The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is on the verge of losing its majority in the National Assembly, as more federal lawmakers have backed the splinter group of the party.
By yesterday, four more senators and 102 members of the House of Representatives have joined the fray to back the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led faction which unveiled what it called the "new PDP". Also, 57 out of the 102 House members have already signed up, supporting the splinter PDP.
With the four new entrants, the number of senators has increased to 26; 22 senators had on Monday signed up to back the Baraje faction. But the identities of the four senators have been kept secret: a source said those concerned would address a press conference themselves to disclose their identities within the week.
A senator from one of the south-south states who has been having it rough is said to be coordinating the new drive.
The source told LEADERSHIP in confidence that mobilization for the new group was expected to reach a high point before the end of the week, but added that the outcome of the elders' meeting called by former president Olusegun Obasanjo would, to a large extent, determine the next line of action of the lawmakers.
Said he: "As I talk to you this evening, not less than 102 of us in the House of Representatives have agreed to back the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led PDP; it is not a faction; that is the main PDP, so that we can together stamp out the impunity Alhaji Bamanga Tukur has instituted in the PDP.
"Even in the Senate, we learnt that four new senior lawmakers have indicated intention to join their colleagues who took the bold step to openly back Baraje and our respected governors and several leaders who have volunteered to rescue the party.
"It is not as if we want to defect to the opposition party but, from all indications, the leadership of the Tukur-led PDP has turned our party to a private property and that is why we will insist he leaves; in fact, whatever he did on Saturday at the convention, to some us, was illegal, null and void; that is why we are calling for a fresh convention so that all stakeholders will have a voice and not imposition as was witnessed on Saturday."
The 57 House members, including the chairman of the House Committee on Information, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, said there were more members who could not sign the paper before it was released.
The 57 lawmakers also warned against the danger of using the anti-graft agencies to harass them, saying that they are ready to confront the impunity within the PDP.
The speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, and the other principal officers are currently in South Africa and could not be reached for comment at press time. But most of them are believed to be sympathetic to the cause of the new PDP.
A statement by the 57 House of Representatives members on Tuesday said: "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 under signed 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 Wammako (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Abdul Fattah 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 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 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 SamJaja, National secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinola 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 level playing-field for all Nigerians."
The 57 House of Representatives members who signed the letter are: Hon. Abdullahi Balarabe, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, Hon. Ali Ahmad, Hon. Abdullahi Muhammad Wamako, Hon. Abdullahi Muhammed Rico, Hon. Abdulmalik Usman Cheche, Hon. Adamu Bashir, Hon. Ahman-Patigi Aliyu, Hon. Ahmed Zerewa, Hon. Aishatu Ahmed Binani, Hon. Aiyedun Akeem Olayinka, Hon. Alhassan Ado Garba, Hon. Aliyu Madaki, Hon. Aliyu Shehu, Hon. Aminu Shagari, Hon. Aminu Sulyman, Hon. Aminu Tukur, Hon. Andrew Uchendu, Hon. Asita Honourable, Hon. Bashir Baballe, Hon. Blessing Nsiegbe, Hon. Dakuku Peterside, Hon. Dawari George and Hon. Faruq Muhammed Lawan. Others include Hon. Gibson Nathaniel, Hon. Gogo Bright Tamunu, Hon. Haliru Zakari Jikantoro, Hon. Hassan Adamu, Hon. Hussain Namadi, Hon. Ibrahim Ebbo, Hon. Ibrahim Tijjani Kivawa, Hon. Issa Bashir, Hon. Kabiru Achida, Hon. Khabeeb Mustapha, Hon. Maurice Pronen, Hon.Mohammed Sabo, Hon. Mpigi Barinada, Hon. Muhammad Ahmed Mukhtar, Hon. Muhammad Ibrahim, Hon. Muhammad Sani Kutigi, Hon. Mukhtari Muhammad, Hon. Musa Ado and Hon. Musa Sarkin-Adar,
The remaining lawmakers are Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki, Hon. Mustapha Mashood, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, Hon. Rafiu Ibrahim, Hon. Sa'ad Nabunkari, Hon. Sani Muhammed Aliyu, Hon. Shuaibu Gobir, Hon. Sokonte Davies, Hon. Sufiyanu Ubale, Hon. Umar Bature, Hon. Usman Wada, Hon. Yusuph Dunari Sule, Hon. Yusuph Galambi, Hon. Zakari Muhammed.
If the threat to back the Baraje-led PDP comes on stream untamed, the ruling party will be inches away from minority status. For instance, in the Senate before the crisis, PDP had 74 senators as against the opposition All Progressives Congress' 29; Labour Party has 4 while APGA also has 1. But with the current development whereby 26 of the PDP's 74 appear to have taken a position, the party's number has depleted to 48. Also, barring any stop to further inter-party consultations that are currently ongoing, the 48 PDP senators would be relegated to a minority status as an alliance between the APC's 29 and the new PDP's 26 would form a comfortable lead of 55 against the PDP's 48. The situation in the Hosue of Representatives is no different as the pre-new PDP membership of 205 has depleted to 103 with the recognition of the Baraje-led PDP by 102 lawmakers. This is just as an alliance between the APC's 135 and the new PDP's 102 throws up an overwhelming 237 against the PDP's 103.
Some aggrieved governors have genuine complaints -Anenih
Meanwhile, for the first time since the crisis in the PDP started to brew, the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, has admitted that the aggrieved governors of the party have some genuine grievances.
He also advanced reasons the peace talks scheduled to continue yesterday in Abuja were postponed. He disclosed that the shifting of date was at the behest of the aggrieved governors of the party who stormed out of the venue of the party's special national convention on Saturday.
Anenih, in a statement in Abuja yesterday, said he believes some of the aggrieved governors have genuine grievances, adding that when these grievances are addressed they would come back and the party will come out stronger.
"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," he said.
However, he announced that the peace talks with the aggrieved governors would now continue on Tuesday, next week, 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.
Loser sworn in as PDP's national treasurer
At the convention, an aspirant for the position of the party's national treasurer, Alhaji Bala Gwandu Labbo, was declared winner, having polled 2,180 votes to beat his rival, minister of state for foreign affairs in the Abacha regime Bala Buhari.
However, towards the end of the convention, the former minister, whose name was now given as Bala Buhari, was said to have emerged winner of the election and was consequently sworn in.
LEADERSHIP gathered that accusing fingers were being pointed at a respected trustee of the party who had served with Buhari in the same military government.
"Bala Gwandu Labbo and Buhari Bala contested the election. The returning officer declared Bala Gwandu Labbo winner with 2,180 votes. How that changed to Bala Buhari is what we can't understand," a party official told LEADERSHIP.
PDP chieftains in Kebbi State, where Gwandu and Buhari hail from, are said to have been thoroughly embarrassed at the turn of events.
"Buhari had attempted to use all means possible to stop Gwandu, including going to court. When all these failed, they resorted to confusing election officials into declaring the loser winner," he added.
An associate of Gwandu told LEADERSHIP that they were still exploring the options before them on how best to reclaim their stolen mandate.
This development is coming on the heels of a fresh round of trouble for Tukur as a new lawsuit has been instituted in a federal high court in Abuja seeking to nullify the just concluded convention as well as the chairmanship of Bamanga Tukur.
The suit was filed by "PDP Stakeholders Forum" which also asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP on the grounds of allegedly using a forged 2012 constitution to hold a convention which breaches a requirement for the registration ofpolitical parties.
The chairman of the Forum, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, briefed journalists on the activities of Tukur's PDP which should lead to its deregistration, saying that evidence surfaced to prove that "strange clauses which were notpart of the proposed amendment were inserted into the originallyproduced version of the 2012 constitution and those alterations were not approved by the party convention and National Executive Committee, thereby making the document a forged document which is invalid".
He further stated that the document was not submitted to INEC as required by the constitution, adding: "By provision of section 78 (7) 1 of the Electoral Act, INEC was empowered to deregister any political party which breaches any requirements for registration as a political party. The penalty for violation of the provisions of the constitutional requirement for a political party's existence is deregistration.
"We insist that this act of brazen criminality must not go unpunished. The perpetrators of this heinous crime against the party and the law of the land should be arrested and charged to court."
He further cited the invalid chairmanship of the convention by Tukur as a result of his non-membership of the PDP, and a pending case of expulsion and ineligibility.
Speaking on the ineligibilty of Tukur, Chinyere said: "Tukur is ab-initio not a bona fide member of the PDP that is capable of being elected into the office he currently occupies. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was expelled by the National Executive Committee of the party after being indicted for 'high-level anti-party activities' alongside five others on May 31, 2001.
He further cited the exclusion of aspirants, use of illegal delegates, and violation of section 85(3) of the Electoral Act by the party. He further said the party violated section 222 (D) of the Nigerian constitution and usage of a forged and unregistered 2012 PDP amended constitution for the conduct of the convention.
He also accused the party of violating the Electoral campaign laws and the PDP Code of Conduct for party congress and convention.
PDP suspends inauguration of finance committee
Also, the Tukur-led PDP has suspended the inauguration of its finance committee which would have been held yesterday.
A terse statement by the national publicity secretary, Chief Oliseh Metuh, said a new date would be announced soon.
Jonathan, Tukur, 10 PDP govs in closed-door meeting
President Goodluck Jonathan last night held another meeting with governors of the PDP loyal to his camp in the party.
The meeting with the governors which started about 9:30pm in the First Lady's Conference Room at the presidential villa, Abuja, LEADERSHIP gathered, was convened by the president to map out plans on how to regain control of the party.
Journalists who were at the venue of the meeting were later asked to leave the place.
The governors present at the meeting were Mukhtar Ramallan Yero (Kaduna), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), T.A. Orji (Abia), Sen. Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Henry Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe), Idris Wada (Kogi), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta).
Anxiety over alleged PDP missing registration certificate
The meeting between Jonathan, Tukur and the 10 governors might not be unconnected to alleged missing of PDP registration certificate which was posted on an online platform.