As minority caucus leadership records absent at plenary
By Levinus Nwabughiogu – Abuja
Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Tuesday taunted his colleague, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, likening him to a meddlesome interloper.
The rap stemmed for the defection of the member representing Ondo East/Ondo West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Rep. Abiola Peter Makinde from the African Democratic Congress (ADC) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Gbajabiamila had announced Makinde’s defection via a letter addressed to him by the defecting lawmaker at Tuesday plenary.
Reading the letter, Gbajabiamila quoted the lawmaker as saying that he left his former party due to a protracted leadership crisis and other internal wranglings.
But before reading the letter, Gbajabiamila had noticed the absence of the principal officers from the minority caucus and called Hon. Obinna Chidoka from Anambra PDP to act as the Minority Leader.
Having taken his seat, the Speaker then moved on to read the letter.
It had become a culture for members of the opposition to kick whenever one of their own defects to APC.
This also played out as Chidoka rose to protest.
But this time, he delegated the function to Ossai (PDP, Delta State) who had already armed himself with a copy of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and was eager to speak.
But the speaker inquired to know in what capacity he was speaking.
“Are you speaking as the acting Minority Leader,” Gbajabiamila asked.
This question prompted both Chidoka and Ossai to clear the air, explaining that he had been mandated by the speaker’s appointed acting minority leader to the speaker for the caucus in the matter.
With the floor yielded to Ossai, he swiftly objected to the defection, saying that defections were being done without recourse to the extant provisions of the law.
He cited the relevant sections of the Constitution, specifically Specifically, section 68 subsection 1(g) of the constitution which stipulates that a member of the Senate or that of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat if his election to any of the two chambers was sponsored by a political party and he or she later chooses to become 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.
Ossai also made reference to a subsisting supreme court judgment on matters of defection, reasoning that unless plausible facts were established, reasons advanced by the defecting lawmaker were not tenable.
But the Speaker, in response, said the reason for Makinde’s defection was clearly stated in the letter he read.
He then proceeded to ask whether he knew the name of the chairman of the ADC or familiar with the party activities.
Gbajabiamila, a lawyer further took on Ossai on the point of law from the background that he had copiously quoted the law.
“I have just read out the letter from the member telling us reasons why he’s leaving. That has always been the reason. Can I ask you the name of the Chairman of the party where he defected from? Do you know”? He asked.
But Ossai demurred in the questions.
In response, Gbajabiamila said, “since you have quoted the law, let me say this.
In law, there is what is called a meddlesome interloper. It means you have no locus to speak. You can’t speak for the party. It is only a member of ADC that can speak. Therefore, I rule you out of order.”
Makinde’s defection marked the third within two weeks in the list of lawmakers who defected to APC.
It will be recalled that Hon Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi of the Peoples Redemption Party (Bauchi, PRP) and former Senate President David Mark’s daughter, Hon. Blessing Onu (Benue, APGA) last week Tuesday exited their respective parties for the APC.