Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday put to rest weeks of intrigues about his anticipated defection by formally dumping the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Saraki defected along with Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, members of the Kwara State Executive Council and a section of the APC structure in the state.
Announcing his decision to quit the APC during a stakeholders meeting in his Ilorin residence, Saraki said his action was based on the insistence of his supporters and the guidance he received from God.
Governor Ahmed, all members of the National Assembly from Kwara State, 23 members of the state House of Assembly and local government chairmen as well as members of the state executive council were present at the meeting.
"We discussed this issue [defection] last week when I came home. You told me that you were tired of APC, but I asked you to exercise patience. I told you that I will seek God's guidance and feed you back on my return to Ilorin.
"The Federal Government appointed over 200 persons into juicy offices without allotting any slot to me or [Speaker Yakubu] Dogara. Everything went to Katsina, Katsina, Lagos, Lagos. If not for the love I have for Nigeria, we would have scattered everything. They don't want us in their party; they don't like us in Kwara. What I am after is for my people to enjoy dividend of democracy. I want us to be in the party that will love my people.
"Wherever we are we will win elections. The governor told me he's tired of APC; those we are talking to in PDP have understood that we need to move Nigeria forward. There is no cause for alarm. We should forget about personal ambition as we move to a new party.
"What should be paramount in our minds is Nigeria's progress. We will set up our committee which will be meeting with the PDP committee. I have met with great stakeholders in PDP such as Prof. Sulaiman, Ajibola Simon, Yekini Alabi and we have all agreed to work together. We should cooperate with PDP people who we are joining," Saraki said.
Also, Governor Ahmed in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, said they left the APC in response to calls by major stakeholder groups in the state.
Two senators - Shaaba Lafiagi (Kwara North) and Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim (Kwara South) alongside all members of the House of Representatives from the state had last week defected to the opposition party.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad, said they would announce their defection today during plenary.
Respect my choice - Saraki Also in a statement he personally signed, Saraki said "I will like to emphasise that it is a decision that has been inescapably imposed on me by certain elements and forces within the APC who have ensured that the minimum conditions for peace, cooperation, inclusion and a general sense of belonging did not exist.
"When we left the PDP to join the then nascent coalition of All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014, we left in a quest for justice, equity and inclusion; the fundamental principles on which the PDP was originally built but which it had deviated from. We were attracted to the APC by its promise of change. We fought hard along with others and defeated the PDP.
"In retrospect, it is now evident that the PDP has learnt more from its defeat than the APC has learnt from its victory," Saraki said.
"It is my hope that the APC will respect the choice that I have made as my democratic right, and understand that even though we will now occupy a different political space, we do not necessarily become enemies unto one another," he added.
Senators demand Saraki's resignation
Ranking Senators yesterday called for the immediate resignation of Saraki because of his defection to the PDP.
The senators who spoke to Daily Trust shortly after Saraki announced his defection, said they will push for his resignation.
A former governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu said the Senate President should resign.
"Saraki has shot himself in the foot, particularly now that the APC has the majority in the Senate and in the National Assembly. If he is a man of honour, he will as well resign as the Senate President," Adamu said in a phone interview.
Adamu who chairs the Senate committee on Agric said he was not surprised about the defection of Saraki.
"I'm not surprised at all. I have said it many times and I've been proven right and I thank God for this. I alerted my party to that fact, I alerted the government to that fact and I alerted Nigerians to the fact that they have made up their minds to decamp from APC.
"The guys were hanging on before going to ensure maximum damage and as far as they are concerned they have attained the level they wanted. They have caused disaffection in the party but what they have failed to create a division in the party. They have failed woefully in this regard," he said.
Asked whether they will call for the reconvening of the Senate, he said they would consult among themselves and the leadership of their party.
On whether they will allow Saraki to continue to preside the Senate, he said: "of course, that's not going to be visible. He (Saraki) knows it."
Another ranking senator from the North East, who is one of the leaders of the Parliamentary Support Group (PSG), said Saraki should summon courage to resign from his position because he clinched it as a member of the APC.
"It's not surprising because this is something we've been expecting. We wish him well, but he must put Nigeria's interest above his personal interest. He has no political value at all.
"If he has an iota of honour and integrity, he should vacate the seat because he clinched it under the APC. But if it is Saraki that I know, he would like to remain on that seat, but let's wait and see.
It was also gathered that Speaker Yakubu Dogara is on his way out of the APC as his sour relationship with his state governor, Mohammed Abubakar, is now beyond reconciliation.
The governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal is also expected to dump the APC today with sources close to him saying everything had been set for the movement to PDP.
I'm still in APC - Abdullahi
Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the National Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) has dismissed speculations that he has resigned his membership of the party.
He told journalists in Abuja yesterday that "there is no iota of truth in the report" that he resigned.
Abdullahi, a close ally of the Senate President, resigned as minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 when Saraki moved out of the PDP.
In his reaction to Saraki's exit from the party, Abdullahi, however, said he was not considering leaving the party, stressing that "I came through the front door and will not go through the back door."
Defending his absence at the NWC meeting, which fuelled speculation about his fate, the APC spokesman said he actually notified the party's national leadership of his absence from the meeting.
"However, the speculators didn't know that I told my colleagues that I was away in Kwara State," he said.
APC queries Senate President
The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has queried Saraki, asking him to respond within 48 hours why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for breaching article 21 of the party constitution.
The NWC, in a resolution signed by the APC National Secretary, Mai Maila Buni, said the senate president had allegedly flouted the laws of the party with his activities.
Some of the allegations raised against him includes that "you encouraged and facilitated by providing an enabling environment for the defection of some senators who are members of the APC to the other opposition Parties.
"That you have deliberately refused to screen nominees for appointments submitted by Mr President who are members of the party from being confirmed by the senate. This has caused untold embarrassment and ridicule to the party and the government.
"That you have organized a public rally in your state where members of the party urged you to decamp to PDP. That as a follow up to the above the Kwara state governor who is known to be your staunch supporter Had made public pronouncements suggesting that he will decamp from the party as an indicator to your formal defection.
"Procuring joint letter of decampees from the APC and reading same on the floor of the senate including some who did not accede to defecting thereby causing embarrassment to the party," it stated.
The resolution asked the senate president to respond the allegations or face sanctions.
PDP, Atiku welcome Saraki
The PDP in a statement last night by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said the coming of Saraki, Abdulfatah and Ibeto could not have been at a better time than now.
"The PDP notes the harassment and intimidation that the duo of Senator Saraki and Governor Ahmed had suffered from the lords in the disintegrating APC which they helped to build and nurtured to win elections.
"Senator Saraki, in particular, has conducted the affairs of the Senate in reflection of the wishes of the silent majority of Nigerians and had emerged a hero of democracy," the statement said
Ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and PDP presidential hopeful said in a statement yesterday that he received Saraki's defection with joy.
"Senator Saraki's ordeal at the hand of the All Progressives Congress is all too familiar to lovers of democracy in Nigeria and around the world. Leaving a party which maliciously prosecuted him and subjected him to the most degrading treatment, notwithstanding his status as the nation's number three citizen, took courage, and I commend him," Atiku said.