vote Ndume and Bago, is that not the height of anti-party? Are Ndume and Bago members of PDP? So, they should allow us be. Why didn’t they remain neutral? Or why didn’t they endorse one of us to be Senate President and another to be Speaker?”
Newsmen report that following the announcement of the opposition principal officers on Wednesday, Chinda came early to the floor of the House on Thursday and took over the seat of minority leader.
He then made unsuccessful attempts to raise a point of order, but Gbajabiamila failed to recognise him, and cautioned that he would not allow the Rivers lawmaker to speak as he was not on his allocated seat.
The speaker then warned that anybody that wanted to test the resolve of the House would live to regret it.
Based on the current Standing Orders of the House, introduced in October, 2015 by immediate past speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the speaker can suspend outrightly, for 30 plenary days, any member that refuses to obey the direction of the Speaker to leave the House chamber during a particular day’s sitting, after such a member has been directed to assume their seat but failed to do so.
“No member of the House or his agent may approach, handle or remove the mace under any circumstance. Any member who approaches or handles the mace with whatever intent, including to remove, or who removes the mace shall be liable to suspension from the service of the House for a period not less than six months or such longer period as the Speaker or chairman may consider expedient having regard to the particular circumstances,” it said.
It says a member who is asked to leave the House chamber by the Speaker but fails, “…when summoned under the Speaker’s Order by the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Speaker shall call to the attention of the House that force is necessary in order to compel obedience and any member named by the Speaker as having refused to obey his direction shall thereupon, without any further question being put, be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding 30 plenary days.”
Senate Principal Officers
Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi
Abdullahi first came to the Senate in 2015 to represent Kebbi North Senatorial District. He was one of those at the forefront of the campaign for Ahmad Lawan to become the Senate President in 2015, but that did not happen.
A retired federal permanent secretary and a PhD holder, Abdullahi, 67, was said to be the unpaid consultant to different committees of the 8th Senate, although he was denied chairmanship of any committee by the former Senate President Bukola Saraki.
He, along few other APC senators, started the pursuit for the Lawan presidency once again following their victory in the 2019 general elections, with APC getting majority of seats in both chambers. He was made the chairman of the Lawan Campaign Council, a position in which he delivered.
Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice
Boroffice represents Ondo North Senatorial District. He first came to the Senate in 2011 and has been there ever since. Born on April 23, 1949, the 70-year old was a lecturer at the University of Ibadan in 1975 and Professor of Zoology at the Lagos State University in 1986.
He had at various times worked in agencies such as the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), among others.
Like the Senate Leader, Boroffice also worked tirelessly for the emergence of Ahmad Lawan as Senate President.
Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu
Kalu was the governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007. He was at various times a member of PDP and PPA before joining APC.
He is the chairman of SLOK Holding and publisher of the Daily Sun and the New Telegraph newspapers. He defeated Sen Mao Ohuabunwa of the PDP to become the senator for Abia North.
Kalu, 59, initially wanted to contest for the position of Deputy Senate President, having been a member of the House of Representatives in 1992, but he later dropped his ambition and became a strong supporter to Lawan for Senate President.
Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Abdullahi Sabi
Sabi came to the Senate in 2015 to represent Niger North Senatorial District. He was made the chairman of Senate Committee on Media and Publicity.
A veterinary doctor who had worked for many years in the public service, Sabi became a major arrowhead for the Lawan Senate presidency and was made the spokesman of the campaign.
Senate Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe
Abaribe is among the ranking senators of the 9th Senate as he has been in the Red Chamber representing Abia South Senatorial District since 2007.
Born on March 1, 1955, the 64-year-old Abaribe was the deputy governor of Abia State between May 29, 1999 and March 7, 2003 when Kalu served as governor.
He served as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Power in the 8th Senate and was one of vocal senators on the floor of the Senate. He was believed to have worked for Lawan’s emergence as Senate President. It is believed that he would provide a vibrant opposition on the floor of the Senate.
Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha
Bwacha first came to the Senate in 2011 to represent Taraba South Senatorial District. He has been a member of the PDP since joining politics.
As a team player, Bwacha was the Deputy Senate Minority Leader in the 8th Senate, and it was natural that the PDP found him worthy of maintaining his position having served meritoriously last time.
Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda
The 50-year-old Aduda was a councillor for Karu and a member of the House of Representatives for AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency from 2003 to 2011, before winning election to the Senate to represent the entire Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which has only one senator.
During the last Senate, he served as the Minority Whip, a position he was said to have held diligently, which was why the PDP found him worthy of being nominated for the position the second time.
Deputy Senate Minority Whip, Sahabi Ya’u
Ya’u, 62, had served as the senator representing Zamfara North from 2007 to 2011 under the defunct ANPP. He later joined the PDP and contested during the last general elections for the same position.
After the Supreme Court judgment that affirmed INEC’s position that the APC did not conduct primaries in Zamfara State, Ya’u automatically became the winner of the Senate seat for Zamfara North and was sworn in alongside 106 others on June 11.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said the suspension of its seven members in the House of Representatives was not the only thing the party had done.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who spoke with our correspondent in a telephone interview yesterday, said the lawmakers had also been referred to the disciplinary committee of the party for further actions.
He, however, declined to reveal the likely actions to be further taken against them.
He said the party was working assiduously to strengthen the role of its members in the National Assembly, adding that whoever failed to adhere strictly to party guidelines and directive principles would be disciplined.
“The party will further take decisions on the matter. Already, the suspended lawmakers have been referred to the disciplinary committee of the party. So whatever they say now is hypothetical. That is the only thing I will say for now,” he said.