When Reps took aluta to Buhari’s doorsteps -By Olalekan Adetayo

Filed under: Political Issues |



When news went round on Sunday that President Muhammadu Buhari would be meeting members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress on Monday, it was clear to all that the President wanted to intervene in the leadership crisis rocking the lower chamber of the National Assembly.

Since that was the first time he would be meeting the two camps in the House together, there were a lot of expectations attached to the parley that was held inside the new Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.

The looks on the faces of many of the lawmakers as they were disembarking from the Coaster buses used to convey them to the venue were far from being friendly. The youthful ones among them were jumping down from the buses with their stern looks the way undergraduates will jump down from their ‘aluta jet’ during protests. They seemed to have arrived the venue with predetermined minds that it was either the meeting went their way or nothing else.

They kept long faces as they formed a long queue for security screening at the entrance of the venue. Despite their dispositions however, those who were part of the first batch of lawmakers to be driven to the venue however managed to settle down for light refreshment. They ate the small chops and drank juice as if they needed strength in case the meeting went the way of their rancorous last session which forced the leadership to adjourn sittings.

Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila who later on Tuesday emerged the Majority Leader was among the last batch of lawmakers that were brought to the venue. After scaling through the security screening, he waited for about five or six of his colleagues who were behind him on the queue to have their turns before the security personnel.

Gbajabiamila then walked triumphantly into the hall. He exchanged pleasantries with some of his colleagues who were already seated. After that, he proceeded to the high table. Already seated on that side of the hall were the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; Vice Chairman, Dr. Segun Oni; and National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammadu. They were seated on the left side of the high table. There were two empty chairs reserved for the President and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Those chairs separated them from the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara and the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun who were seated on the right side.

Gbajabiamila approached the high table from the right side, so Lasun was the first person he had an encounter with. They shook hands as he tapped the Deputy Speaker on the back. Photojournalists surged forward with the intention of getting good snapshots as he moved about two steps forward and embraced Dogara who was already standing as he saw him approaching. The flashes from cameras seemed unending.

With that over, he passed by the two empty chairs to greet the party chairman, Oni and Muhammed. As he made to return to the “masses’ side” of the hall, he passed through Dogara’s back and some photojournalists who felt they did not get good shots during the first encounter rapped Gbajabiamila and the Speaker into embracing each other again. They embraced again and smiled. But that was for the camera.

Buhari and Osinbajo entered the hall and expectedly, journalists were asked to excuse them. No sooner had we stepped out than we started seeing movements. We could not believe it; the meeting had ended. It was just for 20 minutes.

Many of the lawmakers came out grumbling. They looked angrier than when they went in. Almost all of them wanted to grant press interviews to make their positions known. By the time Lawmaker A was ending his interview, Lawmaker B was already shouting from the background that he had contrary position. Midway into his presentation, another lawmaker would show up to say he had something to say.

At a point, they had started forming a queue. They wanted to be taking their turns to speak. But we were no longer interested. The interviews we were interested in were the ones with Odigie-Oyegun, Dogara and Gbajabiamila. Disappointment was written all over their faces when we turned down further request for interviews. It was at that point that some of them were threatening that they would beat up anybody, including Dogara, who granted interview and say whatever they were not comfortable with.

They wanted to bring the Aluta that led to the adjournment of the House to the President’s doorsteps. I am sure they dropped the idea because of the implication.

Oshiomhole as President’s SA on missing funds?

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State is a regular face in the Villa. Even during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Oshiomhole was always a regular visitor despite the fact that both of them belonged to different political parties.

It is not surprising therefore that now that a President from his party has taken over, the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress has continued to be visible in the seat of power.

State House correspondents have come to realise some things about Oshiomhole. Any time the governor has nothing to say or he is not in the mood to talk, he will walk briskly out of the President’s office as if he is trailing something or somebody. He rarely acknowledges greetings on such rare occasions. But any day the governor has a message to pass, he will relax and take time to crack jokes with reporters. He will thereafter grant interviews.

Since Buhari came on board, Oshiomhole has been granting press interviews to State House reporters regularly. Jonathan and his men (women inclusive) have been his target. He has been doing it in a manner that made some think whether he is already looking beyond his current position. Many are of the opinion that he may be eyeing the position of either the Minister of Information or that of Special Duties.

He started his attack on the Jonathan administration with the revelation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation did not retire all the money it made during the last administration into the Federation Account. It was at that press briefing that he also accused Jonathan’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of allegedly withdrawing money from the Excess Crude Account without authorisation.

It was the governor who also claimed that his state lost about N10bn under Jonathan following the administration’s alleged failure to make the taxes paid by the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas available to the remaining two tiers of government.

At the last interview he granted the State House correspondents, Oshiomhole also claimed that a United States official told members of the President’s delegation to the country that only one minister stole $6bn under Jonathan. All these allegations were made inside the Villa and I suspect that there is a reason for it. I may not know the reason but making the revelation under the President’s nose, I believe, is instructive.

He has been carrying out this role to the level that some people have started referring to him as the Special Adviser to the President on Missing Funds and Miscellaneous Allegations!