The Peoples Democratic Party has begun plot to halt the defection of its members to the All Progressives Party so as to retain the leadershi of the House.
Investigation by Saturday PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday showed that the PDP was already plotting to frustrate moves by some of the reps who might want to toe the line of their governors and defect to APC.
Part of the way to frustrate potential defectors, Saturday PUNCH learnt, was to engage the services of the police and other security agencies to “harass and intimidate” PDP members who chose to join the APC.
A source who pleaded anonymity told Saturday PUNCH that PDP was not comfortable with the relationship of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, with the APC.
Tambuwal reportedly met behind closed doors with leading members of the opposition on Wednesday at the Kano Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
At the meeting were a former head of state, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, erstwhile Lagos State governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Governors Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso [Kano], Aliyu Magartakada Wamakko [Sokoto], Rotimi Amaechi [Rivers], Ibikunle Amosun [Ogun], former Governor Ali Modu Sherrif of Borno State, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari.
On Thursday, a senior lawmaker, whose governor joined the APC, confided in Saturday PUNCH that part of the plot against the defectors was to stop the members from attending sittings.
He said, “We have heard that they are planning to stop those of us who have identified with the APC from attending sittings of the House. They are also planning to use police and other security agents to stop us from entering the premises.
“This means that the harassment will include stopping us from attending sessions of the House.”
The source claimed that the idea was to “coerce” the members to remain with the PDP.
However, Saturday PUNCH learnt that as the PDP was plotting to thwart the defection of its members to the APC, the opposition party had also intensified its efforts to gain upper control of the House.
The party had continued to lobby PDP members to join it even as it compiled a list of prospective defectors.
Saturday PUNCH further learnt that the opposition party was planning to vote out the leadership of the House except the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, if it got the required majority of House members on its side.
The PUNCH had on November 28 reported that the APC caucus in the House was preparing to unveil 186 members as its latest numerical strength in the House of Representatives.
According to the report, the figure is made up of the original APC members of 137 and the “49 members of New PDP” that have reportedly joined the caucus.
The APC caucus was reported to have requested each defecting PDP member to sign a list, which would be used to arrive at the final numerical strength of the party.
Sources within the APC had claimed last week that the party’s membership had increased to 176 from 137 following the defection of five PDP governors to the party.
About 39 PDP lawmakers from the states of the affected governors (Kano, Adamawa, Rivers, Sokoto and Kwara) were said to have joined the APC, taking after the example of their governors.
However, none of the said 39 has defected formally on the floor of the House till date.
Although, APC sources had hinted that the party would unveil 186 members this week, preparatory to taking over the majority leadership of the House, nothing of such happened.
The Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, confirmed that APC was working towards taking over the leadership of the House.
He told Saturday PUNCH on Thursday that the APC was still working on the issue.
“We are still working; very soon, we will be through with this issue. We are working; we are taking our time,” he stated.
But, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, PDP, Mr. Victor Ogene, was optimistic that the opposition would not succeed in controlling the House.
He said that so long as the APC did not control simple majority in the House, it could not take over the control of the leadership.
“A party should have at least 181 members before you can talk of changing the leadership,” he added.
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisah Metuh, said the party was not aware of any lawmaker planning to leave it.
Metuh said, “Our party is based on ideals. People in the PDP have principle and ideals. It is an ideal based on the promotion of national interests and promotion of unity of this country.
“We do not believe that our elected officers are about to leave our party. We are completely unaware of members of the House of Reps about to leave our party.”
The PDP spokesman declined to comment on Tambuwal’s presence at the APC meeting in Abuja on Tuesday night.
He said, “Before I answer the question, go and ask the speaker if he attended the meeting. I have no comment on it. We are not aware that he attended the meeting.”
Meanwhile, APC has said that the PDP will not succeed in its plot to frustrate defecting members of the House.
It said that no amount of intimidation would prevent the members from joining the APC.
The spokesman of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this in an SMS to one of our correspondents, said, “They won’t be able to frustrate the defecting members.”
He recalled that the PDP for several days laid siege to the National Assembly in its attempt to stop Tambuwal from entering the chamber, but it did not succeed.
Five out of the seven rebel governors that left the Peoples Democratic Party had on Tuesday formally merged with the opposition APC. The decision was taken at a meeting between leaders of the APC and the New PDP at the Kano State Governor’s residence in Abuja.
The National Chairman of the New PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, announced the decision which was described by the Presidency as a welcome development.
But the New PDP said its members, including the rebel governors, were elated to “have abandoned PDP’s sinking ship.”