• Elumelu to party: You can’t impose leader on us
An alleged move by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to satisfy some influential party chieftains in its handling of the crisis over the emergence of Ndudi Elumelu as the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives has sparked a fresh crisis in the opposition party.
Several stakeholders, including Elumelu who was suspended by the party over the issue, are insisting that the party hierarchy should leave Reps from the party alone to decide who leads them.
Reliable sources at the PDP national secretariat said that some prominent chieftains of the party, including serving governors, senators, members of the Board of Trustees as well as former presidential aspirants, are objecting to alleged move by the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to act contrary to earlier decisions of the party organs in its handling of the disagreements arising from the emergence of Elumelu and others as Minority principal officers in the House of Representatives.
These are: Wole Oke, Lynda Ikpeazu, Anayo Edwin, Gideon Gwadi, Toby Okechukwu and Adekoya Abdul-Majid.
Kingsley Chinda who was the official candidate of the PDP for the Minority leader position was rejected by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who said he was acting on a letter from the minority parties in the House, including the PDP.
Both Elumelu and Chinda are PDP members. Last July, the PDP BoT and NWC had constituted a committee to wade into the crisis in the interest of the party. Members of the committee included a former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu; a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara; a former Senate President, David Mark; a former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, and a former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara. After months of delay and disagreement among its members, the committee submitted a report on the issue to Secondus last September.
Party sources claimed that the report exonerated Elumelu and his supporters from any anti-party activities as regards their emergence as principal officers of the lower chamber.
A source said: “The committee also urged the party to accept and work with Elumelu and other minority leadership officers of the House in its own interest. The BoT and the NWC discussed the report and resolved to abide by it.
“That is why you can see that until now, the matter was rested and the PDP caucus in the House was encouraged to work with Elumelu and his team. Chinda was also advised to let sleeping dogs lie.”
But on Friday, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, issued a statement saying the party’s caucus in the House of Representatives is under the leadership of Chinda. He also said that the suspension of Elumelu and some of its lawmakers in the House of Representatives subsists.
The Minority Caucus in the House of Reps comprising nine parties responded to the PDP statement yesterday and lampooned the party for resorting to undemocratic method in handling issues concerning the leadership of the caucus.
It asked the party to weigh its action and not allow individuals with personal interest derail the PDP.
Special Assistant on Legal Matters, Oyorima Idahosa who signed the statement said the PDP has no power whatsoever to foist anybody on the minority caucus as leaders as doing so will run counter to the 1999 Constitution, the House standing rules and parliamentary procedures.
The PDP, he said, must be democratic as its name implies.
He reminded the party that when, in 2015, the APC kicked against the announcement of Senator Ali Ndume as Senate Leader instead of its choice of Senator Ahmed Lawan, the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus as then acting chairman accused the APC of meddlesomeness.
He expressed surprise that the same party under the same chairman is now trying to impose leaders. He also reminded the party the Elumelu was duly elected through a democratic process by members of the minority parties in accordance to the laws of the land.
The statement reads: “The attention of the leadership of the Minority Caucus of the House of Representatives under Ndudi Elumelu has been drawn to allegations of disloyalty leveled against it in a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday. This is completely against the principle of democracy, rule of law and fairness upon which our great party, the PDP is founded and known since its formation 21 years ago. For the avoidance of doubt, the Minority leadership of the House of Representatives was elected in strict observance of Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Rule of the House of Representatives.
“Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution unambiguously provides that ‘Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Senate or the House of Representatives shall have power to regulate its own procedure, including the procedure for summoning and recess of the House” while Order 7 Rule 8 clearly states that “Members of the Minority Parties in the House shall nominate from among them, the Minority Leader, Minority Whip, Deputy Minority Leader, and Deputy Minority Whip’. This, the overwhelming majority of the Minority Caucus comprising nine political parties (PDP, APGA, ADC, LP, SDP, PRP, AA, APM, ADP) did, and communicated their decision to the Speaker in a letter dated 2nd July 2019 and signed by over 100 members of the 147-Member Caucus.
“By parliamentary rules, persons so elected become the leaders of the party caucuses in the legislature. While the party can GUIDE their elected Members through the zoning of various Minority leadership offices, it is not in the place of the party, by the provisions of the Constitution, House Standing Rule, and parliamentary traditions, to APPOINT or FOIST Minority or Majority Caucus leadership on its Members. The conduct of the lawmakers in choosing their leaders therefore falls within the framework of the spirit, ideals, beliefs and underlining principles of the PDP and our founding fathers, who championed the enthronement of the tenets of democratic practice in Nigeria.
“It would be recalled that a similar attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to foist leadership of the Majority Caucus on the National Assembly in 2015 could not stand as such obnoxious action was vehemently resisted by the Senate, which stuck to the list of elected leaders of the Majority Caucus submitted by APC Senators. The stand of our great party, which also had Prince Uche Secondus, the current National Chairman, as the Acting National Chairman at the time, is still very fresh on the minds of Nigerians. The PDP strongly criticized and lampooned the APC for impunity and meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of the parliament. It is, therefore, ironical that the same party, under the same Chairman, has now chosen the same path for which they pilloried the APC in 2015.
“It is even more distressing that the same party, under the same Chairman, has now branded the Minority leadership and their colleagues who transparently elected them, as disloyal for the simple reason that they strictly followed the Constitution, the Standing Rule of the House and best parliamentary traditions. Such malicious allegation is therefore totally insupportable as Elumelu and his colleagues in the PDP remain loyal and law-abiding members of the party. It is equally curious that over four months after various organs of the party set up Committees to investigate this matter and related issues bordering on PDP National Assembly Caucus within two weeks, the party has been reluctant and/or refused to consider the reports of these various Committees so that the issues can be laid to rest.
“Moreover, the endless suspension of loyal party members outside the provisions of the PDP Constitution, 1999 Constitution, and rules of parliament as palpably oppressive. In this regard, Elumelu and the members of the Minority leadership in the House respectfully urges the leadership of our great Party to weigh its actions and not allow certain individuals with vested personal interests to destroy the reputation and democratic foundations of the PDP, a party Nigerians look up to for direction at a time like this. Indeed, those who stand behind the scene spurring such disorder in our great party for their personal interests do not wish both the PDP and our dear nation any good. We are the Peoples DEMOCRATIC Party, and we must act true to our name.”
A member of the NWC from the northeast, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted that Secondus has been under immense pressure by a group within the party, led by a serving governor, to make the announcement, contrary to earlier agreements.
Ologbondiyan, in his Friday statement said: “the suspension placed on some PDP members who connived with others to supplant the party decision with regards to party positions in the House is subsisting and has not been lifted.
“The suspended members of the party cannot, therefore, conduct any business of the party at whatever level until disciplinary measures have been concluded.
“The National Working Committee (NWC) in its wisdom, knowing that nature abhors a vacuum and consistent with its position on the matter which has not changed, directed that the affairs of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives be organised and managed by Kingsley Chinda, Yakubu Barde, Chukwuka Onyema and Muraina Ajibola.”
Sequel to the position of the PDP NWC, Chinda announced himself as the PDP Caucus leader in the House, prompting the leadership of the House to refer the latest crisis within the minority caucus to its committee on ethics and privileges. Ologbodiyan had added that, “all PDP NASS members and organs are to note this and accord the irreversible party choices the necessary support to execute the party’s mandate in distinction as they have been doing so far.”