Its majority status in the House of Representatives far from overwhelming after a series of defections, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, acknowledged Tuesday it may lack a required two-third support to force out the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who decamped from the party Tuesday.
Mr. Tambuwal dumped the ruling party for the opposition All Progressives Congress, citing factionalization within the party in his home state, Sokoto.
In its response, the PDP national leadership said the “honourable and responsible” action for the speaker would be to resign from his position.
The party did not state its reaction if the speaker refuses to voluntarily quit.
But amid concerns over a possible impeachment of Mr. Tambuwal, the PDP leadership in the House said while the party remains in control of the lower house of parliament, the idea of unseating Mr. Tambuwal may not be as simple.
An impeachment of the speaker would require 240 out of the 360 members to agree on the move.
Currently, the PDP leads with 189, while the APC has 159 members. Smaller opposition parties cover the remaining slots.
Any impeachment move would mean the PDP must reach out to the APC for support, were to able convince all its members and those of the smaller parties, many who are Mr. Tambuwal’s allies.
“I think we need to be mindful of the constitution,” said deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, on impeachment concerns. “According to the constitution, you would need a two-third majority to remove a sitting Speaker. Do we have two-third? That is another matter we need to ponder over.”
He said the party would instead await a pending decision by a federal court on previous defections by lawmakers from the PDP to APC.
“We await the ruling of the court on the matter. And I think this is one great opportunity for us to call on the Judiciary — they are also an arm of government — that justice delayed is justice denied. And if this subjected matter is before them, it behoves on them to make the necessary interpretations so that we can lay this issue to rest in respect of defection,” Mr. Ogor said.
He added: “It is extremely important. But for us as members of the PDP, we believe that we will continue carrying on the responsibilities of our party.”
Mr. Tambuwal defected formally at Tuesday’s plenary, ending months of speculation and denials, and becoming Nigeria’s first speaker from an opposition party.
A three-term member of the House, Mr. Tambuwal had long been alienated from the ruling party, PDP, repeatedly missing party functions and publicly criticising officials of the party on whose platform he rose to power.
Speculations he will dump the PDP reached its zenith more than a week back when the speaker attended an APC meeting in his home state, Sokoto, and publicly acknowledged doing so.
Mr. Tambuwal said he took the decision on the invitation of the state governor, Aliyu Wammako, after he was snubbed by a visiting PDP delegation to the state, led by Tony Anenih, the Board of Trustees chairman.
Despite associating with the APC for months, Mr. Tambuwal had consistently denied moving to join the APC. Those denials are believed to have been informed by his concerns over his position as speaker.
On Tuesday, when the speaker finally decided to quit PDP, it was dramatic.
With widespread news reports of his likely defection, Mr. Tambuwal maintained a calm presence at the House, giving no indication the decision was irreversible this time.
Unlike other defections usually announced before the take-off of the days’ business in the House, the speaker delayed his announcement until the last minute of deliberations, as the house moved to adjourn.
“Before I hit the gavel on the motion for adjournment, I want to make this formal announcement to this House,” he began. “Based on the provision of the 1999 Constitution, and having regards to the development of PDP in my own state, Sokoto State, I hereby announce my membership with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Let me register my profound appreciation to all of you my colleagues for the unflinching support you have continued to extend to me for the overall national interest and development of our democracy. May almighty God continue to guide us all,” Mr. Tambuwal said.
The House adjourned to December 3, a decision some lawmakers interpreted as an attempt to neutralise any attempt by the ruling party, PDP, to move against him.
The APC caucus in the house, which welcomed the defection, said the adjournment was to allow members attend to pressing political needs and well as state needs like preparations for the 2015 budget, expected there shortly.
“We welcome and applaud the Speaker’s decision. Ever since the crisis started in PDP which led to the formation of the ‘New PDP’, and the defection of five PDP Governors, 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives to the APC, and the formal merger of the ‘New PDP’ with the APC, we had all along known that this day will come,” the party said in a statement by House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.
“We are proud to acknowledge that the Speaker remains not only a member of the House of Representatives but also its Speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a Presidential System of Government.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Constitution requires only that ‘Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that house from among themselves’. Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has been a Speaker for all the members, all the political parties and for all Nigerians and will so continue.
With concerns about Mr. Tambuwal retaining his position, the APC acknowledged that more than ever before there is need for vigilance and focus on the concerns of the Nigerian people who elected all of us.
The deputy PDP leader, Mr. Ogor, said the PDP will also watch further, and definitely will see what happens.
“Let’s look and see how he manages the House. We will watch him with eagle eyes and interpret every action that he takes”.
Separately, the House Leader, Mulikat Adeola-Akande, said the party will take a decision on Mr. Tambuwal’s defection at an “appropriate time”.