It was a day of high drama at plenary yesterday in the Senate, as both the Majority Leader and Minority Leader resigned their posts, and nearly 70 per cent of the senators lost their bid to return to the red chamber.
The Senate resumed after a six-week recess announced to enable members to participate in the congresses and conventions of their political parties ahead of next year’s general election.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan announced the resignation of the Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, and Majority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe. Lawan said the resignations followed the senators’ defection from the political parties under which they got elected into the Senate.
He said Abdullahi, in his letter of resignation, attributed his decision to his defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Abaribe, on the other hand, defected from PDP to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Lawan said.
The senate president, in yet another letter, notified his colleagues that the chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero, had defected from APC to PDP.
Lawan, therefore, directed the Chief Whip, Senator Orji Kalu, to relocate both the former senate leader and his colleague in the minority caucus to other seats.
Abaribe’s defection to APGA and formal exit as Minority Leader was deferred as a result of the inability of the senate president to come with his defection and resignation letter to plenary.
Lawan said Abaribe’s letter would be formally read on the floor before his exit as Minority Leader.
The defections of Abdullahi and Aliero, both from Kebbi State, were conveyed in two separate letters addressed to the senate president, and read on the floor during plenary. Abdullahi and Aliero represent Kebbi North and Kebbi Central senatorial districts, respectively.
The defections brought the total number of PDP senators to 39, from 38, with the exclusion of Abaribe, who is set to formally defect from the main opposition party to APGA on Wednesday. It also cut down the number of APC senators from 71 to 69.
The senate leader, in his letter titled, “Defection From APC to PDP And Resignation As The Majority Leader Of The 9th Senate,” said his decision was informed by the democratic challenges and deficits faced by APC in Kebbi State. He explained that all attempts to remedy the situation through the intervention of the North-west zone’s governors and the defunct Abdullahi Adamu-led National Reconciliation Committee failed.
Aliero also cited same reasons advanced by Abdullahi for his defection.
Attempts by Senators Phillip Aduda, George Thompson, and Gabriel Suswan to stop the relocation of Abaribe, because he had not formally communicated his decision to his caucus, were rejected by the senate president.
He also advised Senator Betty Apiaffi to seek legal redress, when she cited constitutional provisions, which required the defectors to lose their seats.
Meanwhile, Lawan advised his colleagues, who lost the just concluded primary elections, to cheer up and continue to pursue what they believed in. He also wished those, who defected to other political parties, well and prayed for better opportunities for them in the nearest future.
Lawan called on lawmakers to stay committed to the political system of their respective parties, not minding the outcome of the just concluded primaries.
The upper chamber had suspended plenary on May 11 to enable lawmakers participate in the primaries of their political parties.
Lawan, in his welcome address, underscored the need for the senate to prioritise the country’s security challenges, and undertake further amendment of the Electoral Act. He said the electoral process in the just concluded primaries had thrown up issues that must be critically looked at by the National Assembly.
Speaking on the outcome of the party primaries, he said, “Some of us participated in the congresses for their senatorial districts, some of our colleagues went for governorship of their states, and four of us went for the presidency of our great country.
“We have recorded different results from those activities, but as politicians, it is never over until it is over. We should continue to support the political system that we believe in. Those of our colleagues who have recorded successes, we wish them more successes in the general election. And those who have not succeeded as much, we are hopeful that between now and then, the situation may be better.
“But on the whole, our commitment to ensuring that this democracy benefits from legislative interventions of the National Assembly should remain our focus. As a parliament, we still have issues that require our legislative intervention.
“The electoral process may have thrown up certain issues that the National Assembly could also look at and address, because the Electoral Act itself, even though a good document, is not a perfects document. So, it needs some refinement from time to time to improve our electoral process.”
Culled from THISDAY