As the National Assembly (NASS) postponed its resumption date from Tuesday, July 21 to Tuesday, July 28 to give room for the resolution of its disagreements over power-sharing, there are indications that a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, is likely to clinch the position of House Leader next week.
Doguwa, representing Tudun Wada/Doguwa Federal Constituency of Kano State, has identified with Femi Gbajabiamila, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Speaker of the House of Representatives and later House Leader, after the election of Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Speaker on June 9, 2015.
In his letter to the National Chairman of APC last week, Speaker Dogara said though he accepted to concede other principal positions in the Lower Chamber to Gbajabiamila’s camp in the spirit of reconciliation, it would be contrary to the spirit of the country’s zoning formula to give the post of House Leader to Gbajabiamila because he comes from the South-West geo-political zone as the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Sulaiman Lasun.
The Speaker suggested that the position of House Leader should be zoned to the North-West. The Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal-led committee had received a copy of Speaker Dogara’s position on the crisis and he is working on it.
Moreover, the North-West Caucus of the House will produce the House Leader if the reconciliation committee and the APC agreed with the reasons adduced by Speaker Dogara in his position paper. The candidate highly favoured to clinch the Number Three position in the House is Hon. Doguwa.
However, Doguwa said his group is embracing the “spirit of give and take” in the effort to resolve the impasse in the House and that they would align with the position of the party.
According to him, “Our group has agreed to engage with Governor Tambuwal’s committee and other such groups involved in the negotiations. We’re doing so in the spirit of give and take. In the course of the interaction, we’ll be guided by the principle of party supremacy. The Speaker has written to the party to redesign the zoning formula in the spirit of fair play and balance in power sharing. The North-West will be guided by the party’s position. The North-West will accept the zoning that the party has blessed. This is my personal opinion.”
Why NASS postponed resumption
The postponement of the resumption date of the National Assembly was to enable the Tambuwal Committee to produce the report of its consultations with the various camps and diverse interests in the National Assembly crisis. Without the resolution of the conflict at the party level, the Senate and the House of Representatives would resume and continue their rancour from where they stopped before it suspended plenary three weeks ago.
In the Senate, the Deputy Senate Leader Bala Na’Allah said they had submitted themselves to the Tambuwal Committee and were still awaiting its outcome. But the news coming out from the meeting might not be a cheery one. This is because senators under the Unity Forum insisted that the party’s position must be followed for any genuine reconciliation to take place.
“There’s no reconciliation”
Asked about the matter, Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC, Zamfara), who belongs to the Unity Forum, said “Reconciliation between who and who? Are we fighting? Let me state for the avoidance of any doubt that I am not fighting anybody; I have no enemy in the Senate. I respect Senator Saraki. Even at the peak of the contest, we maintained a healthy relationship based on mutual respect with Sen Saraki, ask him!”
Marafa went on to add, “The only reconciliation to me is to obey the Constitution that brought us to the chamber and extant laws of our country.”
He gave the conditions upon which his group would reconcile its position with the Saraki group, which he said were:
“(1) Revert back to Senate Standing Order 2011 as amended, because we have seen records of its amendment votes and proceedings of 18th May 2011 and Order Paper for adoption of 24th May, 2011. There is no record of amendment of Standing Order 2011 from June 6th, 2011 to June 5th 2015. We went through all the votes and proceedings covering the period and could not see anything.
“(2) Direct Senators Ali Ndume and Bala Na’Allah to revert back to their former seats because their pronouncement as leader and deputy leader violate Order 3 (2) of our standing rules and Section 65(g) of the Constitution in addition to disobeying our great party and the leader of the party in person of PMB, who admonished publicly to all members of APC to respect party supremacy.
“(3) To respect extant laws of the Senate (Senate Standing Orders) and the country (the Constitution and other laws passed by NASS) in carrying out official responsibilities. This is what we are elected to primarily do, make laws and live by example i.e obey the laws. If anybody feels otherwise, let him come out and show the way forward.
“They violated rule 3 (2) to appoint both Ali Ndume & Bala Na’Allah as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Senate and now we hear another alleged absurdity that Sen Akpabio may emerge Senate Minority Leader, when Senators Abaribe, Manager, Sekibo, Paulker, Bwacha, Sonia, Andy, Olaka, Ekwunife, Enoh, all of them his seniors, as required by Order 3 (2) are seated in the chamber. I swear to God we will not allow this impunity to stand and a fresh one to be added,” he said.
Marafa argued further that there was no time any zonal caucus was constituted against Saraki’s reference that he relied on nominations by zonal caucuses to announce the Principal Officers. “Who constituted these caucuses they are talking about? Who is the chairman or leader of Northwest Caucus, for example? Who is the secretary? If there is, who appointed or elected them, where using which law?”
“But we all know the political parties, their leadership and how the leadership emerged. We know the supremacy of the political party as provided in Section 65-2b of the Constitution. Let somebody tell us the supremacy of any caucus and where it is hinged. Maybe they want stalemate in the 8th Senate, looking at how they are running the place. They better shut it permanently than to reconvene and attempt to run it without respecting the rules! Oga Senate President, please read Order ONE. They are misleading you, Nigeria No spoil reach this level, God forbid.
“We will force you on resumption to read Order 1 and proceed by its provision. Unless if you want to reduce the red chamber into a jungle where everybody will do what he or she likes to do and nobody can call anybody to order,” he said.
On whether they met with the Tambuwal-led committee, Marafa said “Tambuwal, as far as I am concerned, is part of the problem. So I wonder who brought him in to take part in the solution?”
It was further learnt that there were attempts at promising senators of the Lawan group chairmanship of some ‘juicy’ committees, but Marafa said “Juicy committees? I don’t know what that means. I am not doing what I am doing in order to get any committee. I am entitled to the chairmanship of a committee by right.
“Even going by the fraudulent insertion of Order 3 (2 iv) in the disputed 2015 order book, each zone will get about 9 chairmanship positions. I have three seniors, two contemporaries from my zone making me the 6th at worst, going by Rule 3 (2). I am a chairman whether anybody likes me or not. As for choice, I always resign that to God. May He choose for me a committee that will give me the opportunity to impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
No going back on election of Principal Officers
However, Senator Na’Allah said they would wait patiently for the committee to do its work and present its report to the appropriate quarters.
“There won’t be any crisis as we resume, because all of us the loyal members of the party have submitted ourselves to a committee set up by the party, and as far as the committee is yet to bring out its outcome, I don’t think there is any issue,” he said.
Na’Allah, who is a lawyer, added that “Constitutionally, when elections are conducted and winners emerge in the Senate and the House of Representatives, they are referred to as senators and members-elect. The reason is that one cannot be called a senator or member until he subscribes to Oath of office and Oath of allegiance, which validity is defined by signatures of the Senate President and the Speaker respectively for the two chambers.
“Both the oath of office and the oath of allegiance have columns for the Senate President and the Speaker to sign, which must be with the mace at its proper place when the Senate or House is in plenary. It is at this stage that senators and members-elect will become lawmakers, meeting the requirement of the constitution.
“But if a Senator or member turns back to say the Senate or House is not properly constituted, he is indirectly and legally saying that he is not a lawmaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but still a senator or member-elect.
“Conversely, if he admits that he is a Senator or member, he is legally saying that the legality supplied by the Senate President or Speaker by their signatures on the Oath of allegiance and Oath of office are correct,” he said.
On the allegations that the Senate Standing Orders of 2011 was forged to produce that of 2015, Na’Allah said that “There is a difference between forgery and falsification, therefore when a person alleges that a document has been forged, he must go further to show the particular provisions or sections in the contents of the documents that are alleged to have been forged that is material difference with the document that he knows.
“He must also go further to prove that that section or provision confers undue advantage to the person that was alleged to have forged the document. So, people must accept the fact that they cannot be lawyers in a day.
“Therefore, they must be extremely careful when they make such allegations, because the consequences are too many, one of such is that when you allege that a body has not been properly constituted and you go ahead to collect salaries, benefits, perquisites, allowances and such other payments by whatever description, you have legally committed fraud.
“Secondly, if you allege improper constitution of a constitutional body, you are indirectly breaching the Oath of office you have taken on the day you are sworn in as a senator or member, wherein you swore to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution, which again has its own legal implications on your person,” he said.
Thus, it can be said that there is still a long way to go as far as the Senate crisis is concerned.
Just on Thursday, Dogara wrote a letter to the APC Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun, stating reasons why he would not carry out the directive of the party on the four nominations. Rather, Dogara said he felt the position of House Leader should go to the Northwest, Deputy House Leader to the North-Central, Chief Whip to the South-south and Deputy Chief Whip to the South-East.
Dogara argued that if the party’s position is implemented, it then means that North-Central and South-East would be completely shut out, while North-East and South-West which already have Speaker and Seputy speaker, would be unduly favoured if Gbajabiamila and Monguno are allowed to be leader and chief whip respectively.
However, the Gbajabiamila’s group had said in a statement by Rep Rufai Chanchangi that. “We understand that the Dogara group is now playing the zoning card. Interestingly, the six geopolitical zones in the country are not recognised by the Constitution. But if they wish to play the zoning card, then the Senate and House cannot be headed by the North,” he said.