*Weigh options on support for Saraki
*Insist Omogunwa’s seat must be declared vacant
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — THERE was a rowdy session, yesterday, in the Senate, following the defection of Senator Yele Omogunwa, Ondo South, from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Senator Omogunwa had in his letter of defection read by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said he was cross carpeting from his party to support the governor-elect of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, who was as at the time the gubernatorial candidate of the APC.
Omogunwa in the letter said:“This declaration I have made in my local government on Sunday, November 20, to enable me actively canvass for the success of Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in the gubernatorial election of November 26, 2016.”
Soon after Saraki read the letter of defection from Omogunwa, the Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, challenged it, saying as lawmakers, they must not encourage political rascality, adding that the seat belongs to PDP since there was no crisis in the party.
Akpabio, who came through Order 43 to fault Omogunwa’s defection, said the only ground upon which a serving lawmaker could defect from one party to the other as specified in section 68(c) of the 1999 constitution as amended, was through division in the leadership of his party, which he said no longer existed in PDP based on the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judgments over the nomination of PDP candidate for the Ondo election.
For this reason, Senator Godswill Akpabio faulted the action of the Ondo Senator in the eyes of the law and then requested the Senate President to declare his seat vacant.
Saraki, subsequently, ruled Akpabio out of order, saying the matter was controversial, which runs contrary to the spirit and letter of Order 43 on which Akpabio made his objection.
The rising temper among PDP senators over the development, heightened when Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West, rose to speak on the same issue in the same order and he was recognized by Senator Saraki.
Melaye, who also relied on order 43, said the division within the PDP national leadership between Markafi and Modu Sherrif still existed, which according to him, made “Omogunwa’s defection to be perfectly in order.”
Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, PDP, Delta North then stood up to raise order 43 where he picked holes on the recognition of Melaye when the Senate Minority leader had been ruled out of order, saying the point raised by Senator Melaye was absolutely not ñecessary.
Senator Nwaoboshi, who reminded his colleagues of their positions in the country as Senators, however, urged them to behave as Senators, just as he accused the Senate President of running foul of the Senate standing rules by allowing Dino Melaye to make remarks over an issue that had already been ruled upon.
When efforts by Senator Akpabio to speak again proved abortive as he was not recognized by the Senate President, he then led other PDP Senators out of the chambers. The development led to all the PDP senators staging a walk out from the chambers to address journalists in hearing Room 2.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Labour Party, LP, Delta Central was announced by Saraki to step in as Minority Leader and he immediately took over the seat of Akpabio.
Insist Omogunwa’s seat must be declared vacant
Following the pull out of PDP Senators from the chambers, almost all the bills slated for discussion in the order paper were stood down because they were sponsored by PDP Senators, even as the PDP senators never returned to the chambers after their meeting in Hearing Room 1.
Briefing journalists after the PDP Senators stormed out of the chambers, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, vowed that PDP as a party would ensure that it retrieves the stolen senatorial seat from Omogunwa through the courts because there was no division within the party leadership now.
He said: “At the appropriate time, I believe that, working with the caucus, we will work with the national leadership of our party to take a correct legal pronouncement and ensure that the seat is declared vacant.”
Meanwhile, PDP Senators, yesterday resolved to weigh their continued support for Saraki, just as they said they had always stood behind him, but he was not there for them when they needed him, saying they had agreed to maintain a siddon look approach to matters affecting him.