The pace of defection by opposition politicians to the ruling All Progressives Congress is a cause for concern, write Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James
The crisis that rocked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before and after the 2015 presidential election, when President Muhammadu Buhari defeated former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had laid the foundation for the gale of defections the party is currently witnessing. Immediately after PDP’s waterloo, stories started coming from various states on how PDP members had begun to dump their party for the APC, typical of aligning with the ruling party essentially for survival.
For instance, after the last election, the APC reportedly received 5,000 PDP defectors from across five local government areas of the Northern Senatorial District of Kaduna State, which include Zaria, Giwa, Soba, Kubau and Ikara.The APC vice-chairman in the state, Alhaji Abubakar Rilwanu, who received the defectors, said the party was still expecting about 5000 more.
“Defection to APC has now become a routine affair. As I am talking to you, we have so far received more than 5,000 defectors spread across the senatorial districts, who surrendered their PDP membership cards. APC expects to receive more than 10, 000 people, mainly from PDP before the forthcoming elections,” Rilwanu said assuredly.
In May 2016, over 5, 000 PDP members, led by a former Commissioner in Ekiti State, Chief Dele Okeya, also reportedly joined the APC at a rally in Emure-Ekiti.
When they were being received by APC Chairman in the state, Chief Jide Awe, Okeya, an in-law to the former Chief of Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, said he had to leave the PDP because the umbrella party has been taken over by those he described as “criminals, crooks, rogues and ragamuffins”.
Such were the stories emanating from various states across the country – though it wasn’t common in South-east states then, however, reports of PDP members defecting to APC were rampant from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara, Benue, Plateau, Nassarawa, Kano and most other states.
But the current trend is different and it could be costlier. It is the fact that notable individuals, who ordinarily could help revive the party, a majority of them from the South-east, are now dumping the PDP for the APC and for familiar reasons.
A founding member of the PDP and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, last week, joined the APC. He recently registered as a member of the APC in Amechi-Uwani, Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State, on Sunday.
Nnamani said he joined APC after intense pressure from his constituents. “All politics is local. I have to do what my constituents demanded by joining the APC at ward level,”
Nnamani’s defection came shortly after former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Kalu also joined the ruling party. His decision, according to him, was due to pressure from his family, friends and well-wishers, whom he said are in the APC.
Other prominent PDP chieftains that have left the party include former National Assembly member that represented Kogi West senatorial district, Senator Smart Adeyemi. The close ally of former president Jonathan left the party, allegedly after pressure from his supporters, who felt he was being persecuted by the PDP in Kogi State.
The National Assembly member representing Akwa-Ibom South senatorial district, Senator Nelson Effiong has also left the PDP. He cited crisis within the party when he announced his defection. The Senator from Ondo South, Omoyele Omogunwa, defected from the PDP to the APC November last year.
Former spokesman to former president, Jonathan, when he was vice president, Olorogun Ima Niboro also officially joined the APC in Delta State. When the APC leadership – ward chairmen and executive members in Ughelli South local government area led by Hon. Brighton Obiokor paid him a courtesy visit at his country home in Ovwian, Udu local government area, Niboro said he joined the APC to bring development to Ughelli South, Delta State and Nigeria.
The party also recently lost another notable personality among its own, Senator Andy Uba of Anambra State, to the APC. The Anambra State governorship election comes up November this year and to watchers of the state’s politics, the lawmaker considers his new platform as veritable in pursuing his ambition to govern the state.
However, Uba did not say he joined the APC to contest governorship election. He said he joined the APC because it has ideology and focus he wishes to tap into, so as to give quality representation to his constituents. He also envies the party because according to him, it has personalities with sound ideas.
In the same vein, foundation member and chieftain of PDP, Chief Longers Anyanwu, too has led a group of leaders of his own caucus to APC. Anyanwu, a frontline politician from Imo State, who founded and became the national chairman of the Accord Party in 2006, is a former Commissioner for Agric and Natural Resources in the state from 2007 to 2011.
The politician, who also ran for the national publicity Secretary of the PDP in 2013 against Chief Olisa Metu, is generally seen as a strategist and mobilizer. He has held such offices as adviser to former senate president, NDDC and former chairman of SureP.
A fearless politician with a keen network as well as a believer in the survival of Nigeria and democracy, Anyanwu defected to the APC with all the LGA officials of the PDP, some state exco members and other heavy weight politicians like Chief Tony Chukwu and Dr. Uzoma Obiyo.
The list of opposition defectors to the APC is growing by the day and the quality of persons involved is a big challenge. Not only that, the list of individuals believed to be on the waiting list is equally frightening to genuine members of the PDP. Over all, it is leaving debilitating effects on the nation’s plural democracy.
The negative effect of the defections of some PDP members in Plateau State could be seen in the party last year October, when about a month after the Plateau Central senatorial district, Joshua Dariye, left the PDP, for the APC, the deputy Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi also joined the APC and member representing Mikang constituency, Daniel Nanlong, followed suit.
Prior to the two lawmakers’ defection, the APC had 13 members, while the PDP had 10 out of the 24 constituencies that make up the House. They attributed their decision to the current leadership tussle rocking the party and the implication is that APC now has a clear majority of 13 to eight in the Plateau State House of Assembly.
The Growing Concerns…
A cross-section of Nigerians believe that most of the politicians jumping ship are greedy as they want to keep their stolen wealth and at the same time, save themselves from prosecution and embarrassments that come with exposure as looters of the collective wealth of the people. Besides, they want to be politically relevant, having realised that the PDP may be effectively dead and may be unable to give the ruling APC a run for its money.
“Prison is not a place for people, who are used to so much affluence,” said Mr. Abass Adeseetan. He opined that most politicians just want to be relevant no matter the situation. “Check most politicians, who lost their positions in 2015, most of them are no longer relevant. Those leaving the PDP just want to be in the eyes of the public.”
This position was corroborated by Alhaji Bashiru Ashamu. But he added that the action was for self-preservation. “Since the President is not exposing the looters in his party and cabinet, those defecting just wanted to capitalise on it to save themselves from the embarrassment of being exposed as common thieves.”
According to Mr. Samson Adeleke, “Our politicians have no principles. They will soon regret their move. President Buhari will soon show his hands. They will be doubly embarrassed and regret their actions when the time comes.”
Also, Mr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma, said “Prison is where they will end up. Let them run to APC as they like. They will all be jailed. The nation is heading for a revolution. They want to hide in the APC to escape the evil that have sowed. Their cup will be full soon.”
On the whole and from a critical standpoint, it is an unsavoury development for the country and her democracy. Technically, there is a gradual ‘mercy killing’ being administered on the opposition parties in the country, the consequences of which the ruling party too will be unable to manage. While the choice of which party to belong to by any politician is not contestable, it is clear why there is a sudden exodus from the PDP and also, given the timing.
If this is not about economic reasons, it is certainly for want of security, relevance, power or influence – all personal and selfish – but nothing to side with the plight of the ordinary Nigerians. There is no doubting the fact that the alleged harassment of the opposition by the Buhari government must have further amplified their reasons for quitting the PDP. There is, however, a larger picture of the implications that would ultimately consume all, the onlookers inclusive.
It is bad enough that the nation is in dire need of an effective leadership, with the capacity to deliver quality governance. Where the opposition is meant to provide alternative positions with a view to keeping the ruling party in check and also standing in as partners, where necessary in collective interest, the crude option by the ruling party of beating down the opposition is systematically closing the space and the aftermath of such an unrefined option cannot be fully analysed in a single shot.
Particularly worrisome is the fact that these are the same people that the APC campaigned against and called many names for allegedly destroying the country and yet, they are the ones the party is now welcoming into its fold to help put its house in order.
It is clearer now that the APC is grossly lacking in essential ideology and is more of stranger bedfellows than the PDP ever was. It is yet to be seen, therefore, how this development will help the internal politics of the APC, its pretentious democratic credentials, its change agenda as well as the future of the country.