The All Progressives Congress scored big in the week when two notable personalities – former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala and former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin – defected from the Peoples Democratic Party with their supporters. But the question is: how much of the tide can they change? Asks Ademola Babalola
Nigeria’s Democracy is no doubt a work-in-progress. A member or leader of a political party today can suddenly change party tomorrow and become a ‘beautiful bride’ in his new haven. It is only in Nigeria that the political parties and the political actors do not have ideology. And it is because of lack of such ideology that made it possible for one to see the kind of defection taking place virtually across the states of the federation as worrisome especially now that the countdown to the 2019 general election gets underway.
Largely informed by the unprincipled nature of the Nigerian politicians, the current wave of defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is hinged on the belief and perception of the politicians that they may get the ticket of the party and automatically get into seat courtesy of being in the ruling party come next general election. The place of the electorate is hardly reckoned with as many of them have either perfected rigging or holding tenaciously to the belief that they are under the shield of the federal might.
A keen political observer of Nigeria’s democratic experience from 1999 till date reveals that virtually all the political actors had changed gear at one point in time. Such defections, from experience, had shown that they were informed by individualistic traits to belong to the government in power rather than general masses’ interest.
The more worrisome dimension to it all is that some key players in the then PDP, who had held sway in the party affairs and vilified APC as “political party built on propaganda’ will today turn around to sing praises of such party and its elements they once derided?
Just last weekend at Mapo hill Ibadan, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, an erstwhile governor of the state made minced meat of his former party, PDP, describing those left in it as madmen. To Akala, with his exit alongside others, the PDP was dead and carcass only waiting to be buried.
Another defector, Senator Teslim Folarin, erstwhile Senate Leader and two-time Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria courtesy of PDP described the party as rudderless and the one which no sane person should have anything to do with. He rendered several songs to back his claim of how bad PDP had become and sang praises of his new party to high heavens especially the governor whom he described as the most significant politician in the state today, coming only after the late colourful Ibadan politician and PDP garrison commander, Chief Lamidi Adedibu.
Akala and Folarin’s impression of how “bad the PDP” has become, were either reechoed or consented to by other defectors including a former deputy governor, Taofeek Arapaja, a serving House of Representatives member, Segun Odebunmi and the immediate past Chairman of the PDP, Yinka Taiwo; former State Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Ademola Ojo; a former Speaker of the state house of Assembly, Asimiyu Alarape; Chief Adedeji Otiti; Brigadier-General Brimoh Yusuf (rtd), five serving state lawmakers and a former Secretary to the State Government, Ayodele Adigun and Kehinde Olaosebikan among others.
They all eulogised the state governor, Abiola Ajimobi as “Mr. Transformer”, jinx breaker and most significant political leader in the state at the moment.”
That there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics but permanent interest has confirmed the age long belief in that respect. Akala and Folarin were sworn enemies in 2011 election. Their relationship became so fierce that Akala’s government landed Folarin in Agodi prisons over allegations trailing the killing of an erstwhile leader of the state chapter of the National Union of Toad Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Lateef Salako (Eleweomo). Folarin, who later regained his freedom after weeks in prison became sworn enemy to Akala and worked against Akala’s reelection. The rest, as they say, is history but more instructively, both are today alter ego!
Same scenario played out between Akala and his then deputy Arapaja. Both hardly see eye-to-eye since they left office in 2011 but they are now back and connected with same interest in APC.
Remember Ajimobi’s campaign slogans against PDP and defectors pre-2011 and 2015 election, which he won back-to-back? No one will ever think that the defectors especially the arrowheads like Akala and Folarin could still be singing the praise of a man, who once coloured them in unprintable words. All of them are today like the inseparable Siamese twins of the old! Isn’t that a big lesson for those, who had been maimed or killed in the unwholesome sinister politics of Oyo State in recent past?
Expectedly, however, the jubilant party’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu, accompanied by both Osun and Ondo State Governors, Rauf Aregbesola and Rotimi Akeredolu respectively, described the development as good omen for his party, now on the path of becoming the only party in Oyo State.
According to Tinubu, the party had a stainless kitchen and was ready to accommodate as many cooks as possible, because it had a variety of menu in the political kitchen.
Tinubu said, “We have a stainless kitchen and we can accommodate as many cooks as possible and because we have a variety of menu in the political kitchen of planning this future. We love those bigwigs and we can accommodate them all. It is in the same forest that you find a hippo that you find an elephant and you will find a rabbit. In political platforms, you must look for the addition not the minus.
“You can see that the opposition has finished in Oyo State. It is finished for them all. Today is important for us because it is the birthday of Governor Abiola Ajimobi and things that have never happened in the history of Oyo State have started happening. Thank God for my friend, Alao-Akala, and the others for seeing the light. All of you that joined will also join in building the party. The APC house is great for all of us. We are proud of you for joining us. APC is the only progressive party in Nigeria and Africa.”
Tinubu, perhaps like the governor has failed to distill more proportionately the state of APC in Oyo today. Reports of subtle infighting among its top echelons are less satisfactory. Groups or factions also exist like in similar party organs. What measure has been put in place to diffuse the tension that the entrants of “the new beautiful brides’ will surely bring to bear on its existence, when selection of standard bearers begin in a few months? An observer says it is not yet uhuru for APC as the honeymoon may soon be over?
That notwithstanding, Ajimobi described the rally as unprecedented that a former governor, ex-senate leader, a former deputy governor and a host of others would be defecting into a ruling party in one fell swoop. He congratulated them and assured them of level-playing field in the scheme of things.
And just forty-eight hours after the event, the PDP pooh-poohed the rally, describing it as charade and face-saving moves to deceive the electorate ahead of the impending defeat staring the APC in the face come 2019 elections.
The PDP in a release by its Public Relations Officer, Akeem Olatunji said the rally was more of a birthday celebration of the governor who clocked 68 on Saturday, because “the so-called decampees have joined APC long time ago,” adding that, the event was organised to douse tension over the continuous rise and dominance of PDP in Oyo State politics and Nigeria at large.
According to Olatunji, “It is absurd that 90 per cent of the so-called decampees have seized to be PDP members more than two years ago while the remaining 10 per cent are politicians, who make their living through politics and hence the need to be in the ruling party at all times because they lack ideologies and principles.
The PDP in Oyo State actually pitied Tinubu for the unenviable job of selling a rejected Oyo State APC to the electorate, whereas the party hierarchy including the National Chairman of APC knew that Oyo State APC is moribund. And the Saturday official declaration was just a charade to celebrate the birthday of Ajimobi in an elaborate and wasteful manner without taking into consideration the non-payment of between 9 to 16 months salaries of Oyo State tertiary institutions.
“It is in fact laughable that the APC which has totally failed in bringing together her old members, who worked for her success in 2015, could resort to panic mode just because the PDP has succeeded in uniting its fronts through the political sagacity of her leader, Senator Rashidi Ladoja. We were very much aware that Tinubu, Ajimobi and the so-called decampees left the venue dejected due to the refusal of the National Chairman, Odigie Oyegun, and other party echelons to grace the occasion.
“It is on record that the only minister from the State, Bayo Shittu, two serving Senators: Monsurat Sunmonu and Fatai Buhari including a member of the House of Representatives, Dapo Lam Adesina and many other members of the house on the platform of APC boycotted the events to the surprise of Tinubu and the self-acclaimed Constituted Authority, Ajimobi.
“The APC under Ajimobi has failed because all the indices show that APC is virtually dead but the undertakers were admitted with funfair last Saturday. President Buhari’s low key celebration of his 75th birthday is worthy of emulation. This is a milestone also coming after his recovery. It calls for celebration but the mood of the nation and Oyo State in particular where poverty is at alarming rate calls for sober reflections. What is the significant of 68 to 75?”
Another chieftain of the PDP, Alhaji Adebisi Olopoenia analysed the defectors thus: “Only former Governor Akala is politically relevant among the defectors” and therefore challenged Governor Ajimobi to test their political worth (defectors) by visiting their respective local government and constituencies to ascertain their real worth.
According to him, “Although no party wants to lose its member to opposition at any point in time, when it happens, then such party would take its stock. Those who went to Mapo to celebrate the 68th birthday of the governor on Saturday claimed that our party is dead, they don’t need to cry that foul. The ceremony on Saturday would have been a function where most politicians in the state should attend to rejoice with the governor if it wasn’t tagged as defection show.”
From the foregoing, the realities of the defection will no doubt shape the forthcoming election. And since politics is a game of number, it would take the likes of PDP’s Leader, Ladoja and his more than a passing attention to match the APC as presently constituted in the game ahead. Time is what afflicts mankind and since it is of essence too in politics, the electorate and indeed the generality of the people of the state await the politicking of 2019 with baited breath.