Desperate to Stave Off Mass Defection, Buhari Meets 22 Aggrieved APC Senators

•Says their threat to defect can affect party’s fortunes

Deji Elumoye and Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, met with 22 angry senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in an attempt to stop their planned defection. The meeting was held at the Council Chambers of State House, Abuja.

The affected senators included Smart Adeyemi, Frank Ibezim, Danladi Sankara, and Ibrahim Oloriegbe. They were led to the meeting by Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor-Kalu.

The president noted the concerns of the senators, who failed to secure the party’s return ticket to the Red Chamber. He said their exit would affect the future of the ruling party, saying, however, that he praised the senators’ effort to find a solution.

The president assured them that as the leader of the party, part of his role was to create the environment for members to ventilate their grievances.

Emphasising that there must be a winner and loser in any contest, Buhari revealed that he had been inundated with complaints over the primaries, assuring that he would continue to address the challenges through the party machinery.

Urging party members to exercise restraint, as justice would be done, the president told the senators, “I thank you for the decision to approach me with your concerns over the future of the party and for pursuing solutions approach for the challenges thrown up by the recent election-related activities particularly, the primaries.

“As the leader of the party, one of my primary role is to ensure that our culture of internal democracy and dispute resolution is strengthened by creating the opportunity for members to ventilate their opinions, views and grievances at different levels.

“Notwithstanding the fact that we have accomplished 23 years of an uninterrupted democratic governance, our journey is still in a nascent stage and we continue to learn from our challenges and mistakes.

“Similarly, our party is still evolving in its culture and practice and it is my expectation and hope that we should attain a mature level in our internal conduct.

“I have noted your grievances, particularly, as it concerns the just concluded processes, the cost to the nation, the threat to the majority position held by our party in the legislative chambers, and likely consequent causes to the electoral fortunes of the party as we approach the general election. We must not allow these dire threats to come to pass.

“I must acknowledge that in every contest, there must be a level-playing ground, just as there would be grievances at the end. That is the test of our democratic credentials, systems and practices.

“I have since the conclusion of the process been inundated with various reports and complaints. In keeping with our ethos, therefore, I shall continue to address the ensuing challenges and grievances through the party machinery while paying keen attention to the outcomes.

“I must also remind you of the primacy of justice in all our actions. If justice is denied, its outcome is usually unpleasant. This is because you, the members, keep the party running.

“I should add that as part of the policy of using the party machinery for effective resolutions of conflict, the chairman and some members of the National Working Committee visited the National Assembly recently to dialogue with our legislators.

“The leadership of the party is currently addressing the outcomes as part of the way forward. I am encouraging all the party functionaries to adhere to the truth and to be fair to all parties in any dispute. This is important because our strength and victory in the election lies in the unity of the party and our ability to prevent or heal any injustice perceived unfair.

“I urge you and all party members to exercise restraint and continue to demonstrate commitment to the ideals while we continue to build and develop the party and the country.

“Finally, Let me assure you that justice shall prevail, aggrieved members shall be assuaged in the interest of the party and the nation shall be protected.”

Earlier, the leader of the delegation and Senate Chief Whip, Kalu, said at least 22 senators and members of the party were unhappy with the outcome of the primaries in their states, noting that they felt disenfranchised by the process.

He said the legislators had made sacrifices for the growth of the party and democracy in the country, and asked for the president’s intervention.

Responding, Kalu stated, “Mr President, in the Senate, we have worked hard and consistently sold your programmes beyond party lines. Be assured always of our support.”

In a statement after the meeting, Kalu said the lawmakers told Buhari that they were disenfranchised by the process of the primary and that Buhari urged them to exercise restraint and change their decision to defect from the party.

He said, “The aggrieved senators would no longer pursue their defection plans from the APC. Our meeting with Mr President was successful and the issue of defection from our party has been laid to rest.”

No fewer than six APC senators, including the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, had dumped the party, citing poor internal politics during its recent primary elections.

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