Members of the House of Representatives loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan Sunday warned that they would not stand by and allow the House to intimidate the president with threats of impeachment.
The members vowed that they would resist any attempt to remove the president from office because of the crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The members who also dismissed report of a plot to impeach the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, said although they nursed no such intention for now, they were not happy with the way the speaker managed the visit by the leadership of the New PDP to the legislature last week.
His action, according to a leader of the group, Hon. Bethel Amadi, amounted to an attempt to legitimise the PDP faction, chaired by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, on the floor of the House.
Amadi spoke with THISDAY in Abuja against the backdrop of reports of a plot to impeach the president as well as his group's moves to remove Tambuwal who has been accused of being sympathetic to the PDP faction.
The crisis in the ruling party, which has been blamed on the high stakes politicking in the run-up to the 2015 general election, would however not distract Jonathan from focusing on governance, his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, assured Nigerians at the weekend.
Amadi also expressed concern about reports of the alleged moves by the pro-Abubakar Baraje PDP lawmakers to remove the House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Akande and the Deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, saying besides such positions being the exclusive preserve of the party to fill, the aggrieved lawmakers do not have the numbers to carry out such a threat.
He said: "We were worried about comments by the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Zakari Mohammed, on whether or not the president would be impeached.
"Some of us felt that the matter should not be discussed because the House was on break and that it was not a House issue. He should be speaking on House issues and not the crisis within the PDP, because the crisis is a party affair.
"We equally believe that PDP, being the party with the majority in the House, should not constitute itself into the opposition to the president and government policies.
"So we met the Saturday preceding the resumption of the plenary session (last) Tuesday and agreed that there was the need to have audience with the speaker and I was mandated to book the appointment.
"I was with the speaker at the inauguration of the ECOWAS Parliament and I intimated him of our desire to see him, to which he agreed and gave us a 3 pm appointment (last) Monday.
"But we were not able to meet him apparently due to his busy schedule, despite all my calls and text messages to him. He later responded with a call at about 2.58 am on Tuesday and by then it was not possible for us to see."
Shedding more light on the brawl in the House when the Baraje leadership visited the legislature, Amadi explained that Tambuwal's manner of handling the visit was tantamount to a bid to "legitimise the Baraje-led PDP by accepting that they should address the PDP caucus."
He added: "To us, that was the height of it all. Will Baraje's splinter group address the PDP Caucus of the House as a former national secretary or former acting national chairman (of the PDP)?
"The PDP Caucus has not accepted him and the court said that the status quo ante bellum should be maintained. So on what grounds was the Baraje group attempting to address the PDP House Caucus?
"That was the height of the impunity and we rejected it because Baraje and the G7 governors attempted to legitimise an illegal act and give credibility to illegality and that was why there was the rumpus in the House because we did not understand on what basis Baraje was addressing the PDP caucus."
Amadi said if the speaker was desperate to grant audience to Baraje "he ought to have emulated what happened in the Senate where the Senate President, David Mark, granted them audience but not to address the PDP Senate Caucus. That was how the crisis got out of hand."
Another member of the pro-Jonathan lawmakers said Tambuwal had apologised to members during an executive session last Wednesday.
On the alleged plot to sack some House leaders considered loyal to Jonathan, Amadi said the aggrieved PDP lawmakers could not afford to remove both Akande and Ogor as the decision to do so was entirely a PDP affair.
"They don't have the majority to do so. They are just 57 as they claim. The principal officers that could be removed by the House in general are the speaker and the deputy speaker. Any other officer is elected by the party's caucus, like Gbajabiamila was elected as the minority leader by the Action Congress of Nigeria, now part of the All Progressives Congress (APC)," he explained.
He described the report on a plot to impeach Tambuwal as a "ruse and propaganda stunt", adding, "There was nothing like that on the table."
According to him, "What we stand for is to ensure that never again will the House be used to intimidate or cajole the president with impeachment threats. Impeachment for what? As far as we are concerned, we shall at all times mobilise to ensure that the president and government policies are given a favourable response. This should be seen in line with the majority of PDP in the House. We will no longer play to the gallery."
However, the last may not have been heard of the crisis rocking the PDP as indications emerged over the weekend that loyalists of the Baraje faction of the party in the House have been allegedly promised N10 million and a car each to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president.
Although it could not be ascertained if the promise has been redeemed, THISDAY learnt that the largesse was dangled before the lawmakers by the seven aggrieved governors who are the financiers of the splinter group known as the New PDP and the brains behind the walkout staged by some delegates at the mini-national convention of the party held on August 31.
But the leader of the G57 lawmakers in the House, Hon. Andrew Uchendu, has dismissed the allegation of inducement to impeach Jonathan as untrue. Uchendu said he and his colleagues were not after Jonathan and would not allow a situation where the president's name would be dragged into the ongoing crisis in the party.
"It is not true. It is completely untrue. As the leader of the group of lawmakers in the House who have endorsed the vision of Baraje and the seven governors, our focus is not to impeach Jonathan. "As a founding member of the party, I am putting my integrity on the line and I can tell you that what we are agitating for is that the party should be repositioned to enable it perform better in future elections.
"The party is currently in a bad shape and if we go to the next elections as factionalised as the party is today, we stand the risk of losing such an election and that is not what we wish on our party," Uchendu said.
A source close to the mainstream PDP had told THISDAY that the visit by Baraje and the seven governors was designed to test the ground and mobilise support for the actualisation of the impeachment agenda.
It was gathered that the leaders of the splinter group decided to visit the National Assembly last Tuesday against all entreaties made to them to stay away.
THISDAY learnt that at the last reconciliation meeting held at the Presidential Villa, it was agreed that the warring groups should sheathe their swords and avoid actions and utterances that could undermine the peace process.
The source said based on that truce, the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, withdrew his earlier letter seeking to meet with the PDP Caucus in the National Assembly.
The party leaders were however surprised that the Baraje faction failed to honour the ceasefire agreement but went on to visit and address the PDP lawmakers, a situation that resulted in a fracas at the House.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Hon. Tadjudeen Yusuf, who also gave some insight into the commotion that occurred in the House on Tuesday said the crisis would have been avoided if Baraje and the seven governors had stayed away from the parliament as they had been advised.
According to Yusuf, since the walkout at the convention political watchers had predicted that the crisis would spill over to the National Assembly sooner than later.
"This is why we members of the PDP Caucus in the House have been meeting to see how we can insulate the House from the crisis in the party. Our meetings were known even to the leadership of the House and in our meetings, we all agreed that the House has been united in the past two-and-a-half years and we must not allow the current crisis to destabilise us and distract us from our normal legislative duties.
"The National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, had actually indicated interest in meeting the PDP Caucus in the House but he had to retreat after the ceasefire agreement was struck.
"Even when the Baraje faction defied the ceasefire agreement to visit the National Assembly, we expected the leadership of the House to have managed the situation better by confining their meeting to the speaker's office.
"We would have had no problem with Kawu Baraje's visit if he had come as one of the leaders of our party. Where they went beyond the boundaries was when it appeared he was visiting as national chairman of our party. He is a respected party leader but certainly not the national chairman.
"If you remember, the crisis of that day started when one of the members of our group (from the mainstream PDP), Hon. Henry Offorngu, raised a point of order on the visit. He, like the rest of us, had no problems with Baraje but he wanted to seek clarification on the visit.
"You recall too that Baraje came with a large delegation including the Niger State Governor, Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, who read the communique of the last reconciliation meeting where it was agreed that all parties should cease further actions and utterances that could aggravate the crisis in the party.
"But they came with all manner of aides and hangers on and even members of the PDP in the House could not find seats to sit down. This was why Offorngu raised the point of order and when they ignored him, we all decided to make sure that Baraje's voice was not heard in that hall," he said.
On the allegation that his group collected $25,000 to disrupt the visit and possibly impeach the speaker, Yusuf, like Amadi, said there was no truth in the allegation. He said those peddling the rumour were doing so to blackmail them in order to undermine the essence of the protest.
He blamed the fracas in the House last Tuesday on the overzealous attitude of some members of the Baraje faction whose governors were seated at the meeting room. Also at the weekend, Gulak, who besides being the president's special adviser on Political Matters doubles as the National Coordinator of Goodluck Support Group (GSG) said Jonathan would not allow the politicking for the 2015 general election to distract him.
Gulak spoke in New York while inaugurating the United States chapter of the GSG. A statement from the group quoted him as saying that although Jonathan had not decided to seek re-election in 2015, he reserves the constitutional right to contest for a second term in office.
The GSG, he added, was vested with the responsibility of propagating the transformation agenda of the present administration and publicising the achievements recorded so far.
"It was not enough for us in GSG to support the president to win elections but we must also propagate his achievements and the transformation agenda. If the president makes up his mind to contest again, we would again be there to support him," he said.