The peace in the House of Representatives was disrupted on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 over an issue many believe was mismanaged by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal. His unconscionable decision to bring the internal crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the House chamber, was clearly at the root of the ballyhoo that engulfed the chamber. On a day the House resumed from a long recess, Tambuwal had surprised members with the outlandish announcement during plenary that he would admit leaders of the splinter PDP into the House Chamber.
The permission sought by the group led by Kawu Baraje was absurd to the extent that the Speaker was quite aware that the group did not in any way constitute the leadership of the PDP. Baraje and his group, the seven aggrieved governors of Niger, Jigawa, Rivers, Sokoto, Kano, Kwara and Adamawa states and some senators, among others, had said they were in the House to brief members of the PDP caucus on the crisis rocking the party. It was apparently a legislative gaffe which had the imprimatur of Tambuwal. But the question to ask is: since when has it become traditional for rebels within a recognized political party to seize the floor of a chamber of the National Assembly to seek legitimacy?
Aside this, what rankled the House members was the Speaker’s decision to shun the standing procedure for party leaders-assuming Baraje and co are one-wishing to visit their members. Instead of referring the visiting rebel group to the PDP caucus after the plenary, the Speaker went out of the normal procedure to announce the communication to all members. As expected, this legislative indiscretion resulted in violent disagreement with members of the party rising in unison to seek to know why Tambuwal was dragging the House into the internal affairs of the PDP. Even non-members of the PDP were alarmed that he did not take their interests into account.
Though he has always claimed to being a stickler for party discipline, the question must still be asked: why does Tambuwal consistently fan the embers of discord in the PDP to which he supposedly belongs? The answer is not far-fetched. Though he creates the impression that he is neutral in the factional crisis within the PDP, he is known to be sympathetic towards, and actively involved in the machinations of the splinter group. Using his position in the National Assembly, he has actively promoted the rebellion in the party even while posing as a disciplined member of the party’s mainstream leadership.
His decision to foist such a pandemonium on the House cannot be divorced from his ambition to further accentuate the crisis, for whatever personal political gains. He may therefore be living with the delusion that the show of shame has dealt the party a fatal blow, but it is his leadership credentials that have been put to question. Under his watch, the House of Representatives has suffered the worst credibility problems with voices rising more stringently for accountability and maturity. Even with a clear PDP majority, he has led the ruling party membership into two opposing factions and presided over the continued decimation of that overwhelming majority.
Perhaps, Tambuwal is happy that the rebellion he began on June 6, 2011 by spurning the decision of the PDP National Caucus to zone the position of the Speaker to the Southwest zone, when he threw his hat in the ring by contesting and winning the election, is gaining ground. As it is, he is not the only one now in the party’s firing line. It would appear to be in his enlightened self-interest to cause the rebellion to fester. This is certainly the logic or philosophy that propels the Sokoto-born politician.
But it is noteworthy here that Baraje and co. were also in the Senate some minutes earlier where some Senators were sympathetic to his faction, but the maturity of the Senate leadership was obvious. The meeting held in the Senate President’s conference room. It was not mulled on the floor of the Senate. Even at the meeting, Baraje had to repeat his group’s key demand that President Goodluck Jonathan must drop his “third term” plan, Mark’s voice was still that of moderation. Instead of polarizing the PDP Senators, Mark played a moderating role and appealed to the sense of maturity of the actors.
Even when days later, the red chambers boiled over the crisis within the PDP, he did not sit back and chuckle inside as Tambuwal would do while watching his colleagues exchange blows. Mark, looking very serious and perhaps saddened, admonished his colleagues against proceeding any further with the partisan argument, which was sparked off by the Senator Danjuma Goje’s claim, during contributions to the debate on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), that he he belonged to the PDP under Kawu Baraje’s Chairmanship. He soberly declared: “I am satisfied that Goje said he is in the PDP and so that is my ruling because the chairmanship of the party is not a matter for discussion by the senate. The PDP remains one strong and indivisible entity.”
Now, Tambuwal has been largely criticized for refusing so far to take a principled stand, either way, on the PDP crisis. The demands being made on Nigerians by the group will help us understand why Tambuwal’s role is ignoble. The group insists that the President should call the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission away from investigations being carried out on some of the leaders of the group, and that he should arbitrarily sack the democratically elected national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. But by far, the most laughable is the demand that President Goodluck Jonathan who carries the mandate of a majority of Nigerian voters should not seek another term in office come 2015, regardless of his constitutionally guaranteed right as a citizen.
In recent weeks, Speaker Tambuwal has openly been associated with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), with speculations that he nurses presidential ambition on the platform of the party. The APC sees Tambuwal as a man who has given so much leverage to the opposition in the House. Yet in all these, he has done little to deny or discourage the speculations that he is only PDP in name. What is more ignoble than a presiding officer of the NASS being proposed as the opposition’s presidential candidate on account of how he has helped to sabotage his own political platform? Such is the character of Tambuwal, a leader who runs with the hare, and hunts with the hounds.
The internal quarrel within the PDP has clearly exposed Tambuwal as lacking in principle which, even in the slippery terrain of Nigerian politics, still counts for credibility. Instead of striving to observe the truce they reached with President Jonathan and other PDP leaders on Sunday, September 15, 2013, the display of public shame in the House, which his deliberate indiscretion caused, exposes him as a leader who is treacherous. To other members of the House, it has become obvious that Tambuwal lacks the qualities expected of the speaker much more for one who reportedly harbours presidential aspiration at the planned expense and collateral damage to the party on which platform he won election to the House of Representatives. This is patently anti-party and it is sad that the number four citizen in the protocol list would be involved in this political shenanigan that finds anchorage in his enlightened self interest and not national interest.
· Ehigiator contributed this piece from Abuja.