Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo write that the seeming gain of the Peoples Democratic Party, as prominent politicians return to its fold, may lead to another implosion triggered by selfish ambition, personal interest and suffocating ego
When in 2015, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) opted to merge into a mega party to oust the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, there were mixed feelings, but principally, majority thought the merger would bring the needed change. Indeed, the political entity that emerged from the merger became known as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and sold itself to the people on a bogus promise of ‘change’.
No sooner had the merger been consummated than the ‘strange bedfellows’ character, which many, particularly the ruling PDP at that time, called them, began to play up. The overriding objective at the time they came together was wrest power from the PDP by any means. There was no concern for the finer details of ideology and the areas of shared interest.
The initial hint of trouble started when it came to sharing the spoils of the war, that they fought to seize power from the PDP. That was when it became apparent that there was a cabal that had allegedly circled in on the president. This assumption was taken seriously when the First Lady, Mrs. Aishat Buhari went public alleging that two or three persons had caged her husband. Beyond the clique in the presidency, there emerged three distinct power blocks: Senator Bola Tinubu faction, the Senator Bukola Saraki faction, the Rabiu Kwankwaso faction and all other pockets of interests that is ultimately bringing the party on its kneels.
Now that the much talked about APC is gradually dismantling itself, with most of its actors already jumping into a new coalition, the big question is, where does that leave Nigerians? Can it be said that their actions are in the best interest of Nigerians? Much of the complaints of the big fishes swimming away from APC waters have nothing to do with the larger communal interests. Rather, they are often personal. Finally, how soon will the new coalition face another implosion?
These questions are important for many reasons. One, would it be accurate to say that every Nigerian is disgruntled and crossing from the APC to the PDP along with the defected lawmakers? While that may not likely be correct and which does not also imply that the defectors are not capable of removing the incumbent national leadership, but would their new coalition be insulated from the kind of crisis creating division in the APC?
Another issue is that some of these individuals had some baggage while in the APC and they had to face the wrath of the law despite being in the ruling party.
For instance, Senator Dino Melaye from Kogi West senatorial district is standing trial in a magistrate court in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja in a First Information Report (FIR), for allegedly destroying the side glass of a police vehicle, while attempting to kill himself by allegedly jumping off a moving vehicle and allegedly resisting arrest. He is also arraigned for alleged conspiracy and unlawful possession of prohibited firearms in Charge Number CMCL/14SC/2018 filed at the Chief Magistrate Court, Lokoja.
Like Melaye, Senator Hamman Isa Misau, also has issues. The federal government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, filed two separate fraud charges against the lawmaker representing Bauchi Central senatorial district.
Though his sympathisers attributed his case in 2017 to the fact that he made injurious statements against the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, when he alleged that the IGP paid N2.5m to get special promotion and posting through the Police Service Commission (PSC) and was also involved in sexual misconduct. It is important to establish that both sides of the allegations should be thoroughly investigated irrespective of whichever party the lawmaker moves to.
Though a Federal High Court, Abuja eventually freed former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and his then deputy, Usman Nafada of fraud allegations over alleged N38 billion loans taken from banks by the leadership of the House, that is still a blemish for a Nafada who is one of the legislators in the cross carpeting intrigue.
In fact at a point when he was being considered for the post of PDP National Chairman, the mere fact that his name came up in the N38bn fraud allegation was a major blight that made those who proposed his name to back track.
The sixth House of Representatives under the leadership of Bankole and Nafada was also rocked with allegations of contract inflation in the purchase of 380 Peugeot 607 saloon cars amounting to N2.3 billion.
Others like former Kano State governor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwakwanso, who was once a power broker in the APC but later lost out in the power struggle in his state and eventually, at the national level of the party and Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna-North), could be said to be driven by their presidential and governorship ambitions respectively.
Those that are not driven to change party by perceived persecution are supposedly moving to another party to further their ambition. Where this is not applicable, they are merely tools in the hands of those manipulating the political system. In all of these, there is no serious consideration for the betterment of the Nigerian people.
The response of the new APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole when asked if his party would be ready to offer the defecting senators automatic tickets, did not only give a hint that some of the issues behind their actions are personal, he tactically warned that what happened in a recent past could be repeating itself.
“I am excited that even in a moment like this, we have men and women of honour in the House of Representatives who recognise that there are values that are more important than dangling automatic tickets, dangling dollars without asking questions about the source of the dollars. I can tell you, if people have not learnt from the recent past, then they will go the same way of the recent past. We must remain focused and I am glad that we have men and women who have refused to defect. Somebody asked me, are we going to counter the PDP by offering automatic tickets? I said, did we serve anybody a departure ticket? If we did not give you a departure ticket, how does the issue of return ticket arise? I am clear; we need every legislator who has value, every legislator who is at home with his people, not with the godfathers. That legislator is a value to our party and this party will do everything possible to retain him.
“I understand now, after we carried out investigations, that certain persons simply played on the fears of some people who were completely innocent. My finding from interactions I have from the caucus of the House of Reps and that of the Senate is that there are a number of our congressmen and senators who have some issues with local forces in their respective states. Those issues did not arise at the federal level, they are local and because every politics is local, every solution to political problem necessarily must be local. If there are issues between anyone of our members or our leaders with local forces across the 36 states, we have a duty to try to ensure that that problem is nipped in the bud so that it does not spread.”
If local issues as party ticket constitute part of the reason any of the lawmakers changed camp, it could readily be concluded that the new party or merger that would be formed from the defection is already waiting to implode on the altar of personal interests and egos.
Politics of the past, present and future in Nigeria will swirl around the outcome of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which comes up in October at which the party is going to pick its presidential candidate. The belief is that the outcome of that convention will determine what is going to happen during the 2019 general elections.
After years of squabbles, infighting and defections that saw the flight of many of its prominent members, the PDP is surprisingly witnessing a rebirth and a return of its prodigal members who are making a return following the crisis that is now engulfing the APC.
At the start of a renewal, everything seems possible. Politicians of the reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC) who have spent the last three years pondering how to fit into the APC system without success have finally moved out and returned to the PDP.
But when a marriage is hinged on politics, the result is usually muddled thinking. So the question remains, now that the members of the nPDP and the rAPC are returning to their former party, what value are they bringing? Since they left about five years ago, has there been a vacuum created by their departure? How would they fit in after all these years? And would they not be edging out loyalists who had stayed and weathered the storm at the critical time when loyalty was needed? These are the questions as events in the nation’s polity continue to unfold.
In periods of political stress, all sorts of theories are entertained about the nature of the problems besetting the polity, but when better times comes, some theories fade from memories.
Since the gale of defections hit the polity, the PDP which is the major beneficiary of APC’s loss, in many instances has changed its songs of allegations of plans to rig the 2019 election which it leveled against the ruling party.
Former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was the first APC bigwig to take his leave of the party. It was only a matter of time before many followed in his footstep as he is believed to wield considerable influence among politicians across party lines.
Since 2007, Atiku Abubakar has left and returned to the PDP three times; all in an effort to actualise his ambition to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
To many people like Governor Nasir El’Rufai of Kaduna State, Atiku does not believe in any political ideology. He insisted that all Atiku wants and is always looking for is a place where his political bread is going to be buttered. Hence he was not surprised when Atiku, as he is wont to do, jumped ship again from the APC to the PDP. But from all indications, today he has the best chance to challenge President Buhari in the 2019 general election.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has shown his political sagacity as his activities continues to rattle the president, his handlers and the leadership of the APC. Saraki has proven this with his continued stranglehold on the politics of his home base, Kwara State.
The fact that majority of Senators from across the political divide are loyal to him speaks volume for the respect his colleagues have for him.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara is another star in the polity that cannot be wished away. Dogara has formed a strong tag-team with Saraki that has resulted in the lawmakers placing so much trust in him. Today Dogara leads the splinter group in the lower house.
Governor Sameul Ortom of Benue state is one governor that has been under so much stress following the incessant killings of his citizens by suspected herdsmen. His defection to the PDP was expected as he has continued to be at loggerheads with the federal government.
Although Saraki has not defected yet, his alter ego, Governor Abulfatah Ahmed has given notice of his own impending departure from the APC. Wherever Saraki goes, so does the governor.
In Sokoto state, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is said to be contemplating leaving the APC back to the PDP. In 2014, Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives led the legislators who defected to the APC at the height of the crisis that engulfed the PDP. He later won the governorship election in Sokoto State. Today, he is leaving the APC back to the PDP. From all indication, his return surely is an asset to the party as he would be returning with his supporters.
What is the motive of the lawmakers and the governors? And what is their motivation? What is their electoral value and will their defection have any effect on the chances of the APC to win the 2019 election? These are the questions that are being asked as the parties go to the polls in six months time.
To one of the defecting legislators who craved anonymity, risk has always had a bit of an image problem because in popular mind, it is associated with gamblers and robbers. But in recent times, it is now being associated with politicians who must take some level of risk in order to remain relevant.