A Defectors’ Walk of Fame

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    Yinka Olatunbosun writes that Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State may not have rustled any feather with his recent change of political party loyalty

    Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s emergence as a serial defector or one aptly deserving of a star in Defectors’ Walk of Fame clearly hinges on his political antecedent. Beginning in 2003, on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP), Tambuwal was elected into the House of Representatives from the Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency. But a few months to the 2007 general elections, he defected to the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) alongside the former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa.

    The land was not so green at DPP as the party denied return tickets to former ANPP legislators. Like an actor on cue, Tambuwal returned to ANPP to be eligible to pick up a ticket. As the story turned out, the governorship candidate for Sokoto State in 2007 on the platform of ANPP, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko defected to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to contest for the governorship polls with Senator Bello Gada as his running mate. And he won. That was Tambuwal’s cue to leave the party as well.

    In 2005, Tambuwal defected to PDP. Two years later, he was elected as the Deputy Chief Whip while serving as a member of the House of Representatives. His political portfolio is quite rich, parading positions such as Chairman of the ad hoc committee set up to review the report of the controversial power probe committee headed by Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and acting Chairman, House Committee on Power, to mention but a few.

    The latest in the series of defections by the Governor of Sokoto State was his defection from the All Progressive’s Congress (APC) to PDP. It was a development that left some throats dry for several reasons. One reason is that as one of the key players in the Sokoto Caliphate’s politics, Tambuwal’s defection to PDP, like Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s, was considered as a potential threat to President Buhari’s second term bid. What with the declaration he made regarding his intention for the presidential seat alongside a very critical appraisal of the APC-led government.
    He declared: “In line with the best traditions in any major political decision, especially by a serving elected Governor, I have painstakingly consulted far and wide on whether the present political platform is viable for achieving the aspiration of our people.

    “It is because I am convinced that no nation can thrive while there is inequity and bad governance; because I am saddened by the fact that lethargy, incompetence and sustained denial of obvious leadership missteps have become the major raw materials with which the Nigerian state, Nigerian youths and peoples; because I am unable to feel at ease in the face of a progressively divided nation and above all, because I am totally unable to reconcile myself to a national leadership that offers no redeeming moral beacons that I am here with you today, to announce withdrawal of my membership of the All Progressives Congress and return to the People’s Democratic Party.’’

    Nigerians saw it coming: Saraki, Tambuwal, Governor Samuel Ortom (Benue state) and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara State) had met with PDP leaders in Ilorin, Kwara State in a move to mobilise against President’s Buhari second-term bid.
    After this stunning declaration, no fewer than 18 of 30 lawmakers in Sokoto state had joined him in defecting to PDP. In fact, it was widely reported that a great number of his supporters turned the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport in Sokoto to a pilgrimage of sorts while welcoming Tambuwal back to the city and yes, PDP.

    A quick flashback to October 28, 2014 holds the memory of this political actor defecting from the then PDP to the opposition party APC. In just a few days, he was stripped off his security details by the Inspector General of Police. It was one of the numerous embarrassing moments in the nation’s democratic rule- one that Tambuwal couldn’t have forgotten.
    The convenience and frequency of Tambuwal’s defections seem to accentuate the assertions of many viewers of this political drama that our political parties lack serious ideological divide. Hence, it is easy to switch lanes, even at a blind spot. Tambuwal’s decision to join the Presidential race under PDP fits the description of a very anxious driver, willing to overtake a seemingly slow driver ahead at a blind spot. There are two outcomes with that move, one is favourable while the other is obviously not.

    But like every good driver, the knowledge of your car’s efficiency or failures are bound to inform your judgement and in turn your decision. Tambuwal’s judgement may have been founded on his areas of strengths. Regardless of what his critics have to say, Tambuwal’s tenure as the speaker of the House of Representatives was not as decorated with corruption scandals as it was with his predecessor, Hon. Dimeji Bankole who was charged to court on a 16-count charge of contract inflation and another 17-count charge for illegally obtaining loans worth billions of naira and other financial malpractices. But upon his defection to PDP as Governor of Sokoto state eyeing the presidential seat, his critics have bombarded him with questions around the appropriation of the N18.3billion Paris Club refund; N38.7billion bailout funds; N10.5 billion salary and pension arrears and N8.7billion CBN/FGN Agric interventions fund and N2.2 billions ecological funds from the Federal government.

    With the precision of a Formula One driver’s overtaking measures, Tambuwal has to demonstrate his political strength in this ambitious presidential bid with the formidables such as Nigeria’s former Vice President, Alh. Atiku Abubakar; Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo and former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso and of course, the incumbent President, on the side of the opposition, Mohammadu Buhari. As he courts the blind spot in the presidential race, the former Governor of Sokoto State and the Chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, Senator Aliyu Wamakko sent a warning signal on Tambuwal’s legitimate ambition, describing it as the worst decision of his life.
    “I think may be something else is guiding his decision. This is the worst decision he has taken in his life. At his age, he should not be in a hurry. He is a fine young politician, I have a lot of respect for him,’’ he said.

    From another school of thought, Tambuwal’s defection may not be his worst decision- joining politics in the first place could well be it given his background in legal practice. He could have been a very smart litigator, “defecting” from one area of specialization to another.
    But for what it is worth, Anthony Akinola’s views in the book, Democracy in Nigeria: Thoughts and Selected Commentaries (2013) should be a reminder for defectors and would-be defectors in making well-informed decisions.

    He wrote: “However, our elected politicians are enjoined to respect their mandates and stop prostituting themselves. Defecting from one political party to the other does not help the cause of a stable, competitive party system.’’ Truly, frequent defections have a way of befuddling our collective intelligence