The friendly relationship between members of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State is now threatened by supremacy politics , ISAAC SHOBAYO writes.
The cosy relationship between APC and PDP lawmakers in the Plateau State House of Assembly has ruptured, thanks to the sharp disagreement over the extension of the tenure of management committees chairmen in the 17 local government areas of the state.
Governor Simon Lalong, shortly after assuming office, sacked all elected chairmen on the premise of corruption and other misdemeanour. He appointed management committees chairmen to man the council areas, though the suit instituted by the ex-chairmen is still in court, the State House of Assembly at the request of the executive arm of government has been extending the tenure of committees chairmen every two months.
People have been wandering about the relationship between the 10 PDP members and 14 APC legislators considering the simmering cold war between the two leading parties on the Plateau. The deputy speaker, Honourable Yusuf Gagdi who is a PDP member, recently told the Nigerian Tribune that the peace in the House was as a result of the maturity exhibited by members irrespective of political afflictions and the determination to focus on Plateau agenda.
However, the bubble burst last week when the executive transmitted a letter to the Assembly requesting for the extension of tenure of the chairmen by another six months, having exhausted the two months approved. At the plenary, the Speaker of the House, Peter Azi, had read a communication from Governor Lalong, for stability and focus. According to the governor, the six-month extension is to allow the government to put some necessary machinery in place for a peaceful conduct of local government elections the state.
Immediately the speaker read the letter, the convivial atmosphere in the suddenly changed and the 10 PDP members vehemently kicked against the extension by six months. They insisted that, based on the earlier agreement, tt should be extended by just two months, subject to the performance of the chairmen in the past months.
The PDP members posited that there was an existing resolution of the House that the tenure of the management committee chairmen should not be extended more than two months and therefore want the House to to jettison the letter.
In his contribution, the Deputy Speaker Honourable Yusuf Gagdi, representing Kantana constituency on the platform of PDP, disclosed that giving the chairmen six months was like trying to perpetuate illegality and corruption. He said that the house was in the receipt of 11 petitions against the committee chairmen, adding that if they were doing well, there would be no petitions against them. He pointed out that there were allegations of massive corruption against the management chairmen, arguing that their tenure should not be extended by more than two months.
But the APC members disagreed with the PDP, saying that the extension would give the chairmen ample time to carry out developmental projects and also enable the executive arm to make adequate preparations for council polls. The member representing Jos North constituency, Ibrahim Baba Hassan, urged the house to consider the extension to pave way for proper planning of council election in the state.
The atmosphere in the House was charged and it took the Speaker more than five minutes to calm members who had stated exchanging words and were poised for a showdown. But as he was about to subject the motion to a vote, the PDP lawmakers walked out of the chamber in protest, while the APC members carried the day. Shortly after the PDP members’ walk-out, the House further dissolved all standing committees, some of which PDP members chaired. The Nigerian Tribune learnt that this further infuriated the opposition.
Responding to the dissolution of the committees, the Minority Leader, Honourable Daniel Dem, said it contravened the house rules and procedures, adding that investigation by the PDP revealed that the decision was taken for political patronage. “There is no basis for the dissolution, moreso that many of the committees are yet to complete the assignments given to them. The APC simply wants to position more of its members as chairmen of some perceived juicy committees,” he said. But Speaker Azi explained that the dissolution was done without any prejudice but in line with the laid down procedures.
However, those who have been watching the trend of events since the 8th Assembly was inaugurated said APC simply wants to take full control of the House, based on the numerical strength. They argued that the party, at the inception of the assembly, had conceded the positions of the deputy speaker and leadership of powerful committee to PDP because it had a majority of members.
At the inauguration of the Assembly last year, the PDP had14 members while APC the governing party had 13. The PDP then could not use its numerical advantage to position its member for the speakership due to internal wrangling. In the process of voting, two of its members played Judas Iscariot and lost the position to APC. But PDP was consoled with the positions of deputy speaker and others. The Election Petitions Tribunal however further worsened the plight of the PDP when it ordered a rerun for three PDP seats. APC eventually won the elections, thus becoming majority party in the House.
Analysts said the dissolution of the House committees and extension of six months for the committee chairmen, all of whom are APC members, was in indication that the ruling party is no longer willing to dilly dally with PDP. A source close to the House revealed that the position of deputy speaker occupied by the PDP in the House is under threat. The source revealed that pressure is presently being mounted on the speaker and the governor who is the leader of the party to find way of removing the PDP member, Gagdi, and replace him with pone of the APC members.
According him, anything could happen at anytime, and without any sweat. “PDP allowed internal wrangling to rob it of the leadership position in the house, having lost the governorship election. The APC is closing in on them.”
From all indications, the romance is over. APC is all out to take full control of the House.