By Ayo Fadimu
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not new to power just as the party is not new to opposition. The party was in power for sixteen years at the centre just as it has been in opposition for four years now.
Between 1999 and 2015, the party produced not less than six Speakers of House of Representatives. Even the last Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, who was formerly of the ruling All Progressives Congress decamped to the party.
So, the leadership of the party knows the Order 7, Rule 8 of the Standing Orders of the House of the Representatives which provides that Minority Parties in the House should elect their leaders from amongst their Members in the House. Also, the leadership of the party can’t also deny knowledge that the Standing Orders are made pursuant to the provisions of section 60 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which give powers to the House to regulate its own procedure.
The leadership of PDP should not allow itself to be dragged into the compound issue of who supported Hon. Umar Bago or Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in the last House Speakership election. The plain truth is that both contestants are strong members of APC and not PDP. Both of them appealed to members of all political parties present in the National Assembly and at the end. Gbajabiamila had the upper hand.
Those who supported Bago also did so because of political interests and ambition. Now that they have lost out, as good political tacticians, they should seek ways of returning to the winners fold. But in essence, the leadership of National Assembly tussle should be no winner, no vanquish situation.
There are about 9 Minority Parties in the House and out of about 147 opposition members, 99 of them endorsed Hon Ndudi Elumelu from Delta State as the Minority leader, Toby Okechukwu from Enugu State as Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Gideon Gwani from Kaduna State as Minority Whip and Hon Adesegun Adekoya from Ogun State as the Deputy Minority Whip. It is intrusive to note that all those endorsed are ranking Legislators who have one time or the other carried the banner of PDP high in previous assignments.
They were the flagbearers of the party in the last election. They greatly mobilized for the party and ensured victories for the party. Two of them, Gwani and Adekoya won against all odds in APC controlled states of Kaduna and Ogun respectively. Politically, this is an achievement of no little means.
Therefore, the insistence of the PDP National Working Committee that Speaker Gbajabiamila should read and recognize the parties nominees can lead to rancor among the members of the party in the House. The party nominees are Hon Kingsley Chinda from Delta State as Minority Leader, Hon Chukwuka Onyema from Anambra State as the Deputy Minority Leader. Hon Yakubu Barde from Kaduna State as Minority Whip and Hon Muriano Ajibola from Oyo State as Deputy Minority Whip.
While nothing taking anything away from the nominees of the party as competent and good representatives of their various constituencies in the hallowed chamber, it is also important to sound a note of warning to the umbrella party not to fan ember of discord among its membership in the House of Representatives.
That the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan accepted the nominees of the party should not be misconstrued as the standard legislative practice as being preached by Hon Chinda. The party should note that the majority of the opposition parties members did not write any letter of endorsement to the Senate President as it was done in the House of Representatives. If the same scenario had played out, perhaps the Senate President would have stuck to what the law says as Gbajabiamila did.
If PDP wants to suspend its members for supporting an APC member who flouted his party’s (APC) instruction not to contest against the anointed candidate of the party, Gbajabiamila, I think PDP should first of all enquire into what APC did to Bago, who flouted his party’s instructions before thinking of suspending its members who refused to support him. PDP should not destroy itself while APC, the major cause of the squabble is busy mending fences.
That truly shows that APC had learnt from the hard lessons PDP taught the party in the 2015 National Assembly leadership elections but it seems the teacher, PDP had suddenly forgotten.
Suspension of Elumelu, Okechukwu, Gwani and Adekoya itself is of no consequence. If the suspended members take the case to the court, can the party win? In any case, they can always join other opposition political parties and thus still retain their seats as Minority Party principal officers. An adage says: “You don’t chase a recalcitrant child to the point of being killed by Tiger. PDP should rally round their own and not to play into the trap set by APC.”
Precedents of power squabble abound in the Nigeria’s two decades old 4th Republic, especially in the National Assembly. There is hardly any legislative dispensation that members won’t have contests on who occupies the leadership seats in the House of Representatives. In democracy, it’s legal to be ambitious and aspire to be in leadership position. It is the duty of the party not to kill the ambition of its member but allow each member to work out its ambition without relying on some powerful brokers within the party to actualize such ambitions against other competent and committed members of the same party who have toiled to strengthen the party in their domain and paid their dues.
PDP should avoid laying bad precedents as no political party has ever suspended its National Assembly for doing what is lawful, just and right before the law. Has there been any lawmaker who was suspended for contesting against the candidate of the leadership of the party?
Even APC that lost the Senate Presidency, Deputy Presidency, House Speakership and Deputy Speakership positions to those whom the leadership of the party described as traitors did not suspend them . Despite all the hullaballoo that followed the election, the party did not at any time move motion for suspension of the members.
PDP should toe that line. The party is still in the court to contest the outcome of the last presidential election. The party needs all the members now than ever. If there is anything the party should avoid is distraction. The party should not be distracted. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Nigerians expect PDP to play the role of opposition effectively. Whenever, the House majority leadership wants to turn itself to the rubber stamp of the executives, Nigerians want vibrant opposition that can safeguard democracy and thus protect their interests and not the ego -boosting minority leadership position squabble which is just personal aggrandizement and self serving.
The party should look backward and realize that what led to its downfall was imposition. A situation where few people in connivance with powers-that-be in Wadata plaza imposed unpopular candidates and nominees against interest of the majority within the party.
PDP should learn not to fall twice because it can be devastating and disastrous. The leadership of the party should do all to avoid cracks within its folds.