COMMOTION ensued yesterday on the floor of the Senate over defection of Senator Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the PDP senators walked out of the plenary session.
Omogunwa had in his letter of defection read by Senate President Bukola Saraki, hinged his action on support for the Ondo governor-elect, Rotimi Akeredolu. “This declaration I have made in my local government on Sunday, 20th November, to enable me actively canvass for the success of Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in the gubernatorial election of 26thNovember 2016,” he said. Omoguwa’s reason was however faulted by Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio in the eye of the law and requested the Senate president to declare his seat vacant. Akpabio, who came through order 43 to fault Omogunwa’s defection, said the only ground upon which a serving lawmaker could defect from one party to the other as specified in section 68(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), was through division in the leadership of his party, which he said no longer exist in PDP
based on Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judgements over the nomination of PDP candidate for the Ondo election. He explained that the courts stated categorically in their judgements that the only known and recognised national leadership of the PDP was the caretaker committee under the leadership of Senator Ahmad Markafi. He was, however, ruled out of order by Saraki who said that the matter was controversial and ran contrary to the spirit and letter of order 43 on which Akpabio made his objection. The rising temper among the PDP senators over the development heightened when Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), who also came through order 43, said the division within the PDP national leadership still existed which, according to him, made “Omogunwa’s defection to be perfectly in order.” This submission Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North) kicked against by accusing the Senate president of running foul of the Senate standing rules by allowing Melaye to make remarks over an issue that had already been ruled upon. “MR. President, having ruled the Senate minority leader out of order over his objection and by extension, PDP senators’ objection to Omogunwa’s defection, it was wrong to have allowed another senator to remark on the same issue,” to which Saraki responded to by saying “noted.” Apparently infuriated by the development, the PDP senators staged a walkout out of the chamber to Senate hearing room 2, where they addressed the press on why they took the action. The minority leader at the press briefing vowed that PDP as a party would ensure that it retrieved stolen senatorial seat from Omogunwa through the courts since there was no division within the party leadership now. “One of our colleagues, Distinguished Senator Yele Omogunwa decided to jump the ship, maybe out of the excitement of the Ondo (governorship) election, which the PDP is challenging and other political parties. He did that, not taking the cognisance of the recent Supreme Court’s decision settling the issue of the chairmanship of the party, which had been an issue in the last few months. That issue was settled in favour of Senator Makarfi’s leadership, which was set up at the Port Harcourt Convention. “The moment that happened, that means that the PDP as a family has no division. The Supreme Court does not recognise any divisions in the PDP as of today because the issue has been settled. “At the appropriate time I believe that working with the caucus, we will work with the national leadership of our party to take a correct legal pronouncement and ensure that the seat is declared vacant. “Just like you observed, the reason for his jumping the ship from PDP to APC this morning is in order for him to go and support the new governor-elect, Akeredolu; that is the reason. It is not on the basis that there is a division in the PDP and that is not recognised by the law. He stated in his letter that he wanted to go and support Akeredolu; he should do so by resigning and give us back our seat,” Akpabio declared. With Omogunwa’s defection, PDP senators are now 43 while APC senators have increased to 61 with Labour Party having only one senator, all totalling 105 on account of outstanding three seats from Rivers State and one from Anambra yet to be filled.

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