Crisis is brewing in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the decision of its National Executive Committee (NEC) to investigate how its members voted in the recent election of presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The investigation is to identify PDP senators and House members who voted against the party’s directive.
On the eve of the election of the presiding officers, the PDP had directed its members to vote for Senator Ali Ndume as president of the Senate and Hon. Umar Bago as House of Representatives speaker.
However, Senator Ahmad Lawan, the preferred candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), garnered 79 votes to become the president of the Senate dusting the PDP’s choice, Ndume, who got 28 votes.
The result showed that some of the 44 PDP senators disobeyed the party’s directive, thereby undermining the party’s candidate.
Also, in the speakership race, the APC-backed candidate, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, won the coveted post with 281 votes out of the 358 votes cast while Bago picked 76 votes.
In the run-up to the election, PDP lawmakers-elect had openly campaigned for both Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
THISDAY investigation at the weekend, however, revealed that the party’s resolve at the NEC meeting last Thursday to investigate the disobedience to its directives on how its members should vote is causing ripples within the National Assembly caucus of the main opposition party.
Senators, who spoke with THISDAY off the record for fear of sanction from the party, cautioned against the investigation, saying it could cause disunity within the party or might predispose members to defect.
One of the senators from southern part of the country said: “Why and what benefits would it yield to the party than to disunite the party? This line of thinking should not be coming from the party.
“The election has come and gone. The party should think and come out with programmes that will make us a vibrant opposition party in the Senate. The party should not come up with issues that will disunite us. As for some of us, we are looking forward to the July 2 date for our resumption and nothing more.”
He warned that the probe could trigger a crisis that would lead to an unintended consequence for the PDP.
Another senator from the North cautioned the party against frittering away the goodwill that it is enjoying from Nigerians.
He said any investigation could be seen as a witch-hunt and might result in a gale of crises that could lead to defections from the party.
The senator said the directives that PDP senators-elect, as they were known then, should vote Ndume came rather belatedly.
He said: “We are not against party directives. No, but it came very late. Some of us had made personal commitments and there was nothing we could do as at the time the directives of the party came.
“Elections took place since February and it was only on June 11, at about midnight, that we were told to vote for a particular candidate. Why didn’t the party speak out on time?”
When asked about the supremacy of the party, the senator said: “Of course, there is the supremacy of the party and discipline but such directives came very late. Some of us had made some commitments and we are politicians and we moved to ensure the protection of the interest of those that elected us.
“Let the party investigate our governors as well. Some of the PDP governors were part of our decisions to vote Senator Lawan. Some of us in the Senate see in the Senate president a more gentleman who could be talked to and he would listen. We in the Eighth Senate saw and know the behaviour and temperament of Ndume.
“We know what happened that led to his sacking as the Senate leader. We know who we can trust and who can be held responsible for anything.”
According to him, the Senate should move in the direction that led to the selection of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe as the Senate minority leader, adding: “This could be seen as a witch-hunt and this may not speak well for the PDP in the ninth Senate and indeed the National Assembly.”
A member of the PDP probe panel, who also spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, stated that the committee would incorporate all the opposing views into its final report.
“I won’t comment. It will be pre-emptive for me to comment as a member of the committee. But all I can say is that if the views of the majority of senators and party members are that we should let the bygones be bygones, we shall incorporate their views in our final report,” he said.