The crisis rocking the National Working Committee (NWC) of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might have been temporarily resolved, it’s has reopened the wounds among its members in the House.
Although the infighting within the party’s caucus in the House is as old as the 9th Assembly itself, the position taken by different factions of the party in the House has opened another vista in the crisis.
The faction led by Chinda had in a statement last week urged the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus to immediately resign to save the party from further loss. But in a sharp response, the minority leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu issued a counter-statement, discountenancing Chinda’s statement.
In the counter-statement, Elumelu described the meeting held by the Chinda faction as a breach of protocol, since the minority caucus was not aware. He also described his designation as the minority leader/PDP leader in the House, implying that Chinda is not a leader of the PDP caucus.
“If such a meeting held, it was without the knowledge of the leadership of the Minority Caucus, and therefore in breach of established procedure. Meanwhile, we are working in concert with the organs of the party to ensure sustainable resolution of the current challenges that will be in the overall interest of the party and Nigerians. We appeal to all party faithful, particularly PDP members in the House of Representatives, to exercise caution and patience as the party addresses the present leadership challenges.”
Ironically, the Prince Uche Secondus-led NWC had in 2019 openly expressed preference for Chinda as the minority leader, and suspended Elumelu and his cohorts for accepting minority leadership roles against the dictates of the party.
The NWC had in a formal letter dated June 26, 2019, and addressed to the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, had endorsed Chinda, Chukwuka Onyema, Yakubu Barde, and Muriano Ajibola, as minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip, and deputy minority whip respectively.
A similar letter from the party was sent to the president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, on the party’s choice of Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe and others as its minority leaders in the Red Chamber. But the speaker, unlike his president of the Senate, announced different names for the various minority leadership positions.
Arguably, the speaker respected the decision of all the opposition party members in the House in strict observance of Section 60 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Order 7 Rule 8 of the Standing Rule of the House of Representatives.
Over 100 members of the 147-member caucus comprising PDP, APGA, ADC, LP, SDP, PRP, AA, APM, ADP signed and communicated a letter indicating their choice of minority leader to the speaker in a letter dated 2nd July 2019. The political intricacies that played out in the process are even visible to the blind.
Armed by the letter, Gbajabimila announced Elumelu as minority leader, amid protest by many opposition lawmakers. Consequently, the PDP suspended Elumelu and six other members for “indiscipline, insubordination, and disobedience”. The party’s NWC invited the seven lawmakers to a meeting but none of them came for the meeting.
The six other members suspended were deputy minority leader, Toby Ockechukwu; minority whip, Hon. Gideon Gwani; deputy minority whip, Hon. Adekoya Abdul-Majid.; the chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon Wole Oke; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu;, chairman, House Committee on Reformatory Institutions Hon. Anayo Edwin.
Almost 20 months after, the NWC in February 2021 lifted the suspension based on the recommendations of various committees constituted by the party but maintained that it continues to recognise the PDP Caucus of the House as led by Chinda.
However, with the new development, it is uncertain that the party’s NWC will maintain its support for Chinda. Elumelu who has already declared himself as the PDP leader and has become the new bride for Secondus may forthwith enjoy the party’s support until a new NWC emerges.
It is, however, worthy of note that the Chinda-led group is the last hope of any opposition in the 9th House, should he lose his voice, and position as PDP leader fizzles out, the business of the House will finally be reduced to mere drama in the guise of opposition.