This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
The People's Democratic Party (PDP) has taken control of the Nigerian Senate, on a day that saw Saraki and his deputy prevented from attending the plenary by police forces.
15 Senators submitted their decision to defect to the Senate President, and added to the existing 46 senators, takes the PDP to 61 senators and control of the Red Chamber. Intriguingly, Senate President Bukola Saraki (A-Kwara) did not announce his defection.
The Numbers Game
The defections are on the heels of the recent political alliance- CUPP, between the PDP and other opposition parties. This alliance received a boost when the Reformed-APC group, largely made up of former new PDP (nPDP) members, announced that they would be joining the PDP. However, despite several rumours and rife speculation, there had been no actual movement until today.
With this movement, the Senate is now firmly in PDP hands. The PDP has 61 Senators to the APC's 45. It remains to be seen if Saraki will move to maintain his position as Senate President.
The House too was subject to several defections. However, unlike the Senate, the House is still under APC control. 37 representatives left the ruling APC, 33 representatives moving to the PDP and 4 moving to the African Democratic Congress (ADC), itself a fellow CUPP party. A further 38th representative left the APC, but declined to announce which party he would be moving to.
The Political Game
Before the plenary, there was more drama with the cordoning off of the residences of the Saraki, and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. Saraki was sought for more questioning regarding the Offa Bank robbery, while Ekweremadu was sought for EFCC allegations. Many political commentators, including Saraki himself, believe it was a ploy by the Federal Government to block the leaders of the Senate from presiding over the plenary with its expected defections. The operation has been reacted to with widespread criticism.
The Blame Game
As with most political sagas in Nigeria, both sides have come out to own the narrative. The APC is reportedly considering asking the courts to declare the seats vacant. Ironically, in 2015, this was the same argument then PDP leaders argued when defections took place to the APC. The party also requested that its members remain calm, reminding them that it still controls 25 of the 36 states in the country. However, with reports that representatives and senators erupted in chants of 'PDP', and with Governors still to announce if they would be defecting from the party, this transfer window is a long way from being closed.