The clash between members of the ruling APC and the opposition PDP in the National Assembly marred President Muhammadu Buhari’s presentation of the 2019 Appropriation Bill on Wednesday.
Efforts to persuade the PDP lawmakers, especially those in the House of Representatives, not to disrupt the presentation ceremony earlier before the President’s arrival proved abortive.
Before Buhari’s arrival, news filtered in that opposition members in the House of Representatives were prepared to stage a protest against the President.
Shortly after the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, said the opening prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuf; and Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, walked up to him and held a brief meeting.
Dogara then announced that an executive session would be held, asking non-members to leave the chamber. The closed-door meeting held about 25 minutes to Buhari’s expected 12noon arrival.
The Speaker said the meeting would last only five minutes but lasted over 30 minutes.
The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and several ministers, special advisers and assistants to President arrived at 11:50am while the closed-door meeting was still ongoing.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and senators later joined their House counterparts.
The atmosphere in the chamber became tense when opposition lawmakers began to chorus a protest song, ‘Freedom come by struggle, by struggle; freedom come.’
The protesters continued with the song as President Muhammadu Buhari stepped into the chamber, while the APC lawmakers made a counter move by hailing the President, ‘Sai Baba!’ Both sides raised their voices as Buhari walked to his seat.
Three placards emerged on the floor of the chamber. As some PDP lawmakers attempted to raise them, their APC counterparts went for the placards, which led to a struggle and eventual free for all.
Two members of the House, Mr Bashir Babale (APC) and Duoye Diri (PDP), particularly had a physical struggle over a placard. Other lawmakers intervened and they were calmed.
At the other side of the isle where senators were seated, Senator Samuel Ayanwu (PDP) also engaged Senators Godswill Akpabio and Senator Solomon Adeola, both APC, in a hot argument. They rose from their seats and charged at each other.
The drama took a different turn as the President addressed the lawmakers. He was interrupted each time he mentioned an achievement by his administration.
The speech lasted one hour.
As the President mentioned each achievement, the protesters chorused, ‘No!’ Lie! Boo!’
When he said, “We have weathered the storms and made progress on every front,” they screamed, “No! Boo!”
When he said, “The economy has recovered well,” the lawmakers screamed again.
Buhari, who was displeased with the development, was forced to say, “The world is watching us and we are supposed to be above this.”
The protesters however continued, especially when Buhari said his administration had made success in its anti-corruption campaign.
At some point, a female lawmaker put on her microphone and said, “It is not true; it is not correct.”
At another time when the President said, “We are moving in the right direction,” the lawmakers chorused, “No!”
In another case, a female lawmaker said, “Iro lo pa. (‘You lied’ in Yoruba language).