Francis Moses writes on the unprecedented manner the 7th Assembly handled the recent transfer of the House of Representatives leadership to the deputy Speaker, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha
As the House of Representatives wind up its assignment, leadership has beckoned on the deputy Speaker and the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Imo State, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
At the valedictory session of the 7th National Assembly, the house, in an unusual feat unanimously resolved to appoint Ihedioha, Speaker until the house is dissolved. This was to enable the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, and the Governor-elect of Sokoto State to prepare for the swearing-in exercise on May 29.
The handover was predicated on the constitution, which provides that Tambuwal could not continue as Speaker while taking another oath of office in Sokoto state.
In addition, since the constitution did not anticipate a situation in which an elected office holder could be elected into a different elective office within the same democratic dispensation, it makes no provision for such. The development meant that a new Speaker to preside over the affairs of the House for the remaining period of the life of the 7th Assembly would have to be elected in order not to create a lacuna in the leadership of the House.
That means electing a new Speaker for less than a week of its remaining session. However, the House in an executive session on Tuesday opted to suspend a provision in its Standing Order that provides for the election of the Speaker to fill available vacancy, and thus allow the deputy Speaker to preside over the affairs of the House for the remaining period.
The House is expected to wind down in six days time. According to him, his handing over to Ihedioha was decided jointly by members of the House in an executive session, adding that, “My stay here in the House would have effectively come to an end on May 29 after I would have been inaugurated as governor”.
He described the development in the house as a deliberate move to avoid any possible issues since the constitution is silent on what happens when a sitting Speaker is elected into another office. “We have to avoid any possible issues on this, since the constitution is silent on what happens when a sitting speaker has to move to another office,” he pointed out.
Tambuwal said that the 1999 constitution did not envisage a situation where the speaker will leave one office for another, while the oath taken for the current one is still in force.
He noted that under the Standing Orders of the House, a Speaker Pro-tempore was required to be elected by members to run the House for any period the substantive speaker would not be available. He further explained that the present situation was different because he would not return to the House again, adding that the other alternative would have been to shut down the House before June 6, but said he was not in support of such a move.
“I won’t shut down the House. The House can sit tomorrow, today and possibly the other sitting days of next week,” he said. Tambuwal, who is the Governor-elect for Sokoto State, will be inaugurated on May 29 (Friday) as governor. The Speaker, while speaking on the Independence of the house, said that the members by choosing their leaders have demonstrated higher love for Nigeria by refusing to be influenced by outside interests.
He also pointed out that the seventh assembly has functioned for four years without any scandal. His words, “I must thank you most sincerely on behalf of us both leadership and members of the House of Representatives for such a wonderful, very patriotic support to this institution.
You know very well that the legislature is the 3rd arm of Government and the most understood arm. I am sure by now, if you are asked to write in your own opinion of the legislature, it will not be the same as it was in 1999. “Therefore, your understanding in working with the legislature made it very easier for the 7th assembly to manage itself and therefore your experience as reporters helped in achieving what the 7th assembly has achieved” He pledged to continue his service to the nation as Governor and the Nigerian people On his part, Ihedioha expressed appreciation to his colleagues for the confidence they reposed in him to lead the house to the end of its life span.
His words, “we appreciate and thank you for the confidence you have given to us the great Nigeria people. We believe we will not betray the confidence, which you have reposed in us, we thank you and we hope we will sustain the confidence, and we pray that the God Lord will continue to guide you and protect you.
“And to the media, I stand here to say we appreciate the support you gave to us for us to actualize our dream and objectives. But I must say that what is important to us is to continue to build Nigeria as one nation. Ladies and gentlemen, I will not end without saying a big thank you to the Hon. Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, and for him to succeed as the governor of Sokoto state, my speaker as you are bowing out, I urge you to be more patriotic.
And to all of you, I wish you all the best. Thank you and God bless you.” For Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the seventh Assembly witnessed the birth of an Independent National Assembly, adding that he has learnt a lot from all members of the Assembly, particularly the Speaker whom he described as a good man and a detribalized Nigerian.
For the Deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, the Seventh Assembly not only displayed tremendous maturity, but the members always displayed a high sense of responsibility in their discourse of national issues. The Eighth National Assembly will be inaugurated after the Swearing in of the new administration on Friday.