The opposition Peoples Democratic Party is wooing members of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the National Assembly with automatic tickets, it was reliably learnt on Saturday.
Many members of the APC caucus at the National Assembly were said to be currently afraid that governors of their respective states were after their seats, making their chances of getting their return tickets slimmer.
The lawmakers, it was gathered, believed President Muhammadu Buhari would intervene in the intra-party crises across the states as the national leadership of the APC was alleged to be favourably disposed to the governors.
One of the aggrieved APC senators told SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity that the governors used their influence in the party against the political interests of National Assembly members from their states.
The source said, “The only person who can avert defections (from the APC to other parties) in the National Assembly is the President. All the crises that will lead to the defections are happening in the states. The President will not be safe when the defectors move to the opposition and form a camp, even if it is for just one week.
“The issue is that many governors have problems with their senators and the other party is wooing senators with tickets. Going by the fact that many of the APC senators came from the PDP, they are most likely to go back. In the worst case, APC might turn out to become the minority party in the National Assembly soon.”
When asked if the tickets being offered by the PDP would be automatic for APC defectors, the senator said, “It is.”
Another APC senator, who also spoke to one of our correspondents in confidence, explained that first-term governors were planning to replace the current National Assembly members with their loyalists and political allies, while the second-term and outgoing governors would hijack senatorial seats from the current occupants.
The senator added, “The governors want to bring in their ‘boys’ because in 2015, both the governors and the senators were on the same platform; all of them were contesting positions, so there was no boy and master. But now, because those governors have made some money and built structures for themselves, they want to replace the senators either with their secretary to state government or their commissioners or their chief of staff.
“In the case of the second-term governors, they want to come over (to the Senate) themselves. As it is with the APC today, the President appears to be the only person who can solve this problem; the governors cannot and the party itself cannot.
Confirming the development, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (PDP Bayelsa) told SUNDAY PUNCHom Saturday that the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, specifically mandated him to ensure the return of former PDP members in the Senate to the opposition party.
When asked if it was true that the former ruling party was offering automatic tickets to aggrieved APC members, Murray-Bruce said, “Yes, it is true. We welcome them 100 per cent with open arms. They should come and join us. We miss them; we love them and they should all come back. Even those who were not with us, we will take everybody.”
The senator was asked if the issues that forced the defectors out of the PDP had been resolved.
He said, “All have been resolved. The chairman has promised me and I have promised them that not only have the issues been resolved, they will be part of the policy decisions.
“The chairman has mandated me to tell them that they will be part of the decision-making process, going forward. All the problems have been resolved. The chairman is very accommodating and he wants everybody back. He has mandated me to tell them all to come back.”
We’ll do everything legitimate to return to power, says PDP
In his reaction, Secondus said the national leadership of the party would do everything possible within the law to return to power in 2019.
Already, he said reconciliation was ongoing among its members, adding that the PDP remained the best option for the county at the moment.
Secondus told SUNDAY PUNCH that the party was not discussing the issue of tickets yet.
He stated, “We are talking to everyone, those who left the party before and those who do not belong to the party.
“This is not the time to be talking about automatic tickets or not. Rather, we should all be concerned about how to rescue the country from the claws of incompetent hands.
“Is there anyone in the country who is not feeling the pain? Is the market for the PDP members different from that of the APC members? Are those lining up in the queues at petrol stations members of a particular political party? Is electricity being diverted to a particular zone of the country?
“As for us, we are discussing with everybody. We want everyone back under the umbrella so that we can escape further beating by the APC acidic rain.”
Obasanjo’s ‘third force’ intensifies membership drive
Meanwhile, it was gathered that as the PDP has started working to get more members of the National Assembly into its fold, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement has also intensified efforts to persuade the lawmakers to join its fold.
SUNDAY PUNCH had exclusively reported last week that the former President had reached out to some members of the National Assembly who were considering joining the coalition.
It was learnt that last week, the coalition intensified efforts to woo the lawmakers, while some legislators were discretely involved in the membership drive for the group.
A reliable source in the CNM said the group had opened a website and asked Nigerians to register there.
But investigations showed that many members of the National Assembly members were undecided on what to do about Obasanjo’s coalition.
In the House of Representatives, it was gathered that the lawmakers had opted to adopt a wait-and-see approach as events unfold in the country’s political landscape ahead of the 2019 general elections scheduled to hold in 11 months.
Those who voiced their opinions on the coalition were divided over the relevance or viability of the movement as a possible anchor for the next President in 2019.
One member said, “What is happening is all politics. Obasanjo, who is talking, has led this country twice before now. He couldn’t fix the country before leaving.
“So, when he is spearheading a new group to produce a president, you have to be careful jumping on the ship. We don’t know where he is headed for now.”
Another member, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that it would be “suicidal to hurriedly leave the known to the unknown.”
He said, “We are following the group; let us see how it pans out. If it is indeed the third force, it will only be a matter of months for us to know. Politicians know when to move out of an existing political party in their thousands.”
A member from Ogun State, Mr. Isiaka Ibrahim, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he was waiting for the direction of his Governor, Mr. Ibikunle Amosun, and the people of his constituency on a new political development in the state.
Ibrahim stated, “As I am speaking to you, I am a full member of the All Progressives Congress. That is my party.
“The people I represent in Ifo/Ewekoro Federal Constituency of Ogun State are members of the APC. My governor is a member of the APC.
“These people have not told me that there is any new direction yet. So, I am with my party, the APC.”
Asked whether he knew there was any synergy between Obasanjo and Amosun which could galvanise the people of the state to join the coalition, Ibrahim replied that associating with Obasanjo did not imply that the governor would defect to the ex-President’s movement.
But a member from Cross River State, Mr. Bassey Ewa, praised Obasanjo to the high heavens, saying the coalition was the “best idea introduced in our politics in recent times.”
Ewa disclosed that he would gladly join the group and help in mobilising massive support for it.
He added, “The idea is fantastic. I am offering myself to be a member. I will mobilise support massively for the group.
“The current administration of President Buhari has only set this country back many years. All the gains of the past have been eroded.
“Look at the state of the economy; industries are shutting down and no new reasonable jobs have been created in almost three years.
“Millions are out of jobs because the government is deficient in ideas. So, I tell you, I will be deeply involved with the coalition.”
A member from Ebonyi State, Mr. Igariwey Iduma-Enwo, also hailed Obasanjo, saying such a group should be encouraged to flourish.
He stated, “Chief Obasanjo merely articulated the obvious bankruptcy and contradictions of the Buhari administration.
“As a former Head of State with military background, he best understands the consequences of the burgeoning centrifugal fault lines in the social fabric of this country (accentuated by recent killings across the country), with the obvious national security implications.”
A lawmaker from Edo State, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinma, however, dismissed Obasanjo’s group.
Agbonayinma, who distanced himself from the coalition, claimed that it was another ‘third term’ ploy by the former President.
He added, “It is another third-term agenda; that third-term that Obasanjo failed to get in 2007, he wants it in another way.
“The so-called third force is a group that will be loyal to Obasanjo when in power. He wants to remain in charge of political affairs in this country perpetually.
“Nigerians should open their eyes and be wary of his ploy; by rejecting this third force.”
Also, another Rep from Kogi State, Mr. Karimi Sunday, urged Nigerians to steer clear of the coalition.
He stated, “It will not change anything. We are being led into another form of APC.
“What we have as APC today is a coalition of all manner of persons and groups. See where it has landed Nigeria.
“So, when you say a new coalition, it will lead Nigeria to the same confusion; no progress. In fact, this movement will throw this country into more serious political turmoil.
“Nigerians should forget it and focus on preparing for the 2019 polls, vote the APC out of power.”
APC, PDP are vessels of darkness, says CNM
In another development, the CNM said it would soon metamorphose to a real political party after many people must have joined the movement.
It said the movement would be the best alternative third force against the ruling APC and the PDP which it described as vessels of darkness.
Speaking with journalists after the maiden visit of the movement in Akure, the Ondo State capital, on Friday, the Ondo State Coordinator of the CNM, Mr. Demola Ijabiyi, said the movement had yet to become a political party.
Some of the politicians in attendance at the meeting included members of the ruling APC, PDP, Social Democratic Party and the Alliance for Democracy from across the 18 local government areas of the state.
Ijabiyi stated, “The APC and the PDP are vessels of darkness; we are bringing people to light, as nobody will like to remain in darkness. There is the need to liberate ourselves from the bondage of these exploiters, who have no solution to the problems of the country.
“For now, we are not a political party, but after collating the views of the movement as a formidable mass movement of people in all sectors of life, the decisions of leaders of the coalition will metamorphose into a political party.”