After his alleged highhandedness in handling both minority and majority opinions on the many occasions he presided over the plenary sessions of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, has defied the zoning arrangements of the All Progressives Congress and openly opposed the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, in a bid to arm-twist the ruling party, ride roughshod over his colleagues and succeed the outgoing speaker, Ejiofor Alike reports
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase has in the last few days twice questioned the authority of the outgoing Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, in a bid to truncate the zoning arrangements of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and emerge as the next speaker against the choice of the ruling party.
Last Wednesday, Gbajabiamila had asked the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, to prepare a light order paper for the next day’s sitting (Thursday) as the session should close by 2 pm to allow members to attend an event at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
But Wase openly questioned the Speaker’s decision, saying “why do we have to shelve a lot of activities that we have just to go and witness the commissioning of a project of NILDS?”
He further argued that the main primary function of the House was to make law.
When Gbajabiamila responded that he personally would like to witness the NILDS inauguration because it was important to him, Wase replied him, saying: “The parliament is about us, not about ‘I.’”
While overruling him, Gbajabiamila noted that the altercation was “the first time in history that a Deputy Speaker will be challenging what the Speaker is saying.”
Before the event of last Wednesday, there was a drama on the floor of the House on May 17, 2023, as members bickered over the adjournment of the plenary for the induction ceremony for members-elect of the National Assembly.
Many political analysts had argued that Gbajabiamila adjourned to truncate alleged moves to remove him from office by those opposed to the APC’s zoning arrangements.
Wase who is eyeing Gbajabiamila’s seat, is believed to be the arrowhead of the opposition against the decision of the APC to anoint Tajudeen Abbas and Benjamin Kalu as the party’s preferred choices for the positions of speaker and deputy speaker, respectively, of the 10th House.
But on the many occasions he had opportunity to lead the House in the absence of Gbajabiamila, the outgoing deputy speaker had presided over controversial plenary sessions where he allegedly rode roughshod over his colleagues and exhibited highhandedness.
Many incoming lawmakers believe that with Wase’s notoriety in shutting down voices of dissent on the many occasions he had presided over the plenary sessions, it would be difficult for his colleagues to accept him.
On the occasions he presided over the plenary sessions, he not only denied the minority their say, he also allegedly overruled the majority.
Consequently, many of the plenary sessions he presided over ended in rowdiness and walkouts by some members of the opposition parties and the ruling APC.
For instance, on October 20, 2020, Hon. Shina Peller representing Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Iwajowa/Kajola Federal Constituency of Oyo State on the platform of the APC had attempted to raise a point of order to discuss the #EndSARS protests raging across the country.
But Wase (APC, Plateau), who was presiding over the plenary session refused to recognise the Oyo lawmaker, who walked out in anger.
Wase also incurred the wrath of his colleagues and many other Nigerians in March 2021 when he prevented Hon. Mark Gbillah (PDP, Benue) from presenting a petition against the federal government on an alleged taking over of their lands by herdsmen.
The petition filed by Mzough U Tiv Amerika (MUTA) on insecurity in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba states, had accused the federal government of nonchalance towards the injustice done to those who were displaced as a result of herdsmen’s attacks.
But Wase rejected the petition, claiming that Nigerians abroad had no rights to file a petition on the crisis.
“If they are in America, could they be an interested party here? Do they really know what is really going on?” he reportedly queried.
However, following the public outrage, Gbajabiamila, later accepted the petition, which was presented a few days later by Gbillah.
Wase, who is perceived to be sectional in his approach to legislative business, had also in July 2021 rejected the report of the Committees on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values; Telecommunications; Information and Technology; Justice; and National Security and Intelligence that investigated the federal government’s suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria.
While the Chairman of the joint committee, Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, was presenting the report, Wase who presided over the session, opposed the report on the grounds that the Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Sha’aban Sharada (APC, Kano), was allegedly not involved in the investigation.
When Odebunmi provided a copy of the signed version showing Sharada’s endorsement, Wase still asked if the panel engaged the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), on the matter.
It took the intervention of Gbajabiamila, who sat on the floor as a member, before the report could be considered.
The outgoing deputy speaker also allegedly suppressed the opinion of the majority during the consideration of Clause 52 in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill also in July 2021.
When the lawmakers got to Section 52(2), which gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the discretion to adopt electronic voting or any other method of its choice, the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, moved a motion for the voting, accreditation and transmission of results to be done electronically.
However, when Wase put the motion moved by Okechukwu to vote, the ‘Ayes’ had it, but Wase allegedly ruled in favour of the ‘Nays’ which were the minority.
Consequently, the House became rowdy and the lawmakers adjourned till the next day.
As the consideration of the clauses resumed the next day, Wase assured the lawmakers that Section 52 would be revisited at the end of the consideration.
At the end of the consideration, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu raised a point of order that Section 52 should be decided, but Wase shocked his colleagues by claiming that Clause 52 was considered the previous day.
A shocked Elumelu and other lawmakers walked out of the chambers in protest.
With Wase’s antecedents, it was not surprising to many that the APC ignored him and anointed Abbas.
By working against his party’s decision, the Plateau lawmaker has also demonstrated that the only thing that matters to him is his interest and not that of his colleagues or his party.
His colleagues believe that he is counting on fresh members who are not familiar with his alleged autocratic style of dealing with his fellow lawmakers.
Some of his colleagues accused him of weeping and unjustly attacking Gbajabiamila because he erroneously assumed that he was given doses of the same medicine, which he had administered to others.