The ruling People's Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, in the House of Representatives gave a foretaste of their battle for supremacy when their representatives tested their might in the House.
The battle for supremacy was sparked off when the Minority Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) deliberately referred to the Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor as deputy minority leader, sparking off a verbal war between members of the All Progressives Congress, APC and the ruling People's Democratic Party, PDP.
The uproar followed a motion brought to the floor by Sani Madaki (APC, Kano) under matters of urgent national importance entitled: "The Urgent Need to Save Our Nascent Democracy."
While moving the motion, in which Madaki deliberately referred to Leo Ogor as the deputy minority leader of the House, he asked the Federal Government to sack the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar and the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mbu Joseph Mbu over their alleged poor handling of the Rivers State political crises.
Obviously, his statement arose from the impending and controversial change of House leadership due to APC's numerical strength occasioned by the defection of 37 PDP members to the APC, which has made the former opposition party to have more members than the PDP in the House.
Madaki's reference to Ogor as deputy minority leader did not go down well with PDP members as he had hardly finished his presentation when the drama started.
Some PDP members who were irked by his remarks moved towards Madaki, apparently to molest him but the
APC members formed a ring around him and started shouting to save him from being mobbed.
Ogor (PDP, Isoko Federal Constituency, Delta) had while contributing to Madaki's motion quoted Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, which provided for fair hearing and insisted that both IGP Abubakar and Mbu should be given the opportunity to defend themselves. He was instantly shouted down by APC members.
It was at this juncture that the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal gave Gbajabiamila an audience to puncture Ogor's submission.
Gbajabiamila was trying to buttress his point when he referred to Ogor as Deputy Minority Leader, thus further heating the charged atmosphere. The remark sparked off trouble.
The House was thrown into a rowdy session for close to 25 minutes as Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal watched in astonishment. The APC members shouted their party slogan throughout the period while PDP members also shouted PDP's slogan.
However, while the commotion was on most members left their seats to discuss the issue, others like Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, Toby Okechukwu, Deputy Minority Leader, Kawu Sumaila among others also consulted the Speaker.
At a point, Rep Bashir Adamu, who approached to Gbajabiamila in protest was seen shouting on top of his voice as members around tried to calm him down.
It took great efforts from Tambuwal to calm members and settle the uproar.
The APC members had in a meeting on Monday planned to change the leadership of the House at plenary yesterday, but Tambuwal reportedly pleaded with them not to do so based on a court order restraining them.
Tambuwal saves the day
In dousing the issue, Tambuwal said: "The Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila who is a very senior lawyer and member of the House presented us with a very expensive joke of the New Year.
"We have our rules and procedures. We are aware of the change of leadership issue and the recent court order on that. In fact, we have been served with the order. But be that as it may, whether it was a slip of tongue, there is a court order," he said.
Tambuwal warned that as lawmakers, they should be the last set of people to disobey a court order no matter the situation.
He cited the 1993 presidential election where he said MKO Abiola was on his way to winning when the election was annulled.
But Gbajabiamila stood his ground on the issue, saying he was only referring to a statement of fact since APC now has the majority in the House.
Citing the House Rules, Gbajabiamila said "the majority shall... and the minority shall... In reverence to your office and your position Mr Speaker, I now refer to Hon Leo Ogor as Hon Leo Ogor," he concluded, before moving to shake hands with Ogor. He did not speak further as some members disrupted his explanation once again.
The motion that moved the House
Madaki in his motion had moved that the House should ask President Goodluck Jonathan to remove the Inspector General of Police from office within two weeks, failing which the National Assembly would take appropriate measures in the circumstances.
He also moved that the House should urge the Police Service Commission to dismiss Mr. Mbu from the Police and that the Federal Ministry of Justice should initiate the prosecution of the Rivers State Commissioner of police, Joseph Mbu.
He further urged the House to "mandate the committee on Interior, National Security and Police Affairs to liaise with the relevant government bodies to ensure the implementation of the House Resolution on this matter and report back to the House within four weeks."
However, Tambuwal said the prayers of the motion had some implications and referred it to the committees on Rules and Business, Judiciary and Justice to study and advise the House on what to do.
Also yesterday, Rep Emmanuel Jime from Benue State defected from PDP to APC while Francis Hananiya of APC, Adamawa decamped to PDP just as Sulayman Konbi defected from DPP to APC, while Ganama Kwaga left APC for PDP.
With the new configuration of the House, APC now has 172 members while the PDP has 171.
APC legislators to obey court order
Members of the APC, yesterday said they would now abide by a court order, restraining them from making leadership change in the chamber.
An Abuja Federal High Court had Monday restrained any leadership change in the House, following a suit filed by the PDP praying for the court to stop APC lawmakers from carrying out such changes.
Earlier, the APC lawmakers had vowed to disobey the court order saying it was procured through the black market.
The members had premised their reason for not respecting the ruling on alleged lack of jurisdiction by the court to entertain the matter, as it was purely an internal affair of the Legislature.
But the APC members, after another caucus meeting prior to the commencement of the plenary, yesterday, resolved to abide by the court order until February 3, when hearing would resume on the matter.
Minority leader of the House, Gbajabiamila, said at a press briefing shortly after the plenary: "APC members have now taken a decision to abide by the court's order for now. Once we study the order, we will vacate the judgment. We want Nigerians to know that what happened today has ridiculed the government of Nigeria because this is the only parliament in the whole world where the minority party retains the position of majority and the majority party remain minority."
He said his reference to the deputy majority leader as the deputy minority leader at the session "was simply a fact", stressing that "the slim majority of 171-172 is not actual, as the last check revealed that APC has a majority of about 20 members."