Adamu Meets Senators, Says He is Worried By Gale of Defections

•Senators list conditions to halt action

•Two more lawmakers quit their parties

•22 others planning to defect soon, Fani-Kayode raises the alarm

•PDP may soon form majority in upper chamber, Aduda boasts

•INEC has powers to reject Lawan, Akpabio, Falana declares

Sunday Aborisade and Alex Enumah in Abuja

National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, met with senators elected on the platform of the ruling party behind closed doors, yesterday in Abuja.

Speaking with journalists after the meeting with the APC caucus in the senate, Adamu said the party was worried by the gale of defections among senators. He however, said it was a usual occurrence in election periods and not peculiar to the ruling party.

Two senators from Bauchi and Imo states resigned their membership of APC and PDP, yesterday, further compounding the woes of their parties.

That was as other senators from the ruling party, who were said to have planned their defection for next week gave conditions under which they would halt the trend. They said only justice could reverse the gale of defections currently rocking the party.

A chieftain of the APC and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, hinted that no fewer than 22 more APC senators might dump the party for the main opposition PDP soon.

Similarly, the new Senate Minority Leader, Senator Philip Aduda, yesterday, boasted that the opposition PDP would soon form majority in the senate if the gale of defection by APC senators was sustained.

In a related development, Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was empowered by both constitutional and electoral provisions to reject the names of candidates from political parties that ought not to be on the ballot in any election.

Speaking after addressing the senators yesterday, Adamu said, “The meeting with the senators was most fruitful. The issue of defection is an unfortunate development, when it happens, but this is a season where there are all sorts of behaviours in the political space and ours is not an exception. In every election year, this kind of thing gives cause for stakeholders to sneeze and Nigeria is not an exception, so is the APC not an exception.

“I don’t care about what is happening in other parties, my focus is on the APC. But we all know that the occurrence is not only happening in the APC; it’s happening across other political parties, too. And because we are the ruling party, our problems are exaggerated before the public.”

The APC chairman said he did not know if the problem of defection was surmountable.

He added, “There is no responsible leader that would not be worried, when he loses one member, not to talk of two. At the moment, we are faced with the stark reality of our problems.

“I have committed my colleagues at the National Assembly to face the problem squarely and see the problem as solvable. We are in politics, I don’t know what would happen tomorrow, and nobody does.”

Senators Lists Conditions to Halt Defection

THISDAY learnt from some senators, who attended the meeting that Adamu, that he cited intelligence reports available to the party leadership as reason for convening the parley.

A senator from the North-west told THISDAY, on the condition of anonymity, that the APC national chairman said he learnt that some APC lawmakers were planning massive defections on the floor of the two chambers next week.

But he said his colleagues told Adamu that only justice could reverse the gale of defections rocking the party, noting that they sought the immediate intervention of the APC leadership to stem the tide.

The senator said, “The national chairman said the essence of his meeting with us was to find out the reasons APC senators were defecting. Adamu said he had intelligence reports that many senators were planning massive defections next week and he came to find out what could be done to halt the action.

“Some senators actually stood up to give different scenarios of the type of injustices they suffered in the hands of their governors. Adamu, after listening to them, promised that the National Working Committee of the APC and the leadership of the senate would meet soon to address the lawmakers’ grievances.”

No fewer than eight APC senators, including the Majority Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, had so far dumped the ruling party on the floor of the red chamber.

Two More Senators Quit Their Parties

Two senators from Bauchi and Imo states resigned their membership of both the APC and the PDP. Senator Dauda Jika, represents Bauchi Central and was elected on the platform of APC, while Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi, representing Imo East Senatorial District, was elected on the platform of the PDP. 

Jika and Onyewuchi stated their decisions in separate letters addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, where they gave reasons for resigning their membership of APC and PDP, to join the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Labour Party (LP), respectively.

Jika said, “I hereby wish to notify you of my defection from the APC to the NNPP, whose ideals are in line with my political aspirations.”

Onyewuchi, on his part, said, “I wish to inform Mr. President and the distinguished senators of my defection from the PDP to the Labour Party. This is after due consultation with my family, constituents and supporters. This will enable me participate fully in the movement for a new Nigeria.”

Yesterday’s defection brought the number of APC senators to 61, with members of the minority parties standing at 48.

The minority parties in the senate were five as at yesterday, Wednesday, June 22. They are the PDP, Young Peoples Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), NNPP, and Labour Party.

Fani-Kayode: 22 More APC Senators Planning to Defect to PDP

Except there is a quick intervention, some 22 APC senators might leave the party soon for the PDP, a chieftain of the APC and former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, alerted.

In a post on his verified Twitter handle, yesterday, Fani-Kayode claimed the senators were threatening to defect to the PDP, because they had been denied the tickets to return to the Senate.

“This is serious and something must be done to prevent it. Many are concerned and we urge our able Nat. Chairman and the National Secretary to reach them. We cannot afford to lose them,” Fani-Kayode tweeted.

When THISDAY contacted him on what informed his Tweet, Fani-Kayode said the lawmakers were very unhappy and had concluded plans to defect en mass soon.

He said this was why he raised the alarm so that those concerned in the party hierarchy might try to save the situation before it got out of hand.

Fani-Kayode claimed the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and National Secretary of the party, Iyiola Omisore, and himself had started to engaged with some of the senators.

Aduda: PDP May Soon Form Majority in Senate

The new Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda, boasted that PDP might soon form the majority in the Senate, with the number of senators defecting to his party.

Aduda stated this while addressing journalists in Abuja. He said as the new Minority Leader, there would surely be challenges, expressing hope, however, that those challenges would be surmounted.

He stated, “There are a lot of challenges as 2023 approaches; we will manage them. This is the season you have aggrieved members from all sides, various defection by those who are aggrieved and those who got their parties’ tickets. I can assure you that we will ensure we give meaningful leadership to the minority in the Senate.”

Speaking on the support that Mr Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), was getting from some PDP members, Aduda said he wasn’t perturbed.

Aduda said, “Make no mistake about it, grassroots politics is different from Internet politics. You can have a lot of followership on the Internet but when you go to the grassroots, it is not so.

“The hype is not what is in the grassroots. It doesn’t matter if Peter Obi is gathering followership, because in politics, we lose some and gain some.”

Falana: INEC Has Powers to Reject Lawan, Akpabio

Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, stated that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was empowered by both constitutional and electoral provisions to reject the names of candidates from political parties that ought not to be on the ballot in any election.

Falana’s remarks was in reaction to a statement attributed to a National Commissioner of INEC, Mr Mohammed Haruna, to the effect that the commission’s responsibility did not include rejection of names submitted to it for an election by political parties.

Haruna spoke against the backdrop of the submission of the names of Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and former Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as senatorial candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 general election.

Both Lawan and Akpabio contested the presidential primary of APC, while Akpabio later stepped down, Lawan lost to Senator Bola Tinubu, who won the party’s ticket.

Yet, APC sent the names of Lawan and Akpabio as Yobe and Akwa Ibom states’ senatorial candidates, respectively. Though, both men never bought the expression of interest and nomination forms of their party for the position of senator, and they were neither screened nor did they participate in the primary elections for such position.

While the Akwa Ibom Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini, had faulted the action of APC, Haruna, on the other hand, claimed that the electoral umpire had no power to reject names sent to it by political parties. In justifying his position, he maintained that primaries were the sole prerogatives of parties, adding that INEC’s responsibility is merely to monitor the primaries and make sure they abide by their own regulations, the Electoral Act and the Constitution.

But Falana  faulted Haruna based on the provisions of the Electoral Act, stressing, “Section 84 (1) clearly states that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the commission. The monitoring by INEC is mandatory. To that extent, any primary of a political party not monitored by officials of INEC is illegal.

“Contrary to the views credited to Mr. Haruna, the powers of INEC have gone beyond ‘merely to monitor’ party primaries. For the avoidance of doubt, Section: 84 (13) unequivocally provides that, ‘where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue.’”

He said the legal implication of the provision is that INEC shall not include the candidate for the particular election.

Falana stated further, “Furthermore, Section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which provides for the submission of lists of candidates and their affidavits by political parties, states that, ‘Every political party shall, not later than 180 days before the date appointed for a general election under this Act, submit to the commission, in the prescribed forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, who must have emerged from valid primaries conducted by the political party.’”

According to Falana, Section 29(1) has imposed a duty on political parties to ensure that the candidates whose names are submitted to INEC have emerged from valid primaries.

He said this position was quite different from the provision in Section 31 of the repealed Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), which provided that INEC could not reject the name of any candidate submitted by the parties for any reason whatsoever.

Falana said, “Thus, in the present law, the parties can only submit for the commission’s acceptance, the names of candidates who emerged from valid primaries conducted by the parties and monitored by INEC.

“This position is clearly fortified by Section 84(13). Thus, INEC having sent a team of monitors across its 36 states offices and the Federal Capital Territory, to monitor the primaries, is legally obligated to check the names submitted to it and ensure they are confirmed by the various reports compiled by its officials. 

“If the candidates, whose names are submitted to INEC have not emerged from the primaries, the commission will reject such names in exercise of its power under Section 84(13) of the Electoral Act 2022. That was what INEC did in Zamfara State, when that power was not even expressly provided for.

“It is, therefore, most shocking to read in the social media statements attributed to some INEC National Commissioners to the effect that INEC is bound to accept the names of candidates, who did not participate in valid party primaries.

“With respect, the statement that INEC does not have power to reject names of persons submitted by political parties that did not emerge from valid primaries is grossly misleading. In fact, the embarrassing statement amounts to abdication of statutory duty under the above quoted provision of the Electoral Act aimed at sanitising the process of nomination of candidates for national elections in Nigeria.”

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