President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday intervened to halt the defection of 22 senators from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) following controversies trailing the party’s primaries across the country.
In the event they leave, the ruling party will become the opposition in the Senate as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have more legislators.
The ruling party had concluded its primaries to elect candidates for various elective positions ahead of the 2023 general election on June 9 with the emergence of the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its presidential candidate.
However, reports from across the country revealed that no fewer than 75 litigations are trailing the primaries with senators and members of the House of Representatives most affected.
Daily Trust reports that a sizeable number of members of the APC at the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly were unable to secure return tickets, thus leading to the gale of defections of the lawmakers.
No fewer than 22 senators, who are of the APC, have signified their intention to cross to other parties.
Observers believed that while some of the prospective defectors have genuine grievances, others became disgruntled after they were defeated in the primaries.
Already, the ruling party had lost seven senators including Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano), Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi), Dauda Jika (Bauchi), Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina), Lawal Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi) and Francis Alimikhena (Edo) to other political parties following the outcome of the party’s primaries.
At the moment, the APC has 61 senators, PDP 38, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) 3, Young Progressives Party (YPP) 2, Labour one and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) occupies one seat in the red chamber.
The ruling party requires a 2/3 majority to control either of the chambers of the parliament. Last week, the National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu met with the lawmakers with a view to discouraging them from defecting to other parties.
Buhari meets aggrieved senators
President Buhari Tuesday received in an audience the aggrieved senators at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Some of the lawmakers who attended the meeting held behind closed doors were Frank Ibezim (Imo), Adamu Bulkachuwa (Bauchi), Hezekiah Dimka (Plateau), Kabiru Barkiya (Katsina), Yakubu Oseni (Kogi), Oriolowi Tolulope Odebiyi (Ogun) and Kola Balogun (Oyo).
Others were; Smart Adeyemi (Kogi), Yusuf A. Yusuf (Taraba), Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara), Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia (Jigawa), Adelere Adeyemi Oriolowo (Osun) and Lawali Hassan Anka (Zamfara). All the lawmakers have lost their return tickets.
Buhari, who noted their concerns about the future of the ruling party, praised their effort to find a solution.
He assured them that as the leader of the party, one of his roles is to create an environment for members to ventilate their grievances.
He, therefore, gave an assurance to continue to address the challenges through the party machinery.
In his remarks, leader of the delegation, Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, said at least 22 senators and members of the party were unhappy with the outcome of the primaries in their states, noting that they felt disenfranchised by the process.
But one of the aggrieved senators, who preferred not to be named, said the president was very frank in appealing to them to shelve their planned massive defection as their matter would be looked into.
“We have met after our engagement with President Buhari at the villa and had agreed to take necessary actions if we discovered that time was running against us and nothing positive was coming from the party,” he said.
75 litigations rock exercise in states
Reports from our correspondents showed that no fewer than 75 litigations are trailing the primaries across the states. Forty-seven of the court cases are in South South, 10 in South East, 4 in South West, 11 in North East while the remaining cases were instituted in the North West and the North Central geopolitical zones
Two governorship aspirants under the APC, Senator Ita Enang and Mr Augustine Utuk are currently challenging the emergence of Mr Akanimo Udofia as governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State.
Both aspirants are aggrieved at the manner in which Udofia emerged and they have gone to the courts to seek redress.
Reports from Cross River showed that there are over 30 litigations pending at the Federal High Court and other courts in Calabar, challenging the APC leadership in the state as well as the last primaries.
In Edo, the APC is dogged by litigation over the conduct of the primaries of the state.
Some aggrieved aspirants in the House of Assembly primaries had gone to court to challenge the outcome of the primary.
It was learnt that the party gave the right of first refusal to the 14 lawmakers-elect who have not been sworn in but other aspirants who contested against them felt the 14 aspirants were given an advantage, which they are challenging in court.
With less than 20 days to the governorship election in Osun State, the emergence of the incumbent Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola as the candidate of the APC is being challenged by the former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti.
The case is expected to continue at Federal High Court, Abuja, today, Wednesday, June 29.
APC House of Representatives aspirant, Dr Richard Komolafe, also dragged the incumbent House of Representatives member, Hon Babatunde Ayeni to the Federal High Court in Osogbo over the outcome of the party’s primary election.
In Ogun State, there are at least three post-primary litigation ongoing within the APC.
Daily Trust reports that there are 11 litigations in the North East geopolitical zone filled by aggrieved members of the ruling party. Yobe State topped the chart in the region with eight cases.
In Gombe State, two senatorial aspirants have dragged the APC before the Federal High Court over allegations of irregularities at the just concluded party primary election. The complainants are Senator Bulus K Amos and Biliyaminu Babandidi, who have called for the cancellation of the primaries.
Our findings revealed that Adamawa and Borno have a case each. The Adamawa suit was between the governorship candidate of the party, Senator Aishatu Ahmed Binani and former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu. Ribadu dragged her to court over vote buying at the Federal High Court, Yola.
In Kaduna State, the gubernatorial primary elections of the APC ended in squabbles as one of the major contenders for the primary election, Alhaji Sani Shaaban has sought legal action.
From the onset, Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s endorsement of Sen. Uba Sani had tilted the primary election in favour of the governor’s long-time associate and friend, who represents Kaduna Central Senatorial district.
Our correspondent gathered that Sha’aban had on May 29, 2022, filed a case before the Federal High Court in Kaduna with case number FHC/KD/CS/79/2022.
Reports revealed that in Kano, Sha’aban, an aspirant and federal lawmaker, has filed a suit seeking the disqualification of the Kano State governorship candidate of the party, Nasir Gawuna on the grounds that the primary election was “Manipulated and inconsistent with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022”.
In Jigawa State, it was gathered that a former federal lawmaker, Farouk Adamu Aliyu, who was among the nine aspirants for the governorship ticket of the party has challenged the outcome of the primaries in court.
The current Jigawa State Deputy Governor, Umar Namadi had defeated the other aspirants in the election. The matter, which was slated for mentioning before a High Court in the state on June 20, was however not called.
In Benue State, several gubernatorial aspirants have protested the outcome of the APC primary election, which produced Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia as the party’s flag bearer.
A former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Aondoakaa has instituted a suit against the party seeking the nullification of the governorship primary in the state.
Also, Barrister Herman Hembe, a member of the House of Representatives representing Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency in Benue State, had also threatened to drag the APC to court if the party did not discontinue listing his name among its governorship aspirants for the 2023 general election.
Similarly, the PDP dragged the APC to court alleging that the party’s primary elections partly rescheduled for another day after it was conducted violates the Article 1.2 of INEC’s regulations and guidelines, which requires at least seven days’ notice for such an exercise.
The PDP pointed out that the APC has violated section 148 of the Electoral Act, 2022, which requires INEC to issue regulations, guidelines or manuals for the purpose of giving effect to provisions of the act and for its administration amongst others.
Crises may cripple party – Dons
Reacting, renowned political scientist, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage said the series of litigations that followed the APC primary elections across the states were expected going by the bastardised approach to democracy adopted by Nigerian politicians.
“What should have been the rule is to allow democracy to prevail in terms of selection and election of leaders, but in the wisdom of Nigerian politicians, they think they have to go with the consensus, which is not democratic. Consensus is not for the electorate but for the elite that are contesting,” he said.
Prof Fage of Bayero University, Kano, said the idea of consensus that most brings about these litigations is purely because there are some people who consider themselves as elders or moneybags and impose some candidates and force others to step down, adding that this breeds some kind of distrust among the contestants because some will seem favoured while others disadvantaged.
But an Associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kari, said litigations almost always trailed party primaries, particularly in the states.
He said “The implication is simply that the party will be distracted. A lot of time, energy and resources will be dissipated, rather than face real politicking. Also, the time is not auspicious. “Worse of it all, in the end, some of the litigants may leave the party if they do not get what they want.”