by John Alechenu and Sunday Aborisade
There was confusion on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, following unconfirmed reports that 11 Senators defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to join the opposition All Progressives Congress.
A statement earlier issued by the Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said that the 11 Senators had defected.
In the statement, Mohammed claimed that the affected Senators had written a formal letter informing the Senate leadership of their decision and that the said letter would be read during Wednesdayâ€™s plenary.
However, neither the Senators concerned nor the Senate President, David Mark, made any reference to the issue during the dayâ€™s sitting.
Mark did not read the letters, which some claimed were submitted to him by the individual Senators late on Tuesday.
The Senators said to have defected are Bukola Saraki, Adamu Abdulahi, Shaba Lafiagi, Ibrahim Gobir, Aisha Al-Hassan, Magnus Abe, Wilson Ake, Jibrilla Mohammed Bindowo, Danjuma Goje, and Ali Ndume and Umar Dahiru.
In its statement, APC had said, â€œEleven Senators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party this morning defected to the All Progressives Congress.
â€œA formal letter to this effect has been delivered to Senate President David Mark and is expected to be read on the floor of the Senate this afternoon.
â€œThis is only the first instalment of many other Senators of the Peoples Democratic Party expected to defect to the All Progressives Congress soon.â€
Curiously, none of the affected Senators was willing to speak on the controversial defection when approached on Wednesday.
One of the Senators who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, â€œI cannot tell you anything for now because our movement can only take effect after the letter has been read on the floor. Until then, let us watch and see how the Senate President handles this one.â€
In another twist to the saga, Senator Umaru Dahiru (PDP, Sokoto) was said to have approached the Senate President to rescind his decision to defect; he too made himself unavailable as he could not be found in his office after plenary and his mobile telephone was switched off.
Dahiruâ€™s withdrawal was said to be partly responsible for the decision of the Senate President not to read the letters during plenary.
The leader of the group of defecting Senators, Bukola Saraki, also declined comments.
When one of our correspondents met him in his office to make enquiries on the subject, Saraki merely smiled and excused himself out of the office.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, while briefing the media said no Senator had defected.
He said, â€œI cannot confirm what had not been read on the floor. As at today, there is no such thing. Until their letters are received and confirmed on the floor, then I can confirm.
However, the contents of the said letter, sighted by our correspondent, read, â€œWe, the undersigned Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party wish to notify you that we have severally and jointly joined the All Progressives Congress.
â€œThis action and decision is as a result of the division and factionalisation in the PDP that sponsored our elections into the Senate.
â€œIn view of the above, we write to inform you that following the division and factionalisation in the PDP, we have formally joined the APC.
â€œThis communication is pursuant to Section 68 (1g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. â€œFor your information, guidance and record purposesâ€.
Meanwhile, Mark had during the Plenary summoned all PDP Senators to a consultative meeting in the evening.
Our correspondents learnt that the 11 Senators had yet to make up their mind as to whether or not to attend the meeting.
Abaribe had on Tuesday stated that defection could not be done jointly but on individual basis.
Abaribe said this while reacting to speculations that aggrieved PDP members had jointly written to the Senate.
He said the purported letter would have been addressed personally to the Senate President.
He said, â€œThe Senate, officially, is not aware of any letter about Senators defecting because any letter that comes to the Senate would be read on the floor.
â€œSo, if Senators write personal letters to the Senate President, that is strictly personal between them and the Senate President.
â€œThey have not written it for reading on the floor of the Senate. So, in the same manner that you have some awareness of what is going on is the same manner we are aware of it through the pages of newspapers.â€
by John Alechenu and Sunday Aborisade