To salvage what is left of its majority status in the National Assembly, President Muammadu Buhari on Wednesday held marathon meetings with some senators and governors from his party.
Mr Buhari is billed to embark on a 10-day vacation on Thursday, hence, a meeting with these two set of politicians to ensure more defections do not occur before his return.
Mr Buhari’s fear of more defection flows from the series of crises rocking the party at different states.
As a consequence of these, over two scores senators and members of the House of Representatives, three governors, its National Publicity Secretary and several others dumped the party in the past two weeks amids reports more defections are expected.
Despite the defections, the APC still has the majority at the Senate with 53 lawmakers against opposition PDP’s 50. This was the statistics until Tuesday when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki announced he is leaving the party. Mr Saraki’s decision leaves the Senate presidency, its deputy in the hands of opposition.
At state level, governors of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto all left the APC and joined the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although APC still controls a majority at the House of Reps, the composition in the Senate, coupled with several in-fightings in states, is a huge source of concern for Mr Buhari.
MEETING WITH LAWMAKERS
First was the meeting with some senators and party leaders on Wednesday. The meeting took place inside the president’s office at Aso Rock Villa Abuja shortly after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
One of the lawmakers present at the meeting said the president was more concerned about addressing crises at the state level of the party.
“He just came to inform the people that he is going to travel and it was to send a clear message to the state governors that they must go and reconcile with their senators so that we don’t have more defections.
“There was a particular message to the governors who have cases in their states. Now it’s very clear that if the president doesn’t hold the ones on ground, they may end up wanting out. So, the meeting was called to send a clear message to them
The lawmaker said states like Zamfara, Adamawa, Niger, Oyo, Ogun, Kaduna and Imo topped agenda for discussion at the meeting.
Those states still have aggrieved federal lawmakers who could still defect.
Meanwhile, APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomole in his briefing after the meeting confirmed the defections were the major points of discussion at the meeting.
The party chairman then asked Mr Saraki to act honourably and relinquish his position having left the party.
“But whatever is the reason, we can decamp from the party but we can’t decamp from Nigeria. The only thing is that there are other consequential issues that every man or woman of honour, who had taken such decisions would be expected to follow through,” Mr Oshiomole told journalists after the meeting.
“I mean you should not collect a crown that belongs to a family and wear it on behalf of the family; if for your personal reasons, which he has enumerated that he has gone to another family. It is just a matter of honour to leave the crown in the house that the crown belongs to,” he said, subtly challenging Mr Saraki to relinquish his position as senate president.
Mr Saraki, now an opposition leader, is the third most senior public offical in the country. Although there is no part of the Senate standing order stating the position of the senate president be occupied by a lawmaker from the majority party, the precedence has always favoured the majority.
Mr Saraki is not expected to be legally ousted out of the position as he enjoys the support of PDP and some APC senators.
MEETING WITH GOVERNORS
A few hours after meeting with senators, Mr Buhari also met with the APC governors, principally on the same issue of defections.
The meeting with governors began at about few minutes to 10 p.m. in the conference room of the office of the wife of the president at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
Present at the meeting were; Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Kashim Shettima of Borno, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Abubakar Bello of Niger, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Mohammed Jibrilla of Adamawa, Abubakar Bugudu of Kebbi and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State.
Also present was the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole; and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State claimed President Muhammadu Buhari is not disturbed about the gale of defections currently ongoing in the ruling party, APC.
The governor, however, confirmed the defections were the topic of discussion.
Mr Okorocha said the governors met with Mr Buhari to assure him that the APC still has 22 governors and a majority in the Senate.
“We came to assure him that his foot soldiers are ready, and the president is in high spirits.
Wednesday night’s meetings held amidst rumours some APC senators were meeting to forcefully remove Mr Saraki from office.
Some PDP lawmakers went to the National Assembly and said they were sleeping over to prevent any illegal removal.
However, PREMIUM TIMES learnt the forceful removal of Mr Saraki was not discussed at any of the meetings with Mr Buhari.
“That was not discussed with the president,” a senator at the meeting said.