Bauchi House of commotion: How crisis is affecting the state’s economy
ISHOLA MICHAEL reviews the hiccups surrounding the inauguration of the Bauchi State Houses of Assembly which has, more than any other political development in the 36 states of the federation, demonstrate how governors allegedly impede the evolvement of legislatures.
IT is no longer news that there is a leadership crisis rocking the 9th Bauchi State House of Assembly, since its inauguration on June 20, following the emergence of two speakers in Abubakar Suleiman and the immediate-past speaker of the 8th Assembly, Kawuwa Shehu Damina.
However, the news now is the twist to the crisis. This is as a result of the recent visit of aggrieved members of the Assembly to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa few days after they agreed to be sworn in. The irony is that the two ‘speakers’ are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which is in the majority in the 9th Assembly with 21 members.
There were glaring hiccups surrounding the inauguration of the state House of Assembly, a development many have said, more than any other political development in the 36 states of the federation, demonstrates how state governors impede the evolvement of legislatures in their state, considering the fact that it is believed that the wrangling is between the immediate-past governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar; and the incumbent, Senator Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, who is of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It will be recalled that after a long time of the seemingly unending feud, the crisis was seen to have been politically resolved, following the intervention of prominent people in the state, led by traditional rulers, who brokered a truce. The 17 aggrieved lawmakers took their oaths of office and allegiance.
But the crack has become apparent, especially against the background of recent relapse of the ‘amicable settlement’ reached by the lawmakers, after the state government announced its intention to probe the previous administration, led by Abubakar.
It is widely believed that in a bid to abort that enterprise of probing his stewardship of four years, the former governor reached out to the 17 lawmakers, led by Damina, who are believed to be loyal to him, to renege on the earlier agreement to work with the Sulaiman-led legislature, which is presumed to be legitimately-elected, considering that the inauguration took place in the Assembly Complex with the Clerk in attendance to supervise the election of the two principal officers, speaker and deputy speaker.
Meanwhile, following the so-called political and amicable resolution of the leadership impasse by the inauguration of the remaining 17 members, two groups, Bauchi Assembly of Youth Political Actors (BAYOPA) and the Body of Bauchi Lawyers of Conscience (BOBALAC), jointly called on the leadership of the Assembly to initiate a process of dialogue, in order to finally resolve the issues in dispute.
According to a press statement jointly signed by the Central Coordinator of BAYOPA, Prince Hashima Bala; Chief Convener, BOBALAC, Mr Shipi Rabo; Head of Strategy and Programmes, BAYOPA, Mr Muhammad Aminu; and Secretary, BOBALAC, Mr Musa Abdullahi, the groups maintained that the inauguration of the Assembly, held on Thursday June 20, that resulted in the emergence of the Suleiman-led leadership was valid and in order.
They stated that the inauguration of the 31 members of the House had put a stop to the proceedings of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, pending the determination of the suit before the court.
“In view of the resolution of the House of Representatives of Wednesday, July 24, we shall, as a matter of responsibility, use this medium to request that the proper thing to be done is allowing the court to determine the matter, as a way of deferring to the clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the law.
“We can recall that at end of the tenure of the 8th Senate, consideration of the report on the circumstances bordering on alleged theft of the mace in which the name of distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, now the deputy Senate president, featured prominently was suspended on the ground of the matter’s pendency before a court of law. It is our point that the same position should be maintained with respect to the Bauchi State House of Assembly matter,” the statement read.
The groups stated that in the event that the settlement process failed, it should not only press on with the said ongoing litigations on behalf of their clients, but also initiate new ones, “so that the laws on the issue of the correct interpretation of Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution, among other powers of the state Assembly, would be made.
Following this, the aggrieved lawmakers finally bowed to pressure from within and outside the state and presented themselves for the taking of oaths of office and allegiance penultimate Friday, during a special session presided over by the deputy speaker, Danlami Ahmed Kawule.
However, it yet seems that there are external pressures bent on making sure there is no peace in the Assembly. Those who feel like this pointed at the power-play allegedly introduced to the matter by former Governor Abubakar. They pointed at the political pressure group, BAYOPA, and its threat to originate a recall process of the aggrieved 17 members of the House for reneging on a peace pact they had.
While handing out a seven-day ultimatum to the lawmakers to ensure understanding among the 31 members “for the development of the state or face recall process,” the group expressed regrets that the 17 APC lawmakers, after meeting with President Buhari, renounced the inauguration they joined at the House of Assembly a few days before.
Central Coordinator of BAYOPA, Bala, disclosed that the group planned to mobilise constituents of the 17 “unruly members” to begin a recall process, if they failed to resume plenary alongside other members under Suleiman’s leadership, within the seven-day period.
“We condemn in the strongest terms, the unfortunate, unreasonable anti-people decision by some lawmakers, led by Kawuwa Damina, in renouncing the truce they entered into weeks ago, which resulted in their inauguration.
“These two-faced people, who were guests to the president last week, went and presented a rather defeatist, self-serving and democratically-dangerous position to him as far as the interest of Bauchi State is concerned.
“Bauchi State and its development are issues of concern to our people; hence, it is the greater interest that must prevail. It is against this background that we are using this avenue to serve a seven-day warning to them to rescind their latest decision on the issue or we shall mobilise our people to proceed with a recall process against them,” the group said.
Bala lamented that the progress of the state had been slowed down as a result of the lingering crisis between the factions of the House, adding: “Their actions are slowing the pace of development of our dear state. We hope that these members will heed our warning and do the right thing, else, we will be forced to recall them.”
In the same vein, Forum of Former State Assembly Aspirants, under the ruling APC in the state, alleged that the immediate-past governor of the state, Abubakar, was planning to install former speaker of the House, Damina, as speaker of the 9th Assembly, in order to work against the present administration of Governor Bala Mohammed.
The forum, in a communique issued at the end of a meeting in Bauchi, pleaded with President Buhari to impress it on the national leadership of the APC not to interfere with the Bauchi Assembly crisis, urging him to do everything possible to reconcile the 17 aggrieved members of the Assembly.
It also appealed to the president to advise the 17 aggrieved lawmakers to come back to Bauchi and reunite with other members of the House “for the success of the party in future elections,” particularly the coming local government election.
According to the communiqué signed by the chairman of the forum, Mohammed Aliyu, the people of Bauchi State were happy to hear that the Assembly had resolved its leadership crisis, only for it to resurface, when some of the 17 lawmakers renounced their inauguration.
“We want to draw the attention of Mr President to the fact that the people of Bauchi State are no longer comfortable with the APC; and this may lead to the defeat of the party in subsequent elections, if necessary measures are not employed towards restructuring the party.
“Most APC members in Bauchi State massively contributed towards the victory of the PDP in the state, because of reasons like lack of internal democracy during the primaries of the last general elections, lack of developmental projects executed by the former governor during his four-year tenure, squabbles with Bauchi founding members of the APC, such as former speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; and other members of the National Assembly from Bauchi State,” the forum added.
It further stated that, “we want President Buhari to know that former Governor Abubakar deliberately refused to unite all members of the APC because of his personal and selfish reasons. Based on this, the former governor has nothing to show to the development of democracy in Bauchi and Nigeria as a whole.
“In view of this, we humbly urge President Buhari to stop listening to people who have nothing to show in their states.
“To our national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, we urge him to use his position as a national leader to unite the party in Bauchi State, instead of interfering in issues of the state that do not concern him, as his interference is generating hatred and enmity among members state.”
The forum then reminded Oshiomhole of how former Governor Abubakar protested, along APC governors, for his removal as national chairman, alleging that the former governor introduced division in the party.
“Abubakar should note that his leadership style is the major reason the masses rejected the continuity of his administration. We want to ask why he is bent on installing his candidate, Damina, as speaker, when he knows that he single-handedly gave Honourable Suleiman the ticket to contest the election,” the forum said.
It, however, pledged its loyalty to the Suleiman-led House of Assembly, “considering the fact that he is a member of the APC, which is the majority in the 9th Assembly.
“It is, indeed, very surprising that the former governor, who ensured that Suleiman got the APC ticket against all odds in the first place, is now turning against him as speaker of the House. What an irony?”
In its reaction to the twist and turns, the state government declared that: “It is now clear that our legislators are not the problem; neither is the APC. Mr Oshiomhole is the problem. He is the clear and present danger to political stability in Bauchi State.”
The government, while reacting to the recent visit of some members of the House to President Buhari in Abuja, stated that, “the APC chairman should rethink his strategy, as it is dead on arrival; because he is dealing with political paper-tigers who were roundly defeated and soundly rejected by our people.”
In a statement by the spokesperson to the governor, Ladan Salihu, the government spoke further that “what is clear is that our president was shortchanged with the relevant information by those who led the group for their personal interests and primordial dispositions.
“As far as the government and people of Bauchi State are concerned, the enforced disharmony is now history. Bauchi legislature is one united family. The issue of another proclamation is ludicrous. This explains why he excluded members of the Edo State House of Assembly from visit to the Villa.
“The attention of the state government was drawn to the courtesy call on President Buhari by eight members of the House, led by the APC chairman, Mr Oshiomhole. The government notes that while stakeholders defer to Mr President, we must dignify his office with the correct information and true position of things.
“The eight members led by the APC chairman were part of the 17 who were sworn in last week on the Floor of the Assembly. All the 31 legislators are now members of one state Assembly. The media is awash with the video, audio and print materials that captured the swearing in ceremony.”
Salihu concluded that, “the governor appreciates the pronouncement of the president to deal with the issue in line with the constitution, because he is a president for all.”
It will be recalled that following the visit of some members of the House, led by Mr Oshiomhole, to President Buhari, he declared that he would deal with the leadership crisis rocking Bauchi and Edo States Houses of Assembly constitutionally, as soon as the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was sworn in later this month.
Though there was dissent among the members when the 9th Assembly was constituted on June 20, the aggrieved 17 members, including the former speaker, Damina, were, last week, sworn-in during a special session presided over by the deputy speaker, Kawule, and witnessed by the governor, Senator Abdulkadir.
Meanwhile, a former member of the House of Assembly who represented Dass constituency, Honourable Mariam Bagel, has also fingered the immediate-past governor, Abubakar, as the mastermind of the leadership crisis in the Assembly.
Making the allegation while speaking in an interview with journalists in the state capital during the week, the former lawmaker warned the former governor to steer clear of the politics of the state, describing his tenure as “a woeful venture in the history of the state.”
She berated Abubakar for being behind the visit by six of the 17 newly-inaugurated members of House of Assembly to President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, “even after the crisis in the House had been amicably resolved through political and reasoning means.”
She said that: «I am seriously warning the former governor to stay away from Bauchi State politics. He failed in the state. So, let him not manipulate our legislators to make it difficult for our new government to work. Our interest is Bauchi State and they should allow Bauchi to move forward.
“I am calling on my colleagues to come back and work. If there is anything wrong that will come from the government, they will see it and nobody will stop them from doing the right thing. They should not be chasing shadows going to Abuja. The president cannot coerce and take over the State Assembly. It is against the constitution.”
She further said that: “This is not the first time that the former governor has been running to the Presidency. During the 2019 election campaigns or even before that, he had been going there and we know even from the state primaries, we saw some APC members run to the Presidency to complain about the situation in the state. And up till today, so has it been. What they sow is what they are reaping now.
“Former Governor Abubakar destroyed the chances of the APC since during the party›s congresses. There were no congresses and primaries in Bauchi State and everybody knows that. People went to the president and complained. People went to the party and complained, all to no avail, as no action was taken.
“Is it now that they would go to the party and tell the president to come and take over the state? One thing that needs to be understood is that as the president said, everything should be done according to the constitution of the country and there is nowhere in the constitution where the governor should give a second proclamation.
“I understand this very circumstance; and the situation that happened in the Bauchi State House of Assembly is the exact thing that happened in the 2015 National Assembly election. It was politics that took place; nothing was done outside the constitution.
“We remember what happened during the former Senate President Bukola Saraki saga. What happened? It was when some members were somewhere; and some members came and did it before they came. At that time, no second proclamation was called for. So, the contradiction is; if anybody said this thing (Bauchi Assembly leadership election) is illegal, it means all the laws that were passed in the last four years were illegal.
“Everything that happened was just politics and in politics, anything can happen; but nobody can say it was illegal.”
Bagel concluded that “the way forward is, as the president said, nothing can be done outside the constitution and these lawmakers were elected by their constituents. Let them go back and lead them (the constituents).
“What they now want is for the president to use his power and take over the Assembly forcefully and give it to them. Then, the present governor reached out to the House of Assembly and so, they have no reason to fight him.
“I was part of the last administration and l gave the government almost one year to know whether it would work or not, but these members started fighting the government from day one, even before they were inaugurated. They started fighting the government. The government that had not even spent one month in office, you are fighting it? Why did they say people loyal to the president should be leaders of the National Assembly? So, that the president could find it easy to work?
“Is it not hypocritical that they want members who are opposing the governor to be in the leadership position of the Assembly, so that the state will not work? Are they saying that they want it to be difficult for the current governor to work?”