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Rumbles over Bauchi Assembly impasse

Published by The Nation on Sun, 14 Jul 2019

Weeks after the emergence of two Speakers in Bauchi State House of Assembly, the matter remains unresolved, causing fears over the long term effects of the disagreements on the current government of the state, reports Associate Editor, Sam EgburonuWHEN the Peoples Democratic Partys governorship candidate, Bala Muhammed, emerged as the Governor of Bauchi State in the last elections, some informed observers expressed fear over the likely effect of the development in the politics of the state. This was because Muhammeds political party, the PDP, failed to get majority seats at the state House of Assembly. While PDP got only eight seats in the House, All Progressives Congress (APC) had majority 22 seats, a development that some analysts predicted may have set the stage for unnerving rivalry in the politics of the state between the two major parties.The current round of disagreement could be traced to middle of June when Governor Bala Muhammed suddenly postponed the inauguration of the Assembly after announcing a previous date. The All Progressives Congress (APC), which has majority in the Assembly with 22 members as against PDPs eight, suspecting that the governor and his political party may have perfected plans to determine the principal officers of the Assembly, quickly expressed its displeasure over the development. It described it as undemocratic, null and void.The Acting Clerk of the Assembly, Alhaji Umar Gital, who announced the postponement in a statement issued in Bauchi, said the state government regretted the inconvenience the postponement of the inauguration might have caused invited guests.APC was not impressed by the plea. The party in a statement signed by the state secretary, Bako Hussaini, said Nigerias 1999 Constitution (as amended) did not empower a state governor to suspend the inauguration of an Assembly after issuing a proclamation to that effect.The party also alleged that it was part of the governors plan to have his way in the process of electing a Speaker and that it was this same scheme that made the governor to remove the Clerk of the Assembly a few days to the inauguration.Reacting, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Hamza Akuyam, described the allegations of the APC as false and unfounded.He said, The Clerk had requested for that (shift in date) because the previous government was supposed to have made these arrangements for the new Speaker, but it didnt. So, the extension was to give the government time to make arrangements.The confusion and disagreement peaked when two speakers eventually emerged as two factional groups of lawmakers converged differently and elected different speakers; one from the PDP and another from the APC. On the appointed date for the election and inauguration of the leadership of the Assembly, a wield drama was enacted by the contending lawmakers. It came in two contradictory acts, leaving a glaring lacuna in the states polity.Although the election of the Assemblys principal officers was officially scheduled to hold by 10am that day, it was reported that 11, out of the 31 lawmakers of the Assembly, had arrived the complex before 7am and elected Abubakar Suleiman, an APC member representing Ningi Central Constituency, as the Speaker of the House. The same group of lawmakers also elected Danlami Kawule, a member of PDP, representing Zungur/Galambi, as the Deputy Speaker.About three hours after the group had completed their elections and inauguration, another set of lawmakers, 18 of them, conducted a parallel election in front of the Assembly complex. Reports said they concluded held their election at about 11 am. According to them, they had to hold the election and inauguration in front of the Assembly because they were not allowed into the legislative chamber.Reports said the members stood in front of the statue of the mace symbol and elected Kawuwa Damina, a former Speaker in the states eighth Assembly and a member of the APC, as the Speaker of the state House of Assembly. He was elected through a voice vote.CONFUSION, CROSSFIRESince the emergence of the two speakers, concerned stakeholders have been unable to resolve the resulting confusion. As a result, there has been verbal crossfire and threats.The verbal antagonism did not end at the state level. For example, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of APC, was so angry over the development that he reportedly called for the sealing off of the Bauchi House of Assembly. The former governor of Edo State warned the Bauchi state governor to stay away from championing what he described as illegality in the House.Warning that the Police is not expected to provide security on an illegal matter, the National Chairman of APC, called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to seal off Bauchi States House of Assembly over the emergence of two factional Speakers.Oshiomhole, who visited Kogi to get firsthand information of the development, while addressing APC lawmakers in Bauchi House of Assembly said, President Muhammadu Buhari have been briefed on the crisis in the states parliament. Observing that he has also had discussions with the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, on the growing crisis, Oshiomhole said I have briefed the President in full, having met with you earlier when you shared with me the details. I have had a conversation with the governor, so I have all the facts. We members of NWC have met with the IGP after deliberating on the issues, he revealed, adding, We will prevail on him to ensure that the police do not provide security for an illegal act. Because the worse form of robbery is political robbery; it is worse than robbing people of their property, he said.Oshiomhole is of the view that it will be impossible to have PDP members as Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other principal officers of the House. Describing such a development as invitation of trouble for the governor, Oshiomhole said, There is no way the PDP can produce the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and other principal officers. If the governor insists, then he is inviting trouble for himself. He should have said he is vacating the Government House, until the determination of his case, he said.He also said that if Mohammed had submitted to the rule of law, the governor would have no choice than to submit himself and the PDP in Bauchi to rule of law. As he puts it: I assure you, on behalf of APC, that we stand by the statement we made that the purported election organised under cover with illegal use of the Nigerian Police to install a puppet against the wish of the majority of the members cannot stand and it will not stand by Gods grace. We will fight it to its logical conclusion and we will prevail on the police to provide enforcement for the rule of law; we are not asking for any partisan support. The parliament must be secured because that is the business of the police and security agencies to secure lives and property. The parliament is the property of the people of Bauchi State. They must ensure it is used for the purpose for which it was built, which is for which is law making not for the governor to lock up the place, he added.The disagreements notwithstanding, Honourable Abubakar Suleiman, who insisted that he was elected by 13 lawmakers instead of 11 as was widely reported in the media, said there is no going back on his election as Speaker.He blamed the current disagreement on what he described as over dependence on loyalty to the party. As he puts it in a recent interview, Many of the APC lawmakers were carried away by their loyalty to the party; last time I was in Kano, where they summoned us for a meeting, the then APC leader in the state, former governor (Mohammad Abubakar), after the meeting, announced that Kawuwa and Tukur were the partys choice for Speaker and Deputy Speaker positions respectively.Nobody in that meeting objected to that position, all of them agreed with the decision of the former governor. Well, I believe my lone objection would not change anything there, so I played along. Surprisingly, after the Kano meeting, before I arrived Bauchi, the news making the rounds was that I have stepped down for Kawuwa as Speaker. People started calling me to register their displeasure and protest over what they heard.My political associates and friends were inundating me with calls asking about what happened in Kano. They said they were not in support of what they heard. In fact, there were threats on my life and my family, because on my arrival in Bauchi, my supporters stormed my house in over 20 buses. They were angry over the decision reached in Kano.They said the only thing I can do not to let them down was to continue in the race of the speakership. With this I had no objection than to step up.STALEMATEAlthough The Nation learnt that APCs top leadership is highly disappointed over Abubakar Suleimans resolve to work with the ruling PDP against the position of the party, the factional Speaker insists he is still a member of APC. Already, there is speculation that Suleiman may have concluded plans to defect to PDP, but the lawmaker said he is yet to hear from APC leadership on the development. He acknowledged that his party leaders now see him as a sellout, adding that for now; there is no communication between us as they are expressing their dismay. I wrote a letter to explain the circumstances that led to my emergence as the speaker of Bauchi State House Assembly, while asking for their forgiveness if I have erred.While tension continues to rise in the camp of APC in Bauchi over the emergence of the two speakers, things seem to be looking up for the ruling PDP notwithstanding threats from APC. On their part, PDP leaders, according an insider, believes more APC lawmakers would be willing to work with the PDP-led executive if they are properly wooed. It remains to be seen, how far Muhammed and his team would fare in this enterprise.
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