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In what seems like a radical change, the All Progressive Congress, (APC), may have allegedly outnumbered the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the House of Representatives following mass defection from the ruling party PDP, before and after the primary election by various political parties.
The APC which is now the majority in the House is set to take over the leadership of the Lower chambers if the House reconvene next month February 17th. But the PDP still claim is the majority that defection of some members is still a matter of litigation
Though there is still a subsisting court injunction restraining the House from changing its leadership the APC caucus it was learnt, has shared out the leadership positions in the House to its members as part of plans to assume full control of the legislature in the New Year.
The APC, formerly in the minority, outgrew the majority strength of the Peoples Democratic Party after 37 PDP lawmakers initially defected to it on December 18, 2014.
The APC in its calculation towards changing the leadership of the House, said apart from Speaker Hon. Aminu Tambuwal who defected from the PDP when the party was in majority, is targeting Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Deputy Speaker of the House whom members are bent on changing now that his party the PDP is in the minority.
The other Principal Officers who may likely be affected by the move are Hon. Mulikat Akande Adeola the majority House Leader who has now become a minority. The Majority Whip Hon Ishaka Bawa Mohammed, the Majority Whip may also be whipped away, while Hon. Leonard Ogor position as the Deputy House Leader is also shaking. The only principal officer whose seat is guaranteed for now is the Speaker, Tambuwal.
Following the mass defection in some parties the APC may be on the winning side as it has taken over as the majority party. As now 179 APC members, while PDP has 162. The small parties together have 19 members. “Ten of the members belong to the SDP.” While Labour Party has about three members, APGA has three, PDM has two members and Accord Party, one.
Reacting to the claim by APC that it now has the majority, the House deputy leader Hon. Leo Ogor described the loss of his party’s membership as “inconsequential.” Saying that the issue of defections in the House was still before the courts.
“This issue is inconsequential because the PDP is clearly in control. The courts have said status quo should remain. “So, we are not bothered as we are in control. Even if it is only Leo Ogor who remains in the PDP, we are in control, so long as the courts have not decided on the issue of defections”, he said.
Recall temporary respite came the way of the PDP, as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, restrained members of the House that defected to the APC, from altering or changing the leadership of the House, pending the determination of a suit before the court.
Justice Ademola Adeniyi who made the order sequel to a suit that was filed before the High Court by the PDP, directed that members of the House should maintain their status-quo till when both the substantive suit and preliminary objections by the defendants will be heard.
It will be recalled that PDP had approached the court, begging it to issue an order of perpetual injunction that would restrain the Speaker Tambuwal and 52 other lawmakers, from taking any step capable of changing the present leadership structure at the lower legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, members of the House of Reps, led by the Speaker, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to dabble into what they said was purely an issue within the domestic affairs of the House.
Also recall that following the acclaimed majority by APC, the House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, set the tone for the rowdy session at plenary as during his contribution to a motion referred to the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, as the “deputy minority leader”.
His disparaging of Ogor’s status, which came against the backdrop of the newfound numerical strength of APC as the party with more legislators in the House following the defection of 37 House members, formerly belonging to the PDP to APC, drew the ire of the ruling party’s lawmakers.
Quickly, they formed a crowd and surged towards Gbajabiamila with the intent of attacking him. But the APC lawmakers formed a ring round their leader to protect him from any harm.
The House may descend to chaos over crises of which party takes the leadership of the House between the APC which commands the majority members, and PDP with minimum of members.
Recall that before now the Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had addressed the Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, as Deputy Minority Leader, in a clear message his party will insist on being recognized as the majority.
Mr. Gbajabiamila was contributing to a motion tabled by another member on the crisis in Rivers State, which called for the dismissal of the police chief, Joseph Mbu, in that troubled state.
The deputy leader, Ogor, had criticized the motion as a potential embarrassment for the house if passed, as the matter concerns security and the police commissioner had not been given fair hearing.
Gbajabiamila’s remarks drew an angry response from PDP members who insisted the comment be withdrawn. Gbajabiamila said his remark was a “statement of fact.”
Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, said he was “taken aback” by the remarks as a meeting of the leadership had insisted on calm as the court’s decision had been received by the House.
“As lawmakers, we should be the last, as an institution and as individuals, to disobey a court order,” he said. He asked the members to play politics as politicians but be careful with issues affecting the nation.
At a news briefing later, Gbajabiamila said the Nigerian House of Representatives was “the only parliament in the world where the minority plays the role of the majority.”
He described the court ruling blocking the APC from the planned change of leadership as “shameless”, but said his party would obey the court while it studies the content of the order.
“We have seen the hand writing on the wall, and it is clear they are trying to stop the inevitable,” Gbajabiamila said.
So now that the House members has gone on election break, will they change the leadership of the House if they come back in February after the National Assembly election, let’s wait and see.