A gale of defection on Tuesday hit the National Assembly with 37 members of the House of Representatives and 14 senators leaving the All Progressives Congress.
But President Muhammadu Buhari while reacting to the defection from the APC in the National Assembly said it would not impact negatively on the party.
Buhari said this in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
Shehu quoted the President as urging members of the APC not to despair over the development which he described as a “seasonal occurrence.”
He then wished the lawmakers who left the party well in their future endeavours.
The statement read, “President Buhari assured members of the APC of his total support and urged party faithful not to despair but to see the defections as a seasonal occurrence that happens on election eve.
“He expressed confidence that no harm or injury will be done to the party and its aspirations by the movements. President Buhari wished all the defected members the best in their future undertakings.”
Buhari also expressed his total commitment to the values of democracy, freedom of choice as well as total willingness to work with all members of the National Assembly, irrespective of their political party, for the benefit of the nation.
He noted that none of the defecting federal lawmakers had any specific grievances against him or his government.
Defectors are big masqueraders without electoral value – Oshiomhole
But the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, on Tuesday met with President Buhari a few hours after some members of the party in the National Assembly dumped the party.
Oshiomhole told State House correspondents at the end of the meeting with the President that he and the party were not disturbed by the gale of defection.
He said, “My attitude is like I have told you before, as the National Chairman, I am committed to listening to very legitimate grievances and engaging all those who are aggrieved that we can see through their grievances, but I insist that I will not miss sleep for one minute over mercenary activities.
“I have said it and I want to repeat it that this business of governance must be driven by men and women of honour.
“If the only motivation is personal interest; ‘what is in it for me?’ ‘What have I gained?’ and ‘How many people have I done xyz for?’ If that is the basis, the earlier those in this business of personal gains return to where they belong, the better.
“This party that I am privileged to chair is not worried at all, we are not disturbed. I am not going to miss my sleep and we will go into the campaign.
“Check the electoral results, you will find that a lot of those who claimed to have defected, on a good day, the votes they got that made them members of the Senate, our President got much more votes in their constituencies. So, we are not fooled at all.
“The thing going on is that you have a lot of so-called big masqueraders with very little and no electoral value.”
Oshiomhole said he had tried his best in trying to give comfort to those who claimed to be aggrieved.
He however said he would not appease those who had other hidden agendas that were not negotiable.
He said those under such category were those who expected a level of personal return and the system was not delivering.
The party chairman said he was happy that over time, water would find its level.
He added, “If you remember what I said the day I formally declared my interest to contest; I said to be a progressive party means we must be clear that it cannot be a party for everyone.
“We have to be sure that you subscribe to the values and ideals of a progressive party. If indeed you belong to the extreme right, and you mistakenly find yourself in a progressive party, obviously that is not where you belong.
“As soon as you realise that you can’t adjust to the requirement of the progressive, which is people-driven, people-based, people-oriented and you choose to return to the right wing where you know that the name of the game is, share the money, it is your choice.”
On the adjournment of Senate plenary, Oshiomhole said it was their choice if the lawmakers found it more politically convenient to suspend the process of legislation ahead of time because it was not convenient for their political interests.
He also said he was not privy to the circumstances surrounding the reported siege at the houses of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, hence he could not comment on it.
“To be very honest with you, it is better you formalise where you belong and be properly identified by your father’s name than purporting to bear my name and you are working for my opponent.
“Every observer knows that there has been opposition to this APC government, that opposition has come within the ranks of members of the APC, some in the National Assembly.
“I mean, how can we be in the majority for example and we use that majority to elect opposition to take the number two slots in our own party? How could we have been in the majority and the President makes nominations and those nominations are lying on the floor of the Senate and the Senate will not confirm those nominations?
“Even if that Senate was formally led by the opposition, the issue will be much clearer. But they have become much more complicated when those refusing to confirm the nominees purport to be members of our party. The earlier everybody properly identifies where he belongs in my view, the better.
“It is not in anybody’s interest, certainly not in the national interest that we continue to patch this democracy in a way that birds that are incompatible find themselves in the same nest.
“The point I have been trying to make is that we need to build a political party that goes beyond the platform for election. So, if you find that you can’t win because there is somebody in your constituency in the same party then you jump to other party so that you can win. And once the election is over we wait for the next four years, that’s not good enough,” he added.
With 13 defected senators, PDP now controls Senate
In the Senate, 14 members of the party had earlier announced their defection from the ruling party. While 13 of them defected to the Peoples Democratic Party, one moved to the African Democratic Congress inspired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read a letter from the defectors at the plenary.
The lawmakers said the decision was taken “after due consultation with our constituents and stakeholders in our constituencies, in proper recognition of Section 61(1) (d) of the 1999 Constitution, and for the fact that our party, the All Progressives Congress, is now factionalised.”
Saraki read the names of the defectors as Senators Rabi’u Kwankwaso (Kano-Central), Dino Melaye (Kogi-West), Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo-Central), Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara-South), Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna-North), and Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun-Central).
Others are Usman Nafada (Gombe-North), Ibrahim Dambaba (Sokoko-South), Ubale Shittu (Jigawa North-East) ,Isa Misau (Bauchi-Central), Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi-North), Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara-North), Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-East) and Adesoji Akanbi (Oyo South).
Akanbi however denied dumping the APC, stating that his name was put on the list in error. He also showed journalists a copy of the votes and proceedings after the plenary, which showed that he was not listed among the defectors.
Saraki separately announced the defection of Abdul-Azeez Murtala-Nyako (Adamawa-Central) from the APC. The lawmaker had recently announced his defection from the APC to the ADC, also formalised his defection.
The Senate has 109 seats.
Before Tuesday, the APC caucus had 64 members; the PDP caucus had 42, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance had one.
Two seats are vacant. They are those of senators Ali Wakili (Bauchi-South) and Mustapha Bukar (Katsina-North), who died a few months ago. Both of them were APC members.
Based on the number of lawmakers who have written to the Senate to formalise their defection, the PDP now has the majority with 55 members, with the APC having 50, and APGA and ADC having Senators Victor Umeh (Anambra-Central) and Murtala-Nyako, respectively.
Senators Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo) and Fatimah Raji-Rasaki (PDP, Ekiti) have yet to declare on the floor to formalise their defection to the APC but have been attending the party’s meetings and events.
Also, Senator Sunny Ogbuoji (PDP, Ebonyi) had recently introduced himself as the “the newest catch” of the APC when the National Working Committee of the party met with the Senate Caucus. He has yet to declare it in plenary.
Similarly, Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra) has joined APGA in Anambra State but has yet to make a formal declaration.
After the announcement, the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said, “The APC, our party, certainly has its own internal challenges. We have internal disagreements. The disagreements do not translate into ‘factionalisation.’
“I therefore feel that our senators and others of the APC stock do not have to move to any other party. I also believe that because the issues are under serious discussions by the major stakeholders, leaders and elders of this party, I will ask that, that announcement be quarantined.”
Responding, Saraki pointed out that the lawmakers had the freedom of association and could change their mind by Wednesday. He noted that members had been moving back and forth between parties.
The Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT), hailed the defections and mocked the APC.
APC omits Saraki name on membership list
Meanwhile, members of the APC caucus held an emergency meeting shortly after the plenary. The meeting, which was held behind closed doors, lasted over two hours.
Rising from the meeting, the caucus, led by the Majority Leader, told journalists that the APC still maintained the majority in the Senate.
The caucus also provided a list of its members, with Saraki’s name conspicuously missing on it. The list also included names of lawmakers who had yet to declare their defection on the floor of the Senate.
Lawan however argued that the declaration could be made in the Senate or in the party. He said the APC senators were 52; PDP, 50; ADC, three; APGA, two; and vacant seats, two.
Lawan said, “The essence of this press briefing is to tell you that even though some of our colleagues have left, the APC remains the majority party in the Senate. The APC still controls the Senate in terms of numbers. In addition, we are still expecting some of our colleagues in the PDP – the original PDP – who have expressed their desire and willingness to move to the APC. And to our colleagues that have left, we are still optimistic that many of them, or all of them, will have a change of heart.”
Asked why Saraki’s name was omitted, Lawan said, “Well…let us be on the safe side. Until someone says he has consciously defected, that person remains (a member of) APC. In fact, that takes our number to 53 and reduces the number of the PDP to 49.”
37 Reps defect, APC retains majority
In the House, the APC escaped losing its majority leadership status when 37 members dumped the ruling party.
Thirty-two of the lawmakers defected to the PDP, while four members from Oyo State defected to the African Democratic Congress.
The 37th member, Mr. Orker Jev, simply announced his resignation from the APC but kept mum over his next destination.
Investigations by The PUNCH indicated that there was tension in the APC’s camp, prior to the defection, as its members feared that they would immediately lose majority control of the House.
The PDP camp even celebrated ahead of the defection, taunting the Majority Leader, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, that he should be ready to hand over his office to the House Minority Leader, Mr Leo Ogor.
However, as the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara, read out the list, it turned out that only 37 members defected on Tuesday.
32 to PDP, 4 to ADC, 1, no party
With 32 joining the PDP, the party’s numerical strength moved from around 130 to about 162.
The ADC got four members, while there is one member of APGA.
The distribution leaves the APC with comfortable 186 members, out of the total of 360.
Among the defectors to the PDP are Razak Atunwa, Sani Rano, Ali Madaki, Hassan Saleh, Shehu Usman, Aminu Shagari, Danburam-Nuhu Abubakar, Tokpe Olayinka, Mark Terseer-Gbillah, Ahman Pategi, Samuel Udende, Abubakar Kannike, Abdussamad Dasuki and Salisu.
The list includes Zakari Mohammed, Funke Adedoyin, Bode Ayorinde, Hassan Omale and Rufai Chanchangi.
Those who moved to the ADC are Sunday Adepoju, Olasupo Abiodun, Olugbenga Samson and Akintola Taiwo. Dogara and his Deputy, Mr Yussuff Lasun, too remain in the APC.
Defectors are heroes of democracy, joint heirs of PDP – Secondus
However, the PDP has described the APC lawmakers as heroes of democracy.
The party, which also welcome the defectors to its fold, said they would be joint heirs in their new abode.
The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday, also called the defectors courageous men and women.
Secondus said, “It takes a lot of courage to leave a wicked ruling party, whose leadership keeps talking from two sides of its mouth.
“These defectors are indeed heroes of our democracy. They have saved the nation from impending doom and an attempt to derail our democracy. History will be kind to them. We rejoice with them for escaping from the ship that is destined to sink with its occupants.
“We welcome them to the rebranded PDP, which with others, is positioned to wrest power from this rudderless government that keeps on inflicting pains on the electorates.
“We welcome them as joint heirs of the PDP and together, we would rescue the nation from a government of promise without delivery, a government that says something but does the opposite and a government that takes pride in seeing tears in the eyes of those it governed.”
Secondus also said the PDP would soon receive unspecified numbers of APC governors, who he said would defect soon.
“We are expecting more defections across the states, including governors in coming days as well,” he added.
Majority, opposition camps in wild jubilation
There was wild jubilation on the floor in the PDP camp as the defectors cited “division” in the APC as the reason for their action, with shouts of “PDP, power,” taking over the proceedings.
Dogara battled to restore order and succeeded temporarily before the APC camp went into their jubilation.
The jubilation of the latter was more of relief that the party retained its majority leadership. It became their turn to taunt the PDP for failing to take over the House as the members had expected.
Two APC members, Mr Aminu Suleiman and Mr Nasir Ahmed, tried to protest that there was no division in the party, but Dogara overruled them.
The Speaker said his position remained that anyone challenging defection should do so in court.
Gbajabiamila, with renewed vigour, led many APC members out of the chambers to address reporters and celebrate the party’s majority seats status.
Addressing reporters, Gbajabiamila said though it was regrettable that some members left the party, he was consoled by the APC’s majority status.
“I commend the remaining members, who have remained steadfast with the party.
“The APC controls overwhelming majority. The defectors were looking for about 60 members, but now disappointed that they got only 37,” he stated.
Gbajabiamila also stated that the party would take the option of retrieving the seats from the defectors, since they were sponsored by the APC in the first place.
He recalled that the Supreme Court had long settled the issue of defection where in Amaechi Vs PDP, it decided that the seat belonged to the political party, not the individual.
More members will dump APC in days to come – Defectors
But the defectors immediately replied Gbajabiamila, saying that his joy of retaining the majority status would be short-lived.
Speaking soon after the defection, they said more APC members would soon abandon the party.
Atunwa, who led them to address journalists, stated, “This is just the first batch. You should expect more APC members to leave the party in the next few days.
“The slim majority they talk about will soon fizzle out.”
Atunwa said the defectors were convinced that the right to leave the APC was now “because it has lost all the values that we laboured for.”
He recalled that instead of delivering its promised ‘change’ to Nigerians in the mode of improved quality of living, the people were “disappointed.”
Atunwa added, “Sadly, after elections in 2015, the party set itself on the path of self-destruction. It began to victimise members, especially those who hold opposing views. They are now being treated like common criminals.”
The defected senators
Senators Rabi’u Kwankwaso (Kano-Central)
Dino Melaye (Kogi-West)
Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo-Central)
Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara-South)
Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna-North)
Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun-Central)
Usman Nafada (Gombe-North)
Ibrahim Dambaba (Sokoko-South)
Ubale Shittu (Jigawa North-East)
Isa Misau (Bauchi-Central)
Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi-North)
Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara-North)
Barnabas Gemade (Benue North-East)
Adesoji Akanbi (Oyo South).
APC members who defected to PDP
Garba Umar (Kano)
Olayonu Tope (Kwara)
Ahmed Garba (Kano)
Kabiru Marafa (Sokoto)
Zakari Mohammed (Kwara)
Abubakar Amuda-Kanike (Kwara)
Ali Madaki (Kano)
Hassan Saleh (Benue)
Ahma Pategi (Kwara)
Mark Gbillah (Benue)
Shehu Usman (Kano)
Aminu Shagari (Sokoto)
Nuhu Danburam (Kano)
Atunwa Abdulrazak (Kwara)
Salisu Zakari (Bauchi),
Hassan Omale (Kogi)
Rufai Chanchangi (Kaduna)
Abdulsamad Dasuki (Sokoto)
Sani Zoro (Jigawa)
Benjamin Okolo (Kogi)
Funke Adedoyin (Kwara)
Bode Ayorinde (Ondo)
Bashiru Salihu (Sokoto)
Barry Mpigi (Rivers)
Nasiru Sule (Kano)
Segun Ogunwuyi (Oyo)
Lawal Rabiu Sani Rano (Kano)
Dickson Tarkighir (Benue)
Musa Adotsamiyaand Emmanuel Udende (Benue).
Those who moved to ADC
Sunday Adepoju (Oyo)
Olasupo Abiodun (Oyo)
Olugbenga Samson (Oyo)