Udora Orizu writes that the cycle of defection by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, justifies the widely held opinion that Nigerian political parties are populated by fairweather politicians, who do not subscribe principles and ethics
On the evening of July 24th, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, again defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party he dumped before the 2019 general election. Following the defection, Dogara met with President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, Abuja. The defection marked the second time the embattled ex-speaker would dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for APC.
Dogara had first dumped PDP ahead of the 2015 general election and joined APC. He dumped the APC again for PDP in 2018 ahead of the 2019 polls. Dogara was led to a meeting with the president on Friday by the Chairman of APC Caretaker/National Planning Committee and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, who introduced Dogara to Buhari as a returnee to the ruling party.
The culture of defecting from one political party to another has been a norm to Nigerian politicians, especially in the presidential system of government.
This norm, sadly has justified the accepted culture that some politicians allow personal ambition to turn them to political prostitutes.
The defection of Dogara to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) came as a surprise to many. The Former Speaker who represents Bogoro/DassTafawa Balewa federal constituency of Bauchi State in the House of Representatives, had defected to the PDP alongside former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and incumbent Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in 2018.
Dogara and Saraki had a fall out with the leadership of the APC over their emergence as leaders in the eight National Assembly, a move that was against the interest of the party. He had in 2018 left the APC for the PDP after a rift with the former governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar. The two as the presiding officers in the 8th Assembly did not have a warm working relationship with the executive arm of government, which led to the ruling party working so that the lawmakers who defected to the PDP did not return as federal lawmakers after the 2019 election.
The former speaker had also only recently headed a screening panel of the PDP primary for the Ondo State governorship election.
The defection which trended on various social media, got tongues wagging and people airing their views, some opined that he won’t be an asset to APC but a liability, some said his decision to dump the PDP is not surprising considering that he has not been heard of in the party lately.
Another section of the populace believes that with the defection, Dogara has lost his political value, others said he has clearly shown by that he cannot be trusted as a member of any political party.
But majority believe that calculations for the 2023 Presidency, particularly regarding the significance of a northern Christian candidate, may have largely influenced his decision to return to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to THISDAY findings as reported on July 25th, Sources said the permutations uppermost on the minds of the current leadership of the party, while pushing for Dogara to return to the APC, included the option of the former speaker being used as Christian running mate, in case the party settles for a Muslim Southern Presidential candidate in 2023.
The source said Dogara is also seen as a candidate that could be sold for the Presidency of Nigeria in the South, being a Christian, in case “the powers that be” decide not to cede power to the South.
“The forces controlling the APC view Dogara as a younger version of the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who is also seen as a northern Christian option, in case they need to push a Christian candidate for the Presidency in 2023. Dogara in his early 50s is much younger than Boss Mustapha who will be close to 70 by then,” said the source close to the current leadership of the APC in Abuja.
Another source at the PDP national headquarters admitted recent disagreement between Dogara and Governor Bala Mohammed in his native Bauchi State, but said such was not the factor that influenced his defection to the APC.
The source, who has partnered with Dogara’s political camp in the last few years said: “Yes, it is positioning and there are two permutations in this. It is positioning to have a Christian as a presidential running mate from the Northeast in 2023, which is the easiest scenario.
“The second permutation is that should the Northern establishment be unwilling to cede power to the South in 2023, a Northern Christian with support from across geopolitical boundaries will be a master stroke.”
It was gathered that Dogara was excited by these permutations and subsequently dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for the APC, the party he dumped in 2018 ahead of the 2019 general election.
When told that people would be surprised to see him visit the president along with Dogara, Buni said there was nothing to be surprised about, because the former speaker had officially returned to the party.
According to him, factors which led to his exit from APC in 2018 had since been nipped in the bud.
He said the president was happy to see Dogara return to the party as part of APC’s reconciliation efforts, and welcomed him back to the party.
Buni added that the party was currently contacting aggrieved members of the party, including those who had earlier dumped it and now willing to return.
He assured those aggrieved that the party leadership would ensure that justice prevailed in the rebuilding efforts.
He said: “They shouldn’t be surprised because the former speaker is a member of the APC and he is back because the reason he left the APC is no more there.
“He (the president) welcomed him. He’s happy with the development. That’s what he’s looking for. We are rebuilding the party and these are the steps we are taking towards rebuilding the party.
“Well, we are meeting all our aggrieved members particularly those who have interest in coming back to the party. They should feel free to do so. We are assuring them and there is no crime in double assurance.
“We will do justice to all our members and that’s what will bring peace and that is what will guarantee peaceful co-existence. “That is what will bring the consolidation of the party, the rebuilding of the party. Without doing justice, you cannot achieve that and we are sure of doing justice to all our members.”
Asked if the move did not imply strategising towards the 2023 presidential election, Buni responded in the affirmative.
However, he was swift to add that the rebuilding efforts would transcend preparation for 2023 general election.
“Well, of course, not only 2023 strategy. We are rebuilding the party to outlive all of us. It’s not only about specific time or period. It’s not about election. It’s not about electioneering. It is about building a party,” he said.
In a swift reaction, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it remained a united party, “waxing stronger daily” and described Dogara’s defection as a personal one, while wishing Dogara the best in his new party.
The National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan told THISDAY that there was no crisis in the party and therefore don’t know why Dogara dumped the party for the APC.
“It was his personal decision and we wish him well in this his decision. Our party remains one and indivisible, while also waxing stronger,” Ologbondiyan said.
Commenting on the defection, the spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Ugochinyere said, ”I hope they have not used the propaganda of Northern Christian Vice President to Tinubu to lure Dogara to the APC party that might not survive the upcoming intra party 2023 crisis. PDP Governor of Bauchi treated Dogara bad and sidelined him despite the game changer vote from Dogara’s Tafawa Balewa federal Constituency but joining the fractured APC with a weak leader who is already losing respect among his party men may hang his political survival in the balance. We will be watching how all these plays out.”
However, whatever the reason for the defection, the question remains, what’s the guarantee that his ambition that led to his defection would be achieved in APC?, what happens if it’s not achieved?