Ahead of the 2015 general election, the numerical superiority of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives may have come under threat as the yet-to-be-registered All Progressives Congress (APC) has commenced an intensive campaign to lure legislators elected on the platform of the ruling party to defect en masse to the opposition party.
Under the current configuration of political parties in the House, the ruling party has 204 members, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has 68, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has 40 while All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has 27.
The other parties, namely Accord has 5, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – 7, Labour Party (LP) – 8 and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) has only one member.
It is uncertain if APC has turned its attention to the Senate, but its current configuration is made up of PDP – 75, ACN – 18, ANPP – 8, CPC – 4, APGA – 1, LP – 2, and DPP – 1.
However, indications have emerged that the opposition is working towards changing the configuration in the lower chamber in its bid to pull the rug under the feet of the ruling party.
The thinking is that if the coalition of merging opposition parties gradually gains more seats in the National Assembly ahead of the 2015 crucial polls, it will translate to their constituencies embracing the opposition party.
This is similar to the calculations of the opposition in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) where it has been speculated that a number of PDP governors may leave the PDP to either join the APC to facilitate the conversion of their states or form another party.
THISDAY gathered that the plot to overrun the parliament began before the lawmakers embarked on their mid-term break and that the defection may commence when the lawmakers resume.
Some lawmakers of the ruling party who were approached to dump their party disclosed that they were being lured with promises of free tickets in the next parliamentary polls.
It was also gathered that the recruitment drive has also been extended to some smaller opposition parties.
One of the legislators, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, said the PDP in the Green Chamber, had become an endangered specie with the incursion daily of the opposition into its territory.
According to the lawmaker, the ruling party may become easy prey because of the apparent “abandonment” of the PDP lawmakers by the leadership of the ruling party over the last two years.
“The opposition is waxing stronger everyday. They've been wooing our colleagues with free tickets to contest the next elections. What they tell you is that if you join them, your return ticket is secured; you will not need to worry yourself about spending money to run primaries and later, the main elections.
“But some of us are sceptical about the whole thing. I am not comfortable with such promises because we are all politicians and we know that any thing could happen.
“We know that there are many people in the queue wanting to come to the National Assembly, even among those already in the opposition.
“There is also the fear that the characters piloting this so-called opposition could be very funny. We know that in terms of internal democracy they are no better than the PDP and so anybody crossing over would be doing so at his or her own risk,” the lawmaker said.
Another legislator, who also spoke in confidence with THISDAY, said the PDP members have been operating like orphans in the last two years.
The legislator blamed the situation on the inability of the leadership of the party and that of the House to reconcile their differences and work together after the election that saw lawmakers elected on the platform of the PDP voting against the party’s candidates during the election of principal officers.
“Now you can see what is happening; the party is losing grounds every day in the chamber. You can see the kind of motions and bills we take.
“If all is well, some of these things will not be happening because the PDP is in power. But what can anyone do, when the party does not even care about its members?
“It is true that some of our members defied the directive of our party and voted for Tambuwal. When the party lost the battle, it insisted that Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola should be made House leader.
“But have they empowered her to really lead the House and mobilise members of her party to support the party’s agenda in parliament? You can’t lead people just like that; there must be incentives to keep the loyalty of members alive,” the legislator said.
In reaction to this development, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Afam Ogene, said he was not aware of any campaign to lure members to defect to the APC.
The lawmaker also expressed doubts that serving members could yield to such political gimmicks to jettison the PDP.
“It can't be true. Why would any serving member be lured to another party because of the promise of a free ticket for the next election? I don't see how another party’s ticket can become so germane to an incumbent lawmaker.
“Every serving member is more than a ticket because he or she came to the House on the ticket of a party,” Ogene said.
On June 6, 2011, some legislators elected on the platform of the PDP had teamed up with the opposition to elect Hon. Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as Deputy Speaker against the zoning arrangement of their party.
Besides the open secret that the current leadership of the House owes its historic victory to the opposition, THISDAY gathered that the stand of the party was worsened by the cold shoulder with which the leadership of the party received the results of that election.
Since then, the “rejected” leadership has found succour in the hands of the opposition as there has been no deliberate effort by the PDP to groom a strong caucus in the parliament to maximise the advantages of its numerical strength.
Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, a member of the ACN and arrowhead of the APC in the chamber, had a couple of months ago, told the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling party, Chief Tony Anenih, that the opposition would slug it out with the ruling party in 2015.
Gbajabiamila's comments came same day Anenih led members of the BoT on a visit presumably to mend fences with its flock in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.