Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Following the mass defection that has hit the All Progressives Congress (APC) across the states of the federation, members of the House of Representatives loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, have called on the president to ensure that aggrieved parties are reconciled ahead of 2019 elections.
Mass defection of APC members had been reported in Bayelsa, Kogi, Benue, Ondo, Imo state, among others.
The lawmakers, led by Musa Sarkin-Adar and Abdulmumini Jibrin, who came on the platform of Members of the Parliamentary Support Group, met with the president, on Thursday night, in the First Lady’s Conference Room.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after the meeting, Sarkin-Adar said the meeting “looked at the concerns within the country and the various political parties because election is approaching.”
He said as members of the ruling party in the National Assembly, they felt it was necessary to have an interface with the President and the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole “to address issues and concerns raised by members across the federation.”
According to Sarkin-Adar, who represents Goronyo/Gada Federal constituency Sokoto State in the House of Respresentatives, they have “certain concerns and misgivings” in each state of the federation, where congresses were held from wards to local government and state level recently.
“In each state of the federation, there are certain concerns and misgivings when the congresses were held from wards, to local government to state level, there were so many discrepancies and issues that came up and people made a lot of complaints and they were not listened to as a result of that some people thought that they will move out of the party and join another party.
“Others, even before that have made up their minds they are going somewhere and we feel it is necessary to come and inform the president that we are committed to remain party members, but issues should be looked into and addressed properly, so that all aggrieved members can be persuaded to remain together so that we can ensure victory for our party in the 2019 general elections.”
He said they were also at the Villa to help foster cordial relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly.
“It is also to encourage the relationship between the executive and the national Assembly to be cordial. We know who causes all those frictions and we are trying as much as possible to make sure that such things does not happen again for the betterment of this country.
“We should not be partisan in everything we do, especially on our conduct on the floor of the House.
“From the previous experiences of the previous Assembly which we were opportune to be members then, we know what happened and we know what it caused the country.
“So, it is now a clarion call for us to rally behind the president and the need for us to also be listened to so that the issues of development of this country can be addressed.”
Sarkin-Adar, who said President Buhari responded to their submissions very well, added that the lawmakers also explained to him the idea of zonal interventions or what is called constituency projects which had always been a subject of controversy.
He said they told him that contrary to widespread belief, “it is not money given to us, but projects worth millions of Naira that we should only site where it should be sited in our various constituencies and it is one of the most unifying factors of this country.”
President Buhari also condemned the insertion of thousands of such projects in the 2018 budget.
Sarkin-Adar, however, added that constituency projects is “one of the ways in which you can have a reflective performance of the government in certain areas.”
He said most rural areas in the country would not have had any government presence if not because of constituency projects, adding that it is often “what your people will benefit from and as such, there is equitable distribution of infrastructure across the nation”.
Also speaking, Jibrin who represents Bebeji/Kiru constituency of Kano State, said they decided to visit the President to show their solidarity. He said they had a very good meeting.
Jibrin said President Buhari took time to share his experiences with them and also explained his “vision and a lot of the things he is doing for the country.”
He said members of the support group were happy with the outcome of the meeting, disclosing that the president suggested that such meetings should be held quarterly, adding “in any case that is what we always wanted. We can meet, exchange information, rub minds and find a way to continue to work together.”
On reports that the APC may lose its majority strength in the National Assembly owing to reports of mass defection to the opposition party, Jibrin simply said “every party in the world, not only in Nigeria, has its challenges and the APC is not an exception”.
He, however, expressed the belief that the leadership of the party was doing all that it could do to ensure it did not lose more members.
Another member of the group, Mohammed Gololo (Gamawa Federal Constituency) chipped in: “With the interaction we are having with the national chairman of the party, with the synergy that is ongoing, most likely, the defection may not take place as it used to be amplified.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, on his part described the meeting as an “encouraging interface between the legislature and the executive.
“We are the party in government; the legislature is part of government. If the executive does not succeed, it will also rub off on the legislature. So it is just a continuation of this dialogue that can afford us the chance to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people,” he said.
The Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly matters, Ita Enang, commended members of the parliamentary support group.
He said members took advantage of the meeting to express their concerns to Mr Buhari.
He also said the president “has responded in a manner that is very satisfactory to them.”
Enang said the meeting is one of the back channels “that is being arranged and is granted by Mr President and officers of the executive from time to time to enable the legislators interact personally, with personal questions and personal concerns on the state, the party, projects and programmes of government”.
He said most of what was raised was “fully addressed” and that Mr Buhari decided to invite APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to address the gathering.
Enang said the party chairman assured the members that the matters raised will be addressed and that no one should have fears because the party is for all.
“He told them how the nominations will go and has given them confidence and this confidence will be transmitted to all other members of the House and Senate who are not here.
“We are going to arrange for senators in the next few days as part of confidence building and bridging the gap between the executive and legislature,” he said.