The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now in charge of the leadership of the National Assembly and, save for a change of the current presiding officers, the party will determine the legislative direction of the parliament for the next nine months. The eventual takeover of the legislative arm of government by the PDP became possible yesterday with the defection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP. Dogara's defection to the PDP came barely two months after Senate President Bukola Saraki ditched APC for the PDP. Saraki doubles as the chairman of the National Assembly while Dogara is the deputy. With this development, three out of the four presiding officers of the National Assembly are now in PDP. Saraki, Dogara and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu belong to one fold while Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Sulaiman Lasun Yusuf, is a lone APC member at the top leadership level. LEADERSHIP Friday can report that Lasun is an aggrieved member of the APC in the aftermath of the Osun State governorship primary election and going by his recent utterances about the party. It would be recalled that some constituents had last week reportedly obtained PDP nomination forms for Dogara to recontest the seat of Bogoro/DassTafawa Balewa federal constituency of Bauchi State in the House of Representatives, a development which gave credence to the speculations of his possible defection to PDP from APC.
APC swiftly reacted penultimate Thursday, describing Dogara as a paper-weight politician and inconsequential in his home state of Bauchi.
The APC national publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, who released the party's statement in Abuja on Dogara's earlier reported defection to the PDP, said the Speaker fitted those described by President Muhammadu Buhari as "the weakest people whose senses of expectation do not align with our vision."
Meanwhile, at the brief event to submit his nomination forms at the PDP national headquarters in Abuja yesterday, Dogara declared that he was still in shock over his decision to leave his former party. He further dared those who threatened to retire him from politics to meet him at the polls even as he described the APC as a party full of bouncers, adding that he would rather be hated for who he is than be loved for who he is not. Dogara said he was still in shock over happenings within the APC, particularly at the national level, adding that he would reserve the details for another occasion.
He said, "When I recover from my shock, I will now tell my story in a way that is devoid of sentiment so that people can clearly understand the reason why I am taking the decision that leads me to the PDP today. And I will certainly do that. "But permit me to say that in the APC when we moved in, obviously they are not all devils. There are wonderful people in APC but there are equally some people who have a ravenously wayward sense of personal entitlement.
"And this really is the problem with the APC. When it serves their interests, they say the party is supreme. When it doesn't serve their interests, they castigate the party, including the leadership of the party. They do what they will while others are required to do what they must. And in such environment, I am disabled.
"We have a lot of bouncers in the party. And in such a situation where I had a very clear conscience, even though a lot of people were happy with me, but I can tell you that I would rather be hated for who I am than be loved for who I am not".
Explaining his decision to return to the PDP, the Speaker noted, "I have decided to come back to my original root because the truth is that when we went into APC after the general elections, there was never an occasion in which we were not reminded that we do not belong.
"When there are discussions, you will hear reference to the fact that those who joined us from the PDP are our problem. So, that discussion will end from today since we have left.
"So, I have decided to join my brothers - members of this great party, the PDP, so that we can chart a new frontier in our state, Bauchi, and for our dear nation, Nigeria." The Speaker explained he was not quitting the ruling party because he was afraid of losing the party's ticket to contest in 2019.
"I am not bothered about contesting election; what bothers me is the state of my state; the situation of our people and the state of this country. So, even if you give me a ticket to work in a situation where my conscience is totally not aligned with, to be candid, I cannot function effectively there," he said.
Speaking on the relationship between him and the governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar, the Speaker said he was ready for the challenge of those who said they would retire him from politics. Speaking for the party, the deputy national chairman of the PDP, Elder Yemi Akinwunmi, welcomed the Speaker and hailed the capability he showed in managing the House of Representatives. He, however, noted that there will be a time when the party would formally welcome him.
Lawmakers Set For Stormy Session On Resumption
Barring any last-minute change, both chambers of the National Assembly will open for legislative business on Tuesday, September 25, 2015, after the annual vacation embarked upon by lawmakers since July 2018.
LEADERSHIP Friday learnt from credible sources that APC and PDP lawmakers are set for a showdown over the decisions of Saraki and Dogara to quit the ruling party.
While APC maintains a slim majority in the Senate, it still commands an overwhelming majority in the House.
However, there are indications that the Assembly may not resume on the said date owing to party primaries slated for about same time in order to allow members of the National Assembly, who are aspirants, to participate.
APC Govs Overrule Oshiomhole On Primaries
Governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seem to have had their way over the method for the selection of the party's candidates in the states.
In a meeting which was attended by the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; national secretary, Mai Mala Buni, and nearly all the governors of the party, they also agreed to conduct the primary election processes in a free, fair and credible manner.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the governors and the party leadership have been at variance since the last National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting over whether to adopt the direct or indirect primary system.
Addressing the media shortly after the meeting, its chairman and the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, said: "We have adopted both direct and indirect (primaries) and most of the states are going for indirect primaries, but for the president it is going to be direct primary.
"We just held a meeting with the chairman and we've resolved, in support of the party, that we are going to have free and fair primaries. Everybody will be given equal chance to participate in the primaries, which will be transparent, free and fair."
Okorocha gave assurance that both the governors' forum and the APC National Working Committee (NWC) were working together to ensure victory for the party in 2019 general elections.
On his part, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, noted that differing opinions and disagreements are normal in every organisation.
"There will always be some that will disagree, but the decision of NEC is that the majority of the State Executive Committee decided on the mode of primaries, and the Kaduna State that you mentioned, which I'm the governor by the grace of God, the majority of the State Executive Committee decided on indirect primaries."
But for the APC national chairman, Oshiomhole, the task before the party is clear.
"We have a tradition as a progressive party to submit ourselves to the dictates of our party, and we believe in internal democracy because we are democrats and democracy must begin from within the house before we can do it outside.
"Those all of us - governors, NWC and even president - we all agreed that this is the way to go and that is what we are going to do."
When asked to comment on Governor Akinwumi Ambode's travail in Lagos, Oshiomohle was evasive.
"I think our party in Lagos is at peace. There are conversations going on at the ward level across the 8,500 wards or thereabout across the country. Conversations are going on within the APC family. Conversations are going on in each of the 774 local government areas across the country.
"Our party members are negotiating, they are persuading, they are doing compromises, and they are competing, because we are progressing. Across the 36 states, our party activity is at its peak and that is how it is, even at the centre. So it will be unfair for anyone out of his own prejudice to label anyone as embattled or being pressured. Everyone has been active," he said.
.. . APC Govs Undergo Screening
Meanwhile, some of the APC governors bidding for a second term in the 2019 general elections yesterday appeared before the party's screening panel as part of processes leading to the primary election.
The governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who was first to take his turn during screening, described the process as good and well programmed.
Speaking in an interview with journalists at the venue of the screening at Asokoro in Abuja, Yari expressed his support for the use of indirect method of primary.
Yari, who is also the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, defended his colleagues who had opted for indirect primaries, saying that the governors would easily adapt to any of the options.
Speaking on the state of things in his state, Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi said he would not interfere in the process leading to the choice of his successor, adding that he had no anointed successor.
Among the state governors who underwent the screening exercise yesterday were Sani Bello (Niger), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), and Simon Lalong (Plateau)
Others who were at screening venue include outgoing governors, Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Kashim Shettima (Borno), and Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara).
The screening of other APC aspirants was taking place at three venues in Abuja at the time of filing this report.