In what appeared as a major embarrassment, many of the guests invited to a second year anniversary of the 8th Nigerian House of Representatives stayed away from the event. Those who apparently boycotted the celebration included governors, former Speakers and ex-members of the lower legislative body.
Also, the chamber of the House of Representatives, which was expected to have most current members present, had a scant turnout as some aggrieved members decided not to show up. One aide to a member of the legislature, who hails from Abia State, told our correspondent that many members of the House from the southeast zone decided not to take part in the ceremony. According to the source, the Southeast legislators were still nursing a grudge over the recent defeat of a bill calling for the establishment of a South East Development Commission.
Among the political figures in attendance at the legislative celebration were Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi of Ondo State, former Speaker Umar Ghali Na'aba, and former Deputy Speaker Babangida Nguroje.
The House had invited President Muhammadu Buhari as a special guest of honor, but the ailing president remains in Britain where he is receiving medical treatment for an undisclosed illness. Remarkably, acting President Yemi Osinbajo did not attend to represent Mr. Buhari. Other invited guests included the Chief Justice of the Federation, Walter Onnoghen, and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State.
Among other no-shows at the event were former members of the House who are now serving as governors. They included Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
Our correspondent learned that those invited to the poorly attended ceremony included all former Speakers of the House, former Deputy Speakers, former Majority Leaders, former Minority Leaders, former Chief Whips, former Clerks of National Assembly, and members of the diplomatic corps.
Briefing reporters, the Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Pally Iriase, disclosed that N35 million was budgeted for the second year anniversary events, adding that two-thirds of the money would be spent on media coverage. He remarked that the House had considered the country’s tough economic circumstances in deciding not to spend too much money celebrating the event.
Some mild drama nearly disrupted the event as members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) raised their voices to protest what they described as the failure of Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Reps to recognize their president, Chinonso Obasi. The student group accused the speaker of bias in recognizing a leader of a factional student group. Security agents moved in and removed from the protesting students from the chamber.
Josh Amupitan, a professor of law, delivered the keynote titled “Image Perception of the Legislature: Causes and Possible Solutions,” while the chairman of the editorial board of ThisDay newspapers, Segun Adeniyi, presented a lecture on “Appraisal of two years of the 8th House Legislative Agenda.”