Seventeen Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators are to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), one of them said.
Since the defection of 37 members of the PDP in the House of Representatives to the APC, the opposition party has been in the majority in the lower house.
However, with the expected defection of the 17 senators, the PDP will still retain the majority, with 56 senators as against APC’s 50. Labour Party has two senators – Boluwaji Kunlere and Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo State). The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has one – Mrs Chris Anyanwu (Imo State).
Senator Bukola Saraki, who broke the news of the impending defection in Ilorin yesterday, said: “We are going to formally defect. When we started, we were 19. But Jigawa senators pulled out. We have 17 senators that will defect from PDP to APC.
“The letter has been signed. I have signed my own. Others have signed theirs. So, it is not a matter of maybe. It must be and not a matter of months or weeks, but a matter of days.”
Saraki, two-term governor and Kwara State political leader, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, said: “I want you to rule out the fear of losing our seats; this week we will write the senate president of our decision to defect. The letter is ready, only that we don’t want to go solo; there are two other senators who were to go to
their constituencies this weekend and finalise with their people.
“You know when it comes to the Senate, the issue is more complicated and you have to handle it; your constituency is larger than that of the Representatives and in politics, there are many things you must consider.
“But I can tell you it is not a question of ‘if’, it is a matter of when and I can assure you it will happen. We know that the majority of senators understand issues beyond the case filed by the PDP.”
He also emphatically ruled out the possibility of his group returning to the PDP. He declared that their “commitment to the APC is total”.
Saraki said “forced” resignation of Alhaji Bamaga Tukur as PDP chairman had vindicated his group. He insisted that “there is no reason to go back to the PDP, which has recently done what it should have done long ago, with the resignation of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur”.
On the focus of the APC on the Rivers State crisis, Saraki said there was an understanding that while the Inspector General of Police (Mohammed Abubakar) has the experience and maturity to tackle the matter, it is evident that some other factors are working to hinder him, hence the need for federal legislators and other stakeholders to intervene.
He added: “I was a governor for eight years and was chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum. We know the power of the governor under the law. During the time, we had occasions to look at states where the governor and the CP could not work together and in the interest of peace and political stability, we recommended the redeployment of such officers. It is necessary because the law says the governor will oversee issues of security.
“The IGP is an experienced officer; look, the crisis in Rivers is less than what happened in Kwara State during the time of Governor Mohammed Lawal; it was hotter than what they have now and the IGP (Abubakar) was the CP here and he handled it. But, for his maturity, maybe people like us wouldn’t have become governor.
“So, if he cannot do what is right, we know it is because there are other factors responsible and we want to help him remove those factors.”
Saraki condemned attempts by some aggrieved members of the APC in the state to give false impressions about themselves and the party, saying a recent statement credited to a former House of Representatives candidate, Reverend Bunmi Olusona, who claimed to be chairman of the party when there is nothing like that on ground was politically irresponsible.
The former Kwara State governor added that the PDP is clinically dead in Kwara.
“Those who are opposed to our system are in the minority. I do not see their capacity to take over. They may have their personal agenda. They may believe that they can go to Abuja and make some promises so that they can benefit something. I do not think their actions are in the interest of Kwarans.
“As far as Kwara is concerned, in the Senate, only one senator is not with us. All the Rep members are with us. In the House of Assembly, there were 22 members elected on PDP platform and two on the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) platform. Out of these 24, only two are not with us now. The entire local councils are controlled by the APC; where will they take off? We are not even going to stop because we want to take more.”
Saraki denied seeking Senate President David Mark’s job. He said: “It will be unfortunate of anyone, in any quarters to say I want Senator Mark’s seat. I do not want his seat, But I will not be blackmailed in not doing or say what I feel is right because I have been down this road a number of times while standing strong on not only what is right but in the best interest of our great country. Therefore, I will not succumb to cheap blackmail that all my intent was all about naked ambition or personal interest”.
“For me to dissipate my time and energy, seeking Senator Mark’s seat with a year to election and likely possible only six months of active legislative activities, will be illogical. But as leaders, there will be issues that we will continue to speak and stand for which I believe is in the interest of the Senate and in my view, the interest of our nation.”
He added: “In September 2011, I stood up then to demand transparency and Accountability in the management of the fuel subsidy, where I spoke about the massive fraud in the scheme which posed a great threat to our economy. Then I was called names and told that I did not like Mr President and that it was all about the 2015 elections and that my figures were grossly inaccurate and no such mismanagement took place. Now the facts have shown otherwise.”
Saraki also expressed delight that the Senate would look into the missing billions of dollars. He said he is convinced that the Senate would do a thorough job and unravel the misery surrounding the missing cash in the interest of the nation.
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