•Anenih: Peace talks continue next week
Chuks Okocha, Muhammad Bello, Omololu Ogunmade and Onwuka Nzeshi
The crack in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to be widening by the day as no fewer than 57 members of the party in the House of Representatives have declared their support for the splinter group of the party.
The defectors, in a statement obtained by THISDAY Tuesday, appended their signatures to a declaration of loyalty to the New PDP.
It was however learnt that the number might swell soon as other House members, including the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, were expected to switch loyalty.
The defectors said some lawmakers who ought to have signed the allegiance document, were not in town as the House is on recess, and would do so when they return.
The faction, whose birth was announced on Saturday, originally had in its fold former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and seven governors elected on the platform of the crisis-torn party.
The governors are Alhaji Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano). Others are Mr. Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Alhaji Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto).
The House of Representatives lawmakers jumped ship a day after 22 of their colleagues in the Senate took a similar step.
Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, however expressed optimism yesterday that the party would emerge from the crisis stronger as peace talks with the aggrieved party members, whom he said had genuine grievances, would now continue next Tuesday.
THISDAY had exclusively reported yesterday that the governors aligned with the New PDP had elected to withdraw from a peace meeting, which was scheduled for yesterday with President Goodluck Jonathan, other PDP governors and party stalwarts.
It was further learnt that the defecting lawmakers in the House were essentially drawn from the seven states whose governors led the revolt against the leadership of the ruling party last Saturday.
It was also gathered that some lawmakers from Kogi, Kebbi, Plateau and Abia States have also jumped on the bandwagon.
A review of the 57 lawmakers who appended their signatures to the document yesterday showed that in Sokoto State, all the 11 House members elected on the platform of the PDP, including Tambuwal, have pitched their tent with the faction led by former acting National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje.
Although Tambuwal did not join in the walkout staged by the aggrieved group last Saturday, sources said he has sympathy for the Baraje faction.
“Do you need to ask? Don't you know that from time he has not been with the mainstream PDP, hence he defied their directive and took the speakership seat that the party had earlier zoned to the South-west?
“Tambuwal is always with his governor (Wamakko) and you don't expect him to change at this time,” a source said.
In Rivers State, all the 13 lawmakers, except the two opposed to Amaechi have also joined the new group. The only two lawmakers left in the old boat are Hon. Ogundu Chinda, Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency and Hon. Kenneth Chikere of Port Harcourt 1 Federal Constituency.
Similarly, all the 14 PDP lawmakers in Kano State have joined the new group.
In Adamawa State, all the five federal lawmakers have crossed the carpet, just as seven of their counterparts in Niger State. It was also a clean sweep in Jigawa and Kwara States, both of which have 11 and six legislators respectively.
Kogi presented a similar result, as five out of the seven federal lawmakers have joined the new group. The remaining two – Hon. Yusuf Tajudeen (Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency) and Hon. Steve Karimu (Yagba East/Yagba West/Mopamuro Federal Constituency) – were said to have declined support for the emerging group due to the influence of a prominent politician from the Kogi West Senatorial District.
Although the picture was not clear with respect to the fate of the PDP in Kebbi, Plateau and Abia States, it was reliably gathered that the New PDP was making inroad into the three states.
In the statement endorsed by 57 House members last night, the lawmakers hailed the emergence of the faction and congratulated the Baraje-led National Executive Committee of the party.
The statement read thus: “We, the members of the House of Representatives under the platform of the New PDP, hereby congratulate our leaders on the emergence of the new party.
“Although a sizeable number of our members who could not append their signatures because of their unavailability in the country will do so immediately on arrival, we, the undersigned, salute and appreciate the courage, sacrifice and resilience and patriotism of our leaders namely: former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, GCON, and the Governors of Kano State, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wamakko, (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), and Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), and other well-meaning and eminent Nigerians for leading the way for the emergence of the New PDP.
“We are also using this opportunity to condemn in strong terms attempts by some agents of the federal government to use the state apparatus to witch-hunt some of these patriots for taking this bold and courageous step.
“As members of the House of Representatives, we call on the security agencies and other anti-graft bodies to be professional in their activities and not allow themselves to be used by anybody no matter how highly placed for their political ambitions. Remember how you want history to judge your tenures.
“We won't hesitate however to use all instruments of law within our powers as provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), to stop this and bring anybody found wanting to book.
“We wish to state that by this statement, we pledge our loyalty and support to the New PDP under the able chairmanship of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, the Deputy Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and other members of the National Executive Committee.
“We congratulate them and wish them the very best as they steer the affairs of our party to provide a level playing field for all Nigerians.”
It was also gathered that the New PDP House members might soon put pressure on the principal officers of the House to declare their stand or face removal.
This, a source said, was because with their numerical strength, as the majority the PDP once held in the House no longer exists.
At the moment, PDP has 204 members in the House, All Progressives Congress (APC) has 137, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Accord Party have five members each. The Labour Party has eight, while the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) has five members.
But with the defection of 57 members to the New PDP and more expected to join their ranks, they could combine with the 137 members of the APC to effect a change of leadership in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
One of the defected lawmakers said the massive crossover of his colleagues to the New PDP was indicative that many members of the party were dissatisfied with the leadership of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
The lawmaker, who did not want to be named, added that the “real politicians” are the ones leaving the mainstream party to form the New PDP.
According to him, the factionalisation of the party was a signal to Jonathan to halt his ambition to run for a second term in 2015.
Announcing the postponement of the peace meeting, which was scheduled for yesterday, Anenih said the meeting would now hold next Tuesday.
He also added that the seven governors that stormed out of the special national convention to form the New PDP have genuine reasons for their action.
He said yesterday’s meeting was postponed at the request of the aggrieved governors.
In a statement, the PDP BoT chairman said: “I believe some of them have genuine grievances; but I have hope that once the grievances are addressed, they will come back.
“I am happy that the PDP has an internal mechanism for effective conflict resolution, and at the end of the day, the problems will be addressed and the PDP will come out of the crisis stronger.”
According to him, the planned reconciliation meeting with the PDP governors was put off and would continue next Tuesday after selected party leaders would have met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday as part of wider consultations demanded by parties to the crisis.
He explained that the aggrieved governors had informed the presidency and the PDP leadership that they needed more time to make wider consultations.
He added that the presidency and PDP leadership were taking advantage of the postponement to also consult widely on how to amicably resolve the crisis.
“Part of the wider consultations is the meeting of selected party leaders with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday morning and thereafter, we will meet with the governors on Tuesday, next week,” he added.
In the absence of the splinter group, the president however met with other governors of the party, Tukur and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pium Anyim, at about 9 pm yesterday in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A roll call of attendees comprised Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan; Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Ahmed Gulak and PDP Deputy Chairman, Uche Secondus.
Others included Governors Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Theodore Orji (Abia), Senator Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Henry Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Capt. Idris Wada (Kogi) and Isa Yuguda (Bauchi).
On the defection of the 22 senators to the New PDP, Senate Committee Chairman, Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, told THISDAY yesterday that they would eventually bow to superior authority of the upper chamber and reverse their decision.
Enang, in a telephone interview, dismissed insinuations that things have fallen apart in the PDP caucus in the Senate, adding that the red chamber has a family spirit through which it resolves its differences.
On the issue of Senate Whip, Senator Bello Gwarzo, joining the aggrieved senators by defecting to the faction, despite being a principal officer of the chamber, Enang said come what may, Gwarzo would remain in PDP.
Enang also advised against what he described as inflammatory statements on the split of the party, noting that it has continued to fuel the crisis instead of resolving it.
Several efforts to speak with the leadership of the Senate yesterday proved abortive, as the Special Adviser to the Senate President, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said his boss does not comment on contentious issues such as the decision of some senators to join a group of dissident party men.
He also said such issues do not usually generate spontaneous reactions but would be properly addressed on the floor of the Senate when it reconvenes later this month.
Meanwhile, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), after its meeting yesterday, has directed that the inauguration of the National Financial Committee of the party, earlier scheduled for today, be suspended.
A statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said a new date would be announced for the inauguration.
The NWC also invited all state and zonal youth and women leaders for a seminar to take place tomorrow in Abuja.
New PDP House Members
1. Abdullahi Balarabe
2. Abdulmumin Jibrin
3. Ali Ahmad
4. Abdullahi M. Wamakko
5. Abdullahi Muhammed Rico
6. Abdulmalik Usman Cheche
7. Adamu Bashir
8. Ahman-Patigi Aliyu
9. Ahmed Zerewa
10. Aishatu Ahmed Binani
11. Aiyedun Akeem Olayinka
12. Alhassan Ado Garba
13. Aliyu Madaki
14. Aliyu Shehu
15. Aminu Shagari
16. Aminu Sulyman
17. Aminu Tukur
18. Andrew Uchendu
19. Asita Honourable
20. Bashir Baballe
21. Blessing Nsiegbe
22. Dakuku Peterside
23. Dawari George
24. Faruq Muhammed Lawan
25. Gibson Nathaniel
26. Gogo Bright Tamunu
27. Haliru Zakari Jikantoro
28. Hassan Adamu
29. Hussain Namadi
30. Ibrahim Ebbo
31. Ibrahim Tijjani Kivawa
32. Issa Bashir
33. Kabiru Achida
34. Khabeeb Mustapha
35. Maurice Pronen
36. Mohammed Sabo
37. Mpigi Barinada
38. Muhammad Ahmed Mukhtar
39. Muhammad Ibrahim
40. Muhammad Sani Kutigi
41. Mukhtari Muhammad
42. Musa Ado
43. Musa Sarkin-Adar
44. Mustapha Bala Dawaki
45. Mustapha Mashood
46. Ogbonna Nwuke
47. Rafiu Ibrahim
48. Sa’ad Nabunkari
49. Sani Muhammed Aliyu
50. Shuaibu Gobir
51. Sokonte Davies
52. Sufiyanu Ubale
53. Umar Bature
54. Usman Wada
55. Yusuph Dunari Sule
56. Yusuph Galambi
57. Zakari Muhammed