• Party may ask court to declare ex-governor’s seat vacant
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
There is increasing apprehension within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over an alleged plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to force some of its key members to defect to the ruling party.
As facts emerged at the weekend that the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, has perfected plans to formally defect to the APC, a competent source at the PDP said the new plot is to intimidate some of lawmakers with EFCC charges to get them to sign on for APC and to help it retain majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
The PDP source, who did not want his name to be mentioned, however, stated that the party is mobilizing action against the APC tactics, adding that apart from Akpabio no other opposition lawmaker will likely succumb to such intimidation.
“There were interventions by the party at all levels to find out what the issues are with Akpabio but he didn’t state his reasons. We know he has EFCC case and perhaps that is what is driving him. For now, it appeared he has made up his mind to go,” PDP said.
Asked what the leadership of the party may do if the Senator finally defects, the source said the PDP several options, include taking legal action to declare his seat vacant since there is no faction in the party.
On the issue of which of the two parties that now commands a majority in the Senate, the source said although PDP believes it has taken over majority seats, the actual state of affairs in the upper legislative chamber will be determined when the Senate reconvenes plenary after its recess.
He also said the moves by angered APC lawmakers to go to court to seek reconvening of the National Assembly will amount to mere academic exercise as no court will entertain such case.
According to the source, “The legislative chambers have their rules guiding them, and it provides for their going on annual recess. Moreover, the recess was done in line with laid down rules and procedures.”
To lay credence to the speculations that were making the rounds at the weekend, Akpabio yesterday visited President Muhammadu Buhari in London.
The president is currently on a 10-day medical vacation in London.
Last Saturday, two presidential aides confirmed that Akpabio is defecting from the PDP to the APC.
Personal Assistant to the president on Online Media, Bashir Ahmad, broke the news of the senator’s visit to the president yesterday morning.
Ahmad posted on his official twitter handle photos of Akpabio shaking hands and also posing with Buhari.
The news was corroborated by the Special Assistant on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, who posted a message on Facebook on Saturday night, saying Akpabio would be received to APC next Thursday by the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and other top leaders of the party at a rally in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
Obono-Obla also posted on the social media site a photo of Akpabio with APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu.
Information has been making the rounds since last week that Akpabio, who is a former governor of Akwa Ibom, was perfecting plan to leave the PDP.
There were speculations that the defection was delayed because he was negotiating for some “favourable terms” for himself and his political supporters in the state.
It was also gathered that the senator was asking for the position of the Senate president and also that he should be made the APC leader in the state and the party political structure handed over to him.
Akpabio’s defection is surprisingly coming at a time several APC leaders, including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, defected to the PDP.
The senate minority leader is widely respected as one of the most influential politicians in Akwa Ibom and South-south region.
It was also alleged that Akpabio handpicked Udom Emmanuel, a former Executive Director in Zenith Bank, and appointed him Secretary to the State Government (SSG), groomed, and later installed him as governor of Akwa Ibom in 2015, despite opposition within PDP.
The source said: “He is also responsible for the election and the appointment of several people in the state into public offices.
“It is believed that the senator’s political differences with Governor Emmanuel might be responsible for his defection.
Akpabio, who represents Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district in the Senate, is a former governor of Akwa Ibom State.
It is believed that the senator’s political differences with Emmanuel might be responsible for his defection.
“However, Emmanuel is believed to have been rattled with the news of his predecessor’s defection. It was believed last Saturday night, he convened an emergency PDP leaders meeting in Uyo, the state capital, as the defection of the senator was believed to have been top on the agenda.”
Confirming the defection yesterday, an aide to the Senate Minority leader said everything had been concluded for his boss to formally defect in Uyo next Thursday.
The aide who did not want his name in print, said: “The news is now everywhere. It is no longer a secret. He has already left the PDP. Everything has been concluded to receive him next Thursday in Uyo.”
When asked what could be the reason his boss would contemplate defecting from the PDP at this time, the aide said Akpabio would inform Nigerians about that next Thursday.
“He definitely has reasons. He will make them known next Thursday during the formal declaration,” he said.