Chuks Okocha in Abuja
National Leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has appealed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to let go of the controversy over minority leadership positions in the House of Representatives that has plunged it into crisis and face major problems confronting the country.
He said at the weekend that Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, whose announcement by House Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as minority leader, along with others for the minority leadership positions, PDP has rejected, were elected in line with the House of Representatives’ rules. The House rules state that members should elect their leaders and not party appointing leaders for them.
Besides Elumelu, Gbajabiamila also announced Hon. Tobe Okechukwu as deputy minority leader; Hon. Gideon Gwani, as minority whip and Hon. Segun Adekoya as deputy minority whip.
However, a list earlier sent by the PDP to the speaker contained the names of Hon. Kingsley Chinda, representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency of Rivers State as minority leader; Hon. Chukwuka Onyema as deputy minority leader; Hon. Yakubu Barde as minority whip; and Hon. Muraina Ajibola as deputy minority whip.
Last Thursday, the party summoned Elumelu and six others to appear before it for allegedly conniving with the All Progressives Congress (APC) House leadership to undermine the opposition party.
The six others were Hon. Wole Oke, Lynda Ikpeazu, Anayo Edwin, Gideon Gwadi, Toby Okechukwu and Segun Adekoya.
However, last Friday, the party suspended Elumelu and the six others for one month over allegations of disobeying the party.
THISDAY also gathered at the weekend that the crisis is worsening as some PDP governors, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and a former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, have backed the Elumelu group for the minority leadership positions.
But in his intervention yesterday, Clark told journalists in Abuja that since the House of Representatives members elected their minority leaders in line with the House rules, there was nothing the PDP could do about it.
According to him, a precedent was laid when Hon. Aminu Tambuwal disobeyed the PDP when the party wanted Hon. Mulikat Akande as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He said: “The minority leadership crisis is a storm in a tea cup. PDP should let go since the minority leaders were elected in line with the House of Representatives’ rules, which said that members should elect their leaders and not party appointing leaders for the members. Clark said: “PDP should let go of this minor crisis and concentrate on major and larger issues like the RUGA crisis rocking the country.
“What is the PDP complaining of now? There is already precedence when Aminu Tambuwal disobeyed the party and members elected Tambuwal as Speaker instead of Mulikat Akande.
“Let there be peace in PDP to enable it to concentrate on major issues affecting the country. The one-month suspension is enough.
“Since the minority leader was elected in line with House of Representatives Rules that empowers members to elect their leaders, what is PDP complaining about? There are other minority political parties involved. PDP cannot appropriate the position of other political parties.
“The Elumelu group consulted and carried other minority political parties along before the minority principal officers were elected. There is nothing to be done. Let’s move ahead. This is a storm in a tea cup.”
However, THISDAY gathered that the support being enjoyed by the Elumelu group was a fallout of the various unresolved issues since the last presidential primaries of the party.
Championing the support for Elumelu as the minority leader, THISDAY learnt is the Chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. Dave Umahi, who felt short-changed by the selection of former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, as the PDP presidential running mate.
A party source told THISDAY that Umahi and many governors saw the current crisis as an opportunity to pay back Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, believed to be one of the main sponsors of Chinda, back in his coin.
The Ebonyi State governor has already congratulated members of the Elumelu group on their emergence as the minority principal officers.
His message, it was learnt, was an acknowledgment of the Elumelu group by the South-east governors.
THISDAY gathered that by recognising Elumelu, Umahi is paying back Wike, who was accused of not supporting him to become the running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the party’s standard bearer in the election.
Other PDP governors were also said to have opposed Wike’s choice of Chinda to whittle down the Rivers State governor’s perceived growing influence in the party.
It was learnt that Wike’s threat to sabotage the presidential convention of PDP during a National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party in September 2018 did not go down well with other governors.
Ekweremadu is also said to be supporting Okechukwu, who is among the Elumelu group.
Okechukwu is representing Aninri/Oji River/Agwu Federal Constituency of Enugu State.
Okechukwu, a known political son of Ekweremadu, is representing the latter’s constituency in Enugu State.
Before he was elected into the House of Representatives, Okechukwu was nominated by Ekweremadu as chairman of the Nigeria Lottery Board in 2011.
Ekweremadu was said to be unhappy that the PDP did not back him when he vied for his former post during the elections of presiding officers of the ninth Senate.
“His grudge was that PDP senators did not vote for him en masse as pledged. Some of them voted for Senator Ovie Omo-Agege to defeat him as deputy Senate president,” a source said.
To get back at his party, he was said to have encouraged one of his political sons to emerge as the deputy minority leader.
Metuh is said to be opposed to the Chinda group because of the inclusion of Onyema as the deputy minority leader.
For some unknown reasons, Onyema is opposed by some South-east governors and some influential party leader for any leadership role in the House of Representatives
It was learnt that his inclusion in the list of the minority principal officers is one of the reasons some PDP leaders were said to be against the Chinda group.