Saturday 11 August 2018

Dogara Weighs Options As PDP Awaits Speaker’s Defection

Moves by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to defect from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appear to be hanging in the balance.

The Speaker, who has been having a running supremacy battle with the governor of his home state, Bauchi, Mohammed Abubakar is presently walking a tight rope.

Having been allegedly squeezed out of the scheme of things by Governor Abubakar, it has become increasingly difficult for Dogara to gain control of politics back home.

The Speaker’s utterances and body language in recent times tend to suggest a slant towards the PDP, had boycotted the recent state and local government congresses in Buachi State.

Strategic and key political positions in his Bogoro constituency had since been filled with loyalists of the governor thereby leaving the Speaker in the lurch.

Dogara, who was initially rumoured to have resolved to defect about the same time the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki defected from the APC to the PDP about two weeks ago, was forced to put his plans on hold.

Following the defection of 37 members on the floor of the House in July, the numerical strengths of the various political parties were altered.

At present, the APC still holds a majority of 192 members; closely followed by the PDP with 156. APGA -five; ADC -four; Accord Party -one; SDP -one; and one vacant seat.

As it were, it would require a two-thirds majority of 240 members to remove Dogara should he defect to the PDP with 156-member strength.

Put together, the number of APC members, joined with other parties stood at 204 against PDP’s 156 members. This still leaves a gap of 36 members to attain the 240-member two-thirds requirement.

It can be taken for granted that none of the 156 PDP members would vote in favour of Dogara’s removal in event of his defection to the main opposition party.

It is also doubtful where the 11 members that make up APGA, ADC, Accord Party and the SDP would swing when the chips are down.

Apparently, the horse trading that led to the recent defection of 37 members, mostly from the APC, was meant to weaken the numerical strength of the ruling party in the House.

With recent developments in the National Assembly, particularly last Tuesday’s botched attempt, allegedly by the APC senators to impeach Saraki, the coast appears clear for Dogara to make good his threat any time soon.

Dogara may ride on the crest of the global uproar and condemnation that greeted the alleged attempt to impeach Saraki with the invasion of armed and hooded operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS).

Turaki Hassan, the Media Adviser to Dogara,tactically avoided questions as to when his principal intends to announce his defection from the APC to the PDP.

Inquiries by our correspondent on Friday through telephone calls, SMS and WhatsApp messages were ignored by the media aide.

However, a member, who preferred not to be named, told our correspondent that the Speaker’s defection was only a matter of days.

The member from one of the states in the Southeast geopolitical zone, said it would be political suicidal for Dogara to remain in the APC.

He accused the leadership of the APC of deliberately abandoning the Speaker and watched as the Bauchi Sate Governor virtually ran him out of relevance in the state.

“It would be unwise for the Speaker to remain in the APC because doing so would truncate his political career, a least in the next political dispensation.

“How on earth would the leadership of a ruling party conspire with a state governor to ridicule the country’s Number Four citizen, more so a prominent member of their party.

“All along, the leadership of the APC, instead of finding ways of reconciling the Speaker with the Bauchi Governor, chose to play the ostrich, burying their heads in the sand”, the Rep member said.

The lawmaker, who is a member of one of the smaller minority parties in the House declared that the APC cannot muster the required 240-member two-thirds required to remove Dogara whenever he switched political camps.

He said, “The threat by some people that the Speaker would be impeached if he defects to the PDP is an empty one. Don’t forget that a precedence was set in 2014 when the then Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal defected from the PDP to the APC and still retained his seat.

“Ironically, the same people and their political party who hailed Tambuwal and called the bluff of the PDP, are the same set of people are today threatening Dogara with hell fire.

“So, if precedence is anything to go by, then a sauce for the goose should as well be a sauce for the gander. They are now confronted with their past and they cannot run away from it”.

Meanwhile, as the various political parties gear up preparations for nominations into the various elective offices ahead of the 2019 general elections, time appears to be running out on intending defectors of all categories.

Going by the timeline in the electoral timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties are to conclude their nominations into the various elective positions from August 18 to October 7.

Apparently to beat the INEC timetable and to accommodate prospective defectors, the leadership of the PDP had deliberately relaxed its guidelines regarding the time frame allowed for new members to contest elective positions in the general elections.

The opposition party, in anticipation of high profile defectors into its fold, had scaled down the deadline from 180 days to 30 days. Even at that, the party has also made provisions for waivers to allow members contest elections in less than 30 days of joining the party.

Expectations of the Speaker’s imminent defection has reached a feverish pitch at the national headquarters of the PDP, even though none of its top officials was ready to comment on the matter.

Speaking further, the lawmaker jokingly said, “The transfer widow in the Nigerian political league season is gradually drawing to a close and every player, including Dogara is fully aware of this fact. He is only tidying up the loose ends.

“He may be worried about other consequences of his eventual defection or a backlash from the APC. But certainly not about the security of his position of as Speaker.

“Let me make it clear to you that any call for Dogara’s impeachment after his defection would be overwhelmingly defeated because a good number of members among our colleagues in the APC will vote against it”.

Dogara was one of the prominent members of the nPDP that defected from the then ruling PDP to the APC in the run up to the 2015 general elections.

However, members of the group had continued to bemoan their fate shortly after the APC secured a resounding victory in the 2015 poll at different levels.

The members had complained about being marginalised in the sharing of political offices across the board, culminating in the recent defection of a number of senators and House members from the APC to the PDP and other smaller parties.

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