Balance of Power: How Comforting Are the Gains?

In spite of the defection of former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, to the ruling APC, the balance of power is still fluid, writes Olawale Olaleye

Some of the efforts by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to make up for its membership losses to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had begun to record some gains too in the last few weeks, following the defections of some PDP stalwarts to its fold.

Although it is one thing to welcome aggrieved individuals into a political fold, it is, however, another debate entirely what those new intakes bring to the table in terms of value, which interestingly has formed the crux of the new debate on the current balance of power across the board.

A couple of days back, the APC caught yet a big one in the person of former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, after a few days of dilly-dallying with the leadership of the PDP on his demands, which essentially were about the sharing formula of the existing structure in the state.

But before Shakarau’s eventual defection to the APC, the ruling party had been able to celebrate, first, the defection of a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, which generated existential debate of morality and double standards. This was immediately followed by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a former Delta State governor, who allegedly left the PDP, because he was not granted the request of an automatic ticket to the senate.

Before the APC celebrated those defections, the PDP had gone to town with the defection of about seven senators, led Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State; President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and a host of their supporters.
Quite naturally, this development, which marked significant gains for the PDP, shook the APC to its very foundation and was immediately fired to begin membership drive, which finally yielded the defections of Akpabio, Uduaghan and now Shekarau.

However, the eventual defection of Shekarau has been long in coming, much as the ultimate choice of where he stays had been extrapolated to determine in the final analysis, where Kano might swing at the end of the day.

Curiously, the defection of Shekarau appeared to have followed a pattern. In the lead up to the 2015 election, he also chose to return to PDP, when his successor, Kwankwaso and others defected to the APC. The problem was also about the structure of the party, which he dreaded being handed Kwankwaso. But as the governor then, it was a battle he could not win against Kwankwaso even though concessions were allegedly made to him, which he frankly turned down.

Fast forward to 2018, his choices were again limited by the dynamics of Kano’s politics. He was caught amongst the ‘three evils’ of Kwankwaso, Governor Abdulahi Ganduje and President Muhammadu Buhari. Indeed, the belief was that he could hardly stand the president, a notion which had informed the thinking that he might rather stay back in the PDP to form alliances with Kwankwaso and take on the menace of Ganduje’s APC.

But again, as it happened in 2015, the negotiations were not water-tight for him especially the alleged sharing formula. In fact, he was said to have been conceded 51 to 49 this time around, but he wanted more considerations and then, the negotiation broke down and he took his leave.

Expectedly, his exit from the PDP had raised concerns especially as it concerned the future of the party in the state. Whilst his collaboration with Kwankwaso would have been deemed a plus for the PDP, it is the same way his exit and eventual cooperation with Ganduje and by extension, Buhari is being deemed a major plus for the APC in the all-critical North West state.

This is also coming against the backdrop of the fact that Kwankwaso has not been able to visit Kano in almost two years, following fear of violent clashes between his supporters and those of the governor, which had been the pattern since they both parted ways.

But clearly, and from all indications, the defection fever is yet to subside from the two parties as they continue to gain from each other whatever they had lost in other respects. This, of course, may not be unconnected to a recent boasting of more defections by both parties.

The latest trolling was first served by the APC, when it hinted in an exclusive report published by a national daily (not THISDAY) days back, that five PDP governors were in secret talks with it for a deal that would guarantee their re-election whilst they in turn deliver their respective states for the PDP.

However, sensing that such a kite-flying could damage its current standing, the PDP too came out immediately to say six APC governors and 27 National Assembly members were also talking to it for possible cooperation that could take out the APC government of Buhari in 2019.

Certainly, this would remain the trend till the election period as office-seeking politicians and other political heavyweights with name recognition, who seek better placement in the current equation, would continue in their game, depending largely on what is on the card.

This, ironically, is yet to alter other dynamics of the game. For example, the fact still remains that the APC has lost face in the Middle Belt and some other parts of the North Central, mostly orchestrated by the unabated insecurity in that part of the country. This position was corroborated recently with a report that the collection of PVCs had suffered greatly in that region following reign of insurgency.

Again, the situation has put a lie to the assumption that the Buhari government has won the war against terrorism – either it was technical or outright victory. What this also presupposes is that these parts of the country voted massively for the APC in 2015, not because of Buhari but in spite of him. But now that they seem to nurse a feeling of inadequacy in a government they labored to install, the situation therefore explains the increasing bitterness amongst their people and leaders.

Nevertheless, as projected the last time in the balance of power, the truth is that the equation is still very fluid. Nothing is as it is and the much sought after chances do not weigh unevenly on either of the sides except of course they properly analyse and situate their gains respectively. What this means is that the weight of incumbency might not change much in 2019, since the dynamics as so far seen are not the same.

With what looks like a close race between the two major parties, not leaving out the evident desperations, the 2019 elections sure still have some more surprises to spring as the countdown inches closer.

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