•Says Saraki as Senate President behaved more like an opposition member
• Saraki’s defection, good riddance — Presidency
•S-West PDP welcomes defectors, party hosts them to dinner in Abuja
•Mama Taraba, Alhasan, resigns to vie for governorship
By Emmanuel Aziken, Dayo Johnson, Demola Akinyemi, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbarakwu, Omezia Ajayi & Abdallah el-Kurebe
ABUJA — The Federal Government in its first formal response to the gale of defections from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday described the exit of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as a good riddance that would remove obstacles to the delivery of good governance.
The government’s reaction was articulated through the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Saraki as Senate President slowed down governance — Lai Mohammed
Speaking after the regular Federal Executive Council, FEC meeting, Alhaji Mohammed said: “If Senate President Bukola Saraki were not a member of the APC, the party and the government it leads could not have suffered more than they had already done, with regards to the delay in passing the budget, approving key appointments and so on.
“In other words, Saraki has behaved all along as a member of the opposition, deliberately slowing down the progress of the APC-led Federal Government.
“It is therefore neither a surprise nor a blow that he has defected.
“Perhaps the only surprise is that when he eventually defected, it was a mere whimper. If we didn’t gain by having our member as Senate President, we stand to lose nothing by losing him.”
On the effect on Kwara politics, he said: “Realising this, the true APC members in the state have come together to strengthen the party, open its doors to new members and reposition it for the 2019 elections, with a view to delivering Kwara to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“This was what we did this past weekend, and you saw the way the people reacted. Yet, what happened at the weekend was not even a rally. It was a consultative stakeholders’ meeting. And it was a defining moment for the millions of Kwarans seeking political direction and emancipation.
“Thankfully, the national leadership of our party has hearkened to our demands by dissolving the exco and constituting a caretaker committee.
“That offers a fresh start for the APC in Kwara. No one tree, no matter how big, can make a forest. Every Kwaran is important in the emerging political dispensation in the state, and it is the realisation of this new dawn that has set the state agog for the APC.”
He said that with the defection of the Senate President, “Kwara State is now breathing the air of relief. The future of the party in the state can only get better.”
‘Query to Saraki, an afterthought’
Meanwhile, chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (PDP, Kwara South), yesterday described as an afterthought and an academic exercise the query purportedly issued to Saraki by the APC leadership.
Ibrahim in a statement said Saraki didn’t need to answer a query that had become redundant and overtaken by events.
“All Senators who have defected from APC did so on their own free will. As matured men and women, we took the decision to leave the APC by ourselves.
“We did so because we felt that the party no longer represents the ideals that we once fought for. The Senators are political leaders in their own rights, and they represent their different senatorial districts. So, it is preposterous for the APC leadership to be writing that Dr. Saraki should be held responsible for the decision of my colleagues concerning their political careers.
“Is it Saraki that caused the antagonism between Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai which led the Senator to defect? Is it Saraki that caused the problem between Kogi Governor and Sen. Dino Melaye when the party appeared helpless in calling the governor to order as he moves to annihilate the Senator who contributed so much to his election? Is it Saraki that compelled a man of Sen. Abdullahi Danbaba of Sokoto’s standing to defect? Is it Saraki who forced Sen. Monsurat Sunmonu from Oyo State to defect? Can Saraki be blamed for Sen. Abdulazeez Murtala Nyako’s defection after the Senator had complained about the lack of equity and inclusiveness in the APC in Adamawa State? One can give so many examples to demonstrate how the non-commital leadership of the APC looked on, without taking action to stop the sorry state of affairs that made the gale of defections inevitable.
“With regard to allegations on the conduct of proceedings in the National Assembly in general, and the Senate in particular, it should be noted that the Senate is a body of equal members and the Senate President is only primus inter pares, first among equals. The Senate President cannot impose any decision on the entire body. Meanwhile, the APC was yesterday seeking to downplay the significance of the defections saying the defectors were entitled to their freedom of expression even as it challenged them to ensure that they allow such in their respective.
In a statement Wednesday in Abuja, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena said the ruling party “is neither distracted nor surprised by the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governors Abdulfatah Ahmed and Aminu Tambuwal of Kwara and Sokoto states; National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; and others from the party.
“To our members in Kwara, Sokoto and the other 34 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory FCT, remain steadfast and courageous. Encourage one another in our streets teeming with APC members and supporters from North to South, and East to West,” he added.
PDP, Atiku, Turaki welcome Tambuwal, Abubakar, others
Reacting to the wave of defections yesterday, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has welcomed to its fold Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and Kano State deputy governor, Professor Hafizu Abubakar, following their defection from the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday.
The party in a statement issued by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, described Governor Tambuwal’s decision to quit the ruling party as courageous and patriotic, adding that his choice of PDP portrayed him as a statesman who puts the interest of the nation above all.
“In welcoming Governor Tambuwal, the PDP notes that he had continued to conduct his activities in strict adherence to democratic principles, both as former speaker of the House of Representatives and executive governor of Sokoto State.
“The party has no doubt that Tambuwal will, indeed, contribute immensely towards the rebuilding of our dear nation on the platform of the PDP,” the statement read.
While lauding Tambuwal’s return to the PDP, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, described the party as the genuine home of democracy in Nigeria.
He congratulated Governors Tambuwal and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Abubakar and Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Africa, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, for teaming up with like minds on “the mission to rescue Nigeria.”
A statement from his media office noted that when in December 2017, Atiku urged the APC to embrace the true tenets of democracy or lose its soul, he was greeted with hostility and his warnings were scorned.
“At that time, Atiku had warned that without justice, there could be no unity and without internal democracy there could be no internal cohesion,” the statement read.
Similarly, PDP presidential aspirant, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, SAN, called on the party to provide all defectors with a level playing ground to pursue their aspirations.
Turaki described the PDP as the biblical Noah’s Ark in which you either get on board or get drowned, he was quoted as saying in a press statement issued by the director of media of his campaign organisation.
He assured those defecting that the National Executive Committee of the party, led by the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus had enthroned equity and justice which have made members to be proud of the party.
He said: “The party needs a candidate with integrity, credibility, education, knowledge and capacity to lead, in addition to being a bridge builder who will bring hope and strengthen the unity of the country besides enjoying the trust and confidence of the people.
S-West PDP welcomes defectors
Meanwhile, the South-West leadership of the PDP has formally welcomed the defectors to the party saying that Nigeria has been wobbling and dangerously perching on a precipice, thereby necessitating the need for patriots to depart from the APC to join their compatriots in PDP to salvage the nation from the vicious grip of those it termed as mediocre currently oppressing the nation. The statement was signed by Mr. Ayo Fadaka, zonal spokesman of the PDP.
Meanwhile The PDP last night, hosted the defectors to a dinner at the Transcrop Hilton Hotel, Abuja..
Saraki should resign as Senate President — Oshiomhole
Also the APC, and some senators elected on the platform of the party, yesterday, urged the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, to resign as Senate President.
The Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, has also appealed to senators to cut short their annual vacation to consider the supplementary budget forwarded by the President for the 2019 elections.
APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and APC senators, led by Senate Leader, Lawan, who met with President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed-doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, told Saraki to vacate the office because the APC has the majority number of senators.
According to them, Saraki cannot run to another party with the crown of APC.
Oshiomhole said: “Nobody in the APC will be surprised about the development. In fact, they have stayed a little longer than we thought. Last week, the Kwara State governor was alluded to have said he was leaving but he didn’t say when. So, we are not surprised at all.
“But these are what I might call tempting moments because I had faced similar situations in my state when people were leaving. But the beauty of democracy is that whether big or small, it is one man one vote on election day, no difference between a senator, a president, a journalist and any other person.
“In a sense, we have to accept that once a couple for any reason or the other find that they are not compatible, the only honourable thing to do is to go.
“I was happy for one thing, that the Senate president, as a mark of honour, accepted that he is leaving not because the new leadership did not make effort, he admitted that not only did I do everything possible along with the Vice President, along with some governors and we had meeting with the President, but he argued that those efforts came too late. But I couldn’t have started acting before I was born.
“But whatever is the reason, we can defect from party but we can’t decamp from Nigeria, the only thing is that there are other consequential issues that every man or woman of honour who had taken such decisions would be expected to follow through.
“I mean you should not collect a crown that belongs to a family and wear it on behalf of the family for your personal reasons, which he has enumerated, that he has gone to another family. It is just a matter of honour to leave the crown in the house that the crown belongs to.
“As it stands even now, APC is still the largest party in the Senate, we have 53 senators, that is much more than PDP has, or APGA has.
Want senators to call short vacation to pass 2019 INEC budget
Also speaking, Senate Majority Leader, Lawan, said: “As the President leaves for his vacation, I believe we are supposed to continue to be very responsible legislators, those issues that are so important to this country, that we have not dealt with, we should be able to come together, come back and deal with them.
“Here, I have in mind the consideration of the budget of INEC for the 2019 election, that is the request of Mr. President to approve some virement on the 2018 budget. I believe that we are going to do a lot of justice to the people of this country to work hard to pass those requests.
“Also, I believe that as a party, we will continue to consult, unite and solidify and the national chairman has just told you, the APC remains the majority in the Senate, we have 53 senators, we reeled out the names and the states.”
“Though the other side is claiming they 60, 70 but they have never given a name, it is left for you to make your judgement. In fact, I am using this medium to challenge the names of the PDP senators, we have published ours and among the 53, none has come out to deny that he is APC.
“Let them publish their own, they remain 48 senators in PDP. And by the grace of God, when the by-elections in Bauchi and Kaduna will hold, we will get two senators and that will boost our number.
“We have placed our total commitment and loyalty to our party and Mr. President, we remain true and genuine representatives of our people, we will not want to do anything that is not in the interest of our people and this administration.
“I am calling on my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives to come back and consider the requests of Mr. President for the virement and supplementary budget for INEC for the 2019 elections.”