The Presidency has mounted pressure on the leadership of the Senate to persuade aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party senators not to carry out their plan to dump the ruling party for the All Progressives Congress, investigation by The PUNCH has revealed.
A source close to the Senate leadership said that the Senate President, David Mark, had personally held a series of meetings with some of the aggrieved senators with a view to making them have a rethink.
“Meetings are being held to prevent the PDP senators from going ahead with their planned action. I am sure the peace moves are yielding fruitful results, “ he told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Sunday night.
He however did not say when and where the meetings were held and the number of aggrieved lawmakers in attendance.
One of the senators, who also confirmed that the meetings were at the instance of the Presidency, however said most of them had made up their minds to defect to the APC.
The lawmakers, who also did not want his name in print, added that apart from the meetings, Mark had made it a point to contact each of them daily on the telephone, advising them to remain in the PDP.
The senator said, “Already some of us have made up our minds to defect and there is no amount of pressure that would stop us. We will formally write the Senate president when we resume in January.
“However, there are some of us who believe we could still listen to them. They have been discussing. There have been meetings upon meetings which, from all clear indications, are at the instance of the Presidency.”
At the moment, the PDP has 73 senators as against the APC’s 33, Labour Party’s three and one for the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
In the House of Representatives however, members who defected to the APC have vowed not to return to the PDP despite alleged pressure on them to do so.
“No amount of pressure will force us back to PDP. Our decision is a done deal and there is no point crying when the head is already off”, one of the defectors, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, told The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday.
Mohammed, a lawmaker from Kwara State, is the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs.
Thirty seven PDP lawmakers in the House had defected to the APC on December 18, citing “factions” in the ruling party as reason.
The development gave the APC a slim majority advantage over the PDP, with the former controlling 172 members, while the latter dropped to 171.
Findings showed that in a bid to compel them to return to the party, the defectors had been put under pressure by the PDP and the Presidency.
One of them said, “They have used all sorts of tactics, including the carrot, assuring us of return tickets in 2015.
“They have used the political machinery in our states and constituencies to get us to comply, but it is not working.”
The PDP and the Presidency have since asked the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, and the Independent National Electoral Commission to declare the seats of the affected lawmakers vacant.
But, the lawmakers stated on Monday that they knew that such a thing was likely to happen, a reason they first obtained a court order stopping it before they defected.
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Mr. Ali Ahmad, expressed surprise that, in spite of the subsisting court order, the Presidency was still bent on declaring their seats vacant.
Ahmad, a defector, observed that as “recently as just days ago”, the Presidency was still talking of declaring their seats vacant.
He added, “For us, there is no point commenting on this threat other than to wait and watch.
“The matter is in court; the threat by the Presidency to declare our seats vacant is contemptuous of the court decision.
“That is the subject of the matter in court and the court has ruled that our seats should remain intact.
“Therefore, it is the highest level of contempt for the Presidency to be insisting that our seats should be declared vacant in disobedience to the court order.”
Ahmad argued that it would have been better for the Presidency to be “seeking some kind of political solution to the problem, not to continue to insist on declaring our seats vacant as if a court order no longer means anything in this country.”
The lawmaker confirmed that the defectors were being continuously harassed, but he noted that “it will not work because we have passed that stage. Let them go to court.”
Speaking further, Mohammed told The PUNCH that unknown to the PDP and the Presidency, the defectors did their “homework very well” before they left the party.
According to him, the electorate in the lawmakers’ constituencies are in support of the move.
He added, “They (PDP) had all the time to mend the roof when it was leaking but they waited till it collapsed.
“Politics is about consultation. Before we made this move, we consulted widely with our own people who sent us to the National Assembly.
“They wholeheartedly endorsed it. So, when you have the backing of your people, what else?
“Now, they want to use fire brigade approach to ask people to come back.
“It is the same approach to governance that they use, which is why nothing is working in this country.”
Meanwhile, Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State on Monday declared that members of the PDP who defected to the APC made a “foolish mistake.’’
Yero, while swearingin his Special Adviser, Political Matters and two Permanent Secretaries, said it was unwise for anyone to abandon what he had laboured to build for an uncertainty.
“It is a foolish mistake to abandon what one has built in search of something uncertain elsewhere,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted him as saying.
He was apparently referring to the defection of PDP governors and some prominent members of the party in the state, including two of its past state chairmen, to the APC.
The five governors are Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Murtala Nyako(Adamawa).
Yero told the new appointees that the challenges in the PDP were not insurmountable but required continued engagement of all stakeholders for it to be settled amicably.
He said, “Let me advise you, especially those holding political offices, to remain in one place and regard your positions today as ordained by God.
“Tomorrow, we will all be forgotten when new people take over leadership; that is part of life.
“So do not allow yourselves to be lured or deceived into abandoning your party to join the opposition.’’
But Amaechi, Nyako and Ahmed dismissed Yero’s statement that they made a ‘foolish mistake’ as illogical.
They said contrary to the Kaduna State governor’s position, they took a wise political decision.
Amaechi, through the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Tony Okocha, pointed out that those who left the PDP noticed that it was no longer what it used to be.
He said, “When you are in a sinking ship and find an escape route, would you waste a second before deciding to leave? An American philosopher once said, ‘If the kitchen is too hot, the best decision to take is to leave the kitchen’.
“That is exactly what some members of the PDP that moved to the APC did. The defectors took a wise decision. The PDP is dead and as you can see, only the carcass is remaining.
“Very soon, the Kaduna State governor will realise that he is alone in Kaduna PDP. The ominous signs that the PDP is heading for extinction are there for everyone to see and those leaving the party have no reason to regret. They should rest assured that they have not taken any foolish decision.”
Also, Ahmed, who spoke through his spokesperson, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, said there was nothing like a mistake in his decision to abandon the PDP.
He added that he was preoccupied with delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of the state and had therefore put the PDP behind him.
Nyako’s Director of Press, simply asked, “Have governors who defected from other parties into the PDP regretted?”