As Elumelu, Secondus Bicker Over House Leadership

ASABA – The wounds of the proceeding at the House of Representatives Wednesday, July 3, 2019 where the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila announced Ndudi Elumelu as the Minority Leader; Toby Okechukwu, Deputy Minority Leader; Gideon Gwadi and Adekoya Abdul-Majid as Minority Whip and Deputy Whip respectively while the party had nominated Kingsley Chinda as Minority Leader are yet to heal and is getting out of hands. Apart from the fact that the controversy over who should be picked as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives has engulfed the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the South South region, it is worst in Delta State where Elumelu hails from. The saituation is also said to have divided members of the National Working Committee and the enlarged PDP caucus over who should be given the nod for the plum position. Two candidates, Elumelu, who represents Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency in Delta State and Hon. Kingsley Chinda, who represents Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency, Rivers state, have emerged as contenders for the top job in the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly. Ewwlumelu who was adopted by the Delta PDP Caucus in the House, ahead of Hon. Ossai Ossai, was presented by a majority of the PDP House caucus to the larger caucus of the Party as their preferred candidate to occupy the position of Minority Leader Elumelu’s nomination and adoption, according to informed sources, was predicated on his ranking status and very robust legislative experience, garnered from two previous à1à1terms in the 6th and 7th Assemblies consecutively, where he headed the powerful House Committees on Health and Power, in successive terms. Elumelu’s nomination, which at first seemed unanimous, was, however, countered by the surprise challenge from Hon. Kingsley Chinda and whose nomination, according to reliable sources from within the PDP Assembly caucus, was orchestrated by the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus because Chinda represents Governor Nyesom Wike’s home constituency of Obio/ Akpor, in the Lower Chamber. The sources further claimed that while members at the enlarged PDP caucus meeting had anticipated a consensus in favour of Elumelu, the PDP national chairman had arranged some members to nominate his kinsman, in what insiders claim was part of a clandestine plot to strengthen the stranglehold of Rivers state in the control of the PDP. Sources also hinted that the stalemate in the PDP over nominations for principal offices in the House was supported by most members who kicked strongly against the nomination of members from both Nasarawa and Rivers states, with the argument that the PDP BOT chairman and Second Republic Senator Walid Jibrin, who has been on the seat since 2013, comes from Nasarawa, while the National Chairman, Uche Secondus, who emerged after the PDP Port Harcourt convention in 2017 largely influenced and muscled with some strong-arm tactics by Governor Wike, after he had served as acting chairman of the PDP National Working Committee from ,2015 to 2016, comes from Rivers State too. As it stands now, the PDP appears to be in a fix in selecting who should be their Minority leader in the Federal House of Representatives as the battle for the position, which has been conventionally zoned to the South-South, since that of the Senate has gone to the South-East, is finely poised between Elumelu and Chinda especially when Elumelu loved by his colleagues for what they described as his patriotic bi-partisanship stance, in consideration of matters of national interest, is said to enjoy the goodwill of both his PDP party members and those of the ruling opposition APC, who see him not only as a bridge builder across party lines, but also as a seasoned legislator whose wealth of experience will impact positively on the House by guiding new members in House conducts and adding his considerable influence to those of the older members in steering the affairs of the House and maintaining the balance between party and policy as the 9th National Assembly unfolds. But following the emergence of Elumelu as House of Representatives Minority Leader, the national leadership of PDP slammed a one-month suspension on him and six other House members elected on its platform. The affected members also shun a meeting summoned by the party’s leadership on over disregard for the party’s choice for the minority leader’s seat. Among those suspended aside Elumelu are Lynda Ikpeazu, Wole Oke, Anayo Edwin, Gideon Gwadi, Toby Okechukwu and Adekoya Abdul-Majid. Spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan who announced the suspension order after a marathon meeting of the PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC) on Friday, said the party reviewed “issues surrounding the minority leadership positions” Consequent upon this, the above-mentioned members of our party are hereby suspended for one month and this matter is hereby referred to the National Disciplinary Committee of our party, in keeping with Section 57(3) of the PDP Constitution”. Those suspended by the PDP for aIIegedy failing to appear before the PDP’s NWC are: Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Minority Leader – (PDP-Delta); Toby Okechukwu, Deputy Minority Leader – (PDP-Enugu); Hon. Gideon Gwani (PDP-Plateau) – Minority Chief Whip and Adesegun Adekoya, Minority Deputy Chief Whip – (PDP -Ogun) as well as Hon. Wole Oke (PDP-Osun); Linda Ikpeazu (PDP-Anambra). Meanwhile, Elumelu reacted to his suspension, saying that he was shocked to read about his suspension and described the action as “unfortunate.” According to him, “It’s unfortunate if the party suspends its most loyal member for towing the path of honour and constitutionalism He faulted his alleged suspension from the PDP by the party’s NWC. Elumelu, in a statement by his media office called on the PDP NWC to rescind its decision in the interest of the party, the National Assembly and Nigeria as a whole, saying that the decision was hasty as it negates the spirit and letter of fair hearing which is at the heart of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution and extant laws of the land. In a letter purportedly sent to the leadership of the PDP, the members explained their failure to honour the party’s summons, saying they were out of Abuja when the invitation was sent to them. The letter was signed by one Sam Audu, who was designated as Personal Assistant to Elumelu. In view of the above, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and other members invited are requesting that the meeting should be rescheduled for either Thursday, 18 July at 4:00 pm after plenary, or Friday, 19th July at 10-00. Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and other members invited, regret any inconvenience that their absence at the meeting with NWC may have caused”. According to Elumelu “I am surprised and shocked, that the National Working Committee of our great party, the PDP can sit and take a decision without giving room for fair hearing. I lost an aunty and left Abuja immediately after plenary in the House of Representatives and travelled to Delta state. Though I left immediately after sitting not midnight. Secondly, my gate man received the letter at 7.45pm and he called me at 8pm” Owing to this, no fewer than 111 members of the House of Representatives expressed their disgust, disenchantment and rejection of the action the NWC of the PDP in suspending Elumelu. The House members who decried the suspension at a press conference addressed by Hon. Legor Idagbo (PDP) Cross River State in Abuja called on the NWC to immediately rescind the decision on the newly constituted Principal and other PDP members. The 111 House of Representatives members comprising representatives of the nine minority parties led by Hon. Legor Idagbo (PDP-Cross River), affirmed that the letter sent by the PDP leadership to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila dated 1st July, 2019 was belated. Idagbo said that all the Minority parties had through a letter dated 20th June, 2019 communicated the nomination of Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and other principal officers to the Speaker in tandem with the provisions of the Standing Order 7(cool which derived its strength from Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). While urging the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus and the NWC as well as the Board of Trustees (BOT) to rescind the suspension of the six PDP members, the lawmakers passed a vote of confidence on Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila; Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and,s the newly constituted Minority Principal Officers. On the allegation of the N1 million inducement by the Elumelu’s group, Hon. Idagbo who described the allegation as an “insult” noted that it would have been justifiable if the promoters of the allegation accused them of collecting N1 billion. He also promised to make public the list of the 111 lawmakers drawn from all the nine minority parties who endorsed Hon. Elumelu and others as the Minority Principal Officers. On the allegation of the N1 million inducement by the Elumelu’s group, Hon. Idagbo who described the allegation as an “insult” noted that it would have been justifiable if the promoters of the allegation accused them of collecting N1 billion. He also promised to make public the list of the 111 lawmakers drawn from all the nine minority parties who endorsed Hon. Elumelu and others as the Minority Principal Officers. “We, the Members of the Minority parties adhered to this provision in the selection of 1. Hon. Ndudi Elumelu; 2. Hon. Tobi Okechukwu; 3. Hon. Gideon Gwani; 4. Hon. Segun Adesegun as, Minority Leader, Minority Deputy Leader, Minority Whip and Minority Deputy Chief Whip respectively. “The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila was communicated the resolution by majority members of the minority caucus on the 2nd July, 2019, and he went ahead in accordance with our rules to read same on the floor on the 3rd, July 2019. Corroborating, Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, advised the leadership of the PDP, to accept the announcement of Elumelu as Minority Leader by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in good faith. Clark who spoke to journalists in Abuja said it is the duty of the federal lawmakers to determine who leads them, and not that of a political party. The former Federal Commissioner of Information urged the leadership of PDP to let go its grievances and face its role as a leading opposition party. ‘I think democracy should be allowed to prevail in this country and institutions should be allowed to do their jobs. There is no place, even in the PDP constitution, which says they should nominate people and give to the House of Representatives. There is nothing like that. But the National Assembly has rules and regulations. Rule 8 says that elected members of the House, whether they are majority or minority, should sit among themselves and elect their members. They didn’t say one political party should nominate people for the chairman or secretary to come and submit to National Assembly”.
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