Fighting broke out among members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the National Assembly on Monday over their party’s ongoing congresses across the country, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
Godswill Akpabio, the Minority Leader of the Senate, convened the emergency meeting of the party’s National Assembly Caucus to address numerous complaints that arose from the party’s nationwide congresses, some of which were marred by irregularities and legal battles.
Sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the meeting was held to address the crises in seven of the 36 state chapters where the congresses turned out to be most problematic.
Halfway into the meeting, which held behind closed doors in House Room 0.28 at 4:30 p.m., a brawl erupted between a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, now senator representing Anambra North Senatorial District, and Sopuluchukwu Ezeonwuka, a House member from Orumba North/South federal constituency in Anambra State.
The disagreement among the lawmakers was over membership of a committee the Caucus decided to set up to proffer solutions to the stalemate in the state congresses ahead of the party’s national convention.
Also involved in the face-off were Lynda Ikpeazu, who represents Onitsha North/South federal constituency, and Chukwuka Onyema, Deputy Minority Leader of the House, sources said.
Some sources said there were actual exchange of blows by the feuding legislators while some said the four lawmakers merely exchanged verbal assaults for the most part of the meeting, with Mr. Onyema charging towards Mr. Ezeonwuka to land a slap on his face.
“Mr. Onyema ran towards Mr. Ezeonwuka and attempted to punch him in the face,” a source said. “But other lawmakers quickly intervened and separated the two men from manhandling each other.”
PREMIUM TIMES’ findings revealed the lawmakers were trying to maintain their individual strongholds of their party in their respective constituencies.
Mr. Ezeonwuka confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday night.
Mr. Ezeonwuka said the argument started after he objected to Mr. Onyema’s membership of a committee, saying he “cannot be a judge in his own case.”
Mr. Ezeonwuka said Mr. Onyema had been repeatedly used by Ms. Oduah to manipulate elections within the party.
“Onyema is the one that implemented all the Stella Oduah’s plans because he sees Stella Oduah as his God,” Mr. Ezeonwuka said. “But I told him that he’s an interested party and must not be a member of the committee.”
“It was that time that Stella Oduah now stood up and said ‘who is that idiot?’”
Mr. Ezeonwuka said Mr. Onyema charged towards him from the wooden rostrum to beat him in defence of Ms. Oduah.
“He wanted to shout me down, but I told him I won’t shut up. Then he came down from the podium that he wanted to come and beat me, but I was just looking at him,” Mr. Ezeonwuka said.
Mr. Ezeonwuka said Ms. Oduah is desperate because she’s “a weak politician.”
“She’s now desperate because of her weakness and coming to Anambra State to talk nonsense. Is it because she was made a minister?”
“I have been in the PDP since 1999 and I am a grassroots politician, unlike Stella Oduah who started her politics in Abuja. She has no structure in Anambra State, she’s just using her money to buy people, which is irrelevant to me.”
“When Ms. Ikpeazu was trying to expatiate on the point I made, Stella Oduah started insulting her and they both starting insulting each other, you know women talk.”
Mr. Ezeonwuka also told PREMIUM TIMES that the Caucus did not discuss anything about fuel price crisis, consequently punching holes in the claim made by House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, that the members discussed and concluded that President Buhari’s administration must apologise to former President Jonathan because Mr. Buhari was part of those who opposed subsidy when Mr. Jonathan first attempted to deregulate the downstream sector in 2012.
“We only discussed the party’s upcoming national convention and no issues about fuel crisis were raised during the meeting,” Mr. Ezeonwuka said.
Ms. Oduah also confirmed her fight with the other lawmakers to PREMIUM TIMES, but denied it was a serious altercation.
“Two people just disagreed on a subject, does that make it strange? In a meeting where you have almost two hundred people?
“Somebody raised an opinion that I did not agree with. And it is bound to happen where you’re having meeting of this sort.
“We just disagreed on a subject matter which I cannot disclose to you,” Ms. Oduah said.
In his reaction, Mr. Onyema said Mr. Ezeonwuka was not in the country when the congresses were conducted, so he couldn’t have known all that transpired (at the acrimonious congress).
“I did not have any brawl with him. But The said they wanted primaries and the other group said they don’t want primaries and they went ahead to conduct their own illegal primaries,
“He wasn’t in the country, he went to the United States and just got back, he should have allowed those of us who have been on ground to explain to him what happened instead of going about making false accusations that somebody forged the results.”
When PREMIUM TIMES reached Ms. Ikpeazu, she denied knowledge of the brawl, claiming she was working on some documents while the meeting was going on.
“I had some urgent documents that I am working on so I wasn’t listening,” Ms. Ikpeazu said. “I know they had some disagreement but I don’t know those involved.”
But this newspaper established clearly that she was part of the entire commotion at the meeting, and was merely being economical with the truth.