There are strong indications have emerged that The Presidency has become increasingly worried over threats by more members of the National Assembly to dump the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress, APC.
The embattled President Goodluck Jonathan is said to be jittery over the report that more members of the National Assembly have decided to defect to APC on the resumption of plenary in the New Year.
National Mirrorgathered that Jonathan had sought the support of the Senate President, Senator David Mark, to go after the recalcitrant lawmakers to have a re-think and forestall further defection from the ruling party.
Jonathan was said to be meeting Mark more frequently at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, since December 25, 2013.
Reliable sources disclosed to National Mirror showed that Mark had featured prominently as a nocturnal guest of the Presidency in the past few days to help work out measures to salvage the dwindling fortunes of the party.
Mark was said to be working with other trusted members of the President Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet to network around the National Assembly members, especially those suspected to be angling to dump the ruling party, to achieve his mandate.
It will be recalled that some members of the National Assembly elected on the platform of the PDP had threatened to dump the party and defected to APC in January.
Prominent among those expected to join APC in January, is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and other members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
Tambuwal is also being positioned to pick the presidential ticket of the opposition party in the 2015 election.
About 21 senators elected on the platform of PDP were also said to be on their way out of the ruling party in January.
Already, a former Governor of Kwara State and serving federal lawmaker, Senator Bukola Saraki, formally renounced his membership of PDP and embraced APC in a statement in Ilorin, the Kwara State Capital, on Tuesday.
Another federal lawmaker from Rivers State, Senator Magnus Abbe, had also said that he was ready to defect to APC in the New Year.
However, investigations by our correspondent revealed that Mark was directed to reach out to all critical stakeholders, including state governors, who could prevail on the lawmakers, to forestall further defection.
National Mirror gathered that Jonathan secretly contacted Mark to help out in view of his acknowledged popularity and acceptability in the National Assembly.
It was learnt that Mark quickly swung into action in line with the presidential mandate.
Mark was reported to have been briefing Jonathan regularly on this assignment.
Our findings revealed that Mark had met with some members of the Senate and House of Representatives during the Xmas and New Year holidays to prevail on them to remain in the ruling party.
But it was gathered that Tambuwal, Saraki and Abbé shunned the entreaties by the senate president, insisting that there was no going back in their decision to move into APC.
Tambuwal and Saraki were reported to have stated that they had gone too deep with APC to backpedal at this point in time while Abbe was quoted to have said that any attempt for him to remain in PDP henceforth would be tantamount to betrayal of Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, his political benefactor.
It was gathered that despite obvious frustrations in handling the assignment from the Presidency, Mark continued consultation with the aggrieved members of the National Assembly even on the first day of the New Year yesterday.
One of the lawmakers from the South/South geopolitical zone confirmed to National Mirror in a telephone interview yesterday that Mark is meeting with his colleagues on behalf of the Presidency on the way forward over the protracted crisis bedevilling the ruling party.
“Yes, I can confirm that the Senate President, Senator David Mark, has been recruited by President Goodluck Jonathan to salvage the PDP obviously because of his pedigree. Mr. President has been meeting with the Senate President in the Villa in the past few days to strategise and curtail the moves and threat by more members of the Senate to dump the PDP.
“The Senate President has been dutifully carrying out the assignment to meet with the members of the National Assembly during recess to prevent their movement into APC in January although without success because some members insisted that it would be too late for them to rescind their decision to dump the PDP for APC.
“It is obviously an Herculean task for the Senate President but since he has been appointed as the arrowhead of the movement to forestall further depletion of PDP in the National Assembly by Mr. President he has no choice to continue to do his best to carry out the assignment despite obvious constraints,” added our source, who did not want his name mentioned.
In a related development, the Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur has allayed fears over the defection of some members to APC.
Tukur said with the measures being put in place in the ruling party, along with President Jonathan, those who defected would willingly return with time.
He said that the PDP has indeed been welcoming more members into its fold from across the federation compared to the number of those who had defected.
Tukur said going by the undercurrents within the political circles, PDP would swell with influx of new members this year, as according to him, many members from the opposition camp had already signified resolve to join.
Tukur made this known in London yesterday in a chat with a team of Nigerian professionals based in Europe, led by Dr Edwin Olabamiro, who paid him a visit.
The professionals had sought audience with the PDP chairman on their interest to return to Nigeria with a view to offering their expertise in diverse fields for the growth of the country.
Tukur said he was pleased with the resolve by Nigerians in the Diaspora to henceforth put Nigeria at the centre of their considerations, as he expressed gladness on their desire to start looking homewards.
He told the professionals who are mostly in medical, information technology and engineering lines that the PDP has always been in pursuit of reforms to make it stronger as the ruling party. He said a stronger PDP would always produce a stronger national leadership, and hence, a more vibrant economy.
He disclosed that PDP, in the most recent time, has been undergoing a process of rejuvenation, which he noted many had interpreted as crisis. According to him, the ruling party would emerge stronger, more virile and fully prepared to surpass its attainments at the end of the wrangling among members.
Tukur, who lauded the virtues of President Goodluck Jonathan and his ability to pull Nigeria together in the face of daunting security challenges confronting it, called on Nigerians in the Diaspora to join those back home in supporting the President for the success of his transformation agenda.
He reminded the professionals about the need to partake fully in the 2015 general election, urging them to always identify with the PDP and President Jonathan in their efforts to make Nigeria regain its rightful place in the comity of nations.
Similarly, PDP has charged all its members, political office holders and all Nigerians to “usher in the New Year by committing themselves to the lofty values of integrity, hard work, honesty, love and faithfulness so as to move the nation to the next level.”
The party in a New Year message signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh yesterday said “While the nation faced serious challenges last year, the New Year presents a new opportunity for Nigerians to eschew all divisions and work together to fully entrench these values in the nation’s body polity.”
The ruling party, which noted that this will result in the much desired national rebirth also charged Nigerians to stand on the side of peace and unity and resist the “evil machinations of desperate undemocratic breeds who delight in sowing seeds of discord among the people.”
The PDP however cautioned such elements not to “pollute the New Year by crossing over with their unwarranted attacks and baseless criticisms against those in authority in addition to their politics of bitterness, lies, deceit and propaganda with which they overheated the system, caused tension, divisions, violence and painful loss of innocent lives in the country last year”.
It said, “It is clear that Nigerians look forward to a prosperous and peaceful 2014. In this regard, we caution in strong terms, those behind the political frictions, violence and divisions among Nigerians in 2013 to have a rethink and understand that such is sinful before God and man”, the PDP said.
The party also charged all those in authority in all sectors and at levels to be honest and understand that Nigerians expect them to live above board in all their dealings. It therefore urged them to “use the New Year as a veritable juncture to rededicate themselves and redouble their efforts to effectively discharge their duties.”
On its own part, the party assured that it will continue to be committed to national unity, peace, welfare and happiness of all Nigerians at all times. “In this regard, the PDP not only wishes, but shall work hard to ensure a prosperous 2014 for all Nigerians”, the message said.