The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, clashed in the chamber during the plenary today.
Gbajabiamila had reportedly recommended Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu for Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the coming 10th House, leading to their endorsement by the ruling All Progressives Congress, reports The PUNCH.
Wase, who is eyeing the seat of Speaker, is a member of the G-7, a group of aspirants aggrieved with the leadership zoning formula of the APC, which plans to adopt a member to run against the party’s candidate.
Towards the end of the session, Gbajabiamila asked the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, to prepare a light order paper for tomorrow as the sitting should close by 2 pm to allow members to attend an event at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies.
Miffed by the announcement, 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 of 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 law and our citizens should be our priority.”
As Gbajajabiamila was responding, saying, “Perhaps, DS, 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 stated, “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(am). We will do our work but we will adjourn this House at 2 pm. I will witness the NILDS (event) because it is important to me.”
Rising against, Wase replied to the Speaker, “The parliament is about us, not about ‘I.’”
Shocked by the Deputy Speaker’s outburst, Gbajaabiamila said, “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 back, “I don’t understand what you mean by challenging, sir. That I should not make my contribution?”
Ignoring the Deputy Speaker’s last comment, Gbajabismila said, “Let me repeat please: Chairman Business and Rules, please make the order paper very light. We are adjourning this House by 2 pm tomorrow.”
Our correspondent had reported earlier yesterday that strong indications had emerged that the relationship between the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House had gone from bad to worse, as Wase was allegedly shunning meetings and interactions with Gbajabiamila.
A source in the leadership of the House, who confirmed Wase’s recent disappearance in the leadership processions into the chamber on Thursday and Tuesday, said the Deputy Speaker is “angry” with the Speaker.
The official, in a written response to our correspondent, said, “There is development. Wase no longer attends the leadership meeting before the plenary.
“He does not follow the Speaker’s procession any longer. He did it last week and even today. He is angry. It is like he no longer wants to go close to Gbajabiamila. Last week, they made an attempt to amend the House Rules to take the voting pattern back to a secret ballot.”
There was a drama on the floor of the House on May 17, 2023, as members bickered over the adjournment of the plenary for the induction ceremony for members-elect of the National Assembly.
The two-week induction ceremony, which ended last week, was to expose newly elected and reelected members of the coming 10th National Assembly to legislative procedures. The first batch had their sessions last week, while the second batch is being trained this week.
The last time the House held a session before the two-week ritual was May 4.
As the House resumed plenary on Wednesday last week, a returning member, Ibrahim Isiaka, raised a point of order, citing Order 6 Rules 1 and 2 of the House bothering on the privileges of members.
Isiaka said, “My point of order is that today, as we speak, an induction programme is ongoing at the International Conference Centre, which I am privileged, together with other members, to be part of Batch B.
“Last week, because of this same programme, the House…the plenary was not in session. But today, because of the plenary, I have to be here while this programme is ongoing, and I cannot be properly accommodated at the induction ground. That is why I am coming under the matter of privilege, Order 6(1), (2) and (3).
“My prayer is that the House adjourns to allow us that are participating this week to end the programme, while the House reconvenes after the programme. I am sure I am not the only victim of this circumstance. There are other members that I have seen on their faces; that have even equally complained about their privileges being breached by this House.”
However, Wase criticised the suspension of sittings for the induction ceremony.
Wase said, “I respect the view of my distinguished colleague, Hon Isiaka, but I think, Mr Speaker, this institution has a lot of memories. There has never been a time, because of induction, the House suspends plenary. And I don’t know the rate of those who are now back to the House, compared to the people who are now not returning, that we have to adjourn the House because of induction.
“I think there are many issues in the country that we need to face and tackle. We are running out. Mr Speaker, we have today and tomorrow for the week; we have lost yesterday. I want to beg my brother to reconsider his stand. It is a privilege and I believe it should not…and there is nowhere in our rules that says if we are doing induction…the days of sitting in the House are very clearly stated in our House Standing Orders. I want to beg about that, sir.”
Gbajabiamila eventually approved that the House should adjourn sitting for the induction ceremony.