Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase veered off a debate on the reports of a looming defection of many lawmakers from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC at Thursday plenary and unleashed attacks on the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.
Wase said that Abaribe should be in prison just like senator Ali Ndume representing Borno South for failing to produce the leader of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kalu in court.
Trouble erupted when Hon. Sada Soli from Katsina State raised a point of order, saying that his privilege was breached by the utterances of the House minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu who had at the recent National Executive Committee, NEC of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP hinted that many lawmakers on the platform of APC have indicated interest to join them ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“I am pleased to report to NEC that given our unrelenting efforts, many of our colleagues in the APC have seen reasons to join forces with us and they have expressed their readiness to cross over to our party for the patriotic task ahead”, Elumelu had said.
Soli picked holes with Elumelu’s statement, saying he’s going to press to say that members of the ruling party had concluded plans to port to PDP had prompted a barrage of enquires from people who wanted to know if he was one of them.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila in response “noted” the privilege and ruled on the matter.
Gbajabiamila said that people were at liberty to move, recalling that many from the opposition party have shown they’re open on the floor of the House.
But notice the absence of Elumelu at the plenary, the deputy minority leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu raised another point of privilege.
Recognized to speak, Okechukwu who hailed from Enugu State said that Soli’s privilege was not breached in any way.
He said that at no time did Soli go to Elumelu or the minority leader referring to his comment as the resolution of the House.
“There was no breach of privilege. He didn’t say Sada came to him. He didn’t say it is the resolution of the House. He said some people came to him. And it is clear that Sada has been crisscrossing in this chamber. If other members are interested in moving to PDP, I do not see how it affects him. Like the speaker rightly said, anyone, has liberty.”
In his response, the Speaker said “You have to be reasonable enough to measure your words. NEC is a major party forum”.
Just about when he had almost ruled on the matter for plenary proceedings to continue, the deputy Speaker, Wase indicated interest to speak.
When the floor was yelled to him, Wase took on Elumelu, recalling that he left off the Executive session of the House to join Abaribe in solidarity in a press conference where they listed the “sins” of President Muhammadu Buhari and threatened impeachment.
Vanguard could not ascertain whether Elumelu made any comments at the joint press conference with Abaribe, but Wase accused him of making some disclosures.
Wase insisted that his privilege had been breached.
At his juncture, many lawmakers wanted the connection the issue on the ground had with Abaribe.
The Deputy Speaker said that like Ndume who was at time imprisoned for bailing the former Chairman of Pension Reforms Task Team, Abdurasheed Mains and failed to produce him in court, Abaribe should also be sent to jail for failing to produce Nnamdi Kalu.
He said: “For him even to go out to report, it was a confidential matter. It was an executive session. There is a kind of false…that I am seeing because, after that meeting, the PDP caucus of the two chambers went and had another discussion.
“We need to be serious. I see someone like Abaribe as a leader in the senate championing that. Yes, there are many flaws. He bailed Nnamdi Kanu and during the END SARS, we knew what happened. Kanu then was the one who was asking for the heads of Tinubu, destroy this, destroy that in the nation. But we have allowed him. He knew what happened to Ndume. Ndume for bailing Maina was taken to prison for not producing, but we allowed this man to go as an opposition person.
“What is happening, sir, I think there is a need for us as a system to change our tactics. It is not about opposition. If you want to do opposition, do opposition that is right and also be part of the solution to problems.
“I think our privilege has been breached. There was complete wrong information and it is deliberate and that is why I am sighting the issue of what I have seen the minority leader in the Senate has done, with all of them sitting behind you.
“Ordinarily for failing to produce Kanu Nnamdi, he should be in prison, just like Ndume was taken to prison.”
Just immediately Wase was done, Hon. Nkem Abonta representing Ukwa East/West Federal Constituency of Abia State raised a point of order.
Granted to speak, Abonta said that the House was arrogating judicial powers to itself, wondering why Wase should bring Abaribe into the matter.
He reminded the House that Abaribe and Ndume’s situations were not the same as the military was reportedly struck Kaun’s house.
“The man mentioned about is my Senator. There is a judicial decision on this. Are we trying to arrogate our judicial powers as to when we cannot produce someone who we bailed?
“It was canvassed up to appeal. Is it an offence to bail somebody? If you bail somebody, you produce him subject to no interference. The last contact the man in question had was with the military. The Senator who bailed the man was going to court regularly. The senator did not default. He was called to show cause and he showed cause successfully. Why is it a point of reference in the parliament?
“Except we are trying to sit as an appellate court or interfere with the judiciary. The matter went the full whole course with the judiciary. He was asked to show cause and he showed cause. I was producing this man when there was no interference. We should ask the military where did they keep him. So for us to come here and make a submission to that is not proper. We should do things that would get us peace. Our problem now is security. How do we get security”, Abonta said.
Ruling on the matter, Speaker Gbajabiamila cautioned that leaders should be guided in making utterances capable of causing disunity.
“The deputy speakers point was not on the legality or non-legality. He was talking about the morality of it. If you remember he talked about Senator Ndume as well. And used that as an example. I think the point we need to make and understand is that we are all working together to build this nation. Nation-building is a joint task amongst all of us whatever party, whatever tribe, whatever religion. We only have one country.
“In doing that, we should be mindful whilst we play our role as a ruling party, whilst we play our roles as opposition. We should be focused on the non-disintegration or bringing down of the country. We should be mindful of our speeches or our utterances. The is freedom of speech. But freedom to speak also has to be measured.
“I think that was the point that was being made. The bigger point is that we had an executive session. And it is traditional in parliament to have executive sessions. When you have executive sessions, you clear the chambers, you clear the gallery and everybody leaves because we want to talk to each other as a body. Whatever transpires in the executive session, sometimes we find it on the pages of papers and we wonder how it got leaked.
“I think the point he was making is that we should not get carried away because we are in a party caucus and reveal whatever was discussed. Even without revealing the names of who said what and who did not say what. It is still a revelation of what transpired behind closed. Otherwise, members would not be able to open up and discuss when they come to the executive session.
“Let us put this matter to rest. Let us on either side work together to move the country forward and let not partisan politics come between us or have a role in the direction we are going as a country. We have a security summit coming up in a few days with members comprising of PDP, LABOUR, APC and that is the spirit we should carry on”, Gbajabiamila said and ruled on the matter.