Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) at the Senate plenary on Wednesday sent a tactical signal purporting his probable defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The embattled senator, who resumed sitting on Wednesday after his travail, specifically asked for a relocation of his seating from the aisle of the APC to that of the PDP on the grounds that he needed a more comfortable sitting position pending the improvement of his health condition.
Senator Melaye, who wore a neck collar Plaster of Paris (POP), accused the police of trying to kill him twice through a chemical substance and injection hence he was asking the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to permit him to relocate from his assigned seat and henceforth sit on the aisle of the opposition PDP precisely close to former Senate President, Senator David Mark.
Coming under Senate order 14, Melaye had earlier thanked the PDP and others for standing by him during his travail. But he was silent on his party, the APC just as he remains a member of the ruling party until he notifies the Senate President in writing about his intention to dump his party for the PDP.
He also appreciated Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara , legislators in both chambers of the National Assembly, the people of Kogi West for reposing their confidence in him and other well wishing Nigerians.
Senator Melaye was then accompanied by the PDP senators who supported him with his walking stick to relocate to the aisle of the opposition.
But the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, coming under Order 56 was quick to reject that a seat be given to Melaye on the aisle of the opposition. He insisted that a seat be given to him on the aisle occupied by ruling APC members.
Giving political meaning to Melaye’s request, Lawan said, ” The seats in this side are better arranged and more comfortable. I sat there for eight years.
If he us looking for a comfortable seat, we will find him one. I can even offer him my own or he take that of the deputy senate president.
“We don’t have choice when we come to this chamber. Those who elect us chose seat for us. I therefore move that he should be brought back here”.
Lawan’s position was supported by Senator Jibril Barau (APC, Kano North) who raised constitutional order citing section 60 of the constitution to fault the relocation which he said was against the provision of the constitution.
The Senate whip, Olusola Adeyeye (APC, Osun Central) citing section 65 (2) (b) of the constitution said the qualification of any member of the National Assembly is for him/ her to belong to a political party and be sponsored by the party, a provision known to every lawmaker including Melaye.
“We are setting a bad precedent. We are beginning to institutionalise chaos”, he said while he moved that Melaye should come back to take any seat on the APC aisle.
Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye rejected the request to transfer Senator Dino to the opposition’s aisle noting that it would be setting a bad precedence.
In his contribution, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, insisted that the constitution of the country provides for adequate welfare of Melaye which include comfortable seating position.
He added that Section 41 of the constitution accorded the senator opportunity to move freely within the senate chamber.
The minority whip, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said it does not matter if a senator did seat on either the right or the left side of the chamber.
He told the senate leader, ” You are the one complaining, we are not complaining. We welcome anybody from that side that want to sit here. I welcome Senator Dino”.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, insisted that as long as he is concerned, Senator Melaye remains a member of the ruling party and that he could only be temporarily allowed to seat among the opposition for now while efforts are made to make his assigned seat comfortable.
Saraki insisted that Senator Melaye was yet to defect but that he was only permitting a temporary change of seat to ensure that the lawmaker is comfortable before he recovers from his trauma. “Issue of changing of party allegiance did not arise here”, he added.
There are three political parties in the Eight Senate, the ruling APC, the opposition PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
While the APC occupies the aisle on the right-hand of the Senate President, opposition PDP and APGA occupies the aisle on the left-hand of the Senate President in line with parliamentary protocols.