For the first time since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be working to fix itself in a minority position in the House of Representatives, following Wednesday’s defection of 37 lawmakers of the party to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
The lawmakers’ action was, as they said, a result of the never-ending crisis that has been rocking the PDP, which had necessitated five out of the G7 governors to “merge” with the APC some weeks ago.
The lawmakers’ defection finally put a stop to weeks of speculations on whether or not they would follow their state governors to the APC.
Governors Murtala Nyako of Adamawa; Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano; Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara; Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, led by the now defunct New-PDP leader Abubakar Kawu Baraje, had last month, declared that they no longer belong to the PDP and announced their “merger” with APC.
The defected lawmakers are from Kano, Kwara, Rivers and Sokoto States. None of Adamawa PDP lawmakers defected. Surprisingly however, there was one lawmaker each from two non-G7 governors’ States of Bauchi and Katsina, among the defectors.
After the defection, APC now has 174 lawmakers in the House of Representatives, leaving PDP with 171, while the rest of 15 are for All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP), Accord Party and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
The lawmakers who defected from Kano State are Nasiru Sule Garo, Ahmad A. Zarewa, Aliyu Sani Madaki, Bashir Baballe, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Mannir Babba Dan-Agundi, Aminu Suleiman Goro, Abdulmumin Jibrin, Musa Ado Gezawa, Mustapha Bala Dawaki and Mukhtar Ciromawa.
For Kwara, they are Ali Ahmad, Rafi’u Ibrahim, Aiyedun Akeem, Mustapha Mashood, Aliyu Ahman Patigi and Zakari Mohammed.
Rivers has defunct PDP leader in the house, Andrew Uchendu, Asita Honourable, Sokonte Davies, Dakuku Peterside, Mpigi Barinada, Pronen Maurice, Dawari George and Ogbonna Nwuke.
All Sokoto lawmakers with the exception of the Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal have also defected to APC. They are Kabiru Marafa Achida, Aminu Shehu Shagari, Isa Salihu Bashir, Abdullahi Mohammed Wammako, Sa’adu Mohammed Nabunkari, Aliyu Shehu, Shuaibu Gwandu Gobir, Musa Sarkin Adar, Abdullahi Balarabe Salame and Umar Mohammed Bature.
From the non-G7 States of Bauchi and Katsina, Yakubu Dogara and Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura joined the APC respectively.
Sunday Trust learnt that the decision of PDP lawmakers from Adamawa State to remain in the ruling party was as a result of misunderstanding they had with Governor Murtala Nyako.
“They had a problem with the governor and they decided not to follow him again. I don’t really think they will join us in future as their differences is said to be irreconcilable,” a source told our reporter.
As for the two lawmakers from Bauchi and Katsina States who joined the APC, the source said “their minds have always been with us. They always want the truth and see that our democracy progresses, that is why they joined us”.
The defected lawmakers, who declared their intention through a letter read during the plenary session by Speaker Tambuwal, cited the crisis and division in the PDP as being responsible for their action.
The lawmakers, in a letter addressed to the Speaker on December 18, 2013, under the title ‘Communication of Change of Political Party’, said: “We the undersigned members of the House of Representatives elected under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), wish to inform you that we have joined the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“This action is as a result of the division and faction in the political party that sponsored our election into the House of Representatives. Following this division, the faction of the PDP which we belong to, has formally merged with the APC.
“This communication is made pursuant to Section 68(1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 for your information, guidance and records.”
The letter did not go down well with other members of the PDP. Rep Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) quickly raised a motion that there was a court order on the matter, saying Tambuwal should not recognize the lawmakers’ defection.
Tambuwal, while responding to Chinda’s motion, said “I noted your observation”. He, however, explained during the plenary session that he “will consult with the relevant people and legal experts on the matter because of its nature”.
The development has already started creating ripples and new calculations in the lower chamber, just as members proceeded on their Christmas and New Year break last Thursday.
Sunday Trust gathered that the lawmakers had plans to effect changes in the leadership of the House before their eventual defection to the APC.
It was learnt that the seats of some principal officers in the House of Reps are already shaky. Those whose seats are likely to be affected the Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, House Leader Mulikat Akande-Adeola and her deputy Leo Ogor, as well as Chief Whip Isiaka Bawa and his deputy Mohammed Mukhtar Ahmed.
But Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, it was learnt, would not be affected no matter the party he belongs to as majority of APC members support his leadership.
However, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Victor Ogene (APGA, Anambra), told journalists last Thursday that the constitution does not leave any stone unturned on leadership issue in the House.
“There’s no issue on this. The constitution is very clear about it. Section 50 (b) of the 1999 constitution states that the party with the majority in the House shall form the leadership; that is the House Leader and the deputy, Chief Whip and the deputy, but the presiding officers -Speaker and his deputy- are to be elected from members irrespective of party affiliation, as contained in Section 60 of the same constitution.
“So, going by the provision of the constitution, this is a settled matter. There’s no need to argue on this matter. It is a matter of choice. That is all I can tell you,” Ogene said.
However, it was learnt that the fact that APC has 174 members may not necessarily give it the leverage to make any significant leadership change in the composition of principal officers, because they require 181 members to form simple majority in the House to be able to do that.
One of the defected lawmakers told our reporter in confidence that more lawmakers would join them as soon as they return from their break on January 13, stressing that they would effect changes in the House leadership after getting more members.
“The plan is for them (PDP) to woo members of other opposition parties in the House to join them. But I don’t think that will happen as those lawmakers are on their own. But if that happens, it is then that they will see massive defection to APC,” the lawmaker said.
It is likely that serious politick will take place during the 24-day break, as those whose interests may be threatened by the new development in the House may not fold their hands and watch the ongoing political game to edge them out. But pundits say those that benefit from the current development are also likely not going to relent in their efforts to consolidate their gains.
With all these calculations in view, Nigerians will have to hold their breath and wait till January 13, when the lawmakers resume from their break to know if truly APC’s majority in the House will be a game changer.