Fourteen senators defected yesterday from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
But the APC keeps its majority with 52 senators. The PDP has 50. There are 109 senators. Two are dead and one, Joshua Dariye is in jail for corruption.
The African Democratic Congress (ADC) has three, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) has two seats.
In the House of Representatives, 37 members quit the ruling party. There are now 192 APC members. The PDP has 156 members and APGA five. The APC keeps its majority.
Irreconcilable political differences between the senators and their governors may have pushed the lawmakers to take the action.
But the APC said it was all a storm in a tea cup. National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole said the defection would not affect the party’s fortune in next year’s election.
President Muhammadu Buhari described it as “seasonal”.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, who was said to have sneaked into the National Assembly complex early yesterday, announced the defection of the senators.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and a former PDP National Chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade, led a pack of defectors.
The defection was contained in a letter to the Saraki which he read at plenary.
Besides Melaye and Gemade (Benue North-East), others who defected to PDP are Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba (Sokoto South), Shaaba Lafiagi, (Kwara North) and Ubali Shittu, (Jigawa North-East).
Senators Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South), Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North), Isa Misau (Bauchi Central), Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo Central)and Usman Nafada (Gombe North) were also listed as the defectors.
Senators Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano Central), Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), Olanrewaju Tejuosho (Ogun Central) and Abdulaziz Nyako (Adamawa Central) were also announced.
Senator Adesoji Rilwan Akanbi (Oyo south), who was also listed to have defected, dissociated himself from the group of defectors.
Akanbi told reporters after plenary that he never contemplated leaving the APC for another party.
He said attempts he made to correct the wrong listing of his name were not allowed on the floor of the Senate.
The letter of defection read: “Dear Senate President, after due consultation with our constituents and stakeholders in our constituencies, in proper recognition of Section 68(1G) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and with the fact that our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is hereby enmeshed in factions;
“We hereby inform the Senate that we the undersigned are changing our political affiliation from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“We thank you for your exemplary leadership.”
Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan reacting to the defection, said: “The APC, our party, certainly has its own internal challenges.
“But Mr. President, as a political party, we all know how much effort by so many stakeholders to address the issues that bedevil this party.”
Lawan, who came under personal explanation, added: “The disagreements do not translate into fictionalisation. ‘I therefore feel that our senators 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 major stakeholders of this party, I will urge that the announcement be quarantined and contained and address the issues.
“Very seriously, this matter should be stepped down until we exhaust all the opportunities.”
Saraki overruled Lawan and said: “As you know and have seen, the seat beside you is vacant.
“As we speak, the Deputy Senate President cannot get out of his house.
“He is under siege. This morning, I could not also leave my street as well, all being efforts by some people that believe that today’s sitting must not hold because some members want to move or defect.
“It is not something that started today; it will not end today; people have gone, they’ve come back.
“But this kind of action does not allow for what you are saying.
“You are speaking as the leader of the Senate, who has been here for many years.”
Signs that all was not well in the Senate emerged early yesterday.
Saraki’s and Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu’s residences were said to have been besieged by security operatives.
At Saraki’s residence around 7.30 am, there were no unassigned security operatives.
It was later learnt the Saraki was already in his office at the National Assembly.
Most of those who defected were dissatisfied with the conduct of their governors.
One of the senators told our reporter that he defected edbecause his political future could not be guaranteed in the APC.
He noted that he could not imagine that his governor could not allow him to produce even one delegate he could call his supporter.
Nyako, who said he defected to African Democratic Congress (ADC), told reporters that the injustice he suffered during the APC congress forced him to leave the party.
Nyako said most of his supporters were disenfranchised, hence they needed to move to a party in which they could feel comfortable.
Although he claims to have tremendous respect for the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, Nyako said his respect for Oshiomhole could not stop him from leaving the party.
He said governors should have allowed the people to conduct free and fair congresses instead of hijacking the entire process.
He said that only justice, equity and fair play could enthrone peace in the APC.
Nyako said: “We will fight injustice to our people. We have given our people a new platform to express their political future.”
He said in the 226 wards in Adamawa, congress was only conducted in one.
Nyako also said that the former leadership of the party they ran to failed to listen to them.
He said that all the people in their wards voted to opt out of APC.
With the defection, APC now has 48 senators. PDP has 58.