By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Wole Mosadomi & Demola Akinyemi
•Senate President defects to PDP; Kwara Gov, Ahmed follows
•2 senators, 6 reps, 22 of 23 house of assembly members follow
•As High Commissioner to S-Africa, Ibeto, resigns job, defects to PDP
•Member of Lai Mohammed’s APC group charged with certificate forgery
ILORIN — President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki yesterday announced his decision to leave the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
He left with the mainstream of his political family in Kwara State, including Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, the two other senators from the state, members of the House of Representatives, all but one of the members of the State House of Assembly.
Resolutions to take this action were taken during a meeting of the political family in Saraki’s GRA, Ilorin residence yesterday.
Also yesterday, the country’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, has resigned his job ahead of his return to PDP, his former party. Alhaji Ibeto, who was Deputy Governor of Niger State during Dr. Mu’azu Aliyu’s administration, resigned his appointment and dumped PDP for APC, claiming he was denied the governorship slot to succeed his boss.
News of Saraki’s defection first broke out on Twitter at 6.00 p.m. where Saraki announced his defection.
“I wish to inform Nigerians that, after extensive consultations, I have decided to take my leave of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” the Senate President announced in his tweet. Subsequently, he issued a press statement in which he said he was forced out of the APC by fifth columnists who he said aborted last-minute reconciliation efforts which he said had been initiated by new party chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and some of the party’s governors.
He, said he was going back to the PDP which he said had learnt from its loss of 2015 even as he said that the APC failed to usher the changes it promised.
A prominent member of Saraki’s political family who is also National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi was absent at the meeting in Ilorin. No reason was given for his absence. Abdullahi lost his job as minister of sports in the Goodluck Jonathan administration on account of his political loyalty to Saraki, following the latter’s defection in 2014 from the PDP to the APC.
Also absent at the meeting which was ongoing as at press time last night were two members of the House of Representatives Ms. Funke Adedoyin and Tope Layonu, both from Kwara South.
News of Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed’s defection was contained in a one-paragraph press statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muideen Akorede to journalists in Ilorin while the meeting was underway.
The one-paragraph press statement read: “Following due consultations with the people and in response to calls by major stakeholder groups in the state, Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed today defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), having realized that the All Progressives Congress (APC) can no longer serve as a platform for achieving the aspirations and expectations of his people.
Members of the House of Representatives present at the meeting included Hon Abdulrazaq Atunwa, Hon Ahman Pategi, Hon Abubakar Kannike and Hon Zakareh Mohammed.
Also present were Senators Sha’aba Lafiagi of Kwara North, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim of Kwara South and members of the state House of Assembly which included the Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad and all but one member of the House of Assembly, Mr. Saheed Popoola.
Lai Mohammed’s man faces probe
Popoola who was the only member absent had defected from the Saraki tendency to support the faction of the party backed by Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Meanwhile, Popoola who represents Ojomu/Balogun State Constituency in the House was yesterday the subject of a probe arising from alleged forgery and fraud raised against him.
Speaker, of the House, Dr. Ahmad said the investigations arose from petitions raised against Popoola of forgery of his certificate and issuance of a bounced cheque. A member representing Ipaye/Malete/Oloru Constituency, Hon. Mohammed Adebayo tabled the petitions before the House. According to him, “with the volume of the petitions and contents and even reactions from that constituency, it’s evident that the lawmaker should be suspended, but we can’t act like a military regime here.”
“The appropriate committee will handle the investigation to know the veracity or otherwise of those allegations because we have to ensure thorough fairness and justice in everything we do here, if only for the sake of posterity.”
He said a total of three petitions, which bordered on certificate forgery, issuance of bounced cheque were presented against the lawmaker at yesterday’s plenary. In one of the petitions titled Save Our Soul (SOS), Popoola was alleged to have issued a bounced cheque to one Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed.
The Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad, referred the petitions to the House Joint Committees on Public Petitions and Justice for a thorough investigation in a bid to ensure fairness.
Why I quit APC — Saraki
Saraki at the meeting said:
“We discussed this issue last week when I came home. You told me that you were tired of APC, but I asked you to exercise patience. I told you that I will seek God’s guidance and feed you back on my return to Ilorin.
“The Federal Government appointed over 200 persons into juicy offices without allotting any slot to me or Dogara. Everything went to Katsina, Katsina, Lagos, Lagos. If not for the love I have for Nigeria, we would have scattered everything. They don’t want us in their party. They don’t like us in Kwara. What I’m after is for my people to enjoy dividends of democracy. I want us to be in the party that will love my people. Wherever we are we will win elections.
“The governor told me he’s tired of APC. Those we are talking to in PDP have understood that we need to move Nigeria forward. There is no cause for alarm. We should forget about personal ambition as we move to a new party. What should be paramount in our minds is Nigeria’s progress.
“We will set up our committee which will be meeting with the PDP committee. I’ve met with great stakeholders in PDP such as Prof Sulaiman, Ajibola Simon, Yekini Alabi and we have all agreed to work together. We should cooperate with PDP people who we are joining.”
Following the meeting he issued a statement where he said that he took the decision after consultations with members of his political family.
His words: “While I take full responsibility for this decision, I will like to emphasise that it is a decision that has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist.
“They have done everything to ensure that the basic rules of party administration, which should promote harmonious relations among the various elements within the party were blatantly disregarded. All governance principles which were required for a healthy functioning of the party and the government were deliberately violated or undermined, and all entreaties for justice, equity and fairness as basic pre-conditions for peace and unity, not only within the party, but also the country at large, were simply ignored, or employed as additional pretext for further exclusion.
“The experience of my people and associates in the past three years is that they have suffered alienation and have been treated as outsiders in their own party. Thus, many have become disaffected and disenchanted. At the same time, opportunities to seek redress and correct these anomalies were deliberately blocked as a government-within-a-government had formed an impregnable wall and left in the cold, everyone else who was not recognized as “one of us”. This is why my people, like all self-respecting people would do, decided to seek accommodation elsewhere.
“I have had the privilege to lead the Nigerian legislature in the past three years as the President of the Senate and the Chairman of the National Assembly. The framers of our constitution envisage a degree of benign tension among the three arms of government if the principle of checks and balances must continue to serve as the building block of our democracy. In my role as the head of the legislature, and a leader of the party, I have ensured that this necessary tension did not escalate at any time in such a way that it could encumber executive function or correspondingly, undermine the independence of the legislature. Over the years, I have made great efforts in the overall interest of the country, and in spite of my personal predicament, to manage situations that would otherwise have resulted in unsavoury consequences for the government and the administration. My colleagues in the Senate will bear testimony to this.
“However, what we have seen is a situation whereby every dissent from the legislature was framed as an affront on the executive or as part of an agenda to undermine the government itself. The populist notion of anti-corruption became a ready weapon for silencing any form of dissent and for framing even principled objection as “corruption fighting back”. Persistent onslaught against the legislature and open incitement of the people against their own representatives became a default argument in defence of any short-coming of the government in a manner that betrays all too easily, a certain contempt for the Constitution itself or even the democracy that it is meant to serve.
“Unfortunately, the self-serving gulf that has been created between the leadership of the two critical arms of government based on distrust and mutual suspicion has made any form of constructive engagement impossible. Therefore, anything short of a slavish surrender in a way that reduces the legislature to a mere rubber stamp would not have been sufficient in procuring the kind of rapprochement that was desired in the interest of all. But I have no doubt in my mind, that to surrender this way is to be complicit in the subversion of the institution that remains the very bastion of our democracy. I am a democrat, and I believe that anyone who lays even the most basic claim to being a democrat will not accept peace on those terms; which seeks to compromise the very basis of our existence as the parliament of the people.
“The recent weeks have witnessed rather unusual attempts to engage with some of these most critical issues at stake. Unfortunately, the discord has been allowed to fester unaddressed for too long, with dire consequences for the ultimate objective of delivering the common good and achieving peace and unity in our country. Any hope of reconciliation at this point was therefore very slim indeed. Most of the horses had bolted from the stable.
Reconciliation efforts frustrated
“The emergence of a new national party executives a few weeks ago held out some hopes, however slender. The new party chairman has swung into action and did his best alongside some of the Governors of APC and His Excellency, the Vice President. I thank them for all their great efforts to save the day and achieve reconciliation. Even though I thought these efforts were coming late in the day, but seeing the genuine commitment of these gentlemen, I began to think that perhaps it was still possible to reconsider the situation.
“However, as I have realized all along, there are some others in the party leadership hierarchy, who did not think dialogue was the way forward and therefore chose to play the fifth columnists. These individuals went to work and ensured that they scuttled the great efforts and good intentions of these aforementioned leaders of the party. Perhaps, had these divisive forces not thrown the cogs in the wheel at the last minutes, and in a manner that made it impossible to sustain any trust in the process, the story today would have been different.
“For me, I leave all that behind me. Today, I start as I return to the party where I began my political journey, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“When we left the PDP to join the then nascent coalition of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014, we left in a quest for justice, equity and inclusion; the fundamental principles on which the PDP was originally built but which it had deviated from. We were attracted to the APC by its promise of change. We fought hard along with others and defeated the PDP.
“In retrospect, it is now evident that the PDP has learnt more from its defeat than the APC has learnt from its victory. The PDP that we return to is now a party that has learnt its lessons the hard way and have realized that no member of the party should be taken for granted; a party that has realized that inclusion, justice and equity are basic pre-conditions for peace; a party that has realized that never again can the people of Nigeria be taken for granted.
“I am excited by the new efforts, which seeks to build the reborn PDP on the core principles of promoting democratic values; internal democracy; accountability; inclusion and national competitiveness; genuine commitment to restructuring and devolution of powers; and an abiding belief in zoning of political and elective offices as an inevitable strategy for managing our rich diversity as a people of one great indivisible nation called Nigeria.
“What the experience of the last three years have taught us is that the most important task that we face as a country is how to reunite our people. Never before had so many people in so many parts of our country felt so alienated from their Nigerianness. Therefore, we understand that the greatest task before us is to reunite the county and give everyone a sense of belonging regardless of region or religion.
“Every Nigerian must have an instinctive confidence that he or she will be treated with justice and equity in any part of the country regardless of the language they speak or how they worship God. This is the great task that trumps all. Unless we are able to achieve this, all other claim to progress no matter how defined, would remain unsustainable.”
Ibeto, High Commissioner to South Africa dumps APC
The spate of defection of top politicians from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, across the country in the past few days has assumed an international dimension as the country’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, has resigned ahead of his return to PDP, his former party.
Alhaji Ibeto, who was Deputy Governor of Niger State during Dr. Mu’azu Aliyu’s administration, resigned his appointment and dumped PDP for APC, claiming he was denied the governorship slot to succeed his boss.
One time Chief of Staff to Babangida Aliyu, Alhaji Umar Nasko, was eventually given the PDP ticket, but lost to the incumbent governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello of APC.
It was gathered that the former ambassador arrived Nigeria from Pretoria on Sunday and submitted his letter of resignation at the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday. Sources said the former Deputy Governor left Minna for his hometown yesterday, to further perfect his political ambition where he is expected to formerly resign from APC and return to PDP.
Recall that Alhaji Ibeto was the first politician to dump PDP in 2014 alongside his supporters in Niger State after his ambition was truncated. President Muhammadu Buhari later enlisted him as a minister, but his nomination was withdrawn by the state based on APC’s zoning formula. He was later compensated with ambassadorship and posted to South Africa months ago.