House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, is biding his time to switch from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) because his future party does not currently enjoy a comfortable majority in the chamber, The Nation gathered yesterday.
It was also learnt that the Speaker and PDP lawmakers are considering the adoption of the method used by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal when he was the Speaker ahead of the 2015 elections.
During that period, Tambuwal covertly romanced with the opposition while clinging to his leadership position nominally on the ticket of the PDP.
Sources said Dogara has already accepted the terms offered him by the PDP, including a return ticket to the House in 2019 and retention as Speaker if he is re-elected.
It is understood that Dogara has completed 95 per cent of the defection formalities.
“I can tell you that Dogara has not defected because he is trying to adopt the tactical style of ex-Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. He is waiting till the last minutes before defecting,” a source familiar with his plan said yesterday.
“The Speaker is being diplomatic in his approach because he does not enjoy a comfortable majority in the House, and with the way the APC is going about its desperation to sack the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Dogara, he has to manage the House terrain very well.
“Even the Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yusuf, is not yet with Dogara on the defection. The situation in the Senate is not the same as the House.
“Dogara is already using this period of recession to reach out to members and build consensus.
“So far, the Speaker has completed all the defection processes which can be put at about 95 per cent. All his followers in Bauchi State have defected to PDP. They are only waiting for their leader.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The PDP has accepted all the terms of Dogara bordering on a return to the House and the retention of the office of the Speaker if he wins his re-election.
“It is left to him to decide on when he will formally join the party. What I am sure of is the fact that he might defect on or before the PDP primaries of which date has not been fixed.”
When contacted, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, Mallam Hassan Turaki, was not forthcoming on the fate of his boss.
The Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) stipulates that party primaries be held between August 18, 2018 and October 7.
Apparently to beat the INEC timetable and accommodate prospective defectors, the leadership of the PDP has relaxed the time frame 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 about the Speaker’s imminent defection have 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 yesterday.
A member of the House of Representatives from the Southeast said yesterday that “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.”
Another Rep who requested anonymity said Dogara’s loyalists in the APC and PDP will ensure that he remains Speaker after his defection.
“These days, both PDP and APC supporters are having regular consultations and Speaker Dogara’s base has widened beyond what it was when he won the speakership election.
“There is no unusual delay in his plan to leave the APC; it is just that consultations have to be done at different levels of the PDP, including discussions with members of PDP National Working Committee , National Executive Council and various intra-PDP structures.
“He (Dogara) may not be in a hurry until after the resumption of plenary in September.
“While it may be confirmed that Dogara is leaving for the PDP, his deputy, Honourable Lasun who lost his governorship bid as a result of intra-party conspiracy in Osun state has opted to remain in the APC.”
Asked about the likely consequences of Dogara’s defection in his Bogoro/ Dass /Tafawa Balewa constituency in Bauchi State,a source close to him said his popularity remains very strong, adding that no matter what platform he chooses to contest, he stands a good chance to win.
The source said:”his constituency of Bogoro/ Dass /Tafawa Balewa comprises a Christian majority but they are a minority within the predominantly Muslim Bauchi state.
“The traditional rulers in the three local government areas have emphatically told other politicians in the area that no other aspirant will get support to contest for Speaker Dogara’s seat except he decides not to return to the Green chamber.
“Thirdly, his senatorial district comprises six local government areas and even the state governor may need Honourable Dogara’s support for his candidate to succeed.
At present, the APC still holds a majority of 192 members in the House of Reps, closely followed by the PDP with 156.
APGA has five; ADC -four; Accord Party -one; SDP -one.
There is one vacant seat.
To remove Dogara as Speaker,240 members which is two-thirds of the members of the House must be in support of any such move.