Reps: Wike cautioned me about minority leader position –Chinda
Nov. 28, 2019
Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Since the inception of the Ninth assembly, the former chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Kingsley Chinda has been in the eye of the storm. Chinda, who represents Obi/Akpor Federal Constituency of Rivers State, in the House of Representatives, was nominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as its choice for the position of minority leader.
However, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, announced the member representing Anaocha /Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State, Ndudi Elumelu as the minority leader, to the chagrin of Chinda and the PDP.
Recently, the House referred the former Public Accounts chairman, and three others, to its Ethics and Privileges Committee for referring to themselves as leaders of the PDP caucus in the Green chamber.
In this interview, Chinda speaks on the controversy over who is the leader of the PDP caucus in the House among other issues.
Two weeks ago, the House adopted a resolution to probe you alongside three others for issuing statements as leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus, how would you react to that?
My response is that the House was misled by my colleague, Ben Igbakpa, who raised that issue of privilege. The House was misled; in the sense that one, the issue is not one that is captured under our rules; when you talk about privilege.
Because the order under which he came has to do with violation of rights of members, whether individually or collectively. And those rights must be given to you either by the Legislative Privileges Act or a statute or practice and convention. And no right of any member has been infringed by our operations as the PDP caucus leaders, which consent, we got from the PDP.
Like I said, every political party, every organisation has a right to operate. Even in this same parliament, you have those, who call themselves the progressives and they have the Progressives caucus. How does that affect the right of any member? And the said Ben is not contesting the fact that he has an interest or that he is the PDP caucus leader.
Worst still, he intentionally and mischievously misled the entire parliament by citing a wrong law, a section which repeals a law, purporting to rely on that as an infringement of his right. I don’t see it as an issue. We will wait for the (Ethics and Privileges) Committee to invite us. We will appear before the Committee as Parliamentarians and state our position and perhaps take further steps to draw the attention of the House to this mischief by Honourable Ben and wait for the final decision of the House.
The minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, in response to a statement by the PDP authenticating your position as the leader of its caucus in the House, said the convention in the parliament is that the minority leader leads the caucus of his party.
Let him also tell us that the speaker in the parliament, who is even elected, that he leads the caucus of his party. Perhaps, that will also be his argument. Let him also tell us that the minority leader leads the caucus of the minority parties; because in the House today, you have caucuses that exist, other parties’ caucuses.
Moreso, accepting, without conceding that we agreed to make him the PDP caucus leader, can a suspended member lead the caucus? Will he be leading the PDP caucus from suspension? That is accepting, without conceding.
Let me also take us back a little bit, on excursion into history. In the last assembly, Leo (Ogor) was the caucus leader.
Among the four of them -the leader, deputy leader, the whip and deputy whip. We sat down as a caucus and agreed and said Leo still remains as the PDP caucus leader. He didn’t want it. We said remain, and T.J Yusuf as the deputy caucus leader. TJ was not a member of the minority leadership. So, what is the argument?
I was also one of the leaders of the PDP caucus in the last assembly. And I was not a member of the minority caucus leadership. So, that argument is neither here nor there.
I have heard them say, “we were elected”. Who elected you? Where did the meeting hold? When did the election take place? Who convened the meeting? But you hear them misleading the public, that “we were elected by members of the minority parties”. But nothing like that happened. There was no election. Our rules do not also provide for election, when it comes to minority leadership.
I have also read them citing constitution, citing the rules, misleading the public as to the true fact. But be that as it may, I believe that you can only cover the truth for some time. You can fool the people some time, but not all the time. The truth one day, will
be open to the public. But for me, the PDP says, step down as the PDP caucus leader, I will do so very willingly. So, I still remain and address myself as the PDP caucus leader.
You were on Channels Television, a few days back, and among other things, you said the current issue is geared at getting you out of the House. Can you throw more light on that?
You know when things happen; some of the nocturnal meeting they had, they are still uncomfortable that some of us are on the floor of the parliament, watching events; still contributing to events. They appear to be afraid of their shadows.
They had a nocturnal meeting, where they agreed that they need to do everything possible, to suspend some of us or get us out of the parliament, so that they can have a proper field day. We are aware of all that. That is why I have to say it, so that let them know that we are aware. And I keep saying that power comes from God. Once, has he spoken, twice have I heard that power comes from God.
I was elected by the people of Obi /Akpor and by His Grace, I will serve the term and go back home. I am not interested in pulling anybody down; but I will always defend whatever, is given to me to keep.
There are speculactions that your supporters had planned to come up with a motion on the floor of the House, asking the House not to recognize the minority leadership, because they are on suspension from the PDP.
I am not aware. I am just hearing that story now, very sincerely. And I can tell you, that there was no such plan. I have never heard of it. I have never sat in any meeting, where such idea was mooted.
We agreed to forward the interest of the PDP within the parliament; to protect the interest of our party. Because we do not have any other party. That was what we agreed. And we are drawing up programmes that will help to protect the interest of the PDP.
So, they can continue to conjecture, but we will do everything possible to protect the interest of the PDP; I can assure you that. We are not looking back.
Many are blaming your party for not managing the issue of nomination of minority leadership very well. One, that it did not consult other parties, before a list of its nominees for minority principal officers was sent to the parliament. Two, after the party list was turned down, the party set up disciplinary measures; but the PDP has allowed the resolution of this issue to linger for too long.
Firstly, I will correct the impression that other minority parties were not consulted. The party had the first meeting in Wadata Plaza with PDP members, where nominations were made. And after the nominations, six people nominated me. One person nominated Elumelu. And the party allowed members to discuss among themselves.
The only thing the party did not do that day was to say put it to vote. It allowed members to discuss among themselves. And it was cleared that they had narrowed down on me. After that, I visited him and we discussed and agreed to work together to move forward.
The party now called a second meeting with the other minority members, where we now met, discussed the issues again. People raised some concerns, the party assuaged those concerns. In fact, the leader of the APGA caucus, Prestige Ossy was the person who spoke on behalf of the other minority parties in that second meeting. And when we concluded that meeting, we all left happily. It will be wrong to say that the party never consulted the other minority parties. That is not correct.
Now, whether the matter has lingered for too long; I agree with you. But that is for the party. That is for the party administration; whatever they want to do with it. But that should not stop us from defending the interest of our party in parliament. Until we leave the platform of the PDP, we still owe the party that duty to protect her interest.
The opposition to your emergence as a minority leader is believed to be targeted at your governor, Nyesom Wike, is that notion correct?
Well, some have said that. Yes. Some also believe that perhaps, he is behind me. But I will put it on record too, that my governor never asked me to indicate interest in the minority leadership. The person, who actually called me to talk about it was Leo Ogor. I have said so severely. Even in the last assembly, he called me and asked me to take over from him. And I rejected and refused. And I said continue and conclude. We will rather give you support.
This time, he also called me and mooted the idea. When I told my governor about it, my governor cautioned me to say “look, be careful. I don’t know why you trust these people. But be careful. But I will not ask you not to, let it not seem as if I don’t want your political growth. But I will urge you to be careful.”
I can l tell you that all through, he never in any way, materially or physically or otherwise reached out to us, to say I am behind you in this race. No. But he was not against me too.
So, it was not his project. It was my project and our project in the House here. I have said so severally and I still say so again.
What does this whole development portend for the opposition in the Ninth assembly?
Well, you know that in politics, once you play your own game, you also look at the other side of the divide and see what you can do to make it easier for yourself. I have said so that I see the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.
The APC cannot deny the fact that this is part of the game plan which they have. And they are executing it in connivance with some members of the PDP.
I said so clearly, because the Speaker himself installed the opposition caucus (leadership) and he made that clear to me. So, if he did, it is clear that it is politics that we are playing. I don’t hold anything against them, because that is their own way of playing the game. I only sympathise with the PDP members that are destroying their house, perhaps when they will need shelter, there would no longer be any roof over their home and those in APC will go back home coasting to victory in joy and happiness.