The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole; and some senators elected on the platform of the party led by the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, on Wednesday met behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting came amidst the gale of defections being witnessed in the party.
Oshiomhole told State House correspondents at the end of the meeting that the right thing for the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, is to vacate his seat, having left the party.
This is just as the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, announced his defection from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party on Wednesday. By his action, Tambuwal has increased the number of the APC governors to leave the ruling party to three. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his counterpart from Kwara, Abdulfatah Ahmed, had earlier announced their defection to the PDP.
Oshiomhole said it was a matter of honour for Saraki to leave “the crown in the family it belongs to.”
Oshiomhole said, “But whatever is the reason, we can defect from the party but we can’t defect from Nigeria. The only thing is that there are other consequential issues that every man or woman of honour who had taken such decisions would be expected to follow through.
“I mean you should not collect a crown that belongs to a family and wear it on behalf of the family if for your personal reasons which he has enumerated that he has gone to another family.
“It is just a matter of honour to leave the crown in the house that the crown belongs to.
“As it stands even now, the APC is still the largest party in the Senate. We have 53 senators, that is much more than what the PDP has, or APGA has.”
The former Edo State governor said nobody in the party would be surprised by the decisions of those who defected because the signs were clear before now.
He however admitted that it was a tempting moment for the party.
He added, “Nobody in the APC will be surprised about the development. In fact, they have stayed a little bit longer than we thought. Last week, the Kwara State governor said he was leaving but he didn’t say when. So, we are not surprised at all. But these are what I might call temping moments because I had faced similar situations in my state, when people were leaving.
“But the beauty of democracy is that whether big or small, it is one man one vote on election day. There is no difference between a senator, a president, a journalist and any other person.
“In a sense, we have to accept that once a couple for one reason or the other find out that they are not compatible, the only honourable thing is to go.”
Oshiomhole, however, said he was happy that Saraki admitted that he and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo as well as some state governors tried their best to resolve the matter that led to his exit.
”But he argued that those efforts came too late. But I couldn’t have started acting before I was born,” the party chairman said.
While admitting that there were lessons to be learned from the development, Oshiomhole said going forward, he would expect the system to get stronger to the extent that it was able to learn the correct lessons and take the correct steps.
The Senate Leader on his part called on his colleagues in the National Assembly to reconvene from their vacation to pass the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission presented by the President.
Lawan said the legislators had pledged their commitment and loyalty to the party and the President.
He said they would remain true and genuine representatives of their people and would not do anything that was not in the interest of the people and the present administration.
“I am calling on my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives to come back and consider the requests of Mr. President for the virement and supplementary budget for INEC for the 2019 elections,” he concluded.
Tambuwal, while giving reasons for his defection, said he could no longer be a part to a conspiracy against Nigeria’s cohesion which he explained that the APC-led Federal Government represents.
The governor made his position known while speaking to thousands of his supporters in Sokoto, on Wednesday.
He said he earlier left his then comfort zone as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and member of the then ruling PDP, to join others to form the APC with the hope that it would usher in a better society where peace and justice would reign.
Tambuwal however said, “Now, almost four years into what ought to be a new order as desired and elected by Nigerians, the nation is unfortunately going through the most difficult and precarious times, since the civil war; with ethno-religious and regional distrust at its highest ebb.
“This development had often been blamed on political opponents. Meanwhile, there are issues of brazen inequity and capacity and questionable distribution of appointments/projects. This is in addition to lack of statesmanship in responding to national issues, among other things that are aggravating the anomaly.
“It is because I am convinced that no nation can thrive while there is inequity and bad governance; because I am saddened by the fact that lethargy, incompetence and sustained denial of obvious leadership missteps have become the major raw materials with which the Nigerian state is being run today; because I am unwilling to be part of a frightful conspiracy against the cohesion of the Nigerian state, Nigerian youths and peoples; because I am unable to feel at ease in the face of a progressively divided nation and, above all, because I am totally unable to reconcile myself to a national leadership that offers no redeeming moral beacons that I am here with you today; to announce withdrawal of my membership of the All Progressives Congress and return to the Peoples Democratic Party.”
According to him, it is equally disappointing that the APC has been unable to manage whatever good it inherited from the previous administration but has instead taken the level of impunity to heights never before known in Nigeria.
While accusing the administration of failing to break new grounds, he said it had also turned itself into a sanctuary for the corrupt and a machine for rigging and for the rape of democracy.
He stressed that all attempts to discuss the electoral promises of the APC-led government, including the restructuring of the country as promised Nigerians and as contained in the APC manifesto, proved abortive.
Tambuwal also said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration failed the people of Sokoto State and its neighbouring Zamfara and other parts of Nigeria with its inability to protest the lives and property of its people from marauders.
He said, “Like most states of the North, and indeed the entire federation, elders and traditional institutions have come under measured disrespect.
“The recent attack in Tabinnii in Rabah LGA of Sokoto State, the routine invasion of Zamfara State by bandits, the now-regular killing of policemen by unknown gunmen all over the country, the regular massacre of innocent people in the North-East and many similar daily incidents, do not attract much attention any more.
“Good governance, viz-a-viz economic wellbeing of our people, remains the major reason for my action of today. Information from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that over nine million jobs have been lost in the last three years, since the APC government came into office.
“While youth unemployment rate was 11.70 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2014, it rose to 33.10 per cent in third quarter of 2017 under the APC Government. The economy is not showing any real signs of improvement. Our educational and health institutions are in retreat. Poverty is on the rampage and still ravages the land. It is unacceptable that majority of those who voted for APC in 2015 should have nothing good to show for it.”
The PDP and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar while welcoming Tambuwal and the Kano State Deputy Governor, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, on their return to the party commended the two men for their display of courage and patriotism.
In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja, on Wednesday, the party hailed Tambuwal for sticking to the principles with which he provided leadership for the House of Representatives as well as his office as governor of Sokoto State.
Ologbodinyan said the high calibre of political leaders of the APC who left the party to return to the PDP “reflects the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians across board, who are now resurging to the repositioned PDP as the only vehicle to rescue our nation from the mis-governance of the APC.”
He added, “The PDP notes that the coming weeks will witness the influx of more APC governors, federal legislators, other elected and appointed officials at very high levels, into the repositioned PDP.”
Speaking in a similar vein, Atiku urged the APC to embrace the true tenets of democracy or lose its soul.
Atiku urged all true lovers of Nigeria to join the PDP to help rebuild Nigeria and entrench true democracy.
Also, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said their coming to the PDP would no doubt improve the fortunes of the party ahead of the 2019 general elections aimed at enthroning good governance in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, equally tendered his resignation from the party earlier in the day.
He explained that recent political developments in the country and within the APC left him with no choice but to tender his resignation.
In a statement he issued in Abuja, on Wednesday, Abdullahi said, “I have decided to resign my position as the National Publicity Secretary as well as my membership of the party with effect from today.
“In the last few days, I have had to endure the flagrant usurpation of my role as the spokesman for the party in a manner that I consider unbefitting of a ruling party and inconsistent with my ethical standards.
“I have served the APC honestly and to the best of my ability and when I stood for and won my election at the last convention; it was a keen desire to continue to do so.
“However, in a situation whereby my loyalty is constantly brought into question; my subordinates deployed to subvert my office; and my views constantly second-guessed on the basis of my political affiliation, it has become imperative for me to review my position.”
Abdullahi explained that since assuming office as the APC spokesman, he tried but failed to set a new template for public political communications in a way that departs from the vulgar abuse and verbal aggression of the recent past, “where cheap lies and crude propaganda were normalised as politics, and even celebrated as measures of competence.”
We’re better off without defectors – FG, APC
But in separate reactions to the gale of defections, the leadership of the APC and the Federal Government dismissed the defections as having no adverse effect on their fortunes.
The APC in a statement signed by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, said it was neither distracted nor surprised by the defection of the likes of Saraki; Ahmed and Tambuwal as well as the former National Publicity Secretary.
The party advised Saraki, Ahmed, Tambuwal, Abdullahi and the others to maintain in their respective environments, the spirit and atmosphere of “freedom created by the APC, which enabled them to leave without let or hindrance.”
In another statement, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Saraki’s exit from the APC would have no impact on the party’s fortunes in the 2019 general elections.
He said “‘If Senate President Bukola Saraki were not a member of the APC, the party and the government could not have suffered more than they had already done, with regard to the delay in passing the budget, approving key appointments and so on.
“In other words, Saraki, has behaved all along like a member of the opposition, deliberately slowing down the progress of the APC-led Federal Government.
“If we didn’t gain by having our member as Senate President, we stand to lose nothing by losing him.
“‘It is therefore neither a surprise nor a blow that he has defected. Perhaps the only surprise is that when he eventually defected, it was a mere whimper.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, declared on Wednesday that Tambuwal’s defection to the APC was a victory for democracy.
Wike, who also hailed the defection of Saraki to the PDP, explained that that every right thinking Nigerian should work in unity to salvage the country in 2019.
Wike, who spoke at the Government House in Port Harcourt, lauded Tambuwal for doing the right thing.
He said, “There are some people who have said that we cannot continue to live in a world of intimidation. We cannot continue to live in a world of harassment. Every right thinking Nigerian should come together to see that something is done to salvage the country.”
Wike pointed out that things had degenerated to the level where all Nigerians must resist intimidation and work for the good of all.
“I am aware that with what he has done today, the next line of action; the APC Federal Government will unleash the EFCC on the Sokoto State governor and his government,” Wike said.
He urged Nigerians not to be swayed by claims that the APC leaders were not worried and added that Tambuwal as speaker of the House of Representatives led the formation of the coalition that prompted the victory of the APC in 2015.
Earlier, the governor congratulated Saraki, and Ahmed, for their courage to defect to the PDP despite the intimidation and harassment of the APC Federal Government.
But some PDP members of the House of Representatives have raised the alarm over an alleged plot to impeach Saraki.
The lawmakers named Senator Ali Ndume, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as the brains behind the alleged plot.
The members stated that the three senators were sighted on Wednesday afternoon at the Senate, allegedly attempting to break into the Senate chambers.
They were said to have been denied access into the chambers by Sergeant-at-arms, who locked the doors to chambers with chains.
The Minority Leader of the House, Mr Chukwuka Onyema, who spoke to reporters at the National Assembly, disclosed that members got wind of the development and quickly rushed to the Senate to safeguard democracy.
He stated, “We are on recess and some of us are here today to conclude our committee work.
“Information got to us that Senator Ali Ndume, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, attempted to break into the Senate chambers.
“Their aim was to force themselves into the chambers and carry out the evil plan of impeaching the Senate President.
“Already, some riot policemen have arrived. They will tell us what they are here to do when the Senate is on recess.
“They want to repeat the Benue incident here, but we are ready to protect democracy.
“We also have it on good authority that they (senators) are coming back tonight or tomorrow morning with the help of our security forces. We are telling Nigerians and the whole world that this is what is going on.
“We, the PDP caucus, we are staying awake and we are pleading with Nigerians to stay awake with us to protect democracy.
The lawmakers also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene to stop the plot before embarking on his scheduled trip to London on Friday for a 10-day vacation.”
But while this was going on in Abuja, the ex-members of the PDP in Kwara State, members of some groups and scores of residents of Kwara State, especially those from Ilorin metropolis on Wednesday protested against what they called bad governance foisted on the state by Saraki.
Some of the groups include, Save Kwara Group and the Liberation Group.
The protesters marched along some major streets in Ilorin, including Geri-Alimi Road to Saw Mill Market, to General Hospital, Ojo-Oba and to the popular Post Office junction carrying placards with different inscriptions and decried the political leadership of Saraki.
They lambasted Saraki and the state governor, Ahmed.
The Secretary, Save Kwara Group, Mr. John Adegboye, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, said the protest was to show that Kwara political terrain had changed.
He said, “We are now more enlightened and sound in what we want. The political sphere of Kwara has been turned into hegemony and a dynasty. We are saying it is stunting our development. For that to change, we want a complete overhaul of the political system in Kwara State.
“Kwara is 51 going to 52, majority of states that started 30 years ago after Kwara State are beginning to catch up with us and some are beginning to overtake us. Look at the poor state of our education and health sectors, our bad roads, go to other states. I was speechless when I went to Jigawa State and I saw the kind of development that was going on there.
“These are the things that made us to come together and start sensitising the people that the only way we can change government and get what we want is for us, the people, to own the electoral process. So, we are not saying go and get your PVC, we are saying go and vote and also defend your vote.
“We are saying that Kwara State is not in the hand of Bukola Saraki. We are saying enough is enough. We are saying it is unacceptable for only one person to negotiate the future of three million people. It is an offence.
“We want to change the political set-up of Kwara. It is pro-good governance. If by pro-good governance, we are anti-Saraki and anti-Ahmed, so be it.”
Speaking at the protest, a former PDP leader, Dr. Abdulbaki Abdulganiyu, said members of the party including one of their leaders, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, had defected to the APC.
He stated that they would not work with Saraki and Ahmed and their loyalists who defected to the PDP from the APC.
He said, “Today’s rally is intended to send a message to all Kwarans that the time has come to make the real change. We belong to the PDP until yesterday, (Tuesday). Those of us in the PDP know the problem of the people. We are with the grassroots.
“I am here representing the former PDP (members and leaders) such as Akogun, and other leaders. They are having a meeting with Oshiomhole and others. We are today in the APC and I can tell you that 98 per cent of the PDP members in Kwara are in the APC. We are fully pro-Buhari. All former PDP members in Kwara have moved en masse to the APC. We are going to do our Kwara Agenda in the APC. We will not condone corruption; so, we will not stay with corrupt people.”
Also, a former Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Prof. Shuaib Abdulraheem, has defected to the APC.
Abdulraheem directed all his supporters nationwide to immediately relinquish their membership of the PDP.
He stated that he would never be in the same political party with Saraki and his likes.
Abdulraheem, who is the PDP governorship aspirant during the 2015 elections, said he relinquished his membership of the PDP immediately Saraki and Ahmed defected from the APC to join the PDP.
He also denied working for the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, adding that the minister had been his friend for more than a decade despite their different political affiliations.
He said, “Since both of us are pursuing homogeneous objectives towards the development of Kwara State at large, definitely we can be in the
same political party and work together in APC .”
Also, a political commentator, Alhaji Olola Kasum, said the defection of Saraki and Ahmed marked the beginning of the collapse of the Saraki’s political dynasty in Kwara State.
He alleged that Kwara had witnessed bad governance and underdevelopment under Saraki political leadership.
Kasum said, “Their defection is a blessing to Kwara State. Saraki has been deceiving us. He has been living a false life. The state was underdeveloped under his political leadership. We are happy he has defected. That marks the crumbling of the Saraki political empire. Some sections of the state including Yoruba are marginalised under him. Nobody will vote for him in the coming elections.
“Saraki should not be allowed to eat his cake and have it. The position of both Saraki and Ahmed should be filled immediately. Both should be treated as political traitors.”
However, 23 out of the 24 members of the Kwara State House of Assembly on Wednesday defected from the APC to the PDP.
But the member representing Ojomu/Balogun Constituency of Offa Local Government Area, Mr. Saheed Popoola, remained in the APC.
Popoola in an interview with journalists said he did not defect because his constituents wanted to him to remain in the APC.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad, who is among the 23 defected lawmakers, while speaking on the floor of the House, said the APC had been factionalised.