— Oct 26, 2014 |.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, has suddenly found himself in a dilemma, where finding solution to his impending defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is also part of the problems hindering his defection.
This is because, for long, the speaker’s body language, utterances and political associates have pointed to the fact that his defection from PDP to APC is simply a matter of time. However, the defection might not come easy after all, due to a combination of factors that might have dire consequences on his political career, if he eventually decides to defect.
Those issues have contributed in ensuring that the speaker, who won the election to the House of Representatives under the PDP banner, remains in a tight corner, invariably mounting more pressure on him due to the shrinking time available to make his move.
A credible source from Sokoto State says the state governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wammako, has succeeded in convincing the speaker to “shelf his desire of contesting for the presidency, but come home and contest for the governorship of Sokoto State under the APC.” This probably influenced the decision of the Sokoto State APC stakeholders to zone the gubernatorial slot to Sokoto South senatorial district where Tambuwal comes from.
The heightened rumour of his defection reached a crescendo last week when Wamakko told the APC members that the speaker had been in support of the party’s activities since its formation.
“I want to inform all stakeholders of the APC gathered here that Tambuwal has been with us since formation of our great party. We told him to remain in PDP until the day of nomination of the party’s governorship candidate. And today is the day,” Wamakko said.
However, the on-going court case at an Abuja High Court, instituted by the PDP, seeking to have the seats of the lawmakers that defected from PDP to APC vacant, is one among several issues that has created a tough situation for the speaker. PDP’s contention is that since the lawmakers were sponsored and had won election on the platform of the party, the court should declare their seats vacant since they have moved to another party.
Even though the case is still at the lower court, a source very close to the speaker told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the endless possibilities of how the PDP could work with the court against him are making him cautious on how and when he defects.
“The truth of why the speaker has still not formally defected is basically because of the fear of how the court could be used against him. Forget about the fact that the court case against the defected lawmakers is still in the court, if the PDP decides that they want to get him through the court when he defects, I am assuring you that you will instantly see judgements flying left and right against him and all those lawmakers who defected to the APC,” he said.
This is buttressed by the fact that a high court had in a previous judgement delivered on October 8, 2013 held that there was no division in the PDP to warrant the lawmakers defecting to the APC.
Another issue hindering the immediate defection of the speaker, according to our source, is pressure from certain key northern elements asking him to stay put. Their reasoning is that his position as the speaker of the House of Representatives strategically confers on him a position to ensure that the PDP doesn’t engage in any attempt to illegally temper with the constitution of the country and confer an extended tenure to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Also, the issue of moral implication of the speaker defecting from a party that sponsored him and ensured he became the speaker of the house to another party is another reason making the speaker to carefully weigh the implication of his defection. The source said, Tambuwal being a morally upright politician feels he might loss some of his credibility by simply abandoning the PDP that made him a speaker.
Lastly, the source told LEADERSHIP Sunday that even though the PDP does not have a huge majority in the house that could pose an impeachment threat if he eventually decides to defect, the possibility of what the PDP could do, even without a two-third majority requirement to facilitate his removal, could go a long way in taking out some pounds of flesh from him.
However, the PDP caucus within the House of Representatives has remained diplomatic on the matter, even refusing to confirm or otherwise, reported moves to begin impeachment proceedings against Tambuwal if and when he defects to APC.
The Deputy House Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, stated last week that, “I will tell you that, as a caucus, we are not bothered. His defection doesn’t change anything in the party. Therefore, we are not having any sleepless night. This is time for politicking. People are taking their personal decisions. It is about your political future.
Continuing, Ogor said, “I cannot tell you the caucus will do this or do that when the speaker has not informed anybody that he has defected. This speculation has been on for months, and really, I get tired.
“All I can say is, we cannot place the cart before the horse. Whenever we get to the bridge, we will cross it.”
Reps’ Rules Have No Provision For Impeachment
However, the House of Representatives Standing Order, which spells out procedures and practices of the house and its committees, does not expressly provide for the impeachment of its speaker, according to a LEADERSHIP Sunday’s finding.
The House Standing Order does not, in any of its section, provide for the speaker’s removal from office on the grounds of defection and anti-party activities; allegations that have been thrown on Tambuwal in some quarters.
It does not even spell out removal procedures in the event of “gross misconduct”.
Section 7 Rule 26(a) of the House Standing Order is the closest the rule book gets to the removal of the speaker. The section states that, “In the absence of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker without any communications to the Clerk of the House within a period of three consecutive days or where both have either been certified or incapacitated, the House may elect for that purpose, someone who shall preside. Such member shall be known as Speaker Pro-tempore”.
Hence, reported moves by PDP and the presidency to remove the speaker may prove futile if and when he defects.
The 1999 constitution (amended) in section 68 (1) says: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if;
(g) Being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected;
Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored”.
However, the PDP has consistently denied the claim by some of the decamped lawmakers that there was a crisis within the PDP. Consequently, the speaker might not lean on that alibi when he eventually defects.
In his reaction, a professor of law, Itse Sagay (SAN), pointed out that the speaker can continue to head the house because there is no constitutional provision that bars him from doing so.
“The constitution does not make any provision for his removal as speaker of the House of Representatives for decamping to another party so far as his colleagues still want him,” he said.
“What the constitution makes provision for is when you leave your party and is not as a result of factionalisation of your party; then you must vacate your seat.
“So, the question that arises now is, whether he is entitled to retain his seat as a member of the house if he decamps today? I believed that that question can only be answered by the court,” Sagay stated.
Agreeing with Sagay, a Lagos-based human rights activist, Jiti Ogunye, said there is no law that stipulates who the speaker of the house should be, except that the speaker must be a member of the house.
“There is no constitutional provision that states that he cannot continue as speaker if he decides to leave the PDP for the APC, as long as he has the support of his colleagues,” he said, adding that, “He can only be removed by a two-third majority of the members of the house if they don’t want him anymore.”
Meanwhile, attempts to get the reaction of the special adviser to the speaker on media and publicity, Imam Imam, was no’t successful, as he neither picked his calls , nor replied text messages sent to him.