PDP fumes over defection of members to APC

• Olisah Metuh

• Olisah Metuh: challenges opposition for a debate

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is fuming over the defection of 37 members of House of Representatives elected on its platform to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC on Wednesday and is threatening to invoke the relevant section of the Constitution to deal with the lawmakers.  

 “The defection, if confirmed to be true is treacherous and a huge betrayal not only of the PDP but millions of voters who worked timelessly hard for their election on the platform of the PDP in their respective Constituencies, Olisa Metuh , national publicity secretary said in statement issued in reaction to reports of the defection early in the day.“

“”As Lawmakers, the defectors must no doubt be aware of provisions of section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which clearly states conditions upon which a member of the Legislature will change platforms.The section stipulated that a lawmaker who defected to another party will lose his seat, except he or she is able to prove that his former party has been factionalised.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Courts of our land have declared that the PDP is ONE and not bedevilled by any factions. Any member of the National or State Assemblies who therefore renounces his membership of a UNITED PDP must be ready to face the consequences of defection in line with provisions of the Constitution.

“The PDP condemns what is fast unfolding as a desperate attempt by selfish politicians to cause confusion in our body polity. We wish to assure all our members and supporters nationwide that the PDP remains unshaken by the departure of Fifth Columnists. We shall undoubtedly emerge stronger and more cohesive after these events.

Thirty seven members of of House of Representatives members had on Thursday signified that they are defecting from PDP to APC in a letter read on the floor of the lower chamber by the Speaker, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal.

The lawmakers said they are doing so because of the division and factionalisationin within the PDP in tandem with section 68 subsections 1(G) of the constitution.

 The lawmakers are mostly representatives from Adamawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kwara, Rivers and Katsina States. 

 The Governors of the home states of the lawmakers had earlier also defected from PDP to APC.

The defection of the lawmakers to the APC represents the latest political blow to hit President Goodluck Jonathan.

In a letter presented to the speaker of the lower house, the lawmakers elected under Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared that they had joined the All Progressives Congress, stripping the PDP of its majority in 360-seat chamber.

They listed “divisions in the political party (PDP) that sponsored our election” as the reason for the move.

The PDP had controlled the lower house in Africa’s most populous nation and top oil producer since the end of military rule in 1999, but was left with just 171 lawmakers after Wednesday’s announcement.

However, PDP still maintains control of the Senate.

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Jonathan has been haemorrhaging support in recent weeks, including the defection of five powerful state governors to the APC last month.

Publicly, the president’s rivals have said his political troubles are tied to poor job performance, including galloping corruption and a failure to improve woeful electricity supply.

But analysts argue the real divisions are linked to Nigeria’s 2015 polls.

Jonathan has so far refused to declare his plans but is widely expected to seek re-election, even as he has faced mounting calls to stand aside.

He has been accused of breaking an unwritten rule in the PDP which calls for the presidency to rotate between Christians from the south, like Jonathan, and Muslims from the north.

Jonathan, an ex-vice president, took the top job in 2010 after the sudden death of his predecessor Umar Musa Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who served less than three years.

The practical impacts of the power shift in the house were not immediately clear as Nigeria has not had a divided federal government in decades.

Lagos State University professor Dapo Thomas said the developments will hurt the PDPs image as Nigeria’s natural ruling party.

“The defection will shake the root and foundation of the PDP,” the political science lecturer said.

Laja Oduka, a political scientist at the University of Lagos, told AFP that the opposition will use the lower house “to torment the PDP”, including the possibility of moving forward on impeachment hearings.

“We will certainly see a shift in the balance of power,” on the national stage he said.

While Jonathan’s allies still hold 74 seats of 109-member upper house, Thomas said a threat to the PDP majority there could force Jonathan to make major concessions.

In past statements, the PDP has branded supporters who defect as “agents of distraction” and cast doubt on the credibility of the APC.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has not had a democratic change in government, with power shifting from a ruling party to the opposition.