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2019: APC Woos PDP Lawmakers With Return Tickets

By Felix Nwaneri

The poaching of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) legislators by the All Progressives Congress (APC) is unlikely to abate despite the outcry by the leadership of the main opposition party. New Telegraph gathered from sources in both parties that the APC leadership is wooing the opposition federal legislators with promises of return tickets to the Senate and House of Representatives in the 2019 general elections. This has not only sent shock waves to camp of the opposition party, but threatening its newly elected rebuilding efforts.

However, the leadership of the ruling party is said to have intensified efforts to convince more of the PDP legislators to dump their platform. The PDP House caucus, recently, staged a walkout from the Green Chamber over the defection of Hon. Nnanna Igbokwe, who represents Ahiazu Mbaise/ Ezinihitte Federal Constituency of Imo State to the APC. Igbokwe’s defection letter was read by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, after which he granted effect to it, but the lawmakers subsequently protested, while some of them left the plenary session.

The PDP also lost another of its lawmaker to the ruling party two days Igbokwe’s defection when the member representing Egor/Ikpoba-okha Federal Constituency of Edo State, Hon. Johnson Agbonayinma, defected to the APC. He became the eighth member of the PDP to dump the party in 2017. His defection cut the numerical strength of the PDP in the Green Chamber to 118.

The lawmaker had described the PDP as “darkness,” where he could no longer belong because he had seen the “light” in the APC. “The PDP has shut the door against me,” he told the House in his letter read by Dogara.

Though the PDP House Caucus celebrated his defection unlike in previous cases where they protested against the defection of their members, the development is said to have unsettled not only the PDP National Assembly Caucus, but the leadership of the party as well. The PDP has also, before now, lost some of its members in the Senate to the ruling party. The 8th Senate, on inauguration, was composed of 59 APC and 50 PDP senators. But, as it stands, the APC has 66 senators as against PDP’s 42.

This is as a result of defection of some of the opposition lawmakers to the ruling party, as well as losses through the courts and rerun polls.
Among the PDP senators who have jumped ship are Joshua Dariye (Plateau Central), Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South), Nelson Effiong (Akwa Ibom South) and Andy Uba (Anambra South).

The only Labour Party (LP) senator in the upper legislative chamber, Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) also added to the swelling in APC’s rank with his recent defection to the ruling party, and there are speculations that more PDP senators will dump their platform soon.

A PDP source, who spoke on the issue, particularly told our correspondent that the party’s national leadership is jittery that the party may lose a majority of its lawmakers ahead of the forthcoming general elections, given the spate of defection of its lawmakers to the ruling party. He added that the APC is not only employing the defection strategy to weaken the PDP’s strength in the National Assembly, but also using it to tighten the noose on the opposition ahead of the forthcoming general elections.

“Whereas the PDP on one hand kicked against the defection of one of its lawmakers in the House of Representatives and on the other hand celebrated the other, there is no doubt that it is troubled over the gale of defections as they are coming at a time the party needs these members to consolidate on the gains of its recent national convention.

“Is it not surprising that some of the defectors are citing all sorts of flimsy excuses for dumping the platform through which they got elected to the National Assembly such as leadership crisis and factionalization, even when it is clear to all that the PDP has resolved its crisis with the successful conduct of its recent national convention?

“While one cannot deny them of their right to associate with whichever party they want to, I can tell you that their defections were prompted by the ruling APC, which has promised return tickets in 2019 to PDP lawmakers, whether at the federal or state level, who are ready to join its fold,” the source said.

He further revealed that PDP lawmakers, who are not ready to accept the offer, risked being harassed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He cited example of the recent ordeal of former Senate President, David Mark, in the hand of the anti-graft agency.

He said: “There is no hiding the fact that the APC leadership is out to deplete the PDP’s rank in the National Assembly and it is not only doing this by wooing the opposition lawmakers to its fold through promises of return tickets, but has also assured them of protection from the preying eyes of officials of the anti-graft agencies.

“You will agree with me that most of the PDP lawmakers had their hands soiled while their party was in power and given the belief that the APC is likely to unleash the EFCC on perceived members of the opposition ahead of the 2019 general elections, the lawmakers are jumping at the offer to avoid anything that will rock their chances of returning to the National Assembly.”

While the source cautioned those jumping at the APC offer to think twice as the party “hardly keeps its promises,” a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), who spoke on the issue, told New Telegraph that the party is not losing sleep over its lawmakers’ defecting to the ruling party.

His words: “Anybody can defect to anywhere; there is nothing we can do about that. They have freedom of movement and you cannot stop them. They cannot claim they are defecting because of crisis because we have resolved all our differences, they are defecting because they want to defect; I wish them good luck.”



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