By Soni Daniel, Henry Umoru, Emma Ovuakporie & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA— NATIONAL leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, welcomed the defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, and advised him to resign as speaker because he was no longer a member of the ruling party.
After almost one year of speculation and hob-nobbing with APC leaders, Tambuwal, yesterday, formally dumped PDP for the opposition party.
Reacting to Tambuwal’s defection, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement said the honourable thing for Tambuwal now is to resign.
Metuh said: “The National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has met with PDP leaders in the House of Representatives concerning the defection of the Speaker. After a thorough consideration of the matter, the NWC came to a conclusion that the Honourable Speaker, as a responsible elected officer, knows full well what is needful and honourable of him since his new party is in the minority.
“We are not unmindful of the fact that Honourable Tambuwal became Speaker on the platform of the PDP as the political party with the majority of seats in the House of Representatives and that this incontrovertible fact has not changed.”
How Tambuwal dumped PDP
Tambuwal, who had put all his colleagues and political associates on their toes since 2013 over where he belongs, formalized his defection to the APC, yesterday, via a two-paragraph letter.
As soon as Leader of the House, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola and the Deputy Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, moved for adjournment and journalists stood up to leave the gallery, Tambuwal started reading his decampment letter.
The Speaker waited till the end of the day’s legislative business in the House to announce his movement to the opposition party. Before the Speaker’s announcement of his decampment to the APC, the House had passed a motion to immortalize Dr. Stella Adadevoh and compensate the families of the health workers who died after contracting the Ebola Virus Disease. The motion was sponsored by Olajumoke Okoya-Thomas.
Tambuwal said: ”Before I hit the gavel on the motion for adjournment, I want to make this formal announcement to this House. Based on the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, and having regards to the development of PDP in my state, Sokoto State, I hereby announce my membership with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Let me register my profound appreciation to all of you, my colleagues, for the unflinching support you have continued to extend to me for the overall national interest and development of our democracy. May Almighty God continue to guide us all.”
PDP Reps hold emergency meeting; some weep
Members of the PDP trooped into the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha’s conference room to hold what members described as an emergency meeting. After the brief meeting, Vanguard reliably gathered that the PDP leadership summoned the PDP House caucus to its secretariat.
Some members who could not control their emotions closed their office doors to journalists and wept at the loss of a colleague to the opposition. Some of the lawmakers simply told Vanguard: “Please we are not in the mood to discuss anything at this moment but we will meet this night to deliberate on the way forward”.
Tambuwal’s next political move
Tambuwal, Vanguard reliably gathered had picked the governorship nomination form over a week ago where he was made the sole flag bearer of the APC in Sokoto State.
An impeccable source close to the speaker said that Tambuwal is also eyeing the presidency. The game plan, he explains, is that if Tambuwal failed at the presidential level, he has nothing to lose as the Sokoto ticket is already in his pocket.
“I do not know how he intends to achieve that but from all indications our friend is eyeing both positions,” the source said.
Tambuwal remains Speaker, APC Reps
The APC lawmakers addressed the press immediately Tambuwal announced his defection. Arrowhead of the opposition, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) and the Minority Whip, Samson Osagie spoke at the briefing.
They said: “We are here to address you on the events of today, the formal notification by the Speaker of the House of Representatives—Tambuwal — of his membership of the All Progressives Congress.
“We welcome and applaud the Speaker’s decision. Ever since the crises started in PDP which led to the formation of the ‘New PDP’, and the defection of five PDP Governors, 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives to the APC, and the formal merger of the ‘New PDP’ with the APC, we had all along known that this day will come.
“We are proud to acknowledge that the Speaker remains not only a member of the House of Representatives but also its Speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a Presidential System of Government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Constitution requires only, that ‘Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that House from among themselves.’ Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has been a speaker for all the members, all the political parties and for all Nigerians and will so continue.
“As a caucus, we pledge our continued support to the current leadership of the House of Representatives. We will not do anything to destabilize the institution of the House of Representatives, so that it will continue to deliver on the mandates given to its members by Nigerians.”
The court ‘ll decide –Leo Ogor
Deputy Leader of the House, Leo Ogor, in a swift reaction to what transpired on the floor of the House and the threatened unity of the Seventh Assembly said:
“What happened today was quite unexpected. But again, that decision was a personal decision and has no major implication on our political party. The PDP members of the House will look at the situation and take a position in respect of the defection. He is gone, fine. And he emphasized that his decision borders on his local politics. That is to say borders on the interest of his people and his constituency. But, all said and done, he came through a political party which was PDP. So, by the provision of Section 68 (g) of the constitution, which is still before a court of jurisdiction, we await the ruling of the court on the matter. And I think this is one great opportunity for us to call on the Judiciary. It is also an arm of government; justice delayed is justice denied.
“And it is a subject matter before them, it behoves on them to make the necessary interpretations so that we can lay this issue to rest in respect of defection. It is extremely important. But for us as members of the PDP, we believe that we will continue carrying on the responsibilities of our party.
“We will watch further, and definitely will see what happens. Let’s look and see how he manages the House. We will watch him with eagle eyes and interpret every action that he takes.”
“Let me emphasize here that the Speaker has left. Because he has gone does not mean that the PDP does not control the House. He sits down there as the presiding officer, we run the affairs of the House, and as people who control the House, we must go the extra mile to protect the interest of our party. We are not going to lose our sleep because Tambuwal defected to the APC.
“I think we need to be mindful of the constitution. According to the constitution, you would need a two/thirds majority to remove a sitting speaker. Do we have two/third? That is another matter we need to ponder. We will face the party and give our explanations, but I can assure you that the party’s interest will be fully protected.”
For now PDP has 195 members while APC has about 159 and the other parties share the remaining six seats.
It’s a party affair –Akande
In her reaction, House Majority Leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola (PDP, Oyo) said: “This is a party affair. Members take decision on the floor based on party. So, the party will take decision at the appropriate time.”
‘Tambuwal playing for time to ward off removal’
The abrupt adjournment of the proceedings of the House of Representatives by Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday, was done as a survival strategy, Vanguard investigation has revealed.
A ranking member of the House, who spoke to Vanguard last night, explained that Tambuwal, who formally decamped from the PDP to the APC same day, decided to adjourn for a long time in order to secure “a soft landing” for himself.
The member pointed out that what happened on the floor of the House on Tuesday did not come to them as a surprise, as most of the leadership from all the major political parties could not claim ignorance of the step taken by the Speaker.
The source said: “The drama that played out on the floor of the House was not out of the blues; it was carefully played out by those who superintend over us.
“The top men there could not claim ignorance of what Tambuwal did and his decision to adjourn the House till December 3 this year. This type of a thing has never happened in the history of the House but they did it and got away with it.
“The truth of the matter is that Tambuwal knew that if he had waited a minute after making the announcement of his decampment public, the proper thing was for the PDP majority in the House to elect a new Speaker.
“But by embarking on a prolonged adjournment which took many members by surprise, it is clear that the Speaker wants to get a soft landing and use the period to lobby members to get a new Speaker who will be sympathetic to him and cover his back.”
“Tambuwal believes he is a smart politician and he may still get his way around,” the member said.