Speaker Aminu Tambuwal
Don’t declare any seat vacant – Court
The ruling People’s Democratic Party yesterday lost its majority in the House of Representatives, following the defection of 37 lawmakers, tilting the balance of power in the National Assembly for the first time since 1999.
The 37 members, who cross-carpeted to the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), are from Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi, Kwara, Rivers, Katsina and Adamawa states.
In a joint letter presented during the House plenary by Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, the defectors said they ditched PDP following a merger of their faction with the APC.
With this, APC has become the party with the highest number of lawmakers in the 360-strong lower chamber, having 174 members from its initial 137. PDP now has 171 members, down from its original 208.
The remaining seats are held by Labour Party (10), APGA (5), Accord Party (4) and Democratic People’s Party (1).
PDP remained in the majority in the Senate as at yesterday, but about 20 senators are meeting to decide on their formal defection, which will change the power equation in the upper chamber.
Yesterday’s defections came weeks after governors of Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers and Kwara left PDP for APC, following months of dispute over the ruling party’s leadership.
The new balance of power in the legislature constitutes a threat to the leadership of the House,now held by PDP members.
Most PDP principal officers are likely to be replaced, but Tambuwal is tipped to retain his position as his ascension in the first place was made possible by the overwhelming support of then-opposition lawmakers.
Sources in the House said he is also likely to defect in January, as already his state governor and fellow lawmakers from Sokoto State have also ditched the ruling party.
Speaking to Daily Trust on their defection, Rep. Mustapha Bala Dawaki from Kano State said, “We are the first batch of the decampees, as by January more members will be joining us.”
On whether they would remove the House leadership, Dawaki said: “We don’t want to go into that for now. We won’t touch the principal officers for now.”
‘Division and faction’
Earlier in the day, the lawmakers’ defection was announced through a letter they jointly signed.
The letter, dated December 18, titled ‘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 emerged 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.”
Shortly after Tambuwal read out the letter, the chamber went rowdy, with many members shouting “APC!”
The 37 members, led by minority leader Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), queued up to the speaker for recognition. They waved in jubilation, as the remaining PDP members watched.
But as this went on, Rep Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) and Rep Patrick Asadu brought to notice a pending court case which they said stipulated that the defection should not be recognised.
Tambuwal said he came to know about the court order restraining the enforcement of constitutional provisions regarding defections in the morning.
The defectors from Kano 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.
From Sokoto, those who joined APC are Kabiru Marafa Achida, Aminu Shagari, Isa Salihu Bashir, Abdullahi Moh’d Wammako, Sa’adu Nabunkari, Aliyu Shehu, Shuaibu Gobir, Musa Sarkin’adar, Abdullahi Balarabe Salake and Umar M. Bature.
Those from Rivers are Andrew Uchendu, Asita Honourable, Sokonte Davies, Dakuku Peterside, Mpigi Barinada, Pronen Maurice, Dawari George and Ogbonna Nwuke.
The Kwara lawmakers who moved are Ali Ahmad, Rafi’u Ibrahim, Aiyedun Akeem, Mustapha Mashood, Aliyu Ahman Patigi and Zakari Mohammed.
Lawmaker from Bauchi, Yakubu Dogara, and another from Katsina, Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura, also left the ruling PDP.
A senior House member told Daily Trust that Tambuwal will be joining the APC together with the last batch of the lawmakers in January 2014 when the National Assembly resumes from Christmas and New Year break.
He said the speaker would “step aside for few hours and a speaker pro-tempore will hold brief before his defection to the APC is formalised.”
One of the remaining PDP members, Rep. Ibrahim Tukur El-Sudi (PDP, Taraba), said he would not rule out the possibility of defection if the PDP failed to put its house in order.
It was learnt that some major APC and PDP lawmakers in the House held a meeting late in Wednesday night together with the APC leadership where final decision was taken for their defection.
The meeting was held at the Kano State Governor’s lodge in Abuja. Among those in attendance were Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC interim national chairman Chief Bisi Akande, Senators Abdullahi Adamu, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Danjuma Goje, Ahmed Lawan, Umaru Dahiru, George Akume and Aisha Jummai Alhassan.
Court secures seats
Meanwhile, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday issued an order stopping Senate President David Mark, Speaker Tambuwal, the Independent National Electoral Commission and PDP national chairman Alhaji Bamanga Tukur from declaring vacant the seats of 22 Senators and 57 House members who belonged to the Abubakar Kawu Baraje-led PDP faction.
A copy of the court order obtained by Daily Trust indicates that Justice A. R. Mohammed ordered for preservation of the “status quo on any proposed deliberation to declare the seats of the affected and interested plaintiffs vacant, at least, pending the hearing and determination of the plaintiffs’ motion for interlocutors injunction already served on them.” The suit was instituted on November 28 by 22 Senators and 57 Reps, and has now been adjourned to January 22 for hearing.