Controversy over who presides at the 10th House of Representatives appeared to have caused a crisis between the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and his Deputy, Ahmed Wase.
The duo clashed during the plenary, yesterday.
The Guardian had reported that race for the key position was getting messier by the day, as Wase stopped attending leadership meetings of the chamber.
Gbajabiamila had reportedly recommended Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu for Speaker and Deputy Speaker, leading to their endorsement by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Wase, who is eyeing the seat of Speaker, is a member of the G-7, a group of aspirants who are not comfortable with the zoning arrangement of the APC.
Trouble started towards the end of the session, when Gbajabiamila asked Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, to prepare a light order paper for Thursday, as the sitting should close by 2:00 p.m., to allow members attend an event at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
But members of the House were surprised, when Wase cautioned the Speaker on the pronouncement.
Wase said: “Mr. Speaker, I’m getting to see this getting so funny and we have lost quite a number of periods of time…for the commissioning of projects for God’s sake! Why do we have to shelve a lot of activities that we have, just to go and witness the commissioning of a project by NILDS?
“I want to beg, sir, that we should do our functions. Those who have the interest to go, they have the right to. But our main primary function in this parliament is to make laws and our citizens should be our priority.”
But Gbajabiamila responded saying: “Perhaps, Deputy Speaker, you don’t appreciate the importance of NILDS, like some of us do. I think NILDS is very important.”
The Deputy Speaker interjected: “I have every information and idea of what NILDS is.
The Speaker continued: “It was set up by this same institution, by statute. We are not adjourning the House to go to NILDS; what I said was, ‘Let’s try and make it light and leave here by two.’
“If you want, we can resume by 10:00 a.m. We will do our work but we will adjourn this House at 2:00 p.m. I will witness the NILDS (event) because it is important to me.”
Wase replied: “The parliament is about us, not about ‘I’.”
Gbajabiamila expressed surprise at the Deputy Speaker’s outburst, saying: “Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is the first time in history…I have been in this House for many years, perhaps, even longer than anybody here…this is the first time in history that a Deputy Speaker will be challenging what the Speaker is saying.”
Wase fired: “I don’t understand what you mean by challenging, sir. That I should not make my contribution?”
Ignoring the Deputy Speaker’s last comment, Gbajabiamila said: “Let me repeat, please: Chairman Business and Rules, please, make the order paper very light. We are adjourning this House by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.”
MEANWHILE, newly elected House of Representatives member, Ikenga Ugochinyere, and 62 of his colleagues from opposition political parties have thrown their weight behind Abbas and Kalu.
Ugochinyere, who is the spokesperson of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), at a news conference in Abuja, explained that the decision was in the best interest of the country.
Ugochinyere, representing Ideato North South Federal Constituency on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Abbas and Kalu have the wherewithal to oversee affairs of the House.
He called on those jostling for the Speakership to set aside their interests and withdraw from the race.
The rights activist assured that those opposed to Abbas’ candidature cannot get the support of members of opposition political parties in the House.
The CUPP spokesman also faulted notion held in certain quarters that the House Rules were tampered with, to prepare ground for Abbas’ emergence as Speaker.
He added: “It is on this note that I call on my fellow members-elect, who are still in the race, to stop and join the prefect of the class, Tajudeen Abbas, to steer the ship of the 10th Assembly, to beat the records of the other Houses in performance and achievement for Nigeria.”