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Bauchi Assembly: Still getting over initial hiccups

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Mohammad Abubakar

• As Aggrieved Former Speaker Kawuwa Damina Shuns All Proceedings
After the scheming and intrigues that engulfed the inauguration of the 9th Bauchi State House of Assembly on June 20, the actors have realised reasons to sheath swords and moved on with what brought them to floor of the house in the first place. Going by the cause of the crisis, though, many did not know its beginning or the engineers, it was a case of a far away man in mask wanting to determine who becomes the Speaker of the House.

Bauchi State House of Assembly has 31 members from the 20 local government areas, with 22 being members of All Progressives Congress (APC), while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has eight and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNP) having one. Among these, 23 are newcomers, while eight served in the 8th Assembly under the Hon. Kawuwa Damina, as Speaker.

The defeat of former governor Mohammad Abubakar, according to observers contributed to the leadership crisis in the House. Paradoxically, APC lost to PDP in governorship election but swept majority Assembly seats. Damina, a loyalist of Abubakar representing Darazo constituency wanted to retain the speakership, while Hon. Abubakar Suleiman, also of APC and a newcomer, representing Ningi constituency, felt Ningi Emirate where he comes from had been shortchanged in the power sharing of the state and therefore stepped forward to contest the exalted position.

According to observers, the former governor, despite losing the election was still desperate to hold on to power. Abubakar swiftly met with APC members to unanimously agree on retention of Damina as Speaker for the 9th Assembly.  But according to Hon. Abubakar Suleiman in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, he said he opposed the resolution but could not convince the majority at the meeting. “Under such unfamiliar and strange arrangement, my lone objection to the directive may not change anything at the meeting, I immediately contacted my constituents, well wishers and other good citizens of Bauchi State. They all rejected the directive of the party, which they said was to the detriment of the people of Bauchi State.”

On returning to Bauchi, Suleiman intensified campaign against Damina, claiming his constituents wanted him to emerge speaker as compensation to Ningi Emirate –among six other emirates in the state. Sulieman’s aspiration put APC camp in disarray, but was too confident back out.

PDP on the other hand intensified its machination, taking advantage of election of Governor Bala Muhammed to plot to impose a minority Speaker over majority APC members. All of that delayed the inauguration of the Assembly, which the new Governor’s former spokesman (now commissioner of Information) Dr. Ladan Salihu and the State Chairman of PDP Alh. Hamza Akuyam denied, but put the delayed inauguration on absence of logistics. According to a source in Governor Bala administration: “You don’t expect a new governor to be indifferent in such a paradoxical setting of government we have in Bauchi State, where a party controls executive and another has majority in legislative arm.”

Interestingly, Governor Bala issued proclamation for the inauguration of the 9th Assembly to be conducted on 20th of June. Memo was however shared to members-elect to attend the occasion at 10:am according to Kawuwa Damina. At about 7:30, 13 members comprising eight of PDP, four of APC and one NNPP member convened at the House, having satisfied the constitutional requirement of a one-third quorum. The Clerk made a roll call and subsequently called for nomination of a speaker; Abubakar Suleiman was nominated and elected unopposed by the 13 members in attendance. He was sworn in and inaugurated. The event happened on floor of the House with the Mace, the symbol of authority very much available.

Shortly, Damina and other members who arrived around 8:am were taken by surprise and before they could disrupt what had happened Speaker Abubakar Suleiman adjourned the House indefinitely.

After almost one month of recess, the House resumed but the 18 aggrieved members did not and remained members-elect because they refused to be inaugurated. The crisis moved to the court, where Speaker Suleiman went to stop Damina and his group from parading himself as factional speaker. At this time, the House of Representatives became curious and decided to set up a 12-man panel of enquiry to unravel the controversy and come up with recommendations. At this time, PDP lawyers led by Barrister Jibrin S. Jibrin had filed a suit to stop the Reps from probing into the emergence of Suleiman, which the High Court granted in its ex parte order pending the normal hearing of the matter on October 3.

Former Governor Abubakar had led the APC members to Aso Villa, where they met with President Muhammadu Buhari and the national Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. The President asked them to approach the court of law, while Oshiomhole threatened to order Police to take over the Bauchi Assembly. When the aggressiveness of almighty Abuja could not work, one of the aggrieved members-elect, apparently tired of waiting stepped forward for inauguration.

Kawuwa

With this, Governor Bala Muhammed rose to the challenge. He said: “Myself and my deputy Senator Baba Tella are parliamentarians, we know the independence of legislative arm. We can’t deprive them of their constitutional rights. Therefore, we seek the help of our traditional and religious leaders who are critical stakeholders in the state to wade in and save the legislative arm.” According to the Governor, traditional leaders needed to call the warring House members for dialogue, which they all embraced.

Subsequently, on the evening of August 2, a Friday, the House held an emergency seating presided by the deputy Speaker Ahmed Danlami Kawule, where the other 17 members were inaugurated, including Kawuwa Damina. The squabble ended exactly 42 days after the initial controversial inauguration. Governor Bala Muhammed was present to witness the event and commended the lawmakers for accepting to be inaugurated in the interest of the state. He said the state government had championed the peace move through “intervention of relevant stakeholders, notably the traditional rulers. With this development, Bauchi state has shown that it is the home of democracy in the country,” Bala said. The lawmakers however exchanged pleasantries, smiled and departed.

After these, normalcy has since returned to the House with Hon. Abubakar Suleiman as the Speaker. This development did not go down well with the APC, even with its numerical control of the House. The Speaker once told The Guardian; “I can’t leave majority APC for minority PDP, I’m still in my party. Though, I might have offended them but I’m sorry for anything I might have done wrong.”

Meanwhile, he manages to enjoy the support of the Governor Bala who transmitted power to him before himself and the deputy Governor left for 2019 Hajj. Abubakar Suleiman became acting Governor during the period.

The APC controls the principal officers like; majority and deputy majority leaders, chief and deputy chief whips. Shortly after this, the House proceeded to screen the 20 commissioners sent to it by the Governor without any nominee being rejected. Abubakar Suleiman for now can count on support of his colleagues.

Meanwhile, the former Speaker, Kawuwa Damina, has since shunned the proceedings after being inaugurated on August 2. He was absent throughout the screening of commissioners. A source in the House who confided in The Guardian said the former Speaker is still eyeing his former seat. “He will continue his ambition till he dies. As you can see, he has not been coming to the proceedings, but I can tell categorically that today with or without him the House is fine and moving in the right direction. In fact, the Speaker has organised so many workshops for members at different locations for us across the country.”

The Speaker, House of Representatives Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila was in the state recently for a condolence visit and commended the Governor for carrying everyone along in his government, especially on the resolution of the impasse in the House. He said the House of Representatives shared the happiness that the crisis has been resolved.


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