The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party is pushing for the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal, who defected to the All Progressives Congress on Tuesday.
Tambuwal had during plenary told his colleagues that he heeded the calls of members of his constituency to dump the PDP.
He also claimed that certain developments in the Sokoto State chapter of the PDP suggested that he could no longer continue to be a PDP member.
The Speaker said, “Based on the provision of the 1999 Constitution, and having regard to the development of the PDP in my own state, Sokoto, I hereby announce my membership of the APC.
“Let me register my profound appreciation to all of you my colleagues for the unflinching support you have continued to extend to me for the overall national interest and development of our democracy.
“May Almighty God continue to guide us all.”
The defection ended months of speculation over his political future. It also threw up questions on whether he would resign as speaker, be impeached or remain in office.
Under Section 50(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), a presiding officer of the National Assembly can only be impeached if two-thirds of the members approve it.
The section reads, “The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office –
(c) if he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.’’
In the case of the House where there are 360 lawmakers, this means 240 members will have to sign to remove Tambuwal.
At the moment, the PDP has less than 200 members.
House Deputy Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, admitted that it would be a Herculean task for the PDP to spearhead Tambuwal’s impeachment.
“Do we have two-thirds majority? We don’t have two-thirds to remove the speaker,” Ogor said in a brief chat with The PUNCH.
A professor of Law, Itse Sagay, said that the PDP had no constitutional basis to impeach Tambuwal.
Sagay, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, added that the constitution allowed any politician to defect from his party once, there is division amongst its members.
Sagay said, “The constitution allows you to defect from the party under which you were elected to another one if there is division amongst members of that party, and clearly there was division in the PDP. You will recall that during the PDP congress, a second group was formed and they went into another hall and declared their own leadership in another hall; clearly this is a continuation of that division. So I don’t see the basis on which anyone can impeach him.”
Another lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaje, toed the same line with Sagay. Agbaje, who noted that there had been evidence of division in the PDP said, Tambuwal’s defection was justified by the constitution.
“What the constitution says is that you can only defect if the party where you are coming from is no longer together, if things are no longer at ease, particularly where that party has been factionalised and you don’t know which way to go,” he added.
In spite of the position of the constitution on the removal of presiding officers of the National Assembly, Metuh, told journalists in Abuja that members of the PDP National Working Committee had already discussed Tambuwal’s defection with PDP leaders in the House.
He said, “After a thorough consideration of the matter, the NWC came to a conclusion that the Hon. Speaker, as a responsible elected officer, knows full well what is needful and honourable of him since his new party is in the minority.
“We are not unmindful of the fact that Hon. Tambuwal became Speaker on the platform of the PDP as the political party with the majority of seats in the House of Representatives and that this incontrovertible fact has not changed.”
It was gathered that the party might push for his impeachment if he refused to resign.
The House Leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola, had said that the PDP would decide what next to do regarding the defection of the speaker.
“This is a party affair. Members take decisions on the floor based on party. So, the party (PDP) will take decision at the appropriate time.’’
It’s a historic decision –APC caucus
Jubilant members of the APC caucus in the House, who described Tambuwal’s defection as historic, dared the PDP, saying there was no constitutional provision requiring that the majority party must produce the speaker.
The Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, said at a news conference that Tambuwal’s defection did not alter the fact that he remained a member of the House and the speaker.
He said, “The constitution is very clear on this; it says the members shall elect from among themselves, a speaker.”
The Minority Leader stated that Tambuwal would continue to preside over the House because he was a “bridge builder and a speaker for all members.”
Gbajabiamila said, “Tambuwal has been a Speaker for all the members, all the political parties and for all Nigerians and will so continue.
“As a caucus, we pledge our continued support to the current leadership of the House of Representatives.
“We will not do anything to destabilise the institution of the House of Representatives, so that it will continue to deliver on the mandates given to its members by Nigerians.
“More than ever before there is a need for vigilance and focus on the concerns of the Nigerian people who elected all of us.”
The APC also dared the PDP to try to impeach Tambuwual
Its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed , said “Let them try it (impeachment ) if they think they have the number. But, let them first tell us which law Tambuwal has broken by his action.
“This is not the first time this kind of scenario is unfolding. If you remember, there was an arrangement between the then National Party of Nigeria and the Nigerian Peoples Party which produced the late Edwin Ume -Ezeoke, who was from the NPP and the late Wash Pam then the deputy Senate President and when eventually the accord collapsed, Umezeoke continued as speaker and Pam continued as deputy Senate President.”
Tambuwal had for long associated with the APC behind the scenes but pledging in the open to remain a PDP member. He consistently stayed away from critical PDP meetings and other state functions.
However, last week, he openly attended an APC stakeholders’ meeting in Sokoto, where the state Governor, Aliyu Wamakko, presided.
The speaker emerged from the meeting to say that he attended a meeting of his “political family” to decide on the future of the state.
The Sokoto meeting proved that it was a matter of time before the speaker defected to the APC.
At a point, Tambuwal was rumoured to be a possible APC presidential candidate.
But, lately, there were indications that he is more likely to be picked as the party’s governorship candidate in Sokoto State.
The party has already zoned the governorship ticket to Sokoto-South Senatorial District, Tambuwal’s area.