The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, was conspicuously absent as lawmakers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met with the party leadership.
Mr Dogara is expected to defect to the opposition PDP and on Tuesday presided over the House sitting where 36 representatives defected from the APC.
The APC caucus of the House was led to the meeting by the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Mr Gbajabiamila expressed optimism that lawmakers who defected from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) on Tuesday will soon return.
He also asked the APC to “appreciate” its lawmakers and ensure the first time members of the House from the party get return tickets.
Mr Gbajabiamila was reacting to the defection of 15 senators and 36 members of the House of Representatives. Majority of the defectors joined the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The APC leader said this during a meeting held on Thursday between national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, and APC House of Representatives members to address the crisis rocking the ruling party.
Mr Gbajabiamila said the meeting was called to appreciate the members who have refused to jump ship like their colleagues.
He also said, contrary to speculations, the APC still commands the majority in terms of numerical strength in the house.
He advised the party leadership to ensure that it consolidates its hold by ”keeping the remaining lawmakers close.”
“It is a time to consolidate and make sure we stay in touch with our members and keep them close, continue to appreciate them, continue to fight for these members, A lot of them are first-timers. If you want this country to progress, we cannot continue to turn members around. First-timers, who have acquired experience to become ranking members and have represented the party at the grassroots level, they should be taken into serious consideration and I think they deserve second terms,” he said.
He said members should ensure that they have the party’s ideology entrenched in their hearts.
“We have our party ideology but we must begin to develop that ideology to the point that it is entrenched in the hearts and minds of every progressive member of the party. I believe it is the lack of the entrenchment of this ideology that allows people to cross from one party to another,” he said.
He also revealed that the party had a new member from Ekiti State, Olamide Oni, who was joining from the Social Democratic party (SDP).
Meanwhile, Mr Oshiomhole in his reaction at the session said the party was working hard at ensuring that it produces only seasoned lawmakers that would fly the party’s flag at all times.
“Somebody asked me, are we countering the PDP by offering automatic tickets? I said did we offer anybody departure ticket? If we did not, then how does the issue of return ticket arise? For me, I am tired. We just need to ensure a legislature that adds value, which is at home with the people; a legislature that is of value to the party. The party will do all it can to retain such.
“Our party must consciously work to produce seasoned senators. We will get there. If it took them (other nations) 100 years to get there, we don’t have to take 50 years to get there. I want to assure you that it can’t be argued that experience can be discarded.”
Many pundits have linked the difficulty in getting return tickets in the ruling party as perhaps one of the reasons why some of the lawmakers may have defected.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Mr Gbajabiamila said the meeting went well. He also said those members that left will return.
“We believe some of them will soon come back. The euphoria is over now and they are beginning to see and feel remorse. You know of senators that have retraced their steps and we believe there would be members that would retrace their steps.
“Sometimes, an idea might look good to you but when you ‘practicalise’ it, in this case make that move, you realise that sometimes you have remorse,” he said.
A lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jibrin, said the APC caucus in the house is united and will continue to work as one.
When asked if the caucus is satisfied with the efforts of the party to resolve the crisis, he said: “I think is an ongoing process. It is not an event, it’s a continuous process. Even in most advanced democracies, it happens. I don’t think I saw any sad face today, the sad faces have gone but they can come back and still be happier.”
When asked if the national chairman, who has been confrontational in his remarks on the defections was on the same page with the caucus, the lawmaker affirmed this.
“I think you got it wrong. You can reconcile and drain the swamp. Consolidation is after you have drained the swamp. The swamp was drained yesterday so we are now consolidating on the remainder so there is no discrepancy at all. We are all on the same page.”
He also spoke on why he believes Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who is expected to leave the APC, was not at the meeting.
“He is aware but perhaps he has other engagements; because it was a meeting fixed in the last few hours. And for somebody like the speaker, you should know he has a lot of engagements. The deputy speaker is aware also. I am here standing in for him.”