APC to witness another round of defection

•Meeting on fresh defection to hold abroad


THE raging battle between the presidency and powerful interests in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, is far from over as more senators are planning to dump the ruling party, Sunday Tribune can report.

A senior legislative source has given an insight into the “discussion” President Muhammadu Buhari had with the senators that are left standing with the APC last Wednesday.

The meeting at the Presidential Villa was called after 13 senators elected on the platform of the party dumped it for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the day before.

At the meeting, Sunday Tribune was told that after dinner was laid out, the president thanked the federal lawmakers for keeping faith with the party, before launching into what the senatorial source described as “self-praise.”

“Can you imagine that the president didn’t ask what the problems were with those who defected, those who returned after defecting and those who put off defection at the last minute, those who are still aggrieved and their grievances not yet looked into, and why the party is generally factionalised in almost all the states of the federation. He didn’t give any tangible assurances, reasons or roadmap to peace and how to unite the party.

“He just said they (himself and his caucus) had been trying their best and will continue in so doing. Nothing concrete to assure senators with troubles at home (with their state governors) that the national leadership under him, had things under control. He thanked senators present for being by his side and assured them that the government and the party would continue to do their best.

The president mentioned Shehu Sani (one of the senators from Kaduna) for gratitude, but did you not see what happened 24 hours after the presidential commendation? The party in Kaduna said Sani’s suspension was still in force. Look at Ogun (State) and Senator Lanre Tejuosho. The state chapter contradicted the president’s position on his membership of the party.

“Well, everybody clapped, smiled, shook hands and left the meeting Wednesday night, but I can tell you things are going to get worse for the president camp.

“The questions many senators are asking is whether the president doesn’t know how to conduct the business of politics or he is simply playing games.

Many expected him to ask specific questions about the crises in the state chapters and why some still wanted to leave the party, despite his intervention. That meeting has opened a new door. Watch out in weeks to come” the legislative source revealed.

The source further explained that beyond the National Assembly defection, the president as the statutory leader of the party should be asking questions about the crises in the state chapters with possible grave electoral outcomes, instead of allegedly relying on the assurances from “Abuja” (leaders outside of their base) politicians.

As fallout of the meeting with the president and the obvious reality that nothing might change, some pro-Buhari senators are reportedly scheduled to meet certain opposition elements (names withheld) in a Middle East country during the recess, to finalise their movement out of the ruling party in September.

Though the spirited moves by President Buhari and some leaders of the APC slowed down a number of lawmakers and their planned defection, it was said that that had changed after the meeting.

“At least 11 lawmakers are still on the cards of defecting to the PDP from the APC. The said 11 lawmakers are almost at the bus stop. And notwithstanding the pressure from different quarters, the defection would sail through,” a source said.

However, it was gathered that the two chambers of the National Assembly are planning a one-day emergency sitting to debate the budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 election.

The source that confirmed this said that the single day sitting would just have a single item on the agenda, to consider and pass the INEC budget.

Sources said that the plan by the Presidency to utilise that planned one-day sitting to effect a leadership change, especially in the Senate was being watched by the leadership of the two chambers.

“The leadership of the Senate and the House are watching the situation. When it is safe, the one-day sitting can be called and one thing Nigerians should expect that day is more defections from the APC,” a source added.

The source said that the executive and the leadership of the APC “cannot catch” the National Assembly unawares any longer in the game of wits currently ongoing.

“Though they don’t have the number to remove SP (Senate President Bukola Saraki), nothing would be left to chance.

How can you say they are in the majority? You know their number before Tuesday, remove 13 from it now” the disaffected APC legislative source said.

Beyond the account given by Saraki on how he foiled the attempt to stop the Tuesday plenary where some APC senators and members of the House of Representatives defected to opposition parties, new information available to Sunday Tribune claimed that a tip-off from a top leader of the pro-Buhari senators saved the day for the Kwara-born politician.

Following an alleged disagreement on who should replace Saraki as the senate president after an impeachment plot was allegedly hatched by the pro-Buhari caucus, a leader of the camp was said to have reached out to Saraki on Monday, detailing the plan to take him out and keep him in the cooler.

The script allegedly written for the senate president was to start early Tuesday morning when he was to be picked from home to a magistrate court in Abuja (identity withheld) and be arraigned over the Offa robbery saga.

The magistrate’s court was expected to decline jurisdiction but a holden charge would have ensured his detention for 21 days (three weeks) for further investigation and eventual arraignment before a high court.

His deputy, Ike Ekweremadu was allegedly to be taken in by a security agency and be released to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) if too much noise is made over his detention.

EFCC said he was wanted for alleged money laundering and corrupt practices.

Following the reported tip-off by the disgruntled leader in the Buhari camp, Saraki allegedly sought home elsewhere Monday night and came to the plenary the next day, straight from his “emergency” abode.

The convoy supposedly meant for him, which was blocked from setting out at his official residence, was said to be a decoy, to set the security agencies on a wild goose chase.

Ekweremadu, though aware of the plot, reportedly stayed back at his residence and allowed himself to be blocked inside, as a way of further exposing what the executive arm was up to.

Police denied blocking Saraki’s home despite pictorial evidence contradicting the claim.

EFCC said it was in Ekweremadu’s home for the summons it issued on him.

After the defection at the Tuesday plenary, security agencies had gone soft on taking the duo in again.

While police quizzed Saraki in his office last Thursday, EFCC had been silent on Ekweremadu.

Opposition camp in the Senate is also being snitched on, Sunday Tribune learnt, with a North-Central senator identified as the alleged mole.

“If he suffered further heartache in APC, information available suggests that the opposition might also deal unpleasantly with him if he eventually defected. If APC became too hot, the said senator is tipped to join Social Democratic Party (SDP) which is in alliance talks with PDP,” the source said.

Meanwhile, senators who defected to ADC are reportedly being worked on to resume in September as full PDP senators, to allow for proper change of guard in the senate leadership.