House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal
The Peoples Democratic Party’s intervention in the seeming cold relationship between the House of Representatives and President Goodluck Jonathan seems to be helping to unravel the annoyance of the lawmakers.
But the reasons alleged to be behind the intermittent faceoff between the president and the House, dominated by his party, may be creating other pressures for the president.
PDP National Chairman Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and members of the party’s National Working Committee met behind closed doors on Wednesday in Abuja with principal officers of the House for more than four hours to try to know why the House and the Presidency are always at loggerheads.
House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal led his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, House Leader Mulikat Akande, Deputy House Leader Leo Ogor, and House Chief Whip Isiaka Bawa to the meeting that had all members of the NWC in attendance.
Though in his opening comments before they went into the closed-door session, the speaker said the relationship between the lower chamber and the Executive was cordial.
But Tamuwal doubted Jonathan’s commitment to the professed roadmap of the party.
“Members of the National Assembly, particularly, members of the PDP are very much committed to the manifesto of our party and we are aware of what the manifesto of our party is all about. It was the manifesto of our party that we marketed and won elections with.
“Mr. Chairman, we are very much abreast of the programmes of our party, we are keeping in line with those programmes, we are doing our best to ensure that our country and the people that elected us get the best out of all of us,” the speaker stated.
But THISDAY learnt it was during the private session with the NWC that Tambuwal and other members of the House delegation opened up on why the PDP-dominated legislature had often opposed the president.
According to a member of the NWC who attended the closed-door session, the lawmakers “accused the President of constituting members of his team from non- members of the party, who do not understand the PDP manifesto and, therefore, do not understand the programmes of PDP.”
The source said that the Tambuwal delegation wanted the party to ask Jonathan which party’s manifesto he was implementing.
“They asked us to inquire from the President whether members of the party are actually involved in the implementation of the programmes of his administration and also whether those running the affairs of the administration are PDP members who understand the manifesto of PDP as a political party," the source said.
The delegation faulted the insistence of the Presidency on $75 crude oil benchmark for the 2013 budget, blaming this on the inclusion in the cabinet of non PDP members who do not understand the manifesto of the party and its implementation for the delivery of the dividends of democracy to the country.
Besides, the source said PDP members of the House were also not happy that members of President Jonathan’s Economic Management Team are not members of PDP that understand the economic philosophy of the party’s manifesto.
On their relationship with the party, the Tambuwal-led delegation was said to have told the NWC that the party had not helped its members in the House, especially during elections, since the inception of the Fourth Republic.
They said the party’s indifferent disposition was responsible for the high turnover of members of the House and indeed the National Assembly.
According to the source, “The delegation complained that PDP as a political party is not helping committed party members in their re-election, especially during the primary elections.
“They complained that members have nothing to show to the electorate in their constituencies regarding what the party has done to ensure their re-election. They further said the Executive arm was not helping the members to ensure the implementation of the constituency projects, which is the only way they can impart the dividends of democracy to the electorate.”
According to the delegation, these made it difficult for PDP members seeking re-election to lay their hands on tangible deliverables to convince the electorate on why they should be re-elected, hence making them vulnerable during the primary elections and the election proper.
At the meeting, the PDP national chairman was said to have promised that the party would try and ensure that performing legislators got re-election tickets.
The House in recent times has had a rather confrontational relationship with the president.
In July, lawmakers in the lower chamber sternly berated the president for allegedly implementing only about 35 per cent of last year’s budget of N4.7 trillion.
They adopted a motion by the Minority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila, which gave Jonathan till September to achieve full implementation of the budget or risk impeachment.
That face-off came shortly after a similar row over the lower chamber’s invitation of the president to come and brief members in an executive session on his administration’s efforts at tackling the growing insecurity in the country.
The latest standoff involves the crude oil price benchmark for the 2013 budget. While the president based the budget on a benchmark of $75 per barrel, the House has insisted on $80 per barrel, with the Senate proposing $78 per barrel.