Tambuwal Halts Plot To Force 37 APC Lawmakers Out

House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal prevented yesterday a major crisis in the lower chamber when he insisted that the case on the defection of 37 lawmakers must run its full course.

He asked the warring lawmakers from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to put the interest of the nation above personal interest and not heat up the polity.

But the Representatives from the two parties retreated to caucus consultations – in case the Speaker’s truce is breached.

There were strong indications last night that the PDP Caucus in the House met at the behest of the Presidency to push for the vacation of seats of 37 members who defected from the party to the APC.

The House leadership reportedly stumbled on intelligence alert of a likely rowdy session on Monday’s verdict of a Federal High Court in Abuja.

It was gathered that the development forced Tambuwal to convene an executive session to iron out issues arising from the judgment of Justice Adeniyi Ademola, which some, particularly in the PDP, misread as saying the court asked the defecting lawmakers to quit their seats.

It was learnt that the session, which began amidst rising tempers, later reached a consensus to “keep the House united while the case runs its full course”.

A highly-placed source said: “The Speaker, with whom was his deputy, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, said the House leadership was of the opinion that the Representatives should allow the case in court to run its full course since the 37 lawmakers have gone to the Court of Appeal.

“Tambuwal asked us to take it easy instead of postulating and interpreting for the court. He said recourse to self-help would not do any lawmaker any good.

“He also pleaded with us to consider the interest of Nigeria, instead of heating up the polity because of pecuniary gains or partisan politics.”

The source quoted the Speaker as saying: “We should not lose the sight of the mandate that Nigerians have given us. The way some PDP and APC Representatives are going, we may end up having a divided House, with the nation suffering in the long run. For the sake of Nigeria, let us do our work.”

The source said the Speaker’s appeasement set the tone for the session where those aggrieved bared their minds.

A principal officer said: “As members rose to speak, they opened up in unusual manner, leading to occasional shouting down of some of them.

“The Majority Leader of the House, Hajiya Mulikat Adeola-Akande, found her voice for the first time at the session when she blurted out: ‘It is now everyone is suing for peace, I am the most derided’.

“My silence is mistaken for weakness, but I am not what you have been thinking. Some of our colleagues went too far against me.”

The Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, condemned what he described as recourse to blind partisanship in the House since the defection saga started.

He explained why he felt bad about the attitude of some members of the opposition, including some of the defectors.

Another source said: “Ogor recalled that based on the House Resolution, he raised a motion to reinstate a public officer who was unjustly removed.

“He said he asked the House to summon the appropriate agency but his motion was dismissed even when the House had taken a position on it.

“He said ‘This is the level partisanship has degenerated to in the House’.

Minority Whip Samson Osagie pleaded with members “not to mistake the argument for and against a motion as partisanship in the House.

“He said disagreements are normal in a legislative chamber and everyone should bury the hatchet.

“At the end of the day, members resolved to work together in harmony and allow the court to be the final arbiter at the end of the day.”

But, it was not immediately ascertained if the decision of the Executive Session would be acceptable to the Presidency and the PDP.

It was learnt that the Presidency had asked Mrs. Adeola-Akande to table a motion asking the 37 defectors to vacate their seats.

Another source said: “We learnt the Presidency and the PDP gave a directive to the party’s caucus in the House to demand the vacation of the 37 seats. But the situation changed with the rapprochement Tambuwal.

“It was on the basis of the directive from the Presidency that the PDP Caucus in the House met before the Executive Session.

“No one is sure if the Presidency and the PDP would still remain adamant on this directive.”

It was gathered that in order not to take things for granted, the APC Caucus in the House also held a meeting after the Executive Session to “draw up a clear strategy in case the PDP caucus breaches the gentleman understanding at the Executive Session.

“We are trying to strategise on this court case and its aftermath in order not to be caught unaware.”

Deputy Chairman of House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene (APGA, Anambra) told reporters that the judgment on defections was discussed.

Ogene denied insinuations that the Speaker was under pressure by either the ruling party or members to declare the seats of the 37 defected lawmakers vacant.

He said the House during the closed-door session agreed to halt action on court cases till they ran the full course, adding that the decision was based on precedence.

His words: “There were no pressure on Mr Speaker, if there were, we would have held this closed-door session yesterday but we decided to wait for all the parties in the case to get served.

“We agreed to allow the different cases in court regarding defections of some members to go through the full course and in arriving at that decision, the House took cognisance of the fact that precedence had been set even before last Friday and Monday judgments.

“If you recall the case of a certain member that defected from the Labour Party in Ondo State to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), that matter is still in court, and that member is still participating in the affairs of the House.

“There are some other instances that fall in that category,” he said.

He denied reports that Tambuwal and his deputy Emeka Ihedioha filed an appeal against a High Court judgment against 37 lawmakers that defected from the PDP.

“The two principal officers had no personal or individual interest in the case but were nominal parties to the suit, having been listed as defendants in the case.

“We noticed that some publications tried to drag the person of the speaker into this. The speaker did not appeal on individual basis. He has no personal interest in the ongoing matter in court.

Ogene said both the offices of the Speaker and his Deputy “ will address this issue so we shouldn’t try to introduce mischief into the ongoing process, remember that they were made nominal defendants in the two cases.

“The appeal was filed by the 37 members that defected from the PDP. The National Assembly management as an institution has a right to appeal if they so desire”.

Aside defection, the lawmaker said members also discussed the growing trend of partisanship in carrying out business of the House during the session.

Partisanship, he said is tilting the arguments and decisions of members on the floor.

“We decided to insulate the house from the growing trend of partisanship that is beginning to arise in the House during plenary.

“We decided that in line with the decision we took during our inauguration, we should keep our parties aside to make good laws for order, peace and development of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That is our core mandate as members of the House of Representatives.” Ogene added.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Oke Epia, said deputy Ihedioha “remains a firm and committed member of the PDP and associates himself fully with its ideals, principles, purposes and progress.”

The statement was issued to “correct the impression conveyed by these publications that the Deputy Speaker is at odd purposes with his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party.”

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Deputy Speaker wishes to clarify that he is just a NOMINAL PARTY in the suit by virtue of his office and counsel briefed by the Management of the National Assembly to represent the House of Representatives as an Institution.

“The Deputy Speaker will take steps to retain an independent counsel of his choice to take steps to protect his legal interests in the matter.”

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