The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was yesterday cut to size as members of the House of Representatives called their bluff and elected anti-zoning members, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha, as speaker and deputy speaker respectively.
Tambuwal was the deputy chief whip in the immediate past House, while Ihedioha was the chief whip.
Even the presence of top PDP stalwarts such as acting chairman Mohammed Haliru, former chairman, Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, newly appointed secretary to the government of the federation and former Senate president Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, governors Ibrahim Idris, Rochas Okorocha, Theodore Orji, Timipre Sylva, Martins Elechi and ex-governor of Oyo State Alao-Akala did not stop the lawmakers from openly expressing their support for the candidature of Tambuwal/Ihedioha, which they subsequently transferred into votes.
The entrance of Tambuwal was like a script in a movie. To resist arrest by forces against his ambition, he was smuggled in by about 20 of his colleagues dressed as state security officers in suit and matching hat. Tambuwal is known as a traditional kaftan and cap-wearing lawmaker.
Until he was called during the roll call, many of his colleagues did not know he was the one seated in their midst and were visibly shocked when they recognised him.
Ihedioha was also unusually dressed in flowing white and green agbada and a cap. His signature green cap was ostensibly missing.
Several of the PDP top shots however took their leave when it became apparent that their presence was not yielding the desired impact.
After the roll-call of members-elect, the clerk called for nominations for speaker by the lawmakers.
Hon Emmanuel Jime rose to nominate Hon Waziri Tambuwal and the motion was seconded by Hon Nnenna Elendu Ukeje, while Hon Bethel Amadi nominated Hon Mulikat Adeola-Akande who was seconded by Husseini Namadi Hadeja.
Thereafter, the voting commenced. The first hint that Tambuwal/Ihedioha had the support of their colleagues came when the members rose in cheers when the name of Tambuwal was announced in the roll-call. The lawmakers gave him a standing ovation for minutes before he took his seat for the exercise to continue. Ihedioha also enjoyed the same reception from his colleagues whenever his name was mentioned.
Reading out the procedures for the election, the clerk announced that it was going to be an open-secret ballot system where the ballot paper is given in open, the vote cast in secret and the votes counted in the open.
However, there was a mild disagreement when he also added that each vote must carry the name of the chosen candidate as well as that of the voting member and his constituency. This was opposed by the members. However, when the clerk announced that any ballot that does not appear in that order will be invalidated, the lawmakers conceded and proceeded with the exercise.
For more than two hours, the voting continued. Throughout the exercise, the lawmakers who nominated the aspirants acted as tellers and watched the voting procedures.
When the clerk confirmed that all the members-elect had voted, he closed the voting exercise and proceeded with the counting of votes. The blue basket which served as the ballot box was emptied in the full glare of all present at the chamber and, as each name on the ballot paper was announced, the paper was given to the opponent to verify before being kept in the custody of the candidate’s teller.
As the clerk raised the ballot paper and announced the name on the ballot paper, members of the Tambuwal/ Ihedioha camp counted audibly. When the votes got to 200, they started cheering, clapping and congratulating themselves.
The proceedings at the chamber was stalled for some minutes as the clerks, with Sani Omolori, clerk of the House of Representatives on the left, clerk of the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa in the middle and the deputy clerk of the National Assembly watched.
After calm returned, the presiding clerk, Sani Omolori, continued with a warning that the counting had to be concluded for the elections to be conclusive.
However, after that point, it was already obvious who the elected speaker was. Despite threats and intimidation, the lawmakers had defied the PDP and voted in a candidate of their choice.
The votes read as follows: A total of eight were invalid, Tambuwal scored 252 votes while Akande-Adeola got 90 votes.
The PDP had zoned the speaker slot to the South-West and endorsed Oyo lawmaker, Hon Mulikat Adeola-Akande as the chosen one but Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who is from Sokoto, North-West, polled 252 of the 351 votes cast to become the speaker of the 7th Assembly.
By the standing rules of the House, a candidate is expected to poll not fewer than 181 votes of the expected votes of 360 members who make the membership of the lower house of the National Assembly.
In the spirit of sportsmanship, Adeola-Akande immediately walked over to where Tambuwal was seated and congratulated him with a warm embrace, even before her votes were counted.
Tambuwal, 45, is a third-time member of the House of Representatives. He is an experienced lawyer and a member of the body of benchers, the highest decision-making organ of the legal profession. He came on the platform of the ANPP in his first term and was the minority leader of the House before decamping to the PDP.
Meanwhile, in his acceptance speech entitled “The challenges of legislative consolidation”, newly elected speaker Tambuwal acknowledged that his emergence was solely through the effort of his colleagues, adding that the House would be run in a manner devoid of partisan sentiments.
He added that legislative engagements would be improved in line with the yearnings of the Nigerian people especially in the area of budget implementation.
“As the new speaker of the House of Representatives, I acknowledge that representatives elected me largely on the premise of upholding the attributes of integrity and probity, not only in the House but also in the governance of our nation. We will provide the desirable legislative framework to support the executive’s vision for Nigeria.”
Tambuwal also called on fellow contenders to partner with him in developing the legislature: “Join hands with me as we fast-track the unfolding metamorphosis of the House of Representatives as truly the House of the Nigerian people.”
There was heavy traffic build-up around the legislative quarters in Apo. It was not unconnected with festivities around the inauguration of the 7th National Assembly. Families, friends and well-wishers besieged the residence of several legislators to celebrate with their principals.
In the Senate, David Mark yesterday proved bookmakers right as he was unanimously returned as the president of the 7th Senate session. His erstwhile deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, also emerged unopposed.
However, the major drama of the inauguration was the arrest of Senator Alphonsus Igbeke at the entrance of the main National Assembly building housing the two chambers by the State Security Service (SSS). His certificate of return was seized by the operatives first and he was prevented from entering the senate chambers to take the Oath of Office alongside others. He was instead marched into the security office for interrogation.
The clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasua, deliberately skipped his name during the roll-call of senators-elect.
Igbeke who is to represent Anambra North senatorial district, is currently facing charges of forgery, a charge he has denied.
An elated Mark, moments after he was sworn in, assured that he would be honest, transparent, fair and will ensure equity, justice and, above all, will preside with the fear of God.
“Your mandate is a sacred trust, and I promise to hold it in trust for you, to work for you, to work with you, and together, we shall all work for a greater Nigeria. I recognize that I am only a first among equals. I will be your humble servant and you my bosses.
"We have just made history in this hallowed chamber of the senate a few minutes ago. This is the first time since the commencement of our current democratic dispensation that an immediate past president of the Senate is re-elected to preside over the next session.
“The same applies to the deputy president of the Senate. I am deeply humbled and overwhelmed by this rare gesture and even more humbling is the unanimity of your confidence, which is reflected in the mandate you have given me today. This sends a strong signal about the new Nigerian spirit, the birth of a new National Assembly, and the increasing maturity of our democracy,” he said.
The new president of the Senate consequently promised to continue with, and even deepen the collegiate leadership style, that was the hallmark of the last session.
On the economy, Mark declared that the nation’s budgeting system needed a radical change. There is need for collaboration between the executive and legislature to ensure that Nigerians get a budget that can be effectively implemented, he said, adding that as representatives of the people they must be ready to initiate legislations that would reduce cost of governance at all levels thereby freeing resources to attend to the basic needs of the people.
“We would also seek to strengthen the analytical capacity of the National Assembly as it relates to budgeting and oversight functions. Over the next few weeks, we need to identify and prioritise key areas where legislations would be required for the rapid transformation of the economy and polity. The president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, made ‘transformation’ the focus of his campaign and on that basis Nigerians gave him an overwhelming mandate.
“Therefore, the expectations of the people are high; to meet these expectations, we must go beyond crisis management to transformation,” he stated.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan said yesterday that the re-election of Mark as president of the Senate and the election of Tambuwal as speaker of the House of Representatives was an indication of the country’s commitment to strengthen democratic institutions.
In his congratulatory message to the newly-elected leadership and all the members of the 7th National Assembly, the president said he looked “forward to working harmoniously with the re-elected Senate president and his deputy, as well as the newly elected Speaker and his deputy, other principal officers and all members of the 7th National Assembly on the implementation of his agenda for national transformation”.
A statement from the office of the special adviser to the president on media and publicity signed by the deputy director of information, Mr. Justin Abuah, stated: “He (Jonathan) wishes the leadership and members of the new National Assembly a successful tenure in the service of the nation.