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PDP senators stage walkout over defection of Ondo senator to APC

•    His seat must be declared Vacant – PDP
THERE was drama on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday as senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staged a walked out following the announcement of the defection of Senator Yele Omogunwa (Ondo South) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

PDP lawmakers, who rejected the defection, insisted that the seat of the defecting Senator must be declared vacant as a result of the fact that the PDP was not divided.

Omogunwa had in a letter of defection read by the senate president, Bukola Saraki, said that he was joining the APC to support the candidate of the party in the just concluded Ondo State governorship
election.

His letter read I part: “This declaration l have made in my local government on Sunday, November 20, to enable me actively canvass for the success of Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, in the gubernatorial election of November 26, 2016.”

But Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, faulted in the defection and insisted that his seat be declared 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, is if a division exists in PDP.

Akpabio explained that the appellate courts stated categorically in their judgments that the only known and recognised national leadership of the PDP was the caretaker committee under the Chairmanship of Senator Ahmad Markafi.

The minority leader was however ruled out of order by Saraki who said that the matter is controversial, which runs contrary to the spirit and letter of order 43 on which Akpabio made his objection.

Temper however rose as PDP lawmakers took offence when Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), came through Order 43 and declared that the division within the PDP was obvious.

He said that the national leadership of the party was divided between Senator Mohammed Markafi and Senator Modu Sherrif adding that the situation has made “Omogunwa’s defection to be perfectly in order.”

But Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North), kicked against Melaye’s submission accusing the Senate President of running afoul of the senate standing rules by allowing Dino to make remarks over an issue that had already been ruled upon.
He noted “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 comment.

The infuriated PDP senators thereafter staged a walk out from the chamber and converged on Hearing Room 2 to address a press conference.

Akpabio, the Minority Leader told newsmen at the briefing that PDP would ensure that it retrieve its “stolen” senatorial seat from Omogunwa through the courts since according to him, there was no
division within the party leadership now.

He said: “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.”

The PDP caucus later went on a closed door meeting where it was found out that they agreed to resume plenary today on Thursday (today).

It was gathered that the senators would cause further drama by filing into the chamber after the Senate President might have taken his seat.

They are to be led by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswil Akpabio.

With Omogunwa’s defection, PDP Senators are now 43 while APC senators have increased to 61 with Labour party having only one senator.

This brings the number of senators to 105 while three seats are outstanding from Rivers and one in Anambra.