Defection: PDP Senators Walk out over Saraki’s Refusal to Declare Omogunwa’s Seat Vacant

  •  PDP will cry more, says APC

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The prevalent peace in the Senate and hitherto cordial relationship between the majority All Progressives Congress (APC) senators and their minority counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was shattered wednesday when the latter staged a walk-out from the plenary.

Trouble started when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read a letter by Senator Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) announcing his defection form PDP to the APC.

Omogunwa who had written the letter before last Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State, stated there-in that he was defecting from the PDP to support the governorship candidate of the APC in the just concluded election.

This perceived flimsy reason for his defection infuriated the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who immediately raised a point of order, citing Order 43 in Senate Standing Rules, which empowers a senator to make a personal explanation on any given subject.

Against this background, Akpabio asked Saraki to declare the seat of Omogunwa vacant, insisting that the only reason allowed by the constitution for defection is a crisis in the party which has polarised the party into two fault lines.

According to him, there is no leadership crisis any longer in PDP, following a recent Supreme Court judgment which he said acknowledged the Senator Ahmed Markarfi’s caretaker committee as the authentic leadership of the PDP. Hence, he said there was no division in the party that could provide any justification for Omogunwa’s defection.

But Saraki, not impressed by the claim of Akpabio, ruled him out of order, an action which further exacerbated the depth of the anger of PDP senators.

The PDP senators were further provoked by the submission of Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), who cited Section 68 (g and h) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to explain that Omogunwa’s defection was justifiable in view of the division in PDP.

But Senator Peter Nwaboshi (Delta North) raised another point of order, stating that the intervention of Melaye was a breach of procedure as he further argued that after the Senate President had ruled Akpabio out of order, it was wrong of Melaye to speak on the same subject matter.

Realising that they were not having the listening ears of the president, the PDP senators therefore opted to stage a walk-out after which they briefed the press on the reason for their action.
At the briefing, Akpabio said they had opted to stage a walk-out because the action of Omogunwa was a breach of constitutional provisions with a claim that as lawmakers, they must not be seeing to be “lawbreakers.”

Akpabio insisted that Omogunwa’s defection was misplaced because there was no division in the PDP following the decision of the apex court which he said had recognised Makarfi’s caretaker committee as the authentic PDP body and hence, their decision to call on Saraki to “do the needful” by declaring Omogunwa’s seat vacant at the plenary.

“We don’s support political rascality. This is not the time to cross-carpet. If you choose to cross-carpet, you have to leave your seat. You can’t sit there any longer…The reason he gave for the defection was not on the basis of division but to go and support the governor-elect, (Rotimi) Akeredolu. The seat belongs to us. He should hand over the seat to us and go there (Ondo State) and become a commissioner or special assistant or special adviser. Senator Dino went further to support our case…We must protect the sanctity of the chamber,” Akpabio said.

Asked if the PDP caucus was not suffering from its failure to provide virile opposition as had been done by the opposition in the chamber since 1999, Akpabio claimed that what was provided then was not opposition but “in-fighting.” According to him, opposition is not about shouting but rather about correcting anomalies.

Meanwhile, the APC has said the PDP will continue to cry and cry more.

This was made in a tweet on the official twitter handle of the APC @APCNigeria

The APC also invited other PDP senators to join the APC.
“We are calling on other PDP senators to join us in the APC”