•37 cross carpet in House of Representatives

•I wish defectors the best, says Buhari

Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade, James Emejo and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

It was a bad day for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Tuesday as a gale of defection swept through the National Assembly with 14 of its leading senators defecting to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The APC also lost weight in the House of Representatives, where 32 of its members crossed carpeted to the side of the PDP.

The ruling party also lost four members to the African Democratic Congress (ADC), while one other resign without stating which party he will join.

The political realignment reconfigured the federal legislature as the PDP took control of the Senate with 57 senators to the APC’s 49, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has one senator. Two seats are vacant.

The Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, however, disputed this position Tuesday night, insisting that in spite of the defection, the APC still has 52 senators to PDP’s 50; APGA three; and two vacancies.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC attempted to downplay the gale of defections Tuesday, wishing the carpet crossers well in their future endeavours.

“I wish all of our party members who today defected, the very best in their future undertakings,” the president said in a statement by his Senior Media Assistant, Malam Shehu Garba, adding: “The APC has done its best to stop the defections, and I must commend the party leadership for working tirelessly to unite the party and position it for future victory.”

The APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, was, however, less conciliatory as he dismissed the defectors as big masquerades without electoral values.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, on his part toed a more temperate path, saying the APC respected the right of the defectors to political association and enjoined the remaining members to remain calm.

Efforts to ward off the defections had collapsed on Monday night as the angry members of the APC massed in the reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC) had refused all entreaties to persuade them to stay back.

The first sign of hostility was the invitation to Senate President Bukola Saraki by the police, asking him to report at one of its stations in Guzape, Abuja for interrogation of the April 2018 Offa bank robberies.

Saraki had responded that the invitation was a political game to prevent the impending defections from the APC.

Tuesday morning, he was proved right as the police blocked his convoy from leaving his Maitama, Abuja residence around the same time security operatives laid siege to Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu’s house in Apo, Abuja.

The security efforts were futile as Saraki made it to the Senate to preside over the day’s proceedings that witnessed the reconfiguration of the power blocs in the upper legislative chamber.

The APC senators, who defected as contained in a joint letter written to that effect and read at plenary by the Senate president, were Dino Melaye (Kogi West), Barnabas Gemade (Benue North East), Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto South), Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara North), Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South) and Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North).

Others were Hamman Isa Misau (Bauchi Central), Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo Central), Usman Bayero Nafada (Gombe North), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano Central), Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun Central) and Abdulaziz Nyako (Adamawa Central).

Worried by the development, the Senate Leader, Lawan (APC Yobe North), made spirited attempt to save the ruling party from losing the defected members by hurriedly making pleas for change of mind.

Lawan, who came through order 43 of the Senate rules under personal explanation, appealed to the Senate president to discountenance the already read letter, since according to him, efforts are being made by the leadership of the party to solve the internal crisis rocking the party.

But the Senate president in his response, described Lawan’s submission as belated in the face of executive recklessness against him and Ekweremadu who was not allowed to attend the plenary session as a result of security siege slammed on his house by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He said: “As you know and have seen that the seat beside you is absent. As we speak, the deputy Senate president cannot get out of his house today.

“He is under siege. This morning, I could not also leave my street as well due to all efforts by some people that believe that today’s sitting must not hold because some members want to move or defect.

“It is not something that has started today; it will not end today; people have gone, they’ve come back. But this kind of action does not allow for what you are saying or speaking as the leader of the Senate, who has been here for many years. The senators are adults and have made their personal decisions as clearly explained in the letter.”

The 14 senators in the letter said: “Dear Senate President after due consultation with our constituents and stakeholders in our constituencies, in proper recognition of section 68(1G) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and with the fact our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is hereby emerging a factionalised party.

“We hereby inform the Senate that we the undersigned are changing our political affiliation from the APC to the PDP. We thank you for your exemplary leadership.”

However, the APC senators are still officially playing the role of majority in the Senate on account of the Senate President, Saraki, still retaining his membership of the party in the Senate and Senators Hope Uzodimma (Imo West), Fatimah Raji Rasaki (Ekiti Central) and Sunny Ogbuoji (Ebonyi South) who are believed to have defected to it outside the Senate chamber but yet to do so officially on the floor of the upper legislative chamber.

Meanwhile, the Senate had adjourned plenary to Tuesday, September 26, 2018 after the adoption of votes and proceedings of Tuesday’s sitting.

Moments after the defections in the Senate, it was the turn of the House of Representatives to entertain the exodus from the APC to the PDP and the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC).

The mass defection, which had been predicted to take place for several weeks, had 32 APC members defect to the PDP while one other member resigned from the ruling party without telling which party he intended to join.

Members who left the ruling party to PDP include Hons. Garba Umar (Kano), Olayonu Tope (Kwara), Ahmed Garba (Kano), Kabiru Marafa (Sokoto), Zakari Mohammed (Kwara) and Abubakar Amuda-Kanike (Kwara).

Others include: Hons. Ali Madaki (Kano), Hassan Saleh (Benue), Ahma Pategi (Kwara), Mark Gbillah (Benue), Shehu Usman (Kano), Aminu Shagari (Sokoto), Nuhu Danburam (Kano) and Atunwa Abdulrazak (Kwara).

Also Salisu Zakari (Bauchi), Hassan Omale (Kogi), Oker-Jev (Benue), Rufai Chanchangi (Kaduna), Abdulsamad Dasuki (Sokoto), Sani Zoro (Jigawa), Benjamin Okolo (Kogi), Funke Adedoyi (Kwara), Bode Ayorinde (Ondo), Bashiru Salihu (Sokoto), Barry Mpigi (Rivers) defected to PDP.

Other are Hons. Nasiru Sule (Kano), Segun Ogunwuyi (Oyo), Lawal Rabiu, Sani Rano (Kano), Dickson Tarkighir (Benue) Musa Adotsamiya and Emmanuel Udende (Benue).

The members from Oyo State who defected from APC to ADC were Hons. Sunday Adepoju, Olugbemi Samson, Taiwo Michael, and Olasupo Abiodun.

The plenary was agog soon after the House Speaker Yakubu Dogara read their letters of defection on the House floor as PDP members took to singing and jubilation.

The defectors mainly cited divisions and factionalisation as reasons for leaving the ruling party.

But speaking with reporters at a press briefing later, the leader of the APC group who defected, Hon. Rassaq Atunwa from Kwara State, said they left because the APC had failed to deliver on its campaign promises to Nigerians.

He said the latest defection was only a first batch, stressing that more APC members would join the PDP in the coming days.

Also, Hon. Aliyu Madaki from Kano said the APC had failed to deliver on security with which it rode into power in 2015.

Also addressing reporters shortly after the defection was announced Tuesday, the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, expressed sadness over the defections.

He described those who defected as being “part of the family,” adding that the doors of the party remained open to them whenever they realised they had made an error to have jumped ship.

I Wish Defecting Members the Very Best, Says Buhari

In his reaction, President Buhari said the APC tried hard to stop the defection of party members to other parties.

In a statement by his media aide, Shehu, the president noted that none of the defecting federal lawmakers of the APC had any specific grievances against him or the government he leads, neither did he harbour anything against any of them.

“As the saying goes, all politics is local. We understand that some of the distinguished and honourable lawmakers have issues with their home states, especially on zoning, which bars some of them from seeking another term in their constituencies,” he said.

Buhari argued that the APC had done its best to halt the defections, commending the leadership of the party for relentlessly working for its unity and ensuring success in the upcoming elections.

The president assured members of the APC of his total support and urged party faithful not to despair but to rather see the defections as a seasonal occurrence that happens on election eve.

Oshiomhole: Defectors Are Big Masquerades without Electoral Values

Oshiomhole was less restrained in his response to the defections Tuesday, describing the estranged members as big masquerades without electoral values.

According to him, Nigerians will go to the poll very soon and the outcome will reveal clearly that the defectors do not constitute any threat to APC, alleging that defectors are those who cannot adjust to the change being championed by the APC government.

He said the business of governance should be driven by men and women of honour and not by those who are more pre-occupied with personal interests, adding that the earlier such persons took their exit from the party the better.

“The business of governance must be driven by men and women of honour. If it’s about ‘me,’ the earlier those pursuing personal gains leave the better. We will go for campaign… These people, the votes they got in 2015, and the president got more votes from their constituencies. There were big masquerades with no electoral value,” Oshiomhole stated.

The party’s National Publicity, Abdullahi, tried to calm nerves, saying despite the defections the party was still in the majority.

In a statement, he said apart from being in control of 25 out of the 36 states of the federation, APC maintained a clear majority in the federal House of Representatives and state assemblies.

According to him, “As a truly democratic party, we respect the right of every citizen to political association. Therefore, we urge our members to remain calm as we continue to work hard to position our party strongly for the next general elections.

“APC remains in firm control of 25 states of the 36 states of the federation and maintains a clear majority in the federal House of Representatives and state assemblies.”

PDP Hails Defecting Lawmakers

The PDP has hailed the defectors for seeing the reason to join forces with it in the struggle to enthrone good governance in the country.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, who addressed a press conference in the wake of the defections, congratulated them for choosing the party.

“I congratulate members and leaders of the PDP on the defections and abandonment of the sinking ship of the APC in the Senate,” he said, adding: “The situation as we have today, has clearly shown to the entire world that the government of President Buhari has been abandoned by Nigerians.”

The PDP spokesman said Nigerians now look up to the party to provide the leadership in 2019 that would guarantee good governance for our people.