James Emejo in Abuja
For the umpteenth time, two members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives thursday defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The member representing AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency Development of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Hon. Zaphaniah Jisalo and his counterpart from Okene/Ogori-Magongo Federal Constituency in Kogi State, Hon. Ahmed-Tijani Damisa, had their respective letters of defection read on the House floor by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
Both defectors among other things cited divisions, occasioned by the leadership crisis which rocked the main opposition party as reasons for abandoning the PDP.
However, a mild drama ensued when the House Minority Whip, Hon. Umar Barde (PDP, Kaduna) swiftly raised a point of order, arguing that the seats of the defectors ought to be declared vacant according to Section 68 (1g) of the constitution (as amended).
The section stipulates that a “member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”
His argument was supported by the Chairman, House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Hon. Osai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) who urged the Speaker to give life to the spirit of section 68, by declaring the seats of the defectors vacant.
The PDP members further argued that there is currently no divisions within the party as claimed by the defectors as the Supreme Court had recently resolved its internal crisis.
However, House Deputy Majority Whip, Hon. Pally Iriase, apparently stirred the hornet’s nest when he attempted to counter Ossai’s remarks, and in the process referred to him as a fake lawyer.
This angered members of the PDP who demanded prompt apology from Iriase.
The ensuing contention created a sort of temporary disorder at plenary before Dogara waded in to explain that Ossai was never a lawyer in the first instance and that any reference to him as fake lawyer doesn’t hold water.
Nonetheless, the speaker argued that the reference to Section 68 (1g) of the 1999 constitution by PDP members for vacation of seats was insufficient to warrant declaring them vacant, especially as the constitution did not define what constitutes a division in a political party.
He added that the division in a party, is not pronounced in the constitution and so lawmakers cannot be prohibited from defecting.
According to him, “Division in the political is not defined by the constitution, the constitution does not state whether it should be at the national, state or local government level. So we should allow the judiciary to do their job.”
He urged the PDP to seek redress in court if not satisfied with the development.
The latest round of defection brings to six, the number of PDP members who have defected to the APC in the 8th Assembly.
They included Hon. Tony Nwoye from Anambra, Edward Pwajok from Plateau, Hassan Saleh from Benue and Adamu Kamale, Adamawa.