Ex-Kwara governor shuns Ndume, Goje, others
Plans to get Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect to vote en bloc for principal officers during today’s inauguration of the Eighth National Assembly collapsed yesterday.
There was also a split among the PDP governors on who to support between Senator Ahmed Lawan and Senator Bukola Saraki for Senate president.
It was learnt this morning that at a meeting of PDP Senators-elect in Abuja, 28 agreed to back Saraki/Ike Ekweremadu ticket; 17 agreed to back Lawan/Akume ticket. That was after Saraki decided to work with PDP in a desperate move to win the race.
Some senators and members-elect rejected the suggestion by Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose that PDP senators should vote Saraki.
Lawan at the weekend emerged the choice candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after a mock election by the party’s senators-elect. But the Saraki camp rejected the straw poll and vowed to contest for the position on the floor today.
The APC is the majority party in the Senate, with 59 senators-elect. The PDP has 49 senators.
It was learnt that at a meeting held by the PDP caucus on Sunday night in former Senate President David Mark’s residence in Apo, Abuja, the divided PDP senators-elect and their governors were said to have threatened to draft one of them into the race if the APC failed to agree on a consensus candidate.
Some of the PDP senators said to be rooting for Saraki allegedly suggested that they should forge a vibrant opposition on Tuesday by voting against the APC consensus choice as a signal of what form of opposition to expect in the Senate in the new dispensation.
The PDP senators were said to have contended that voting against APC’s preferred candidate would signpost a resolute stand to keep the PDP alive.
A source at the meeting said a former principal officer in the Seventh Senate was the brain behind the proposal.
The source said most of the senators disagreed vehemently with the suggestion.
Those opposed to the suggestion, it was learnt, averred that toeing the line of action would only serve the interest of a few, particularly the governors, rather than that of the PDP as a party.
The source noted that most of the senators agreed that “we should wait and see what the APC senators will come up with”.
He said: “The surprise of the night was that some of the governors who former President Goodluck Jonathan laboured to install were those at the vanguard of the Saraki project, a man who practically destroyed PDP.
“Most senators at the meeting viewed supporting Saraki as robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“They contended that it will be bad politics to reward a man who took up arms against his party, destroyed it and moved to build another one.”
The meeting was said to have ended without the Senators taking a final decision on who to back for Senate president.
A former acting National Publicity Secretary of PDP Chief Bode Ojomu, yesterday warned the party against supporting any of its defectors from either being the Senate President or the Speaker.
Another source said: “At the end of the day, we could not agree on bloc votes for any of the candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives. Governor Fayose pleaded with party leaders to see the battle as one between the PDP and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He begged the party to ‘clip’ Tinubu’s wings.
“But some senators-elect warned Fayose against going personal. They queried the morality behind PDP supporting candidates who defected from the party to the APC. They alleged that their defection led to the defeat of PDP at the polls.
“The governors were also split on who to back for the National Assembly offices.”
“At the end of the day, we could not reach a consensus on casting our votes en bloc for either of the candidates. I can tell you that everyone is on his own.”
The difficulty in arriving at a consensus has created an upset in Saraki’s camp.
It was gathered that those who are pro-Saraki were trying to strengthen the accord between their candidate and the immediate past Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu.
The latest plot will lead to Saraki dumping Senator Ali Ndume as his favourite for Deputy President of the Senate.
Another source added: “They will continue to sell a dummy to Ndume that he will be Deputy President of the Senate if Saraki gets the ticket.
“But as soon as Saraki wins, they will nominate Ekweremadu who is expected to deliver the bloc votes of the Senators-elect from the SouthEast in collaboration with Senator Andy Uba.”
Uba and Ekweremadu could not be reached for comments last night.
It was gathered that the collapse of consensus by PDP has created a serious setback for Yakubu Dogara who is seeking to contest for Speaker of the House of Representatives with the party’s candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Dogara could only garner support from 55 out of the 209 APC members-elect for the House of Representatives.
Another source said: “Dogara had banked on permutations that 120 PDP members-elect will vote for him but his hope was dashed last night by the split in the party.
“In fact, to earn the support of PDP, he was mandated to mobilise at least 70 members-elect from the APC. But Dogara is stranded as he could only secure the backing of 55 members-elect from the APC.
“As it is now, the moves to frustrate Gbajabiamila’s aspiration have failed. This is why they have resorted to blackmail and wild-chase in the court.
“Some pro-Dogara members-elect were also last night whipping up religious sentiments to set the core North against the party’s candidate.”
Ojomu warned the PDP against supporting any of its defectors from either being the Senate President or the Speaker.
He said those who defected from PDP to APC could not turn back to the party they decimated for succour.
Ojomu, in a statement, warned the PDP against playing politics of “pay back time” against the APC.
The statement said: “It is worrisome to observe that many of those who walked out were former PDP members who joined the APC and are acting out exactly the same script of ‘give a dog a bad name to hang it’ adopted as strategy to exit from the PDP for their safe landing in the APC.
“Today, by their actions and inactions alongside, other several factors left PDP comatose and one wonders if everybody acted like them who will be PDP senators and House of Representatives members to be now courted to defend their interest for victory at all cost against their ruling party’s official position.
“They decimated the PDP and now want to rely on it as strength to climb to number three and four in our nation. That’s crass opportunism and the PDP leaders in the Red and Green Chambers should not provide themselves as ready tools for self-serving pursuits.
“Strengthening party supremacy, party discipline, national stability and cohesion in government are the gains of PDP in National Assembly, standing firm that any political party official position or policy shall stand.
“Nigeria needs men of stable character. After all, those who stand for nothing fall for anything. The men and women that constitute the Nigeria’s Legislature must stand for something and in these circumstances it is principled position on party supremacy, notwithstanding that the former A.C.N botched that principle in the choice of speakership in 2011.“
Ojomu said the APC had the right to put forward those who should be on its platform in the National Assembly leadership.
The statement said: “Let it be noted that if the party was ever right to sponsor senatorial/House of Representatives candidate for election, it must also be right to determine who to put forward on its platform.
“No responsible political party in a democratic process that outlaws individual, independent candidate for elective offices will abdicate its historical and natural responsibility to present a sole candidate for each of the NASS Principal Offices.
“It will be unconventional for APC to watch helplessly for its members to contest in a free for all manner in the Red and Green Chambers.
“The gladiators need to drop sophistry in their argument and be educated that there is nothing undemocratic in the ruling party adopted open balloting process as opposed to secret balloting that was preferred by contending parties. Option A4 adopted in the Third Republic with SDP and NRC was adjudged one of the best democratic processes this country has ever witnessed. You queue behind your preferred candidate or party.”