The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has dire consequences for the legislative agenda of the administration. It is as such not surprising that the National Assembly has become a battleground in the emerging crisis within the self proclaimed largest political party on the continent.
BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
Last Sunday, a day after seven governors of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP walked out of their party’s national convention in Abuja, to establish a parallel faction of the ruling party, Senator Joy Emodi, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly commenced a circuit of the homes of the principal officers of the National Assembly.
As she went round the homes of the principal officers of the National Assembly that Sunday, the message was unchanging: we must not break ranks, we must put our patriotism above the grievances and difficulties of the day.
The import of the tour became apparent just a day later when 26 senators belonging to the PDP made a joint statement throwing their support for the new PDP as led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje. It even became more urgent when a day later, 58 members of the 202 members of the PDP in the House of Representatives made a public declaration in support of the nPDP.
The 58 members who made the declaration, however, fell short of the number of members that were expected. Vanguard sources in the National Assembly revealed that the 58 who assented to the announcement were only the members that their colleagues could reach as at Tuesday evening when they issued the declaration.
Rep. Ogbonna Nwuke, a member of the House of Representatives from Rivers State was pointed in asserting that the 58 were just a fraction of the number of House members waiting to jump ship.
“It is obvious that what you heard is a mass movement (and) there will be more defections from the old PDP to the new PDP because the new PDP offers a ground of freshness,” he told Vanguard in an interview.
By the time the House of Representatives resumes from break later this month, many more members of the House of Representatives are expected to join the bandwagon supporting the nPDP.
Given the touchy relationship that had in the past existed between the National Assembly and the presidency, the development last weekend is bound to be of very serious effect to the administration’s legislative agenda.
The effect of the development is that the PDP under the control of the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is left with a minority in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
In the Senate, the PDP which before last Saturday commanded 73 seats is left with 47 loyal senators in the 109 member Senate.
The nPDP with 26 members could in combination with the APC which has 33 senators frustrate the administration’s goals and where not, even force on the administration, the policies of the opposition.
The situation in the House of Representatives is even more dangerous for the ruling party. Members who threw up a leadership against the desire of the PDP have since inauguration in 2011 almost been on constant warfare with the administration.
In the view of many stakeholders what has held back open warfare is the pragmatic and level-headed approach Mrs. Emodi employed to her duty of relating with the National Assembly members.
Mrs. Emodi who is a former senator has been able to through experience worm her way into the love of the legislators in both chambers to the extent that hardliners in the House have often pulled back from pulling punches at the administration. But not always.
The members have despite her entreaties not compromised on their insistence on withdrawing funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC and only softened in their opposition to the 2013 budget amendment bill only after entreaties from the National Assembly leadership and Emodi.
But with the establishment of the Kawu Baraje led parallel faction of the PDP, neither Emodi nor the presiding officers are believed to be in position to douse the angst of the members.
Sources in Abuja yesterday revealed that the nPDP members who with their colleagues in the All Progressives Congress, APC now have the majority in the two chambers have sent out signals to the presiding officers to play cool or otherwise suffer the consequences of aligning with Tukur. Indeed for the first time since the advent of the leaderships in the two chambers, the impeachment word is even being bandied about by some members.
In the Senate where its leadership had in the past been regarded as being too cozy with the presidency, there were indications that both Senator David Mark and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu may have decided to play below the radar in the ensuing struggle for the soul of the party.
Senator Mark who has achieved the feat of steering the Senate for an unprecedented six straight years, and skipped all the banana peels that regularly brought down predecessors, is undoubtedly facing the biggest crisis of his leadership.
An overt attempt by the Senate President to side with the party could lead to a rebellion among the ranks of the opposition senators who now have a majority. It is not impossible that rivals of Senator Mark in the loyal PDP camp could use the opportunity to foment the kind of trouble that the Senate president had all the while fended off.
It is not as if Senator Mark has not had issues with the presidency himself. Sources disclose that the one time cordiality between Senator Mark and the presidency may have hit the rocks. Some allege that the inclination of presidency minders to incline towards Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State on issues and appointments concerning Benue State instead of Mark as the presidency did before may have contributed to the sore.
So in navigating the difficult current between the mainstream PDP and the nPDP in the Senate, Senator Mark is bound to always watch his back to ensure that he does not draw the wrath of the aggrieved legislators.
It is not for nothing that Senator Mark who is always prompt to respond to national issues has through this week been totally quiet on the biggest political development to have rocked the seventh Senate.
So presidency minders expecting Senator Mark to heed the suggestion of Tukur and declare the seats of the nPDP senators vacant would be greatly disappointed.
Decision to break PDP
Presidency officials would even be more wary of developments in the House of Representatives. It is no news that the House and most elements in its leadership have for most of the last two years navigated different courses on issues affecting the polity.
With Speaker Aminu Tambuwal regularly accused of hobnobbing with opposition forces, the decision to break the PDP would strengthen his resolve for more relations with the opposition elements within and outside the House.
Remarkably, the governor of Sokoto State where Tambuwal comes from, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko is one of the prominent members of the nPDP. It would as such be foolhardy for presidency officials to expect any sort of comfort from Tambuwal.
However, Speaker Tambuwal has consistently played the matured role in his dealings on issues relating with the administration. That is despite the tag of suspicion that some presidency officials have consistently placed on him.
In the unfolding development, Speaker Tambuwal is expected to firmly ride out the storm irrespective of how and in what direction the PDP breaks.