By Emmanuel Aziken & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—The aspiration by the All Progressives Congress, APC to take control of the leadership of the National Assembly is to be stoutly resisted in the Senate. It emerged, yesterday, that the Senate leadership could declare seats of defecting senators vacant.
While the APC has already taken the ascendancy in the House of Representatives with its members set to take over the control of the House later this month, the scenario in the Senate, Vanguard learnt, is being complicated by the determination of the Senate President, David Mark’s leadership to strictly enforce the rules.
Strategy sessions to reinforce the domination of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is being coordinated by leading PDP senators from their holiday homes across the country.
The Senate is not due to resume until later this month.
Despite alleged issues between Senator Mark and President Goodluck Jonathan arising from federal appointments from Benue State, and the supremacy battle between the Senate President and Governor Gabriel Suswam, Mark it was learnt, is determined to safeguard the dominance of the PDP in the Senate. Mark it was claimed is not unaware of the fact that safeguarding the dominance of the PDP is a way of keeping his own position.
Threats against the PDP control of the Senate intensified earlier this week after Senators Bukola Saraki from Kwara State and Magnus Abe from Rivers State disclosed their intention to defect to the APC.
Twenty two senators and 57 members of the House of Representatives had last December obtained a court order stopping the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Mark from declaring the seats of members of the then New PDP vacant should they choose to change parties on the floor of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Mark to enforce rules
It was learnt that Senator Mark was being persuaded by partisans in the PDP to strictly enforce the provisions of the constitution which forbid members of the National Assembly from changing parties unless there is faction in the party through which they were elected.
Section 68 (1) (g) stipulating provisions for the declaration of vacancy in the seat of National Assembly members states thus:
68. (1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if -
(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected;
Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.
Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that Senator Mark is being persuaded to strictly apply the provisions of the constitution as a way of deterring the rebellion against the PDP in the chambers.
A principal officer in the Senate spoke on the issue last night, saying the Senate leadership unlike the House leadership was not elected with the support of the APC. Besides, the principal officer disclosed that senators could not be swayed as members of the House of Representatives to defect from the PDP by their governors who have just left the PDP.
“The fact is that the Senate unlike the House would be more strict in interpreting and enforcing the provisions of the constitution in the matter of defection,” the principal officer disclosed yesterday.
The senior senator also said assumptions that the APC would get a boost from the defection of five former PDP governors was far fetched. He said: “Senators are not like members of the House of Representatives who mostly are politically dependent on their governors. A number of senators are able to resist their governors and so the story about the five governors carrying all their senators to the APC is more like a tale”.
The senator nevertheless disclosed that the defectors’ seats may not be declared vacant, if the senators did not disclose their defection on the floor of the House.
Presently, the PDP has 72 senators while the APC has 33 with Labour, Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance making the balance.