Tuesday, September 17, 2013

G7 Governors Storm N’Assembly, Oppose Jonathan’s Re-election Bid

A picture file of the G7 Governors during a visit to the National
Assembly Tuesday
•New PDP visit tears House apart
•Tukur elects to stay away
Chuks Okocha,
Omololu Ogunmade and
Onwuka Nzeshi
The seven governors, who broke away from the Peoples Democratic Party
(PDP) to form a faction of the party, the New PDP, Tuesday stormed the
National Assembly, where they restated their opposition to President
Goodluck Jonathan's unannounced re-election bid in the 2015 elections.
They equated Jonathan's reelection bid to a third term in office and
echoed "no to third term".
The governors who were in the National Assembly were Aliyu Wamakko
(Sokoto), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Rabiu
Kwankwaso (Kano), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa)
and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).
Their position contradicted the statement made by the Akwa Ibom State
Governor and Chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum, Godswill Akpabio,
on Monday that the Group of Seven Governors (G7 governors) had backed
down on one of their demands that the president must not seek
re-election in 2015.
Akpabio claimed that the aggrieved governors and the president had
arrived at the decision during their meeting on Sunday in Abuja.
But while their meeting with Senate President David Mark was outwardly
calm, the same could not be said of the meeting with House of
Representatives yesterday, as lawmakers loyal to the Bamanga Tukur-led
faction of the party staged a protest over attempts by the Abubakar
Baraje-led group to address the PDP Caucus in the lower chamber.
During their meeting with Mark, the aggrieved governors, who were led
by Baraje, reiterated their grievances which they said included lack
of internal democracy in the party; Amaechi's suspension from the
party; the Nigeria Governors' Forum election and subsequent
polarisation; the unconstitutional dissolution of the execution
committee of the Adamawa State chapter of the PDP; and the exclusion
of important stakeholders from running the party and government.
Speaking on behalf of the governors, Baraje said: "As important
stakeholders of our great party, I am sure you will all agree with me
that the party has in recent years started declining in its democratic
"This is mainly due to lack of internal democracy as a result of the
undue interference of the Presidency especially as it concerns the
election of party national officers which has affected the quality and
style of the leadership that now takes pride in the illegal
dissolution of state party structures and other acts of impunity."
Baraje described himself as the incumbent chairman of the National
Working Committee (NWC) of PDP while referring to the national
chairman of the party, Tukur, as its erstwhile chairman.
In his response, Mark who said he would remain in PDP and would not
allow the party to fall, also promised that he would not declare the
seats of defectors vacant.
Mark, who also said he would stand on the side of justice, equity and
fairness, reiterated that the crisis must not be allowed to get into
the National Assembly, adding that members of the federal legislature
should be allowed to remain as a big and united family.
He said: "I am and I would remain in PDP and I would not like to see
the PDP fall on anybody. The problems of the governors, seven of you
have presented your positions and you have met with the president and
there is progress but it is slow. My position is that we must keep the
members of National Assembly in the PDP united.
"We must not bring the crisis to the floor. I have not declared any
seat vacant and have no intention of doing this. I will support
justice and fairness and equity. Appeal to them (lawmakers) that no
matter what happens, they should remain in PDP and the lawmakers must
remain a united big PDP family.
"I will also speak to the Bamanga Tukur group and we will all be
frank. We admit that there is a problem. But it is a family problem."
Also yesterday, the agitation for the convocation of a national
conference, got a major boost, as Mark who had resisted the need for a
national conference, finally joined the group of individuals calling
for the conference.
Mark while welcoming his colleagues back to the Senate after seven
weeks of recess, said "given the crises confronting the nation today,
the convocation of ethnic nationalities which conglomerate Nigeria has
become imperative."
According to him, convoking such a conference to deliberate on what he
called the frank and national question was in order because the
conference "can certainly find accommodation in the extant provisions
of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees the freedom of expression
and association."
While making a case for the national conference, Mark said the unusual
events in the polity such as recurrent violence have all conspired to
question the idea of the nation state.
He noted that the nation does not necessarily have to behave "like the
proverbial ostrich" which continues to bury its head in the sand and
refuses to confront the perceived or alleged structural distortions
which have bred discontentment and alienation in some quarters.
Mark said this sense of discontentment and alienation had fuelled
extremism, apathy and even predictions of catastrophy for the country.
He however added that the conference participants must not campaign
for the break up of the nation and also warned against tagging it a
constituent or sovereign conference and must be organised by the
federal government.
He said if convoked, the outcome of the conference would be difficult
to ignore by the National Assembly in its constitution review efforts.
Mark also condemned the activities of those he described as political
jobbers, sycophants and hustlers whom he said had prematurely seized
the political space even though the 2015 general election is still two
years away. He described such people as hirelings who are desperately
seeking relevance.
"My prayer is to see our democracy advance to a level where those who
lose elections would stoically accept the verdict of the electorate,
congratulate the winners and forge ahead.
"Beating drums of war, chanting war songs and blackmailing the nation
with fire and brimstone are outdated and unacceptable," he said.
Mark also tasked the executive arm of government to improve on its
last year record when it presented the 2013 budget "early enough",
saying this enabled senators to meticulously consider and pass it at
the nick of time and promised that they were prepared to repeat the
feat this year.
Mark also appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)
to return to the classroom while negotiations on their demands
He expressed regrets that as a result of the strike, students are
idling away while progress in the education sector is retarded and
intellectual development impeded.
But the calm session in the Senate was not replicated in the House of
Representatives as the crisis rocking the PDP reverberated through the
lower chamber yesterday, when the Baraje faction's attempt to address
the PDP Caucus of the House triggered a protest from lawmakers
sympathetic to Tukur.
It was the first day of plenary after the lawmakers resumed from their
annual vacation but the joyous mood soon gave way to an open battle
for the soul of the ruling party.
However, the meeting between Baraje and the PDP Caucus turned chaotic
as lawmakers on Tukur's side stormed the venue and disrupted it.
As a result, proceedings were stalled for about 25 minutes, as some
lawmakers protested the bid by Baraje and the NWC of the New PDP to
address the PDP Caucus.
Prior to their arrival, a letter signed by the National Secretary of
the New PDP, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, stated that the meeting was
scheduled to hold at 3.00 pm.
As soon as Tambuwal read the letter, there was commotion in the
chamber and shouts of disapproval rented the air. There were also
shouts of approval from some other lawmakers, which resulted in
Tambuwal had an uphill task calming the lawmakers, but he later
explained that the Tukur-led PDP had written to the House seeking
audience with the PDP Caucus on the same day.
He said the Tukur group later withdrew their letter early yesterday, a
situation that left the door open for the splinter group.
However, in a surprise move to show that the House was not going to be
distracted by the crisis in the ruling party, Hon. Kingsley Chinda
(PDP/Rivers) moved a motion seeking that a vote of confidence should
be passed on the leadership of the House.
In the motion, Chinda said in spite of the crisis in the party,
lawmakers in the House still believed in the leadership they chose for
themselves two years ago.
However, this solidarity with the leadership became somewhat doubtful
when Baraje came into the House alongside other party leaders in his
group. On Baraje's entourage were the seven aggrieved governors and
members of the group's NWC.
On hand to receive them were the speaker and other principal officers
of the House who are members of the ruling party.
House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, welcomed the guests on
behalf of the caucus and expressed hope that the meeting would lead to
a resolution of the conflict in the party.
However, as soon as it was Baraje's turn to address the gathering,
there was a commotion. A member of the House, Hon. Henry Oforngu
(PDP/Bayelsa), raised a point of order.
Although he was hushed down by some of Baraje's loyalists, pandemonium
ensued from that point till the end of the meeting.
Lawmakers opposed to the presence of Baraje and his team, began to
shout "No Way! No Way! No Way!" Others shouted "PDP, Tukur! PDP,
Tukur! PDP, Tukur!"
The commotion effectively drowned the voice of Baraje and created
tension across the chamber. Lawmakers on either side of the conflict
also almost resorted to fisticuffs as both groups engaged each other
in a shouting match.
A moment of respite came when Tambuwal addressed the gathering and
sued for peace. According to him, the current crisis in the PDP had
exposed the vulnerability of the political situation in Nigeria.
He told the warring factions that democracy was not for politicians
alone but for the entire citizenry.
He lamented that politicians who constitute about 25 per cent of the
Nigerian populace were heating up the polity without recognising that
some Nigerians paid the supreme prize for democracy.
Tambuwal urged all parties in the crisis to allow the national
interest take precedence over the personal ambitions of politicians.
Tambuwal had earlier at plenary alluded to the tension generated by
both interparty and intra-party squabbles.
"This is not all together unexpected given the approach of 2015. What
is worrisome however is that these squabbles have further exposed the
weaknesses of internal party democratic culture and interparty
intolerance. These are viruses that we must resolve to dispense with
in order to sanitise the political space.
"I caution that we exercise the highest restraint to the obvious
distractions that the approaching 2015 is bound to bring so that we do
not lose our focus in the diligent pursuit of our mandate. The proper
timing for 2015 will surely come and at that time, we shall do the
needful," he said.
Even after the meeting with Baraje ended, some lawmakers continued
their shouts of disapproval and condemned his visit with the seven
Oforngu, who addressed newsmen outside the chamber, said his group was
opposed to Baraje's visit because there was a subsisting agreement
between the factions to ceasefire and allow for a peaceful resolution
of the conflict.
He said his point of order was meant to raise question as to the
reason Baraje was visiting alongside the seven governors.
Another of the protesting lawmakers, Hon. Betty Apiafi (PDP/Rivers),
said the visit was in bad fate and an attempt to draw lawmakers into
the crisis.
Apiafi said the contending groups ought to have restricted their
meetings to venues outside the National Assembly.
However, Chairman, House Committee on Public Service Matters, Hon.
Andrew Uchendu (PDP/Rivers), justified the visit and condemned the
attempt by some lawmakers to disrupt it.
Uchendu said the number of lawmakers in the House who are loyal to the
Baraje faction had risen from 57 to 102 in the last few days.
Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the Tukur faction elected to
postpone its meeting with the National Assembly in order not to
jeopardise on-going efforts at reconciliation by the party.
A party official informed THISDAY that the request for the
postponement of the visit was a sign of the commitment by the
Tukur-led PDP to ensure the peaceful resolution of the disagreements
within the party.
"The leadership of our great party under the chairmanship of Alhaji
Bamanga Tukur had earlier secured an appointment to meet with members
of the National Assembly elected on the platform of the PDP on Tuesday
"However, due to the on-going reconciliatory efforts in the party, a
letter was sent to the leadership of the National Assembly requesting
that the visit be postponed to another date. This is in line with our
commitment to ensure the success of the on-going reconciliation in our
party," he said.
Also confirming this position, the National Publicity Secretary of
PDP, Olisa Metuh, said the party put off its plan to visit the
National Assembly because of the on-going reconciliation efforts in
the party involving the president and the governors of the New PDP.
According to Metu, "We were abiding by the decision of the Sunday
meeting where we were directed to avoid anything that would be seen as
inflaming the crisis.
"This was why we were not at the National Assembly. We don't want to
do anything that would be seen as stalling the ongoing reconciliation.

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