The senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, attended the senate plenary yesterday and announced his technical defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Melaye, who wore a neck support, thanked his colleagues, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Nigerians for standing by him during his travails with the police, however opted to seat with the opposition.
“I have a special request to you Mr. President. “Because of the trauma I went through and I’m still going through, I want to seek your indulgence that you will call on the sergeant-at-arms to look for a comfortable seat for me on this side of the divide (pointing to the opposition wing) because I am no longer comfortable sitting here. So, I want to ask the Senate President that you mandate the sergeant-at-arms tomorrow (today) to look for a seat for me on this other divide of the chamber.
“Before you do that through the help of my walking stick I will take a comfortable seat close to Papa, General Senator David Mark pending when you get me a comfortable seat on this side.”
Although he did not state point blank that had defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP, he moved to opposition wing and sat beside Mark.
However, there was a sharp division on the floor of the senate between the APC and PDP lawmakers with the former resenting the move and the former applauding it.
While the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, granted Melaye’s prayer to sit with Mark for that day, he however said the request for a seat in the opposition wing would be looked into.
Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, however said Melaye’s ‘defection’ negates Order 56 (3) of the Senate.
“Senator Dino Melaye remains one of our senators of the APC stock. I sat there for eight years and I know how the seats there are. I have sat here for the last three years and I know the difference. We have the best seat to give him at this side. If there is any difficulty with his seat, we’ll find any other one for him,” he said and requested the chief whip to bring Melaye back to the APC wing of the chamber.
Another APC senator, Barau Jibrin, said the national assembly is empowered to regulate its proceedings according to section 60 of the constitution and prevailed on the chief whip to return Melaye to his seat pending the time he is allocated another seat in accordance with senate rule.
“The order of the Senate clearly specifies that every senator shall sit on a seat that has been assigned to him by the senate president.
“In this regard, the senate leader or the chief whip should as a matter of urgency, due to the health situation of Senator Dino, have a seat that is OK for him. Sitting in a seat different from what is assigned to him is against the constitution,” he said.
Also in defence of APC senators, the chief whip, Olusola Adeyeye, urged Saraki to avoid setting a bad precedent by allowing the change of seat.
“The qualification of any member of the national assembly is that he be a member of a political party. In the Senate, seats are assigned based on membership of a political party.
“We are setting a bad precedent. We are beginning to institutionalise chaos if we use any excuse to transfer any member across the aisle,” he said.
However, the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, argued that Melaye’s action was borne out of his welfare and right to exercise freedom and urged the APC senators to respect the action.
The senate minority leader, Godswill Akpabio said the movement is not about party allegiance adding that the PDP was willing to accept any APC senator who wishes to cross.
“Where we are now is the Nigerian Senate. Whether to the left or the right. At any point in time that any senator on the left feels that his or her seat is not comfortable. He is welcomed here. I want to welcome Senator Dino here. We are the ones that should have complained, but we are not complaining. We must be our brothers’ keepers,” he said.
But the senate president ruled that did not at any time say he wanted to defect to another party.
“I don’t think at any time in his contribution the issue of change of allegiance or party ever came up. It’s not an issue that has come up today at all. He talked about his state of mind and comfort. None of us has been through what he has been through neither do I think the rules have ever foresaw this kind of situation. As part of our spirit of giving support, we will accommodate his request and make sure that seat is comfortable so that you can come back,” said Saraki.
It would be recalled that Melaye has had a running battle with the police for his alleged involvement in a murder case and provision of support for criminal elements in Kogi State.
The bad blood climaxed on April 23, 2018 when the senator was stopped at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja from travelling to Morocco for an official engagement.
On April 24, the police was arrested him in his Abuja residence and while was being transported to Lokoja, Kogi State to face trial, he allegedly jumped off the police vehicle and sustained injuries.
He was thereafter hospitalised for a few days under the close watch of police personnel.
Melaye was arraigned after he was confirmed fit for trial, the police said, although the lawmaker appeared at the court session on a stretcher.
He was thereafter taken to Lokoja after the Abuja judge granted him a N90 million bail on May 2, 2018.