The use of the word “sickness” degenerated into a heated argument among lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives tuesday, leading to the disruption of proceedings for some minutes.
The lawmakers disagreed on whether it was appropriate to say President Muhammadu Buhari, who is currently on a prolonged vacation in the United Kingdom for medical reasons, is “sick” or is on “medical vacation”.
The main contenders were the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and the Chief Whip, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, both vocal supporters of the president.
Doguwa (Kano APC), while opposing a motion completely unrelated to Buhari, had described the president as sick.
The motion moved by Hon. Aliyu Madaki also from Kano, was calling for an investigation into the alleged harassment of members of the Kwankwasiya movement, a political group loyal to the former governor of Kano State, now Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Madaki belongs to the Kwankwaso camp in the crises enveloping the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano, while Doguwa has shifted loyalty from Kwankwaso to incumbent Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. Kwankwaso is rumoured to be eyeing the presidency in 2019.
Doguwa, in his argument, accused the Kwankwasiya group of fomenting trouble in the state and raising tension in an environment already on the edge due to the absence of Buhari.
He also considered it unwise that campaigning by the Kwankwaso group for the 2019 presidential polls in “a state as volatile as Kano” had already commenced.
“Our beloved president is sick abroad. These partisan activities are completely unnecessary. The sponsor of the motion failed to lay the facts of the issues as they are,” Doguwa said.
However, his use of the word “sick” did not go down well with Gbajabiamila who shouted “point of order”.
Recognised to speak by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun, who was presiding, the majority leader demanded that Doguwa withdrew the contentious word.
“There is no factual basis for what he is saying, that Buhari is sick. The president is not sick. At best, he can say that the president is on medical vacation.
“There is a difference between being sick and going on a medical vacation,” Gbajabiamila said.
His point of order was what threw proceedings into a turmoil, as lawmakers raised their voices, with some saying there was no difference between going on a medical vacation and being sick.
Above the uproar, some said the president was sick, while others shouted that he was not.
It took several minutes to restore order at the plenary and resume proceedings.
Eventually, Lasun sustained the point of order, but elicited laughter from the lawmakers when he also used the word “sickness” while speaking about the president.
“Let me sustain the leader’s point of order. Ado-Doguwa, you should not lay emphasis on the sickness of our president because of the security implications,” Lasun said.
Madaki, speaking earlier on his motion, had accused the Ganduje administration of using the police to harass opponents and critics of the administration.
“This is like inviting anarchy and we must act quickly before the situation implodes. Even in Bauchi State, the police are stopping groups from conducting themselves peacefully,” he said.
Contributing to the motion, Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor backed the argument that the police were being used by the powers that be.
He recalled that the police, without any justification, stopped a meeting of the Ahmed Makarfi-led members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) two weeks ago.
“We came together as a party to review the decision of the Federal High Court (sic) on our party. The police came and blocked the whole place. I wept,” Ogor said.
Other members also accused the police of harassment in several states including Rivers and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The arguments led the House to summon the police commissioners of Kano, Rivers and the FCT.