Plenary at the House of Representatives on Wednesday turned rowdy and confrontational over House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila’s announcement of minority leadership positions.
The incident happened after Gbajabiamila ignored a list sent by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in which Kingsley Chinda was nominated as the Minority Leader of the House. Instead, the speaker read a list from a “conglomerate of opposition political parties,” which favored Ndidi Elumelu and announced him as the Minority Leader. The situation eventually degenerated into protests as some aggrieved lawmakers attempted to snatch the mace and halt proceedings in the Green Chamber.
Following Saraki’s precedence: Leaderships of the majority party and leading minority party traditionally have a say in which lawmakers occupy the principal offices. But in 2015, at the peak of the battle between former senate president Bukola Saraki and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the then senate president ignored an official letter from the APC leadership nominating Ahmed Lawan as majority leader. He chose to announce Ali Ndume instead who was reportedly chosen by the North East caucus in the senate. Saraki also rejected the APC’s other preferences for principal offices. In the House of Representatives however, Speaker Yakubu Dogara went along with his party’s preference for Femi Gbajabiamila as majority leader.
Fast forward to four years later and the situation is reversed. This time, the senate president Ahmed Lawan has respected the nominees of both the APC and PDP leaderships for principal positions. But in the House, Speaker Gbajabiamila accepted the APC’s nominees but rejected those nominated by the PDP leadership.
PDP pushes back: The PDP has since released a statement to the effect that the Speaker must reverse himself.
Meanwhile, the new minority leader, Ndidi Elumelu has affirmed loyalty to his party, the PDP, even though he was selected against its wishes. He said that his colleagues from the 9 minority parties in the House nominated their choices for minority leaders. Elumelu said, “out of the 147 minority members in the House, 111 members voted for them.”
Bottomline: A lot more will be heard and said about this in the coming days, but if 2015 is anything to go by, the Speaker will have his way and the opposition would have to lick its wounds.