*Evil day postponed?
Emotions were high, there was the anticipation that at least the era of the Peoples Democratic Party’s, PDP, sitting at the driver’s seat and dishing out instructions at the National Assembly was about to come to an end at the resumption of plenary on Tuesday, following the gale of defections especially that rocked the House of Representatives.
Indeed it was gathered that the leadership of the Senate had postponed the resumption date after the Christmas and New Year break for another one week to see whether the tension generated by the anticipated defection of about 22 aggrieved members of the PDP in the upper chamber to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, would go down.
The PDP-controlled leadership of the upper legislative chamber had flown a kite through the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Ita Enang, to feel the pulse of the senators that had threatened to dump the PDP for the APC. Enang, in a media briefing in his office, threatened that any senator that defects to the opposition party would automatically lose his seat.
His argument was that it was the political party that was elected and not the individual and that whoever is leaving the political party that gave him the seat would automatically leave without the seat. He also debunked the claim that precedents had been set in the past where parliamentarians elected on the platform of a political party jumped the ship by pitching their tents with another party, saying that such existed because nobody challenged such an action following constitutional provisions.
There was the feeling in some quarters that Enang’s position was like the Biblical hands of Esau and voice of Jacob as he was presenting the position of the Senate leadership.
But being aware of the bashing that followed Enang’s briefing from other senators, the leadership of the Senate, through its Committee Chairman on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Enyinnaya Abaribe, disowned the Akwa Ibom State born lawmaker, saying the sentiment he expressed was his personal opinion and did not reflect the position of the red chamber.
With that, the stage was set that the resumption date would witness a tsunami coupled with the assurance by Senator Bindowo Jibrilla, PDP, Adamawa North, who, on a BBC Hausa Service programme, last week, said 17 PDP senators would, at the resumption of plenary, defect to the APC, even as he claimed that the senators made their intentions known via separate letters to Senate President David Mark.
The 17 senators were among the 22 others who had reportedly indicated their interest to join the APC before Christmas and New Year break.
Jibrilla said he had already led the way by joining APC, saying he would announce his defection immediately after Senate resumption and others will follow.
“To be candid, we are 17 senators that will dump PDP to APC in the Senate very soon. This is a serious matter and not a joke, making me to lead the way by joining the APC already”.
The PDP presently has 72 senators, while APC has 33, Labour Party (LP) has three while APGA has the remaining one seat.
But the doomsday prophesy against the PDP refused to come to pass. As the senators sauntered into the chambers with the usual comradeship and back slapping on Tuesday, and most of them clad in their ‘agbada’ attire, there was no sign that anything untoward was going to happen, although, William Shakespeare, in one of his books, had posited that there was no act see man’s construction on the face.
Legislative business resumed as the Senate president and principal officers of the chamber took their seats. He read letters from Mr. President on the appointment of new Service Chiefs and ministers. It was expected that like what happened in the House of Representatives where defecting members submitted a letter notifying the chamber of their decision to dump the PDP for APC and was read on the floor by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, the senators wanting to decamp would also follow, but there was neither such letter nor point of order raised to that effect by the defecting members.
In his welcome remarks, Mark advised the senators not to allow to themselves be beclouded by selfish interest as they carry out their legislative business, stressing that the nation was watching to see what would be the position of the Senate in the midst of the frightening political tension.
“But here in the Senate, how we ride the challenge, and not let it deflect our focus from our constitutional responsibilities and our duty to our nation, will be a measure of our maturity as elder statesmen and women, democrats and patriots”, he said.
“Our nation is watching to see whether distinguished senators will uphold the dignity of this institution and their oath of office, or whether we will allow ourselves to become mere tools in factional political disputes and intra-party rows.
On the second legislative business, Wednesday, the expected emotions bottled in the minds of senators according to their political linen was made manifest as there was a near exchange of blows among those sympathetic to the ruling PDP and those on the side of the APC immediately Senator Wilson Ake presented a motion on the political crisis in Rivers State.
The senators threw decorum to the wind and almost engaged in what would have been a free-for-all, following a disagreement between Senator James Manager, PDP, Delta South and Senator Ahmed Lawan, APC, Yobe North, after the latter walked to where the former was sitting to engage him over an alleged derogatory remark against him. Both senators refused to disclose the statement that generated the heat when asked by newsmen.
Mark regretted the development, saying the conduct of the senators did not promote the spirit of dialogue which they had been preaching for.
“At this stage, we would dialogue, dialogue, dialogue and then we want to fight.