From IHEANACHO NWOSU AND CHUKS AKUNNA, Abuja
Members of the House of Representatives were yesterday divided over President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for their approval for a centenary celebration of Nigeria’s existence. House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal had read Jonathan’s letter asking the House to allow the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to brief it on the preparations for the centenary celebration. The president’s letter was entitled: ‘Proposed Programme for the Celebration of Nigeria’s Centenary’. Nigeria’s amalmagation took place in 1914.
However, Tambuwa had barely finished reading the letter when some lawmakers asked the House to reject the president’s request. But some took a contrary position, arguing that the president’s request was in order and should be approved. Deputy Minority Leader, Samaila Kawu, set the tone for the opposition to the request as he argued that the letter was in breach of privilege of the House. According to him, the president had refused to honour invitation from the House last year and therefore does not deserve the endorsement of his request. He said: “Mr. President had refused to honour our invitation in the past, so we could not honour his request too.”
Lending support to Kawu’s position, House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, said there was no justifiable reason for the House to support the proposed centenary celebration because it would lead to waste of economic resources. Gbajabiamila said: “Respect should be reciprocal. If the president could ignore our invitation last year, I think we should do the same to him by rejecting this letter. The celebration is going to make us to spend more money at a time we are even saying that we lack money to fund the budget.” Taking a divergent position, Linus Okorie (Ebonyi State) said the celebration was in order.
He warned against opposing the proposed centenary celebration, pointing out that it could send wrong signals to Nigerians. Linus said: “We should be seen as working to promote the interest of the people and not opposing the position of the president all the time.” Ruling on the matter, Tambuwal urged his colleagues to exercise patience pending the time a resolution would be taken on the matter.