IT was a free-for-all on Tuesday, as two members of the House of Representatives belonging to the two feuding factions in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) publicly exchanged blows during the visit of the Alhaji Mohammed Kawu Baraje-led faction to the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives.
Alhaji Baraje, in company with national officers of the New PDP, the seven aggrieved governors of Niger, Jigawa, Rivers, Sokoto, Kano, Kwara and Adamawa states and some senators, among others, were in the House to brief the members of the PDP caucus on the crisis rocking the party.
Hardly had the master of the ceremony introduced the principal officers in attendance, including the Speaker, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal; Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; leader of the House, Mulikat Akande-Adeola and others, that Honourable Henry Ofongo, a member from Bayelsa State, raised a point of order and was shouted down by some members loyal to the New PDP, while other members believed to be loyal to the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led PDP also chorused “point of order! Point of order!! Point of order!!!”
Due to the development, tension rose, while members stood up from their seats, shouting.
As this was ongoing, both Honourable Peterside Dakuku from Rivers State, believed to be a pro-Governor Rotimi Amaechi lawmaker and Honourable Ofongo exchanged blows, while other members intervened to stop the brawl.
At the end of the confusion, which lasted for about 10 minutes, Honourable Akande-Adeola was called upon to deliver her opening remark, in line with the tradition of the House, which the opposing members also disrupted, but she was able to appeal to members to sink their differences in the national interest
Trouble started again when the leader of the delegation, Alhaji Baraje, was invited to brief the members on their mission, with members loyal to the main PDP standing up and chorusing “no oooooooooooooo, say PDP, say Bamanga, say PDP, say Tukur, say PDP, say Jonathan.”
However, sanity was temporarily restored when it was the turn of the Speaker to address the gathering, as members of the two factions listened to his address.
Tambuwal expressed concern over the face-off in the party, which had led to its factionalisation and called for caution in the handling of the crisis.
He said the democracy being enjoyed in the country belonged to all Nigerians, stressing that the population of the political class was less than 25 per cent.
According to him, “the democracy we have at hand belongs to the entire Nigeria people. All the Nigerian people fought for it, some even paid the supreme price to restore the democracy. We must, therefore, conduct ourselves within the confines of the constitution of the land, we must abstain from overheating the polity, we must not over-reach our goodwill.”
While commending members, he said “we have been able to come this far because of your sense of patriotism, mutual cooperation and cohesion. We must all continue to be attentive to the promptings of our conscience and the yearnings of our people.
“If we continue along this path, we are unlikely to go wrong. Make no mistake, I do not, by this, suggest that we are infallible, but if we have to make errors at all, they must be the ones that can pass the test of good conscience.”
The speaker said that both the Alhaji Baraje-led faction and the Alhaji Tukur-led faction indicated their interests to visit the House leadership, but Alhaji Tukur-led faction later withdrew its own letter.
As soon as the tension subsided, a member of PDP from Rivers State, Honourable Kingsley Chinda, moved that members should declare that the House was united and, as well, passed a vote of confidence on the speaker and the leadership.
While moving the motion, Honourable Chinda said “we members of this noble Assembly do have absolute confidence in this present leadership of the House. We all saw the welcome parade here this morning but the papers were all awash that the House was going to war.”
The motion was unanimously supported by members.
Addressing newsmen shortly after the rowdy session, on behalf of the New PDP in the House, Honourable Andrew Uchendu from Rivers State condemned the action of the the pro-Tukur members who tried to disrupt the parley with the Alhaji Baraje-led PDP, saying that their action had shown that they were not democrats as they claimed to be.
Also reacting, Honourable Ofongo told newsmen that he was not against the parley but was confused when he saw a crowd of non-party members in attendance and had to raise the point of order for clarification.
Jonathan planning a third term —Baraje-led faction
Meanwhile, Alhaji Baraje has said his faction of the PDP is against the current situation in the party as a result of the bid by President Goodluck Jonathan to seek a third term in office.
Baraje, who disclosed this as one of the concerns of his group, during a visit to the Senate President, David Mark, said lack of internal democracy was also one of the issues behind the rebellion of his group.
He said PDP had jettisoned internal democracy in the election of national officers of the party, adding that his group intended to bring “sanity into it.”
Other demands of the group, as enumerated by Baraje, included reversal of the dissolution of Rivers PDP, reversal of the dissolution of Adamawa PDP, recall of Governor Amaechi from suspension, recognition of Amaechi-led Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), composition of a new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, removal of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and what he termed “no third term in 2015.”
I stand for united PDP —Mark
Senator Mark, who received the group in the Senate wing of the National Assembly, however, said he would stand for a united PDP at all times, adding that the aggrieved members needed to be told to return home.
He also asked the Baraje group to tell their loyalists to keep the division in the PDP out of the parliament.
“Even if you have a knife in my head, I will stand for justice, fairness and equity,” he said, adding that the warring group should uphold a strong and united party.
He said that as a party man, he would remain in PDP and would not live to see a fallen party, just as he pleaded with party faithful that whatever happened, they must not abandon the ship.
“We are stronger and better as one big, strong and united party. We need to work together and make our democracy sustainable,” Senator Mark said.
In finding solution to the crisis rocking the party, Mark counseled the opposing group to lay the cards on the table honestly and objectively.
He also said the lawmakers elected on the platform of the PDP in the Senate had resolved to remain united and cohesive, adding that the good of the nation and its citizens would remain their watchword.
He also said the leadership of the National Assembly had no intention to declare the seat of senators or members of the House of Representatives vacant on account of the crisis rocking the party, with the hope that the issues would be resolved amicably soon.