The majority control of the All Progressives Congress in the Senate is currently under threat as no fewer than 20 APC senators have concluded plans to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party and others.
The PUNCH learnt that the APC, which had earlier lost 13 senators to the opposition parties, might lose more parliamentarians aggrieved for losing their return tickets to the National Assembly during the party primaries.
It was gathered that the party leaders were worried that if the rate of defections continued and the opposition PDP gained more members, the ruling party might lose its majority status in the Senate.
During Wednesday’s plenary, Senator Dauda Jika representing Bauchi Central, announced his defection to the NNPP, bringing the number of APC senators to 67.
Currently, the five minority parties in the upper chamber have 43 senators with the PDP boasting 39 senators, while the Young Peoples Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party have four senators.
To stem the gale of defections, the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Adamu, met with the APC senators behind closed doors at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, some minutes past 2 pm on Wednesday
Adamu, who first went to the office of the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, for a brief meeting before the general meeting, said that the party was worried by the wave of the defections among the APC senators.
Speaking to journalists after his meeting with the APC caucus, he noted that it was a usual occurrence during the election period but it was enough for any leader to worry over the loss of any member.
He stated, “The meeting with the senators was most fruitful. The issue of defection is an unfortunate development when it happens but this is a season where there are all sorts of behaviour in the political space and ours is not an exception.
“In every election year, this kind of thing gives cause for stakeholders to sneeze and Nigeria is not an exception so is the APC, not an exception. I don’t care about what is happening in other parties, my focus is on the APC. But we all know that the occurrence is not only happening in the APC, it’s happening across other political parties too. And because we are the ruling party, our problems are exaggerated before the public.”
Adamu also said he did not know if the problem of defection would persist in the party but he had met with his colleagues at the National Assembly and he believed the issue was surmountable.
He added, “There is no responsible leader that would not be worried when he loses one member not to talk of two. At the moment we are faced with the stark reality of our problems. I have committed my colleagues at the National Assembly to face the problem squarely and see the problem as solvable. We are in politics, I don’t know what would happen tomorrow, and nobody does.”
Meanwhile, a lawmaker who spoke to one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity, stated that the party chairman had to come down to the National Assembly to dissuade the senators from defecting from the ruling APC.
According to the source, not lesser than 20 senators intend to leave the APC to other parties, particularly the PDP within the next week.
The source said, “The party chairman came to have a meeting with the APC senators because he said that they learnt through intelligence that not lesser than 20 more senators were planning to defect to other parties within the next one week.
“The chairman asked each of the aggrieved senators to lay bare their grievances which we all did one after the other. Having heard our problems, the chairman instructed that we put them into writing.”
The lawmaker also stated that Adamu promised that the party would look into the issues raised and do something about it as it was a dangerous time for lawmakers in the party to defect because it was the election year and such moves were grave for any political party.
The source added, “The chairman asked us all to put all of our complaints into writing after which the APC caucus leaders would sit with the National Working Committee and look into the issues raised.
“Senator Adamu further stated the party would then see what it can do to help the situation. He, however, stated that lawmakers who do not feel comfortable with the help provided by the parties can then leave. But leaving without proper consultations with the party sends a wrong signal of discord. It presents the party as if in disarray and without proper leadership.”
“This is an election year and it’s not good to present the party as having leadership issues,” the source quoted Adamu to have said.
The PUNCH reports that there has been a wave of defections across the APC senatorial seats.
A number of the APC senators had cross-carpeted to other parties due to their failure to secure a return ticket to the NASS with many of them alleging that their states’ governors hijacked the senatorial primary elections.
In the past week since the resumption of the plenary, not less than six senators have sent their defection letters to the Senate President.
They include the Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi representing Kebbi North senatorial district, who defected to the PDP.
Abdullahi alleged that the democratic challenges and deficits in Kebbi State did not just start from the last congresses, but from July last year “when the governor illegally decapitated the state leadership of the party, imposed unelected ward, local government and state executives of the party.”
He stated in his defection letter to the Senate, “At a point, I thought of resort to the courts, but decided against that course of action after realising that political challenges require political solutions in the democratic arena where it is the people and not the judges who are the final arbiters.
“I came to this decision after a very hard struggle with my conscience and emotions. It is either to remain on the side of my people or to selfishly look the other way. All politics is local. I cannot therefore in good conscience, continue to work for the success of this administration at the centre while the people of my state, my primary constituency, continue to wallow in abject poverty and destitution under the misrule and manipulation of a despot.
“I have, therefore, decided to pitch my tent with the Peoples Democratic Party to join forces with my compatriots at home who are struggling against incompetence, imposition and violation of democratic norms, principles and practices.”
Also former governor of Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central), defected from the ruling APC to the PDP stating that his “predicated on the fact that there is no internal democracy in the APC.”
He alleged that the state’s governor, Atiku Bagudu, had “bastardised, the party and electoral processes in the state which are now characterised by high-handedness and unfairness.”
Similarly, Senators Ahmad Babba-Kaita (Katsina North), Lawal Gumau (Bauchi South), and Francis Alimikhena (Edo North) also announced their defection from the ruling party on Tuesday at the plenary.
While Babba Kaita and Alimikhena defected to the opposition PDP, Gumau on the other hand, defected to the NNNP.
The notice of their resignation and defection was contained in three separate letters read during plenary by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on the floor.
But, the senator representing Oyo South Senatorial district, elected on the platform of the PDP, Senator Kola Balogun, Tuesday formally defected to the APC.
APC Senate spokesman
The Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, in an interview with Channels Television, allayed fears of the party losing its majority status.
Basiru noted that despite the gale of defections that had the APC caucus in the chamber, it had gained more members.
He said, “I want to first say that all politics are local. The politics of the State of Osun is different from national politics. I don’t know any of the existing National Assembly members in the State of Osun that has defected. So, if the argument is based on defection, I don’t see how the defections of somebody in Kebbi State or Katsina State will affect the fortune of my party in the State of Osun. ”
He claimed that the number of the APC senators had increased to 67.
On why the lawmakers were defecting, Basiru said, “As to the question of the people who have been defecting, they may have their reasons, some of them may be because they have lost their popularity in their party; it may be because of the peculiar challenges or what they faced in their state.
“All I know is that the South-West has spoken in Ekiti and will speak louder in Osun, to say that the PDP, to the extent that it does not even have regard for the cohesion and federal character nature of the country, and it does not even care about the feeling of the people of southern Nigeria in terms of power shift, would be roundly rejected in the election of July 16, 2022.”
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, did not respond to calls or attempted to answer the questions sent via WhatsApp.
However, a member of the National Working Committee, who craved anonymity, said that defection was normal in politics.
“It doesn’t mean that it will hamper the chances of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
“The real electioneering starts from September. We are not under any form of pressure or panic mode,” he said.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, described the defections as a welcome development.
He said “What happened today is a welcome development; it shows that Nigerians will begin to have legislators that will formulate laws that will change the narratives of insecurity, lack of employment and a purposeful representation. It shows that the party is the only hope for the people. We are hoping that more will still join our party.”
In his reaction, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, Yabagi Sani, said the senators’ action did not come as a surprise.
“It is democracy in action. People have the right to associate with whoever they want to associate with. The moment people see that their interests will not be advanced where they are, of course, they will change. There is nothing strange about what is happening. It happened before to the PDP when five chieftains including governors moved to the APC. I don’t think it is anything that is unheard of in this country. It is now left for APC to put its house in order,” he submitted.
‘APC defections ominous’
Prof Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, a political science lecturer at Lagos State University, believed the recent defection is an ominous sign the APC must checkmate.
He added, “What we are looking at is a very complex 2023. In this case, we cannot assume that the APC and PDP, being dominant parties, will carry the day. We are also seeing a very high power politics by the ruling oligarchy in Nigeria, realigning the way that undermines the power shift to the South.
“This is the indication because when people move from one political party to the other in the Nigerian context, it is unhealthy and symptomatic of the fact that we don’t have institutionalised political parties in Nigeria.
The permutation of either of them getting victory will be quite complex and tough. The current defection from Tinubu’s party is ominous for the APC,” he argued.
Also speaking, Mr Tonye Isokariari, said the defections were not unusual, adding, “People cross-carpet when they feel the party is not working for them. But is not the right thing, more people will also join the APC as much as people in the APC are leaving.”
Meanwhile, no fewer than 15 APC members in Kano State have defected to the NNNP.
They include a former governor of the state and now the Senator of Kano Central, Ibrahim Shekarau; a member representing Rano/Bunkure/Kibiya Federal, Constituency, Alhassan Rurum; member representing Takai/Sumaila Federal constituency, Shamsudden Dambazau and former member representing Kiru/Bebeji and former Executive Director of the Federal Housing Authority, Jibrin Kofa.
The former Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, it was gathered, was considering joining the NNPP.