Defections cripple PDP caucus in Senate
By Fred Itua, Abuja
The once-powerful Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is bleeding. The party, which at some point, boasted that it will rule for the next 60-100 years is fighting with itself to stay afloat. Since the party lost power at the centre in March 2015, it has not recovered from the after effects. Unlike other key opposition parties across major democracies of the world, the PDP has failed to be the mouthpiece of the people in their time of need.
The misfortunes of the party has crept into the National Assembly, particularly, the Senate, where at least, four serving Senators have dumped the party for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Despite its close shave with taking over the leadership of the Senate in 2015, when it had about 49 members, the PDP is now fighting to stay afloat.
On June 9, 2015, when the Eight Senate was inaugurated, the ruling APC had about 59 Senators, while the opposition PDP had a commanding 49 members. Twenty months down the line, the story has changed. Today, APC has 65 members, while PDP has 42. It has lost four members through defections.
Ekweremadu and defecting PDP Senators
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy President of the Senate, has been in office since 2003. He was first elected Deputy President of the Senate in 2007 and was reelected in 2011. In 2015, when the party lost the majority, he formed an alliance with the APC-controlled Senate and again emerged as Deputy President of the Senate.
Prior to his emergence as the Deputy President of the Senate in 2015, something played out. After the 2015 elections, APC could not secure any Senatorial seat in the Red Chamber in the South-east and was in a dilemma on who to field to occupy the position of the Senate President. Ekweremadu, who has been a member of the PDP since 1999, was reportedly approached to dump his party in order to emerge Senate President.
According to those familiar with the development, Ekweremadu was prevailed upon at the last minute by PDP leaders not to dump the party. For many observers, Ekweremadu’s move signaled the beginning of the gale of defection currently rocking the PDP caucus in the Senate.
Again, Ekweremadu in mid-January, 2017, delayed in refuting claims that he was nursing plans to defect to APC. His delay, fueled phoney insinuations and allegedly laid the ground work for PDP Senators to defect.
In mid September, 2016, Senator Joshua Dariye, made the first move and dumped the PDP under which he served as governor of Plateau State for eight years for the ruling APC. In nine years, Dariye has moved from the PDP to the Labour Party (LP) and back to the PDP.
“My decision is informed by the protracted division at the national level of the PDP that led to the massive movement of my supporters to APC. Arising from this, I therefore write to formerly inform you of my decision to go along with my supporters. I thank you for your understanding,” Dariye had said in a letter read by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
On November 30, 2016, Senator Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South), dumped the PDP and joined APC. He cited the crisis in the PDP, as well as the need to work for the election bid of Rotimi Akeredolu who is now the governor of Ondo State. His defection caused an uproar in the Senate and PDP lawmakers who were angered by the move, staged a walkout in protest.
Also in January 2017, Senator Nelson Effiong from Akwa Ibom State defected to APC. Effiong was the first Senator from the South-South and the South-East to dump the PDP.
While announcing his defection, Senator Effiong said: “I have decided that no reasonable politician who is worth his salt would remain and allow his people to be drifting about without a direction. So I have decided today, the 19th day of January, 2017 to resign from the PDP and move to the party that is bringing peace and direction to this country, the APC. So I move.”
The latest is Senator Andy Uba fro