Inside Details: Why PDP ‘Snatched’ Senate From APC

Findings show that four reasons were responsible for the massive defection drama that happened in the two chambers of the National Assembly. Case in point: Ruling All Progressives (APC), on Tuesday, June 24 saw more than a dozen of its senators and 37 members of the House of Reps defect mostly to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 

The first reason for their action…

Insiders told Daily Trust was the outright display of ego by “few ambitious politicians” in the National Assembly, who were looking for higher positions, and could only achieve this by challenging the status quo. 
Secondly, a revolt by other lawmakers who feel suffocated by governors in their states, and would most likely lose their seats between August and October this year, when primary elections must have wrapped up.

The third reason, according to insiders, is perceived lethargy of ruling APC, which failed to manage its success and assert its power through entrenching discipline from the day it took over power on 29th May, 2015. And when Adams Oshiomhole took over the mantle of leadership recently, he was only able to cover little ground in terms of mending fences because the problems are overwhelming. 

The fourth reason, according to some major players, is what they described as President Buhari’s “I-don’t-care attitude” to party politics, alleging he has reneged his responsibility as ‘father to all’. This disposition, according to them, provided the breeding ground which allowed crisis to fester in APC chapters in more than 30 states in the country.

Most personalities spoken to by Daily Trust believe that had it been President Buhari had played the role he did in the past week, about a year or two ago – which included directly meeting with aggrieved members and attentively listening to their genuine grievances and resolving them – he and the APC would have been harvesting more followers, rather than losing many.

According to them, the “powers” Buhari gave Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu some months ago to reconcile with aggrieved members only succeeded in one area, which is keeping the South West intact in the APC, and nothing more.

It is believed that even this feat was only achieved because politicians from that part of the country have gotten everything they need in terms of projects and appointments in the present political reality, and would most likely be the biggest beneficiaries in 2023 when power shifts to the South.

Drama galore 
APC sources said President Buhari was actually not aware of the last-minute scheming by the inner circle of people around him to checkmate what Saraki and Dogara wanted to do between Tuesday and Thursday. For instance, it was gathered that he did not approve the involvement of the police to block Saraki’s convoy, the siege on Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu’s home, the invitation of the two officers by the police the previous night, and the plan to change the leadership of the National Assembly.

Though Senator Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina), who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs and an ardent supporter of President Buhari, had dismissed a claim that there were moves to remove Saraki as Senate President and Dogara as Speaker of the House of Reps through shady ways, he admitted soon after the defections that a lot was done to checkmate the Tsunami that was looming over the National Assembly.

Senator Ibrahim, who is the chairman of Buhari Support Group (BSG), said “The impeachment process of the president (by Saraki-led Senate) should have started Thursday. We know they were planning, and they realized we know. They knew that if they had remained up till today (Wednesday), a lot of things would have happened,” he said.

Another source said with this in view, on the day of the defections, the pro-Buhari senators had also completed plans to use the instruments of the state, including the DSS and the police to “forcefully” remove both Saraki and Dogara as presiding officers.

“That was what actually informed the siege on Saraki convoy, to stop him from getting to the National Assembly. Unknown to the police, he did not even sleep in his house in Maitama,” the source said.

But another source said members of the pro-Buhari group were not deterred when they realized that he was not in the convoy. 

They actually wanted to force their way to remove him even while Saraki was in the gallery. However, when President Buhari heard what was happening, he reprimanded the high-profile security heads, and they all backed out. That was how the drama ended, and realizing the implications of what would have happened, Saraki read out the list of prospective defectors even though some had not finally decided to leave with him. It was the same thing at the House of Reps,” he said.

It was gathered that aside the efforts to woo back the defectors, there are spirited machinations to effect leadership change at the Upper Chambers to give the ruling party firm control of parliament. Also, sources said two names are being considered as the likely replacement of Saraki, should the plot to oust him succeeds.

The Chairman of the Parliament Support Group (PSG) for President Buhari in the Senate, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said: “If Saraki refuses to move, we will move him,” meaning by the time they resume from recess in September, the drama will continue. Though Saraki and Dogara have not formally defected, the writing on the wall shows that it is just a matter of time, as they must have a firm platform ahead of party primaries for elective positions which will commence on August 18, and end on October 7.

Saraki and Dogara: Blameless? 
But a source close to both Saraki and Dogara said the two presiding officers are both “victims of circumstance”. 

The source, who does not want to be mentioned because of the sensitive position he holds, said: “When you look at the situation critically, it is a battle for survival; it is some people that were fighting Saraki and not Buhari but sadly, the president refused to reprimand them. And for the fact that Saraki is also ambitious, he used the opportunity to fight back. Buhari would have solved all the problems bedevilling the APC family by simply holding meetings with aggrieved members. Of course, he cannot stop some disgruntled people from going, like Kwankwaso and Sokoto governor Aminu Tambuwal, but he could’ve made peace with Saraki.”

Defective defections? 
Despite the defection of 14 lawmakers out of the APC to the PDP and ADC, the ruling party still maintains a slim majority in the Red Chamber, while the defections of 37 members of the House of Reps did not also take away the majority status of the APC.

As things stand, the APC has 53 senators, with the PDP having 50, while two are for APGA and ADC, respectively, with two other seats vacated as a result of the demise of senators Ali Wakili and Mustapha Bukar. But frantic efforts are on to forestall the movement of additional senators out of the party, while those who left are being impressed upon to return. Such efforts may have started yielding results, as one of the defected senators, Lanre Tejuoso from Ogun State, who attended the meeting between Buhari and 42 APC senators on Wednesday night, told the president that, “Your son has returned home.”

Just like Tejuoso returned, others too might, with the right kind of reconciliation, insiders say. The body language of Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State also shows that with just a promise for his ticket, he might not leave the APC. He too had attended the meeting held with Buhari.

The PDP has said it would manage its successes in the wake of mass defection to its fold by being fair and transparent with both the existing and returning members. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Trust that the returnees were not neophytes, but heavyweight politicians.

In the meantime, the PDP’s grand snatch of the National Assembly remains a masterstroke. But the reality, especially in politics, is like one source posited: “Who knows tomorrow?”

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