The battle for the control of the National Assembly seems to be getting tougher – outside the two chambers.
Despite the defection of some senators and members of the House of Reps from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), APC senators are insisting on their simple majority, which they believe will soon be more consolidated.
Besides, they are insisting that Senate President Bukola Saraki and House Speaker Yakubu Dogara must step down when they eventually defect to the PDP – a move they are believed to be planning.
Senators and members of the House of Reps supporting President Buhari are back to the drawing board to sustain APC’s majority in the two chambers.
They are demanding that Saraki and Dogara must step down if the APC retains the majority in the National Assembly by September 26 when the lawmakers end their annual recess.
The lawmakers, who are mostly members of the Parliamentary Support Group (PSG), may ask Saraki to quit if he is put on trial over the Offa robbery. The Senate President insists on his innocence.
PSG members and some strategists of the President have been meeting on how to “consolidate APC’s majority” in the National Assembly.
One of the issues on the agenda is Saraki’s refusal to read letters of defection of three senators, who are defecting from PDP to APC. They are Hajiya Fatima Raji Rasaki; Hope Uzondima and Sunday Ogbuoji.
A source, who spoke in confidence with The Nation, said Nigerians have not heard the last word on the defections in the National Assembly.
He said: “We believe APC has the number to hold a simple majority in the two chambers, contrary to what our leaders have been telling the nation. Without Senator Saraki, APC senators are 53 and, of course, it is obvious that APC is in the majority in the House.
“Pro-Buhari/ APC members of the National Assembly have had some sessions in the last 72 hours and our ultimate goal is to sustain our majority in the two chambers.
“With the upcoming elections in two states and ongoing talks and reconciliation, we will certainly be up to 57 in the Senate.
“All we are waiting for is for Saraki and Dogara to tell the nation whether they are defecting or not. Once they defect, we will insist that they must step down as our leaders.
“By simple majority, we are expected to produce the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. We will not take anything less than that.”
A PSG leader said: “Deep in their hearts, Saraki and Dogara know that they have some hurdles to cross. The option for Dogara is to remain a member of APC and keep his office. Once he abandons APC for PDP, he has to step aside. And if he does not defect, he won’t get any 2019 ticket in APC.”
The thinking is that once Saraki defects, he will face a tough battle to retain his seat because, the source said, “we will draw a battle line with our simple majority”. “ It is this dilemma that has delayed them in announcing their next plan of action,” he added, pleading not to be named”.
A former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, confirmed the demand of APC Senators and Representatives.
He said: “If Saraki defects, he has to step down. That is what it should be. But, as of now, he has not announced, written or registered. He is only hobnobbing around with PDP. So that is what we have to wait for. If he announces his resignation from APC or his defection, he loses the Senate President’s seat automatically.
“If Saraki defects to the PDP, he is still our colleague in the Senate, but he cannot remain the Senate President. That cannot work. But he will be a senator like me. The same thing applies to Dogara.
“You cannot participate in PDP primaries while you remain in APC; it is not possible and you can’t remain in PDP and go and participate in APC primaries. Even the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines do not allow you to do that. You have to move to a certain party before a certain period and the period is usually before the primaries.
“I remember in my own case, I moved from ANPP to PDP but I had to do that before the expiration of my time.”
On the consequences of the defections on APC, Ndume said: “In fact, now, we are better off because we now know clearly the colour of the moles and the names of the moles that were living with us and most of these people had issues, which is why they left. Some of them have issues in their constituencies, some with their governors. You cannot say they are not important but they cannot do any damage; they are not indispensable.
“Our meeting with the President has unified us. Before, some of the defectors were standing up to talk the way they wanted but now we have known true and committed APC senators and Representatives.”