The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, has ruled out the likelihood of offering the APC’s legislators automatic tickets as a way of making them to remain in the party.
Oshiomhole said this at a meeting with the APC caucus in the House of Representatives at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja on Thursday.
He explained that the best the party could offer in line with its democratic practice was to provide a level playing field for all members to test their popularity.
Towards this end, he said the direct primary, which was used successfully in Osun and Bauchi states, to pick candidates, would henceforth be adopted by the APC.
Oshiomhole said, “Somebody asked me are we countering the Peoples Democratic Party by offering automatic tickets, I asked, did we offer anybody departure ticket? If we did not, then how does the issue of return ticket arise?
“For me, I am tired. We just need to ensure every legislator who has value, who is at home with his people, that legislator is of value to the party and the party will do all to retain such.
“Our party must consciously work to produce seasoned senators. We will get there. If it took them 100years to get there, we don’t have to take 50 years to get there.
“I want to assure you that it can’t be argued that experience cannot be discarded.
Speaking to reporters soon after the meeting, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the visit was to reassure the party of their continued loyalty and support.
He said the party was not shaken by the gale of defections from the party by some of its members.
He expressed confidence that some if not most of those who left would retrace their steps and return to the fold.
Gbajabiamila noted that the party would continue to support legislators especially first termers who needed to consolidate on their experience to better represent their people.
He said, “First timers who have acquired experience to become ranking members and have represented the party at the grassroots level, they should be taken into serious consideration and I think they deserve a second term.”
Dogara, Lasun shun meeting with APC leaders
The Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and his Deputy Yusuf Lasun, were however conspicuously absent from the meeting.
Gbajabiamila down played their absence by explaining that they were tied down with other commitments and that the notice for the meeting was short.
Speaking in a similar vein, an APC governorship aspirant in Gombe State, Mohammed Yahaya, noted that Tuesday’s defection by some party members would not adversely affect the party’s fortunes come 2019.
He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC are working to take this country to the Promised Land, hence there is no justification for the defections, but be that as it may, there is no cause for alarm as far as the Gombe State APC is concerned.”
Defectors against govs, not Buhari, says Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency on Thursday said those who dumped the APC were not against Buhari but some governors and the APC leaders in their respective states.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja.
He said, “These senators by virtue of their procedure have not yet fully and effectually defected but have expressed intention to defect by the procedure.
“There is a lot of room left for conciliation and reconciliation. Again, of all the grievances expressed by the distinguished senators and honourable members, none is attributed or directed to President Muhammadu Buhari or his action or inaction, commission or omission of the President or the Federal Government.”
He said his interaction with the National Assembly members showed that they were fully in support of Buhari and his re-election in 2019.
“Consequent actions (of the lawmakers) were not directed at President Buhari or his re-election bid but domestic actors in their constituencies such as the governors and state party leaders; or frustration over zoning or calculations for a return ticket or platform for the 2019 elections.”
On the Wednesday night meeting between Buhari and the APC senators, the presidential liaison officer noted that some of the lawmakers who had announced their defection to other parties or intended to defect had returned to the APC.
At the meeting, it was learnt that Buhari urged the APC Caucus in the Senate to maintain its majority status.
One of the lawmakers at the meeting, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said Buhari expressed disappointment over the defections on Tuesday.
He said, “The President appreciated the APC members at the National Assembly who have chosen to remain with the party. The numbers (majority and minority) are getting close. With a difference of less than 10, anything can happen. The ADC and APGA are also gaining numbers. The more lawmakers for the APC, the better. He asked us to reach out to our people and woo them. He wants us to maintain National Assembly leadership for the APC, that is the summary. He wants us to woo more of our former members back to the fold.”
More lawmakers will dump APC – Defectors
But two of the 14 lawmakers who dumped the APC on Tuesday, senators Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto) and Isa Misau (Bauchi), have said more APC members are bound to dump the ruling party.
Dambaba and Misau condemned Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa) over a comment credited to him in which he alleged that the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, “merely collated the list of senators he feels are not happy with the party (APC) and announced them as defectors.”
The lawmakers said Adamu was only “spewing forth lies unbecoming of an elder,” urging him to stop spreading fake news.
Dambaba and Misau, in a statement jointly signed by them and issued on Thursday, stated that the concerned defectors were individual political leaders in their different constituencies and were present on the floor when their names were read out from a letter signed by all of them.
They said, “How possible is it for somebody to just announce the change of party on behalf of a senator without the legislator concerned giving his consent. We can assure him that more senators are preparing to leave the sinking ship of APC and Senator Abdullahi Adamu will have more fabrications to do.”
We stick with Buhari, say PSG Reps
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Support Group said on Thursday that its support for Muhammadu remained unshaken as the scheming for the 2019 polls gathered steam.
The PSG lawmakers said they were not bothered by the defections and would rather continue to rally support for Buhari.
They also said the support cut across political parties in the House and not just the APC where the majority of the group’s members were drawn.
Both the convener of the group, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, and the Chairman, Mr Musa Serkin-Ada, addressed a joint news conference in Abuja on Thusday.
Serkin-Ada, who was the first to speak, explained that the group’s ultimate goal was to ensure the return of Buhari in 2019.
He stated, “We are here to restate our support for the President ahead of the 2019 elections. We have seen the PDP in power and we have seen the APC under Buhari. We know the difference.
“From now on, we will work for Buhari, support all his policies in the House and see to his return so that he can deliver more infrastructure to Nigerians.”
On his part, Jibrin said the defections would not affect Buhari in away as he would still win the election in 2019.
He also claimed that some of the defectors were making secret moves to return to the APC.
He declined to give names.
He also parried a question on the fate of Saraki who still carried the membership card of the APC.
For the Speaker of the House, Mr Yakubu Dogara, he claimed that the speaker was not against the plans of the group.