Dr. Samuel Ortom of Benue State
  • Buhari meets 40 ruling party’s senators, Saraki absent
  • Ararume, Madumere, Izunaso prepare to leave in Imo
  • PDP Hails Benue gov, urges others to join

THE FULL LIST OF FEDERAL LAWMAKERS

Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi

The gale of defections continued to sweep through the yard of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Wednesday as one of its governors, Dr. Samuel Ortom of Benue State, left its rank to rejoin his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The Benue situation is likely to be replicated in Imo State, where the Deputy Governor, Mr. Eze Madumere, and some other key members, including Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, a former National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, and Senator Ben Uwajumogu, are said to be under pressure to join the ship.

President Muhammadu Buhari, THISDAY gathered, felt bothered enough Wednesday, summoning a meeting of the party’s senators, many of who are said to be planning to leave the APC.

At the meeting held in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, only 40 senators turned up, suggesting that the party’s rank might have been further depleted, even as Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was conspicuously absent.

The presidential parley was in progress at press time.

Ortom, whose action was hailed Wednesday by the PDP as a right move to entrench democracy in the country, said he was moving away from the APC with 14 of the 23 council chairmen in the state and majority of the councillors in the 276 wards.

He made the declaration at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi during a meeting with the chairmen as well as leaders and other members of the legislative councils across the state.

The governor stated that he took the decision after due consultations with major stakeholders in the state.

His announcement came a few hours after a coalition of Benue youths stopped him from travelling to Abuja to attend a scheduled meeting with the national leadership of the APC to resolve his differences with the leadership of the party in the state.

The governor was leaving Government House, Makurdi for the trip when they blocked his route, carrying placards.

Some of the placards read: ‘Ortom don’t go back to APC,’ ‘We don’t have land to donate for ranching,’ ‘APC is Miyetti party,’ Our farms are not for cows,’ You must leave APC,” Ortom is our party,’ and ‘2019: On Ortom we stand.’

Their spokesmen, Terrence Kuanum and Pastor Dave Ogbole, advised the governor not to make the trip for further discussions with the APC leadership on his membership of the party but to rather look for an alternative platform.

They threatened that if he attended the meeting they would vote him out in 2019.

To underscore their anger, they ordered that the APC flag should be removed from the governor’s official car immediately and the governor’s driver complied.

The governor announced his decision to rejoin the PDP after displaying his resignation letter from the APC, which he said had been tendered to the ward chairman of the party in his ward.

While briefing newsmen shortly after his declaration, he described the PDP as familiar terrain, which was a better platform that would protect his interest and that of the Benue people.

Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state and Chairman of Guma Local Government Area, Mr. Anthony Shawon, and several of his colleagues, as well as 10 of the forum of legislative councils, Mr. Tom Hanmakyur, with many of his colleagues all pledged support for the governor’s decision.

Shawon noted that public opinion was in favour of the governor leaving the APC.

PDP Hails Ortom’s Defection

The PDP expectedly welcomed Ortom back into its fold, saying he was welcome back home to help salvage the nation.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP said the return of the governor to PDP confirms the fact that Buhari’s administration and the APC do not have the welfare of Nigerians at heart, as they had continually offered flimsy excuses over the mindless killings that had caused untold sorrows across the country, particularly, Benue State.

The party said that the Buhari-led federal government has failed in its basic responsibility of protecting live, property and the territorial integrity of Nigeria.

It said: “Painfully, Nigerians are being slaughtered in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto, nearly on daily basis.”

PDP commended the governor for standing firm by the people of Benue State and refusing to mortgage their welfare to a government that has consistently demonstrated cluelessness.

According to the party, “We urge the governor to be rest assured that he will be accorded his dues and rights as a member of the PDP.

“The return of the Governor Ortom to our party, which is a reflection of his people’s desires, further confirms the rejection of the Buhari -led APC administration by Nigerians.

“It also buttresses the fact that PDP remains the viable platform for all Nigerians that are desirous of rescuing our nation from the gross misgovernance and authoritarianism exhibited by the APC-led administration.”

APC Stunned by Ortom’s Defection

Ortom’s defection took the APC top hierarchy by surprise as THISDAY learnt Wednesday that spirited efforts were being made to avert the defections.

The governor was scheduled to attend a reconciliatory meeting with the leadership of the APC Wednesday, but failed to show up.

While confirming the flopped meeting with the governor, a reliable source at APC headquarters in Abuja told THISDAY that Ortom called in to say that he was unable to make it because rampaging youths blocked his convoy in Makurdi, Benue State capital, thus preventing him from coming to Abuja.

“Ortom sent a message to us that youths have blocked his convoy from leaving for Abuja for a meeting,” one APC source said.

Meanwhile, there was protest at APC National Secretariat in Abuja Wednesday by a group against the alleged move by the Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade to join the party.

The group, which came with placards to protest at the party’s headquarters, claimed that there was a plot to have the state governor Ayade defect to the party.

The group’s Sankara Unung told journalists that the party stakeholders in the state were not comfortable with the antics of the governor and as such is kicking against his proposed entry.

“Ayade is a man with grand scale skimming techniques. APC does not have any space for him and his ilk.

“For a man whose party has roundly and unprecedented rejected for his very poor and abysmal performance, APC cannot be and should never be his safe haven,” they said.

Ararume, Madumere, Osita, Prepare to Leave APC

In Imo State, leading members of the party are preparing to leave following the National Chairman of the party, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole’s directive for a fresh congress in the state.

THISDAY gathered from the national headquarters of the party in Abuja Wednesday night that some chieftains of APC from the state, including Ararume, Madumere, Izunaso, Uwajumogu and others are under suffocating pressure from their teeming supporters/followers to leave the party, following irreconcilable party dispute with Governor Rochas Okorocha.

The source said that the ‘’pressure is predicated on the strong feeling’’ that Oshiomhole is working with the state governor to chase them out of the party.

According to the source, ‘’But for Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Ararume, who obviously, is deeply rooted in President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term project, they would have announced their movement from the party this week.

‘’And unless the President personally intervenes, our party will be crippled in the state. Ararume and his people control APC in the state. If they leave, that will be the end of APC in the state.’’

The National Chairman of APC and the National Legal Adviser, Oshiomhole and Mr Babatunde Ogala respectively, were recently warned against the huge legal implications of the fresh congresses in the Imo State chapter, which was said to have been organised last week.

In a letter addressed to the party’s national chairman by K. C. Nwufo (SAN) on behalf of APC’s stakeholders in the state, he warned that it would be ‘’contemptuous of the court for any congress to be held in Imo State, let alone appointing any caretaker committee during the pendency of a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction pending the determination of the appeal against the judgement in suit no: FHC/OW/CS/69/2018’’.

Relying on the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, dated July 6, 2018, which ordered fresh congresses in the Imo State chapter of the party, the national secretariat of APC had scheduled to commence the congress Friday.

The APC had been under pressure for weeks as dissatisfied members threatened to leave the party. On Tuesday, the party lost 15 senators and 37 House of Representative members. More are expected to abandon the party in the coming weeks.

Saraki Stays Away as Buhari Meets 40 APC Senators

Twenty-four hours after the defection of 14 senators from the APC, President Buhari met with other APC senators in the Presidential Villa Wednesday night with the Senate president conspicuously absent at the meeting.

However, a mild drama played out when Senator Olanrewaju Tejuosho (Ogun Central) who was one of the 14 senators who had dumped APC on Tuesday, made a surprise return to the party, telling Buhari at the opening of the meeting, “your son is back”.

Of the assumed 53 senators left in APC, 40 of them, led by the Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan made it to the meeting that was also attended by the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole.

Also present at the meeting were Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff to the President Abba Kyari, Senior Special Assisant to the President on National Assembly Matters Ita Enang, and some other presidential aides.

Tejuosho, who had on Tuesday admitted his defection from APC, was quick to dismiss reports that he defected with others to the PDP, saying he was yet to decide on the party he would align himself with after leaving APC.

But his re-appearance in APC caucus meeting Wednesday night took participants by surprise as his coming was accompanied by a round of applause from those in attendance including the president.

During his self-introduction, Tejuosho, whose presence excited others in the meeting, looked at Buhari and said: “Mr. President, your son is back home.”

In response, Buhari retorted with excitement, “what would I have told Kabiyesi?” The president was apparently referring to his father and the monarch of Oke Ona Egba, in Ogun State, Oba Adedapo Tejuosho.

Other senators present at the meeting were, Adamu Aliero, Bala Ibn Na-Allah, Aliyu Wamako, Ibrahim Gobir, Kabiru Marafa, Abu Ibrahim, Kabiru Gaya, Barau Jibrin, Abdullahi Gumel, Shehu Sani, Lawan, Ali Ndume, Abubakar Kyari, Baba Kaka Garbai, Aliyu Abdullahi, David Umaru, and Abdullahi Adamu.

Others were George Akume, Francis Alimikhena, Andrew Uchendu, Magnus Abe, Ovie Omo-Agege, John Enoh, Nelson Effiong, Andy Uba, Sunny Ugboji, Hope Uzodinma, Ben Uwajimogu, Yusuf Yusuf, Oluremi Tinubu, Gbenga Ashafa, Solomon Adeola, Tayo Alasoadura, Soji Akanbi, Ajayi Boroffice, Yele Omogunwa, Fatima Rasaki, and Yahaya Abdullahi.

Other APC senators who were absent at the meeting were Olusola Adeyeye, Tuani Kaura, Sani Yerima, Umaru Kurfi, Sabo Muhammed, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Mustapha Mohammed, Danjuma Goje, Binta Garba, Ahmed Abubakar, Gbolahan Dada, Babajide Omowarare and Abdulfatai Buhari.

The meeting was still ongoing as at the time of filing this report.