Rivers crisis: Decamped PDP lawmakers risk losing their seats, says ex-presidential aide, Akande

Laolu Akande on Channels TV

By Oluwafemi Popoola

Wednesday December 13, 2023 — Former presidential aide and veteran journalist, Laolu Akande, has said that the decamped lawmakers in Rivers State may lose their seats should the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) decides to take legal action on the matter.

His comment came following the ongoing political crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly where 27 out of the 32 lawmakers in the state were announced to have decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

There are media reports regarding the political crisis in the state which is said to have worsened despite a mediation by President Bola Tinubu to resolve the matter.

The state lawmakers are alleged to have split into two factions – one backed by the immediate past governor of River State and current minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, and the second faction loyal to Rivers State Governor Sim Fubara.

The 27 defected lawmakers are said to be the ones loyal to the FCT minister

The defection came about two weeks after Nyesom Wike told reporters that 27 lawmakers in the state were opposing the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara.

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Speaking on Channels TV News at 10 on Tuesday, November 12, 2023, Akande, who is the TV’s in-house political analyst, spoke on the political crisis rocking the state and gave a historical perspective to it.

The journalist gave a legal precedent to the defection issue stating that the defected lawmakers might have to do some legal fireworks in case the PDP decides to go to court to challenge the move.

He said, “There is a ruling of the Supreme Court in 2015, actually the lead judgement was read by the recently retired justice Datti Joe, where it was established that if you decamp from your party as a legislator except there is a division at the national level, then you might have to lose your case.”

He added, “In that particular instance, I believe Mr Abegunde who had won the seat in Ondo State House of Assembly under Labour Party decamped to the then (defunct) Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and then, of course, the Ondo State House of Assembly took the matter to court.

“Then, Mr Abegunde lost at the court at the first instance, went on appeal, lost on appeal and eventually the matter got to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgement of both the lower and the Appeal Court.

“So, if that were to have a reflection on what happened today, then, one might say that the members of the River State House of Assembly might have to do some kind of legal fireworks.

“But we don’t know how this is going to play out because if you look at that ruling very well, there is a distinction between a division at the state level and a division at the national level. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But you are right, I think that there might be a threat if the party goes to court to get them retaining those seats,” Akande stated.

Giving a historical perspective to the crisis, Akande submitted that the fallout of the lingering drama in the southern state suggests a move by the people of the South-South to re-align with the incumbent national party which is the APC, maintaining that the
realignment is in tandem with Nigeria’s political history.

“I think that what is happening is a return to the politics of the Second Republic and I dare say that in the Third Republic, where the fact says the people of the South-South will normally align with the Central. Akande said

Continuing, he said, “If we remember in the Second Republic, the (defunct) NPN (National Party of Nigeria) had control of River State and Cross River in those areas and the same thing happened in the ill-fated Third Republic, where you had the (defunct) NRC (National Republican Convention) in charge of the party even though the NRC was not at the centre because of the election that wasn’t concluded.

“The point is that oftentimes, the people in the South-South normally align with the incumbent national party in this case the APC. What happened was that in 2015, with the emergency of APC which was an alliance essentially between the North and Southwest
the political problem of Nigeria shifted in such a way that the Southwest normally in opposition was now in the centre with the North.

“That sort of disorganized what normally be the South-South and South East aligning with the centre. So, between 2015 and now, we have a situation where almost the first time in Nigeria’s history, we have the people of South-South outside of the politics of the centre up to 2023.

“What is happening in Rivers State today might be the beginning of the return of the people of the South-South to be with whoever is in the centre. So, there is a lot of things we can say about it but I see it as a realignment that is in line with Nigeria’s political history,” Akande concluded.