The controversy sparked by the choice of minority leaders in the House of Representatives has caused a split in the ranks of governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governors are divided over the push by their colleague, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State to make his loyalist, Kingsley Chinda the House Minority Leader instead of Ndudi Elumelu ,who is the candidate of minority members of the House.
Chinda is also being backed by the PDP National Working Committee (NWC).
Elumelu was announced as Minority Leader by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila at Wednesday’s sitting amidst protest by some PDP members and the NWC of the party which proceeded, on Friday, to slam suspension on Elumelu and some of his supporters for alleged anti-party activities.
The PDP Board of Trustees (BOT) seems alarmed by the brewing crisis, prompting it to summon a meeting for Tuesday to find solutions to the division in the House by its elected members.
Soon after the Wednesday business in the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the BOT, Senator Walid Jibrin had accepted the election of Elumelu only for the NWC to summon Elumelu and his main supporters to come and defend their action.
What followed was their suspension by the party.
Investigation by The Nation shows that the disagreement between the PDP BoT and the NWC over the development in the House of Reps has spread to the ranks of the party’s governors.
It was learnt that while some of the governors are backing Elumelu, a few others are insisting that the party’s list forwarded to the Speaker should be sacrosanct.
Some of the PDP governors are even indifferent to the situation.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has sent a congratulatory message to Elumelu, saying: “The unity and progress of Nigeria are bigger than any personal, political or religious interests.
“I call on the leadership of the National Assembly to work for Nigeria instead of Nigeria working for them.”
A member of the NWC confirmed the split among the governors.
He said: “We have a challenge at hand because our leaders, especially governors are not on the same page over the choice of House Minority leaders.
“Some have also faulted the suspension of Elumelu and six others. This division is understandable but I can tell you that most of the governors are with the NWC on this.
“Our overriding interest is the supremacy of the party. We have got to a level that we must enforce discipline.
“The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is just out to cause disaffection among PDP members in the House. It is a case of divide and rule.
“If the Senate President, Dr. Ahmed Lawan could accept APC’s list of principal officers, why would the Speaker ignore PDP’s list of minority leaders in the House?”
A PDP governor, who spoke with our correspondent, said: “Some of us are really indifferent because we were not consulted by the NWC in arriving at the list sent to the Speaker. We have other ranking members besides Kingsley Chinda.
“It is unfair and unjust for the National Chairman of the party to come from Rivers State and the House Minority Leader to be selected from the same state. I think we should have been more circumspect.
“The last Majority Leader/ Minority Leader of the PDP, Leo Ogor came from Delta State. We were not expecting that out of the six states in the Southsouth, the NWC will zone the Minority Leader to either Rivers State or Delta State. The party should have been fair to other states.
“The challenge we have is that the party’s leadership defers to a few governors as if they own the PDP. This was not the dream of the founding fathers of the PDP.”
A member of the BOT said: “The truth is that some PDP governors are displeased with the way Governor Nyesom Wike is calling the shots in PDP because he influenced the emergence of Prince Uche Secondus as the national chairman.
“For assisting the party to regain its rhythm before the 2019 general election, Wike deserves some praises. But his contributions should not make him the leader of PDP.
“There was no basis for the recommendation of Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State in an opposition party which has to manage limited political offices statutorily due to it.
“So, there is a cold war within the party from the governors to other levels. Some of us have been saying it that Secondus must watch it.
“The BOT chairman was hasty in recognizing Elumelu without hearing from the National Chairman of PDP, Secondus. Although he has recanted, the damage is already done.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The BOT will hold a meeting on Tuesday on the development on the choice of minority leaders.
“We want to avert a major crisis in PDP over these House leaders. And if we do not manage the situation with tact, it could destabilize the party.”
Notwithstanding, 111 of the 147 members of the opposition in the House have so far signed a register in favour of Elumelu.
The PDP had nominated Kingsley Chinda, highly favoured by Governor Nyesom Wike as Minority Leader; Chukwuka Onyema (Deputy Minority Leader); Yakubu Barde (Minority Whip); and Muraina Ajibola (Deputy Minority Whip)
But based on majority consensus by PDP members and the representatives of other opposition parties in the House, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila announced a new set of leaders.
Those preferred by members of the opposition are Ndudi Godwin Elumelu as Minority Leader; Toby Okechukwu (Deputy Minority Leader); Gideon Gwani (Minority Whip); and Adesegun Adekoya (Deputy Minority Whip).
Disturbed by the alleged defiance of its directive, the PDP suspended Elumelu and six others for accepting to serve outside its official list sent to the Speaker.
The PDP accused those suspended of alleged indiscipline, insubordination and disobedience of party directives contrary to Section 58 (1) (b) (c) (f) (h) of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).
A new member of the House said: “Before the election of principal officers in the Senate and in the House, we waited for weeks from PDP for direction but the party was not forthcoming on where it was headed. The only exception was ex-Speaker Yakubu Dogara who tried to guide us.
“Having been left in the wilderness, we decided to individually make ourselves available to candidates in APC for lobbying. When it was too late, the PDP leadership now came up with some guidance.
“Yet we were insulted that the same PDP had the temerity to raise a panel to investigate why its members in the National Assembly voted for some principal officers.
“On the choice of minority leaders, the PDP did not consult its caucus in the House before coming up with the list it sent to the Speaker.
“The PDP members however invoked Order 7 Rule 8 of the House to pick the minority leaders, headed by Ndudi Elumelu. The order says members from any party will meet and choose candidates for principal offices. We met, built a consensus around Elumelu and others.
“If PDP had consulted its members in the House, it would have realized that some opposition members in the House came from a few parties too.
“As at Saturday, 111 out of 147 House members from the opposition parties have endorsed Elumelu. No going back even if all of us are sanctioned.”