• PDP now 56, APC 48, ADC two, APGA one
• How Saraki, loyalists foiled alleged leadership change
Fred Itua Romanus Ugwu, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The high wired intrigues and acrimonious power play between the two dominant political parties took a dramatic turn, yesterday, as 35 lawmakers defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to give the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) majority in the Senate.
At plenary, 12 lawmakers in the fold of the ruling party announced their defection to the PDP while two cross-carpeted to the African Democratic Congress (ADC). With the development, PDP has 56, APC 48, ADC two and APGA one.
The gale of defection also spread to the House of Representatives where APC lost 37 members: 32 to the PDP, four to the ADC and one to the United Progressive Party (UPP).
Following the notices of defection read by Speaker Yakubu Dogara at plenary, the APC now has 186 members, PDP 160, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) five; ADC, four while Accord Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the United Progressive Party (UPP) have one each. The seat of the late former deputy House Leader, Buba Jibril is still vacant, while Orker-Jev is yet to announce his new political party. President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read out names of the 15 senators, predominantly from the South West, North Central, North East and North West.
Those who announced their defection included Lanre Tejuoso, Shaaba Lafiagi, Barnabas Gemade, Dino Melaye, Mohammed Ubali Shittu, Rafiu Ibrahim, Shitu Ubali, Isa Misau, Sulaimon Hunkuyi, Monsurat Sunmonu (ADC), Mohammed Danbaba, Usman Bayero Nafada, Suleiman Nazif, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Abdulazeez Murtala-Nyako (ADC). APGA) has Senator Victor Umeh (Anambra Central) while seats of two lawmakers from Bauchi and Katsina states, who died earlier in the year are yet to filled by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC).
The defection did not come without any protest, as Ahmad Lawan, Leader of the Senate, begged Saraki to step down the list containing names of defectors noting that the crisis rocking the APC will soon be resolved. He was jeered by senators, who kept yelling ‘point of order.’
Saraki, who had been rumoured as one of those to defect was silent on his next move. He predicted that more people would defect in the coming days and lampooned the ruling APC and the Federal Government for muzzling the opposition.
Siege to Saraki, Ekweremadu’s houses
As soon as 7am, police operatives had laid siege to thehomes of Saraki located in Maitama District of Abuja and that of his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu in Apo area.
A source in the media office of the senate president told Daily Sun that Saraki got wind of the police invasion about 30 minutes before time. One of the senators who attended the meeting of BSG had reportedly alerted Saraki of plans to barricade his house.
The police in the early hours had barricaded the street leading to the residents in Maitama, preventing his motorcade from leaving the vicinity.
But a source close to Saraki said that unknown to the Police, the senate president had left his home as early as 5am.
Unlike his usual long convoy, Saraki arrived at the National Assembly at about 6.45am through the back gate in a saloon Mercedes and made for his office, where he stayed until the session started at 10.40am.
While the Police was still holding down his motorcade, Saraki appeared in the red chambers.
Ekweremadu on the other hand was stopped from leaving his Apo residence by a combined team of police, EFCC and Department of State Service (DSS), who barricaded the street leading to his residence.
Confirming the siege, his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Uche Anichukwu, in a telephone conversation said: “I can tell you this is true. The house of Ekweremadu is presently surrounded by DSS, and EFCC operatives.”
Plot to oust Saraki, others failed
According to informed sources, the siege was part of a grand plot allegedly masterminded by members of the Parliamentary Support Group for President Muhammadu Buhari, to effect a leadership change.
Key loyalists to Buhari and Saraki, arrived at the Senate chamber as early as 7am. Oluremi Tinubu, Lawan, Abdullahi Adamu, Ovie Omo-Agege and others, were among the early callers.
On Saraki’s side, Dino Melaye, Samuel Anyanwu, Ben Murray Bruce, Aita Aidoko, Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim and others, also arrived at the chamber as early as 7am.
According to multiple sources familiar with what transpired, Buhari’s loyalists had planned to impeach Saraki and Ekweremandu as president and deputy president of the senate respectively.
With the absence of Saraki (if he had honoured police invitation) and Ekweremadu’s arrest by the EFCC, a senator from North Central, who served as governor, would have been appointed as Senate President pro tempo to act, supervise and effect the leadership change.
The principal officer from the north who was reportedly anointed to succeed Saraki was among the early arrivers at the chamber. Daily Sun gathered that at a meeting held last night by members of Buhari Parliamentary Support Group at the residence of a ranking senator plans were allegedly hatched on how to execute the plot to oust Saraki and Ekweremadu.
However, Saraki’s unexpected emergence in the chamber changed the permutations and rubbished the plot.
Saraki was meant to report to the police on account of an invitation to answer to alleged involvement in a robbery case in Offa, Kwara State some months ago.
He said there would not have been plenary if he had gone to the police headquarters, given the fact that Ekweremadu was prevented from leaving his home.
Meanwhile, the Senate has proceeded on its annual vacation and adjourned plenary till September 26.
No cause for alarm – APC, Oshiomhole
The ruling party and its national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole have dismissed the mass defection with a wave of the hand as a non-issue.
National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said in a statement that the APC remains in firm control of 25 states of the 36 states of the federation and maintains a clear majority in the House of Representatives and state assemblies.
It urged its members to remain calm as it continued to work hard to position the party strongly for the 2019 general elections.
“We assure members and supporters that our great party will continue to consolidate on our majority status in the leadup to the 2019 general elections, even as our government continues to work hard to deliver on our promises to Nigerians.”
In his reaction, Oshiomhole maintained that he would not lose sleep over the mass defection.
He described them as big masquerades with no electoral value who will soon be disgraced in the 2019 elections.
Oshiomhole who spoke after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa Abuja, said the defectors were men and women with no honour.
“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 a sleep one minute over mercenary activities.
“I had said and I want to repeat, 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, if that is the basis, the earlier those in this business of personal gains returned 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 claimed to have decamped. On a good day, the vote they got that made them members of the senate, our president got much more in their constituency. So, we are not fooled at all….I am not a poor student of struggle, I am not a professor of struggle, I am a product of struggle, I know what I am talking about. Very soon Nigerians will go to the polls and we will see who will deliver what in his constituency.”
Asked if the senate adjourning till September did not have implication for the party, he said no.
“The business of the Senate or the National Assembly is not to legislate for the good governance of APC, it is to legislate for the good governance of Nigeria. If people have chosen that it is more politically convenient to suspend the process of legislation ahead of time because it is not convenient for their political interests and choose to insubordinate the Nigerian national interest for that purpose, it is their choice. If there are implications it is for the Nigerian nation not for APC.”
I’m not surprised – Balarabe Musa
Former governor of old Kaduna State and National leader of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa has said the siege on the Abuja residence of Saraki and the mass defection did not surprise him.
“In short, the NASS is under siege by the presidency. The president taking on the NASS this way should not be a surprise anybody because since the beginning of this administration the relationship has not been good between the Executive and the Legislature.
“With this recent development, it amounts to a fight to finish between this two arms of government.
“It took President Buhari so long to form a cabinet, and the appointment came from all sources. So I am not surprised at what is happening with the president.
“Now that the NASS has adjourned plenary for almost two months, they are leaving the president to perform alone.