Olalekan Adetayo and Olaleye Aluko
Members of the All Progressives Congress in the Senate and House of Representatives may defect en mass to the Peoples Democratic Party shortly before July 31, SUNDAY PUNCH has gathered.
Investigations on Saturday showed that the Reformed All Progressives Congress split from the main APC, on Wednesday, was the first phase of the plot ahead of the mass defection.
It will be reminiscent of a similar mass defection by the new Peoples Democratic Party to the APC in the run-up to the 2015 polls in 2014.
Findings indicated that in spite of the belittling of the strength of the R-APC by the APC, many lawmakers were aggrieved and would leave the latter.
One senior source among the lawmakers told SUNDAY PUNCH that though he had chosen to stick with the APC for "personal reasons," he was aware that many of his colleagues would spring a surprise soon.
Fighting with govs over 2019, power sharing cause of split
The source added, "A lot is happening but the whole truth is not being told by the APC. There is this impression that because the party has many supporters in the North-West, there is a guarantee for them.
"Members are not happy. Politics is about self interest. When governors collude with party officials to snatch the return tickets of members, you know they will seek survival elsewhere.
"Return ticket is the issue. In the APC, many of them have been told to forget 2019. If they will get it in PDP, then that is the aim of the planned mass defection. There are consultations across board and before the end of the month, they will make the defection come through.
"With the split, the R-APC has fulfilled the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution. There are sufficient grounds to leave the APC today with the division created by the split."
The section reads, "A member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall vacate his seat if "being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected – PROVIDED that his membership of the latter political is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member…"
It was learnt that as many as 80 Reps were on standby, in the first instance, to defect to join the alliance with the PDP.
The source added, "Take it or leave it, the APC can no longer beat its chest to say it has the loyalty of members in many states, particularly in the North-Central states, where herdsmen kill villagers at will, and with no action by the Federal Government.
"States like Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Taraba contributed in swinging the votes in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
"So, you are looking at an alliance between these states and the almost wholesale support for the PDP in the South-East and the South-South and you will get the picture.
"Even in the North-West, the APC will lose members in Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa and Gombe states. The situation is not different in the South-West, where the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, can no longer secure mass support like he did in 2015."
Many senators, Reps have issues with APC -Atunwa
A member with strong affinity to R-APC, Mr. Razak Atunwa, disclosed to SUNDAY PUNCH that the faction had a robust action plan that it would unfold as time progressed.
Atunwa, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, stated that people seemed to have a narrow understanding of the discord within the APC and preferred to reduce it to a few political office holders.
He claimed that there were "many senators, Reps, members of the state Houses of Assembly and more people across the country," who had issues with the party.
"I will say that after the (illegal) national convention, things are beginning to unfold.
"It is a matter of time and the reality will dawn on everyone. There is a massive disagreement. This is not a joke," Atunwa said.
Asked to put a figure to the lawmakers who might defect, Atunwa stated that it was unnecessary since time would address the question.
"There is no need because the numbers will make themselves available in a matter of time, shortly; very shortly," he added.
No need for confirmation, we're ready -Senator
Speaking with one of our correspondents, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South), one of the lawmakers loyal to Senate President Bukola Saraki, insisted that those who were marginalised would be forced out of the APC .
Asked to confirm the comments by his House of Representatives counterpart that the mass defection would occur by the end of July in the National Assembly, Ibrahim said, "There is no need for you to try to confirm such a decision. There is no need. It is as simple as that."
Also speaking with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday evening, a Senator from the South-West, who is eyeing the governorship seat of his state, disclosed that he was considering Accord Party as an alternative.
According to him, the governor of his state has hijacked the APC structure in the state. He said his case would become worse if the outgoing governor, who is from the same senatorial district with him, should go after his seat at the Senate.
"I won't join the bandwagon but I may dump the APC depending on the political events in the state in the coming days. I am considering Accord Party because it has some dominance here.
"That is why I will advise those who plan to defect en mass to consider the politics in their individual localities," the lawmaker said.
A senator from the North-Central, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, said the mass defection from the APC was also imminent in the Senate.
"Just like it occurred in 2014 when the nPDP senators left the PDP for the APC, this same thing will happen before the end of the month. Many senators that have close affinity with the R-APC will join the PDP," the federal lawmakers said.
We won't let a single member leave -Gbajabiamila
When contacted, the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the party would continue to talk to its members to remain in the APC.
Gbajabiamila also said while it was not true that between 80 and 100 members might defect, he was not ready to lose one member to another party.
He added, "We will continue to talk to our colleagues, and hopefully, they will have a rethink. Nowhere close to 100 members are leaving, but even where one leaves, I am not happy and will do all we can to get that one back.
"I read the press statement (by R-APC) and I am sure things can be sorted out. Although, strangely enough, one of the things complained about was that the convention process contravened the provisions of our constitution. I think they misconstrued the article of the constitution they talked about.
"Interestingly, they also said the convention was not democratic and at the same time, announced structures - both nationally and state-wide - without saying what democratic process produced the officers that emerged.
"These and more are the things I intend to discuss with my colleagues, and hopefully, we will be able to reach a common ground with as many as possible. Like I said, I don't want to lose even one member."
APC has become desperate -R-APC
On its part, the R-APC said attempts by the Adams Oshiomhole-led APC to break its ranks were doomed to fail.
The National Publicity Secretary of the R-APC, Kassim Afegbua, said this in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, in Abuja, on Saturday.
He said members of the R-APC had reached a point of no return in their quest to restore the APC to its original state of pro-masses, purpose driven platform for genuine democrats to access power for good governance and general welfare of Nigeria and Nigerians.
According to him, speculation that the R-APC is given life to prepare grounds for defection to another party is part of the propaganda by those seeking to weaken the resolve of the group to rebuild the APC.
He explained that what the R-APC was interested in currently was to ensure that promises made by the APC to Nigerians in 2015 were fulfilled.
Afegbua said, "Democracy is a system that caters to the interest of the majority of people in a given society. That is why it is called democratic rule. We resist attempts to push Nigeria towards a civilian dictatorship.
"They said we are hirelings. The people they are going to talk to in the National Assembly; are they also hirelings? You visit the Senate; you visit the House of Representatives. Why are you talking to them? It is coming a little too late because we are determined to take the APC back to the right path."
In response to a question as to whether members of the R-APC were afraid of a possible clampdown by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other agents of state, he said it was to be expected.
The R-APC spokesperson said, "Of course, why would they clamp down? They will clamp down because they want to sustain this phlegmatic leadership. They are desperate to sustain this leadership that is not result oriented, that is not knowledge driven."
Melaye hints on defection to PDP in new video
Meanwhile, the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Dino Melaye, has hinted on his defection from the APC to the PDP in a video on his social media platforms on Friday night.
In the video, in which Melaye danced while singing a song common with those on the battlefield but with modified lyrics, described the opposition PDP as "home" that he had missed.
While mocking the APC, he also said, "bye bye to jati jati (a Yoruba adjective that means disarray)."
The controversial senator had, on May 31, 2018, opted to sit among PDP senators in the chamber upon his resumption after a long battle with the Nigeria Police, who arrested, detained and arraigned him in separate courts in Kogi State and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja over alleged gunrunning and attempted suicide, among other changes.
Melaye had urged the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, to direct the sergeants-at-arms to provide another seat for him at the side of the minority PDP section of the chamber, saying he would sit beside a former Senate President, David Mark, in the interim.