President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday engaged some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in a meeting aimed at taking a common position on the Tuesday defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal.
The meeting took place hours after the House said the PDP, individuals and groups condemning the defection of the speaker to the All Progressives Congress should not dictate to it on how to conduct its affairs.
Tambuwal had announced his defection from the PDP before he adjourned sitting till December 3.
The situation made the President to summon the National Chairman of the PDP, Adamu Mu’azu, to the meeting which had the Deputy Speaker of the House, Emeka Ihedioha; the Deputy Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor; and a member from Delta State, Ndudi Elumelu, in attendance.
Some PDP governors such as Gabriel Suswam (Benue); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa): Ibrahim Dankwabo (Gombe) and Sullivan Chime (Enugu) were also part of the meeting.
Top government officials who attended the parley included the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki; and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Muhammed Adoke (SAN).
One of those in attendance told one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity that the meeting centered on how to make Tambuwal vacate his seat as speaker.
“The issue of the Speaker and his exit was one of the fundamental issues discussed at the meeting,” he said.
The source however did not disclose the decision reached at the meeting.
Another source said that Ihedioha “took the heat at the meeting.”
He did not explain further.
The presence of Adoke and Dasuki at the meeting suggested that they might have reviewed the legal and security implications of the options available to them with the two government officials.
Earlier, Mu’azu had at another meeting the President had with a delegation of the Federal Capital Territory Council of Chiefs, dropped the hint that Jonathan summoned him.
“The President had summoned me for a meeting. I was with him when he wanted to come and receive you and he told me to follow you. I only did follow follow,” he had told members of the delegation.
The PDP had shortly after Tambuwal announced his defection called on him to do the needful by resigning as speaker.
The party, argued through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, that since Tambuwal became the speaker on the ticket of the “majority party (PDP), he had no right to continue to occupy the seat.
But the House said on Tuesday that the PDP and most of the commentators on the issue were “ignorant” of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the House Standing Orders.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Victor Ogene, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said Tambuwal did not breach any law in defecting to the APC.
He also noted that there was no provision in the constitution prescribing that the speaker must be elected from among the majority party members.
Ogene cited Section 50 (1)(b) of the constitution to buttress his argument.
He said, “The clear provisions of Section 50(1) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution easily settle the worries regarding the continued speakership of Tambuwal – ‘There shall be a Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.’’’
He also noted that the speaker was elected as the representative of the “generality of Nigerians” and not necessarily because he belonged to a particular political party.
On the views of some “commentators” that Tambuwal should have vacated his office by virtue of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the constitution, he replied that the matter was still awaiting judicial decision.
Ogene added, “It is common knowledge that following the defection of 37 members of the House in December 2013, from the PDP to APC, there has been multiple court cases on the matter, thus rendering it subjudice to discuss any likely outcome.
“Everyone is thus enjoined to await the final judicial pronouncement on the issue of defection, which has afflicted virtually all political parties in the land.”
He warned the PDP against interfering with the lawmakers’ “privilege” and constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to choose their leaders.
Ogene stated, “Additionally, Order 1, Rule 1 (2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives states: ‘ In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sectional or other Orders, precedents or practices of the House, the House shall by resolution regulate its procedure.’
“It is in the light of the foregoing that the House wishes to appeal to those who seek to regulate its procedure from outside its hallowed chambers to have a rethink, as the nation’s Constitution, the Standing Orders of the House and precedent – as in the Speakership of the late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke in the Second Republic on a minority platform – have all provided answers to what would have otherwise been a knotty political issue.”
But as Ogene spoke, the PDP through its National Vice-Chairman of the party in the South-South, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, vowed to do everything within its powers to regain the speakership of the House.
Ojougboh told journalists at the national headquarters of the party in Abuja that there was no way Tambuwal and other defectors from the party would be allowed to go away with the party’s mandate.
He said, “PDP is a very disciplined party. If you come and steal in the PDP and use the PDP to elevate yourself and get into office when the time comes, God will get you out like the issue of Tambuwal.
“You can see how God has exposed him. PDP will do everything within the law to regain its seat and that is what we are going to do in Edo and Rivers states as well. We are going back to the South-South to regain our seats.”