The 37 members of the House of Representatives who defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday have disclosed that “victimization and criminalization of APC members with divergent views” made them dump the party.
A cross-section of the defectors led by Razak Atunwa (now PDP, Kwara) said they had joined the APC in 2014 because they believed in its change and progressive ideals, which according to him, was now derailed as the party is set to the path of “self-destruction.”
“We came together in 2014 because we believed in change and progressive ideals. But no sooner had we formed the government in 2015 than the party set itself on the path of ‘self-destruct’, and deviated from those ideals.
“The party embarked on victimization and criminalization of members perceived to have divergent views and the aggrieved members were castigated. So, that is the basic reason why we left,” Atunwa told journalists.
Another defector from Kano, Ali Madaki (now PDP, Kano) described their defection to the PDP as home coming, adding that the APC-led government had failed woefully to address the spate of killings and other forms of insecurity on the crest of which they rode to power in 2015.
According to him: “When Jonathan was in power, I used to drive from here to Kano with my eyes closed; today, I can’t drive from here to Kaduna, not to talk of Kano, without praying several times on my way.”
Asked to respond to Oshiomhole’s assertion that the defectors were “paper weight,” Ahmed Saleh (now PDP, Benue) said the end would justify the means, just as he told APC “to expect more defections.”
The defection saw 37 members elected under APC platform dump the party for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) at the House of Representatives.
Some of the 33 defectors to the PDP include Ahmed Chachangi (Kaduna), Razak Atunwa (Kwara), Aliyu Madaki (Kano), Hassan Saleh (Benue), Mark Gbillah (Benue), Aliyu Pategi (Kwara), Aminu Shagari (Sokoto), Abdulsamad Dasuki (Sokoto), Emmanuel Oker-Jev (Benue), Nasir Garo (Kano).
Others include Zacharia Mohammed (Kwara), Hassan Omale (Benue), Funke Adedoyin (Kwara), Tope Olayuonu (Kwara), Dickson Takir (Benue), Bode Ayorinde (Ondo), Ali Madaki (Kano) among others.
The four lawmakers who defected to the ADC were Taiwo Akintola (Oyo), Olufemi Samson (Oyo), Sunday Adepoju (Oyo) and Wole Olasupo (Oyo).
Meanwhile, a caucus APC members of the House of Representatives insist the quest for return tickets in the 2019 general elections was behind the wave of defections that hit the party.
Addressing newsmen after the defection, the leader of the APC Caucus in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) said the defected members were in desperate search of tickets for the 2019 general election.
“I think the bottom line is the search for ticket; this is an election period when you see politicians jumping from one party to another.
“I want to say that in spite of what happened at plenary today, not only that APC remains the majority, but a clear and overwhelming majority, which leaves APC very strong in the House of Representatives,” Gbajabiamila stated.
As party membership now stands in the House of Representatives, APC has 192; PDP, 156; APGA, 5; ADC, 4; Accord, 1; SDP, 1; and a vacant seat over a deceased member.
The House Leader, who spoke on behalf of other APC caucus members, insisted the defectors were still members of the APC family despite leaving the party, saying they would eventually return when they realized their mistakes.
He added that the defection was part of democracy and lauded the remaining members for their commitment and steadfastness to the party.
On the fate of the defectors, Gbajabiamila said the position of the law on the issue was very clear going by Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution, as well as the Supreme Court decisions in the case of Amechi, and PDP v. Adekunle.
He added that the section and cases in question indicated that it was the political party, not the individual that was voted into office, just as he said that the seats of the legislators belongs not to the legislators but to their constituency who elected them.
“Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution has addressed this issue; there are also the Supreme Court decisions in the case of Amechi and PDP v. Adekunle. These are to the effect that when you are elected, that seat does not belong to you, it belongs to your constituency,” the lawmaker noted.
Gbajabiamila further blamed the defection on lack of ideology in Nigerian political parties, a trend he said does not obtain in “advanced countries where parties are deeply ideological.”
He continued: “We will encourage our party to do the needful. We want to build ideology in our political parties because if we have ideology, you cannot see this kind of cross-carpeting.”
He pledged the loyalty of the APC caucus to President Muhammadu Buhari and Adams Oshiomhole, saying the members would continue to do the bidding of the party and their constituents despite the plot by the “political shenanigans.