In a bold and unequivocal move, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has issued a resounding call for the 27 state legislators in Rivers who recently defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to vacate their seats and undergo fresh elections. The demand was made by the PDP’s acting National Chairman, Malam Umar Damagum, during a press briefing in Abuja following the party’s National Working Committee’s emergency meeting to address the unfolding political developments in Rivers.
According to Damagum, the basis for the demand lies in the tenets of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, which, he asserted, renders the seats of the defected lawmakers null and void. He emphasized that the only viable recourse for the defectors is to pursue fresh nomination and re-election, aligning themselves with the political parties of their choice.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no division in the PDP at the national or state level to justify the defection of the PDP lawmakers,” Damagum declared. “They vacated their seats for reasons best known to them and cannot return to the House of Assembly without passing through fresh elections in accordance with the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act (2022).”
The PDP acting National Chairman highlighted the official declaration of the seats as vacant by the Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, Hon. Ehie Edison, reinforcing the constitutional mandate for fresh elections. He underscored that the Rivers House of Assembly, having become Functus Officio, lacks the authority to re-admit the former lawmakers without the democratic due process of a fresh election.
Adding further weight to the PDP’s stance, Damagum referenced the clarity of the Electoral Act (2022), emphasizing that no court possesses the authority to impede the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting elections whenever a vacancy arises in any electoral constituency.
In a direct call to action, Damagum urged INEC to promptly schedule fresh elections in the constituencies affected by the defections, signaling the party’s commitment to upholding the principles of Constitutional democracy and the Rule of Law.
Simultaneously, the PDP acting National Chairman called on party members in Rivers to stand united and resolute in defending the democratic institutions and legal frameworks that underpin the nation’s governance. Damagum acknowledged that, regrettably, some party members had worked against the PDP’s interests during the 2023 general elections, underscoring the need for internal cohesion and adherence to the party’s principles.
The 27 lawmakers’ defection to the APC on December 11 has ignited a political firestorm, and the PDP’s decisive move to demand fresh elections sets the stage for a critical test of democratic principles and the electoral process in Rivers State. As the political saga unfolds, the spotlight now shifts to INEC to fulfill its mandate and determine the electoral fate of the constituencies affected by this seismic political shift.