PDP Senators stage walkout over member’s defection

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Senator Akpabio and other PDP members addressing the defection matter.

Senators of the minority caucus in Nigerian Senate, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Wednesday staged a walk out from the plenary session following the defection of one of its members, Senator Yele Omogunwa.

Senator Omogunwa’s defection notice was in a letter addressed to the Senate President, which was read on the floor of the chamber as plenary resumed on Wednesday.

However, the defection did not go down well with the other PDP senators who rejected the manner in which the defection was handled.

Minority leader of the senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio who was first to react to the announcement, described it as “political rascality” and urged the senate not to encourage it.

Senator Akpabio added that, the senator’s seat belonged to the political party (PDP), and since there was no crisis in the PDP, following the Supreme Court ruling recognizing Ahmed Makarfi as leader of the party, Senator Omogunwa’s seat ought to be declared vacant.

Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki then ruled Senator Akpabio out of order but recognized Senator Dino Melaye to speak on the same matter. After attempts to speak again failed since he was not recognized by the Senate President, Senator Akpabio then led other PDP Senators out of the chambers.

The Senate President also announced that Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the Labour party should step in as Senator Akpabio’s replacement, since he was the only senator from a minority party seated in the chamber at that time.

Legal action

Proceedings continued while the PDP caucus took to the press centre to address journalists over the issue.

Senator Akpabio who addressed the press conference, noted that the PDP national leadership would soon make a pronouncement based on the development.

“At the appropriate time, I believe that, working with the caucus, we will work with the national leadership of our party to take a correct legal pronouncement and ensure that the seat is declared vacant. Just like you observed, the reason for his jumping the ship from PDP to APC this morning is in order for him to go and support the new governor-elect, Akeredolu; that is the reason. It is not on the basis that there is a division in the PDP and that is not recognised by the law.

He stated in his letter that he wanted to go and support Akeredolu. He should do so by resigning and giving back our seat. He also needs to know that the seat he was occupying, he was doing so in proxy; the seat belongs to the PDP; the seat does not belong to him. If he wishes to go and support his governor-elect, he has the right to resign from the seat and give back our seat to us and the legal process will follow and we will fill the vacancy. It is not for him to jump from a corner of the chamber to the other to support his governor-elect,” he explained.

Senator Akpabio also rejected the position of PDP critics that the party is to blame for the development because of their parley with the ruling APC since the 8th Senate came into being in 2015.

“Robust opposition does not mean shouting on policies that will benefit Nigerians, so far what we have done is to try to correct policies we think are good and support them. For instance, the issue of the MTEF, we realized that the time is too short because the President must deliver his budget proposal before December 31st, it was even the PDP that saved the situation. What you saw being displayed in the 8th senate is a total show of patriotism. We recognize the fact that Nigeria is in economic crisis because of the recession and that does not mean we start fighting government policies that may bring us out of recession.

Recession means, you contribute your quota towards the policies of government that will bring us out of recession. Would you rather see a senate that will be shouting opposition to every policy and Nigerian goes deeper, and we end up in depression?” He quizzed.

Senator Yele Omogunwa is representing Ondo south senatorial district, and until now, he was the only PDP Senator from that south western Nigerian state.