Evidently, a former Minister of Aviation, and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, is up to something lately, writes Adedayo Akinwale
Last week, a former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was in the news. Though Fani-Kayode has always made headlines, because he has not ceased to viciously attack the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari’s government for their alleged cluelessness, ineptitude and lack of direction.
Since he proclaimed himself the voice of the voiceless, even the north as a whole has received its fair share of his tirade. He had at some points alleged Fulanisation and Islamisation of the country by the Buhari-led government.
In fairness to Fani-Kayode, he has been consistent in attacking the present administration, and justifiably so. The Buhari-led government has fallen short of the expectations of Nigerians in all ramifications. The PDP chieftain’s fearlessness has, therefore, won him so many admirers and followers especially, from the South, Middlebelt and the Christendom. He also became a friend to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
The Defection Rumour
When his rumoured defection filtered in last week, it left many surprised and to wonder what could be the motive behind the move to a party he made people to believe he hated passionately.
Could it be part of the plot to present a southern President in 2023? Could it be part of the plot to lure a former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to the ruling party and offer him the ticket to contest in 2023? Or what could be his reason per se to have considered defecting into the same party that he has consistently demonised for the past five years.
Recently, four APC governors from the North met with former President Jonathan, as part of the alleged plot to draft him into 2023 presidential race
A group of 10 politicians from the South, comprising notable figures from Bayelsa, home state of the former President, had been given the mandate to begin a media campaign that would midwife the plan. The group, led by a chieftain of the APC from Bayelsa and Jonathan’s political ally, was said to have met on two occasions to discuss the modalities of rolling out the campaign.
The political strategy and the plan of the Northern governors was for the South-south to kick start the campaign, while they play a supportive role in convincing the APC to give its ticket to the former President.
A source privy to the meeting said the campaign would be anchored on the need for the South-south to complete its tenure in 2023. “They believe that since every other zone that produced the President ruled the country for eight years, the South-south should be allowed to complete its tenure”, he said.
The source added that Jonathan was interested in the project, which was why he had refused to publicly deny his continued linkage to the 2023 presidency on the APC platform.
“The plan of these APC governors is to allow power return to the north after four years since Jonathan is entitled to only four years. If the plan goes well, Jonathan will defect to the APC and a significant number of politicians in PDP across the South-south including Bayelsa will join him,” he said.
The Buni, Bello Meeting
A few days after the meeting of the four northern governors with Jonathan, Fani-Kayode, an ally of the former President met with the Caretaker Chairman of the APC and the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala-Buni and his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello. The former minister wrote on his Facebook page: “It was an honour to have spent quality time with my friend and brother Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State last night.
“We had a very frank, candid, fruitful and productive discussion about the way forward for our country. This is a clear case of politics without bitterness and of building bridges. This is a time that we as Nigerians must all come together as one to save our country.” The following day, Fani-Kayode also met with Buni, which was believed to be part of the plan to announce his imminent defection to the ruling party.
However, when the rumour of his alleged defection to APC became more pronounced and having received some bashing from his followers and others, who see him as the voice of the voiceless, he was forced to post another statement clarifying the issue.
“Yesterday afternoon I had the distinct honour and pleasure of having a very productive and important meeting with the National Chairman of the APC, Governor Mai Buni of Yobe State and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
“We discussed the state of the nation, pressing national issues, party politics and the way forward. These meetings are wide-ranging and ongoing and I am delighted to be involved in them.
“Despite the obvious benefits and wisdom in this noble initiative, it amazes me that some people should feel that it is wrong for me to sit with other leaders in the country to discuss issues, which touch and concern the national cohesion, future and stability of our country. “This is a time in which we must set all our differences aside, build bridges and come together as one lest our country drifts into fratricidal butchery and civil war. It is right and proper for us to talk and to attempt to join hands across political, religious and regional lines to save Nigeria.”
Fani-Kayode reassured his supporters that he would never compromise or jettison his core fundamental principles for any reason, adding that he stood firmly on his honestly held opinion that there was need to enthrone equity, justice and fairness in this country for it to survive.
He said he also believed in restructuring the country and in a vigorous and effective fight against terrorism, adding that the fact that “I am in talks with leaders from a cross section of political parties, including the ruling party, does not in any way derogate from this and does not mean that I will ever change those views.
The PDP chieftain noted that despite their differences, as leaders and statesmen, they must all sheath their swords and ensure that the country never goes down that path.
The Meeting with Jonathan
A day after his meeting with Buni and Bello, Fani-Kayode led a team to visit Jonathan in his Abuja home. Though the main agenda of the meeting was not revealed, it may not be unconnected to a grand plot to prepare the ground for the former president to join the ruling party
“My team and I had the honour and privilege of spending a wonderful evening with President Goodluck Jonathan in his Abuja home last night. None like him,” he stated.
Contextualising Bello’s Narrative
Nonetheless, Bello would later reveal that Fani-Kayode had defected from the PDP to APC. In a short video that trended during an APC event in Kogi, Bello said the defection was one of his achievements as the head of the youth mobilisation committee for the party’s membership registration and revalidation.
He said: “Our brother and friend, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has joined our party in good faith. He is joining our party to come and add his own positive energy and make contributions to ensuring that APC is a party to beat.
“Remember, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode is a foundation member of the All Progressives Congress. Now, he has decided to join our party, approached me and by the mandate given to me by our party, I must not segregate,” the governor said.
Even as the criticisms from Nigerians over his rumoured defection continued unabated, the former minister reiterated: “Though we have had meetings across party lines and we are in a season of political consultation, I have not left the PDP.”
More Meetings to Follow
In spite of his blatant denial, the former minister, on Thursday night, met with the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle and then went on to confirm this on his Facebook page.
“I had the honour, pleasure and privilege of spending much of Thursday evening with my friend and brother, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State in his Abuja home. We had a frank, cordial and productive meeting about the way forward for our nation. Thanks be to God!”
Acknowledging the Dissenting Voices
Apparently, not every member of the ruling party was happy about Fani-Kayode’s planned defection to the ruling party, and the Director General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has wasted no time in letting his feelings known.
He described the newly found love between leaders of the party and Fani-Kayode as scandalous, adding that the elementary rule of decency would require some good distance between the leaders of the party and Fani-Kayode.
Lukman, in a statement wrote: “We need to appeal to all our leaders, especially, the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee and all the thirteen members to always remember that they are entrusted with the responsibility they have today to democratise our party. They are not Sole Administrators. To democratise will require more meetings and consultations. Their actions should reflect decisions taken at meetings or at least from wider consultations! “For our leaders to associate themselves with Mr. Fani-Kayode, is simply rewarding scandalous behaviour. Mr. Fani-Kayode has fabricated stories, distorted, insulted and damaged information about our party and our leaders.
“Elementary rule of decency would require some good distance between our leaders and such a person. Not even the Ward leaders, where he is located should be associated with him except for reasons of family ties. By the way, the Caretaker Committee of our party should avoid a situation whereby it takes decisions on issues that are very weighty without consultations. On no account should anyone with the kind of baggage of Mr. Fani-Kayode be invited to join the party without clearance from a statutory structure of the party. In this particular instance, the National Caucus should be the clearing house.”
PDP’s ‘Siddon Look’
In all this, the main opposition party, the PDP has refrained from reacting to the development despite the rumoured defection of Fani-Kayode. Unlike what happened, when it was clear that the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi was on his way to APC, the PDP issued a statement denying it and also set up a team to meet with Umar to persuade him to stay in PDP.
Political observers believe that for PDP to have refused to issue a statement or comment on his planned defection meant the party believed the former Minister has no electoral value.
While his recent meetings with the APC chieftains have been described to be on “way forward for our nation”, it is only a matter of days before the matter settles itself, perhaps, with the former minister defecting to the ruling party. And being a smooth talker, Fani-Kayode will definitely explain it away if and when it happens.