Yar’adua debate: Bankole “traded members’ right to debate for his political ambition”

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President Yar’adua.

Members “accused the Speaker of trading away the members‘ right to debate Yar‘Adua‘s ill-health and his absence from the country for his governorship ambition in Ogun State”.

A crisis is brewing in the House of Representatives with indications emerging on Friday that its members may have commenced discreet impeachment moves against the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, for his role in the aborted debate on the health of President Umaru Yar‘Adua on Tuesday.

The looming crisis and moves to remove Bankole followed bitter protests by some lawmakers against the Speaker and the House leadership over how they handled the failed debate on the president‘s absence.

The aggrieved lawmakers reasoned that the House leadership was insensitive to public interest.

By doing so, they argued that Bankole denied the members a platform to discuss the President‘s health.

The House had instead on Tuesday, resolved to send a delegation to pay a goodwill visit to Yar‘Adua in Saudi Arabia.

Saturday Punch investigation revealed that some lawmakers also believe that cash must have exchanged hands during a meeting held to kill the debate on the president‘s health.

Mentioned in the deal are some lawmakers involved in the former President Olusegun Obasanjo third term saga (except the former Speaker, Mrs. Olubunmi Etteh) and some members of the Integrity Group.

This coalition of lawmakers opposing the debate on the health of the President are said to be operating under the banner of ”the Elders Committee.”

Sources said the lawmakers held the crucial meeting on Monday night, on the eve of the failed Tuesday debate. The meeting reportedly held at the Dome, a popular nite club and Penniel Apartments, Wuse II, Abuja.

Bankole, a lawmaker alleged, had not preserved the integrity of the House, just as he had given undue preferences for ”personal advantages at the expense of the image of the House, which previous leaders like Umar Ghali Na‘aaba and others made so much sacrifices to build.”

Specifically, they accused the Speaker of trading away the members‘ right to debate Yar‘Adua‘s ill-health and his absence from the country for his governorship ambition in Ogun State.

The Speaker is widely believed to be working to succeed the incumbent come 2011.

It was further learnt that the Executive session of the House was stormy as members argued on whether to discuss the issue or not.

Some of those who supported discussing the sickness of the President wondered what Nigerians would say about the reputation of the House if all the House could do was just to send a delegation to visit the President.

Saturday Punch learnt that prior to the plenary session of Tuesday, a National Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Haliru Bello, had sent out text messages to all PDP Reps instructing them not to support the discussion of the President‘s health in the house.

According to the source, the leadership of the House was compelled to take members’ views on the issue with the insistence of the members that the integrity of the House was at stake.

Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, Mr. Halims Agoda, admitted that some lawmakers held a couple of meetings before the House reconvened on Tuesday from the Christmas break.

Agoda, also accepted that at one of such meetings, the agenda was to discuss the state of the nation and offer suggestions on how to resolve critical issues affecting the progress of the country.

He added that he had held such meetings with legislators as ”friends” and ”colleagues” since 1999 when he first came to the House.

Agoda said, ”Which legislator will even want the system to be disorganised? You see, members of parliament will always meet and discuss about the bright future of the nation.

”I did not hold any meeting that had ulterior motives. As members, we can always meet to put heads together and ponder about our country and how to move our nation forward.”

When our correspondent inquired whether he took part in a particular meeting held at the Dome Nite Club and Penniel Apartment in Wuse, the lawmaker denied knowledge of the meeting but stated that it was not an offence for lawmakers to meet whenever they chose to do so.

He spoke further, ”I don‘t know, I don‘t know about that meeting and all that. The truth of the matter is that as members of parliament, especially if we were on recess and were trying to come back, can‘t we sit down and review issues?”

Chairman of the House Committee on Education, Mr. Farouk Lawan, described the allegation as ”incredible and absolute rubbish” when his reactions were sought.

Though he did not deny that some legislators had met, Lawan insisted that it had no connection with any official in the executive arm of government much less the ”reference to financial inducement.”

Lawan, who is also the leader of the Integrity Group, said, ”The allegation is incredible and rubbish; anybody peddling it is stupid. I think some of us have made a name as parliamentarians; we have grown beyond pecuniary interests.”

Reacting to the role played by the speaker during plenary on Tuesday, Bankole’s spokesman, Chief Kayode Odunaro said on Friday “I am not aware that the House had a pre-position before arriving at a resolution to send a delegation to Yar’Adua.

“He did not manipulate the proceedings. It wasn’t about Bankole. Even Action Congress Reps agreed with the resolution.”

Nduaro also denied that the Speaker traded members’ right to debate for his political ambition.

“The Speaker has never told anybody that he has any governorship aspirantion in Ogun State. That is mere speculation,” he said.

In his own reaction, Chairman of the House Committee on Media, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, said, “The content of the resolution is premised on the fact that morally we’re our brother’s keeper.

“It is proper for us to meet the President and engage him in a robust discussion.”