The Senate resumed from a six-week recess, during which party primary elections were concluded, but without leaders for both the majority and minority parties. While the minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) having failed to win the PDP governorship primary in Abia State, the Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North) abandoned the All Progressives Congress (APC) following crisis in the state’s branch of the APC.
The red chamber was not only scanty but the atmosphere was also solemn. At least 70 per cent of the Senators either lost their bid for re-election or bidded for other positions. For instance, the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan was a presidential aspirant of the APC, and his attempt to pick the party ticket for his Yobe North district was frustrated by a fellow party member who won the senatorial primary election. In 2023, Lawan will not be in the Senate for the first time since 2007, if the situation remains at they are now.
At Tuesday’s plenary, Lawan read Abdullahi’s resignation letter on the floor, in which the former Majority Leader attributed to his decision to his defection from the APC to the PDP. The Senate President also announced that Abaribe has left the PDP for APGA.
Abaribe had resigned as the Minority leader about 48 hours after he withdrew from Abia State’s governorship race, decrying the party’s use of “an imaginary three-man adhoc delegates and the exclusion of the party’s statutory delegates” in the primary election to elect candidates.
In another letter Lawan read to his colleagues on Tuesday, he disclosed that the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) has defected from the APC to the PDP.
Lawan then directed the Chief Whip, Senator Orji Kalu (APC Abia North) to relocate both the former Senate Leader and his colleague in the minority caucus to another seats that are “very comfortable”.
Attempts by Senators Philips Aduda (PDP FCT), George Sekibo (PDP Rivers East) and Gabriel Suswam (PDP Benue North East) to stop Abaribe’s relocation to another because he had not formally communicated his decision to his caucus were frustrated by the Senate President.
The PDP Senators, who faulted their former leader’s defection, raised several issues ranging from failure to consult the PDP caucus to breaching some provisions of the Constitution.
Lawan however said that Abaribe sent two letters notifying him of his defection and resignation. But he did not read the letters. He rather made a verbal announcement: “Abaribe has decamped from the PDP to APGA. The position of the minority leader is now vacant for the PDP to fill. We wish him success,” Lawan said.
He also announced that APGA is now represented in the Senate with the former Minority Leader having moved to the party, adding that Abaribe gave “good leadership” and “kept the majority party on its toes”, while he supported the progress of the administration.
In his welcome address, Lawan had urged his colleagues who lost during the just concluded primary elections to take heart and continue to pursue what they believe in, just as he wished those who defected to other political parties well and advised them to hope for a better opportunities in the nearest future.
He also called on his colleagues to remain committed to the political system of their respective parties, not minding the outcome of the primaries, even as he also underscored the need for the Senate to prioritise the nation’s security challenges, as well as undertake further amendment of the Electoral Act.