It was the most unkindest cut. Like Brutus who went for Caeser in a most gruesome stab in Julius Caeser, that literary work by late Williams Shakespeare, House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s defection from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to All Progressives Congress was a strike at the heart of PDP. How? Tambuwal had long been rumoured to be mulling the idea of defecting to APC. He had been romancing the opposition party for close to two years or more now. He chose to attend a meeting of APC in his Sokoto homestate recently when PDP leaders were also in town meeting. It was then not a question of whether Tambuwal would defect, when he would do so was the issue. And he chose the Eleventh Hour to do so, at the tail end of the House’s plenary session last Tuesday when many in the chamber had concluded that he had again deferred his decision to another day. Tambuwal made his move in a marvelous way, with maximum effect. A day after he defected he was at the Area 10 old Parade Ground in Abuja to attend the Special Non-elective National Convention of APC. When he grabbed the microphone after he was introduced as the newest catch of the party, the Number 4 Citizen in the country collected the broom, the symbol of APC, and said, “To the glory of God, byMay 29, 2015, we shall sweep away the… you know the rest”(the PDP, he meant, but did n’t say it out).
The House of Representatives adjourned till December3, when the country would be in the heat of the 2015 election and the House members would be fighting for reelection in a clime where only about 5 percent or so of National Assembly members get re-elected since 1999, thereby robbing the country and the chambers of the benefit of institutional memory. What can the PDP do between now and December 3 to unseat a Speaker from a majority party who has just defected to a minority party? Not much I dare say. The unrefined Inspector-General of Police Suleiman Abba has moved quickly to withdraw the security aides attached to the Speaker, citing the provision of the 1999 Constitution he hardly understood. He said it was because the Speaker had defected from PDP to APC. One wonders why the security details of Governor Olusegun Mimiko who recently defected from Labour Party to PDP was not withdrawn or why those of governors who had moved from other parties into PDP or vice versa had not been withdrawn.
What room is there for PDP to oust Tambuwal as Speaker? As I said, not much! Firstly, it is a matter of convention, of tradition, that the party with a majority in parliament should produce the Speaker. There is no where in the constitution where such is so stated. What is needed to emerge as the presiding officer of any of the two chambers of the National Assembly is just simple majority. As a matter of fact, it has happened before, at least in the case of the election of the late Senate President Evan (s) Enwerem, where former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to reach for the defunct Alliance for Democracy and All Peoples Party’s Senators to thwart the election of late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo as Senate President in 1999. You could say Enwerem was also from PDP, but he was not the choice of a majority of PDP Senators. Their choice was the late Oyi of Oyi, Okadigbo, but what made the difference in that election were the votes of the defunct AD and APP Senators. The election of Tambuwal as Speaker and that of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as Deputy Speaker were almost similar to that of Enwerem. Tambuwal’s emergence as Speaker was a multi-party decision so to say. The choice of Tambuwal from Sokoto in the North-west even broke the zoning arrangement of the PDP under which the speakership was ceded to the South-west. It was birthed by a conglomeration of forces in the House comprising opposition lawmakers and some rebellious PDP members. The choice of PDP was Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande from the South-west whom Tambuwal defeated by a wide margin. Tambuwal’s election was brought about by the progressive forces in the House powered by the opposition parties who wanted their own leader as opposed to the one picked for them from outside the chamber, by PDP leaders. The PDP never forgave Tambuwal and Ihedioha for their belligerence. Tambuwal still enjoys the support and confidence of the House, so who will cast the first stone? The Deputy Majority Leader of the House Leo Ogor was so stunned that all he could say is that the PDP would carry on without Tambuwal. It will be interesting to see how the Speaker’s removal can be effected in a House where he enjoys the confidence of a majority of the members across party lines.
But to my sense on the matter of defection of lawmakers from the platform through which they were elected to another. I see such a move as an abdication of the philosophy and programmes, which they canvassed to get the votes of their constituents. When lawmakers cross carpet, they leave their constituents shortchanged and they should be made to pay for it. Section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution as amended would appear to have addressed this issue. The section states that “ A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected:
“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”
Was there a division in PDP? Was there a faction in PDP, which merged with others to form a new party? These are matters that are before the court of law following the earlier defection of five PDP Governors into APC, and ‘am not competent to speak further on these issues.