Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
The 9th Bauchi State House of Assembly began its journey on a shaky note. The newly inaugurated House, barely a week, is in the eye of the storm after members broke into two rival factions, and at two separate ‘sittings’, ‘elected’ two speakers respectively.
They are: Mohammed Suleiman, from Ningi constituency and Shehu Kawuwa Damina, the immediate past speaker of the 8th Assembly who represents Darazo state constituency.
The development has come as a shock to most political watchers largely because just before the general elections, there seemed to be a “common” goal by most politicians across several party lines, including the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, on the need to ensure that the immediate past governor, Mohammed Abubakar did not win re-election. And that unifying goal was achieved with the election of and subsequent swearing-in of “the son of the soil” governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While Mohammed hit the ground running with appointment of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chief of Staff and Senior Special Assistant on media, the citizens shifted their attention to the state Assembly for the inauguration and election of new leadership that will work with the executive.
A sign of crisis began to show when the inauguration, which was billed to take place on Monday June 17, was postponed to Thursday June 20. The postponement, Daily Sun gathered, was not welcomed by the ruling PDP in the state and the main opposition APC.
Following the shift in date, the APC alleged that it was a plot by the state government and the PDP to hijack the process, an allegation the party refuted saying the Clerk wrote requesting for the shift because of logistics.
The APC had also alleged that the state government’s plan became more obvious when it removed the Clerk of the House few days to the inauguration. Also in a swift reaction, the PDP said it was not a strange thing but part of the civil service procedure.
Earlier at the valedictory session held on the floor of the House, the outgoing Speaker of the Bauchi House of Assembly, Kawuwa Damina, who is believed to be a loyalist of ex-governor, Abubakar, said that the 8th Assembly was a great success, adding “this is without any iota of contradiction or apology to whoever may hold any contrary view and our scorecard is there for everyone to judge us. We started from the cradle as amateur lawmakers that found themselves in a very critical period of recession, but later transformed into good motion movers to eloquent debaters and good participants at the national legislative arena through prudence, mutual cooperation and the zeal to develop the state at heart. These spirits have made us to be one of the best legislators in the country.”
Although he did not say so publicly, Damina however did not hide his quest to retain his leadership of house. The valedictory session however ended in a rowdy manner.
Problem started when an outgoing member, Aminu Tukur, raised his hand and was recognised to speak.
While speaking, he restated the stand he has always maintained that the 8th Assembly was a rubber stamp of the executive.
Tukur also said the former governor performed woefully during his four years in office with nothing to show adding that the relationship between the legislature and the executive was not cordial but full of crises.
While he was speaking, the member representing Giade state constituency, Adamu Bello, immediately stood up and objected, throwing the session into a rowdy one.
Several efforts by the speaker to maintain order failed as members became divided and started shouting and verbally attacking each other.
After a while, Damina succeeded in calming the situation and appealed to the members to bury their differences, forgive each other and end the 8th Assembly in peace. He then ended the session abruptly without allowing any other comment from any member.
Speaking with journalists after the session, Tukur, expressed dismay with the way Bello attacked him while he was expressing himself.
“The speaker gave his valedictory statement on how we fared within the last four years and after which he asked members to make comments. He said members sitting on the right side should first speak, and then we at the middle will take our turn before those at the left.
“Nobody raised his hand to speak from those on the right side until it got to the middle and I was the first to be identified. When I began my remarks, a member felt I had touched his god who is the former governor of the state.
“Unfortunately, he abused me, somebody who is supposed to be an honourable member. I was surprised when the whole room was charged and one of the civil servants in the room had already removed out his cloth and was ready to fight him because of his actions.
“Fortunately, when the speaker called for order, the order was maintained at a later time, but he (Speaker) failed to ask him to apologise to me,” Tukur added.
Tukur said that although the House did credibly well in terms of legislation, it has been the best in terms of passing individual bills, the unfortunate thing was the lack of political will of the government to sponsor laudable bills.
He described the outgoing speaker, Damina as “sublime and pro-establishment,” adding that “members are not supposed to just be the rubber stamp of the executive, but a critical stakeholder whose decision must be taken into account.
“Unfortunately, the speaker yielded so much to the decisions of the executive even though they were not in tandem with the yearning and aspirations of the people of the state.”
While Damina who is being rooted for by the APC in the state had not hidden his desire to retain his post, Abubakar Suleiman openly challenged his party and signified his interest in the speakership, just as he dispelled rumours that he had withdrawn his interest.
This is to make it clear that my party, the APC invited us for a meeting with all stakeholders of the party in Kano ahead of our inauguration. During the meeting, the leadership of the party and stakeholders announced their resolution to endorse the former Speaker, Kawuwa Damina to continue in office and asked all members to abide by the directive. Under such unfamiliar and strange arrangement, my lone objection to the directive may not change anything at the meeting…”“Under such unfamiliar and strange arrangement, my lone objection to the directive may not change anything at the meeting; I immediately contacted my constituents, well-wishers and other good citizens of Bauchi State. They all rejected the directive of the party which they said was to the detriment of the people of Bauchi State.
“They told me that my race for the speakership is for the interest of the people of Bauchi State as against individual interest, thus I can’t in whatever arrangement abandon the interest of the people of Bauchi State for the interest of few.
“Furthermore, hundreds of APC supporters trooped to Bauchi in
solidarity for my aspiration. They rejected the position of the party and directed me to go ahead with my aspiration for the interest of my constituents and the state in general
“I hereby unequivocally inform the general public that I am very much in the race for the speakership of Bauchi State House of Assembly,” Suleiman said.
But on Thursday June 20, 11 out of the 31-member House elected Suleiman as Speaker. The APC has 22 members, while the ruling PDP, has 8 members, leaving the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) with one.
The Clerk of the House, Yusuf Gital, presided over the sitting, held amidst heavy presence of combined team of security agencies inside and outside the premises of the House.
Suleiman emerged unopposed after he was nominated and seconded. Also elected was Danlami Kawule, of the PDP, representing Zungur/Galambi as Deputy Speaker.
In his acceptance speech, Suleiman promised to do his best to tackle the problems of the House, adding that “I will make sure we have a good rapport between the executive and the legislature.”
However, elsewhere, outside the House, Damina led a group of other 20 lawmakers to conduct an election without the mace, the symbol of authority.
The Damina group had tried to snatch the mace as the Suleiman’s group tried to go out of the Assembly complex, but they came short of getting the mace after security agents present at the Assembly intervened. The former speaker then organised his group, membership of which has now dropped to 18 and held a parallel inauguration, where he was sworn in as the speaker along with his deputy, Tukur Ibrahim from Toro constituency, outside the Assembly complex and without the mace.
Expectedly, the APC in the state has condemned and rejected the election of the two speakers by rival members of the state House of Assembly.
In a press statement, the state secretary, Alhaji Bako Hussaini described the lawmakers’ actions as “unethical and unprofessional “.
Hussaini said the Clerk of the Assembly as well as the security agents on duty were complacent and called on anti-graft agencies to investigate their conduct.
He said the party has also written a petition against the Clerk of the House to the disciplinary committee of the Nigeria Bar Association over “his act of gross misconduct and scornful approach,” to the country’s constitution and laws of Bauchi State.
The party called on its members to be resolute and maintain their loyalty to the party, insisting that disloyal members will soon meet their waterloo.
As at the time of filing this report, the court has restrained Damina from parading himself as speaker. However, only time will tell if Suleiman too, will be allowed to operate as speaker as unchallenged.