How Saraki’s Defection Can Change the Political Order

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    By Femi Salako

    International news agency, Reuters, in its report on the defection of Senate President, Bukola Saraki to the PDP described the move as “a new blow to President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of an election next year.”

    There seems to be no better way to put that than the apt description by Reuters. Saraki’s return to the PDP is a masterstroke that may have altered any already established permutation and order the ruling APC would have hoped to bank upon to win next year’s election for President Buhari.

    Many have dismissed the defection as inconsequential and having little impact on the President’s re-election bid, banking on Buhari’s perceived popularity in the northern part of the country where he is believed to command a large support base of followers.

    Some members of the ruling party will always publicly fantasise with the two million Kano votes as well as other states in the region. Taunting the opposition with the said large followership the President commands in the north. For them the north remains in the President’s pocket.

    What they have, however, refused to acknowledge is that Buhari polled the said millions of votes in the north in his first three attempts to become President, but failed in all three attempts. Why? That is the question they honestly failed to ask and answer. Aside that, the popularity is drastically dwindling daily, many who believed in the man Buhari before 2015 have had to change their perception of him with the reality on ground. He’s not what they thought he would be.

    Buhari’s failure to win in the first three attempts was simply because he had always polled regional votes in the North-East and some parts of North-West. The merger of opposition parties in 2014, across other geo-political zones, the ACN from the Southwest, CPC (Buhari’s party) from the North, ANPP and a fraction of APGA from some part of the Southeast and defections of a bloc from the PDP which moved the north-central and a chunk of the north which were under the firm control of the PDP to the APC, helped Buhari to win in his fourth attempt, otherwise it would have been business as usual for him.

    With the recent return of the PDP bloc in the APC to the PDP which saw the north-central going back to the palm of PDP and the major deciders (former Governors Shakarau and Rabiu Kwankwanso) of the much celebrated Kano which gave Buhari millions of votes in 2015, going to the PDP, any honest observer within the APC would know that truly what is on the mountain is more than just a fire, it’s a furnace ready to consume and destroy.

    The South-East and South-South remain unrepentant in their preference for the PDP, and the President’s new found friends from the zones are not likely to make any progress in swaying votes for the President’s re-election. The only state the APC presently controls in the South-East is currently embroiled in leadership crisis, with a faction fighting Governor Rochas Okorocha for the party structure, the crisis took a new turn with the impeachment of the Deputy Governor on Monday and subsequent court order stopping the inauguration of a new Deputy. Cases bothering on the Imo state APC congress are still pending on court.

    The APC is presently divided in the south-west which seems to be the battle ground for the APC and PDP. Unlike in 2015 when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was calling the shot, the party is presently divided in the West with some governors and other top appointees of the President from the zone rising to challenge the dominance and clout of the party’s national leader, this is no doubt causing a big crack in the party and will also deal a terrible blow on the party’s chances in the South West as all aggrieved and warring parties fail to sheath their sword going into 2019.

    People in the North-central who voted massively for Buhari in 2015 are presently in a state of melancholy as a result of herdsmen consistent attacks and government’s inability to tame the monster which has claimed thousands of lives in 2018 alone. The only hope the party could bank on in that zone to reclaim the zone was the Senate President who has dumped the party. The signal in the zone is clearer than it was in 2015. It’s a no go area for the APC.

    In the words of Doyin Okupe, any vote lost by APC and Buhari in the north (it’s perceived stronghold) can never be recovered anywhere else, because of the firm grip the opposition is having on other regions.

    The political order and permutation has changed, it is hoped that the opposition, PDP would take this great advantage of the return of the Senate President, governors, lawmakers and other allies yet to announce their defection from the APC to its fold, to make the needed change in 2019 presidential election. The people yearn for a more vibrant opposition, and it is believed that this new alliance will birth such and enthrone a more credible leadership to the relief the people from the present hardship.

    Salako, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos