With less than nine months to the 2019 general elections in the country, there have been alignments and realignments among politicians and political parties, all with the intent of consolidating old grounds or pitching new tents.
Politics being a game of permanent interest, politicians from across the divide are weighing their options. As some politicians have been signifying their intentions to contest for one position or the other, those who feel their chances are slim in their present political parties have begun to negotiate their exit to other parties where they feel they have greater chances to realise their dreams, while some others have already moved.
As it is, though the defections have largely been a two-way traffic between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the newly refurbished Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC), which not long ago formed a merger with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo-inspired Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), have also recently received some defectors. However, as would be expected, the APC seems to have been the biggest gainer in the current gale of defection hitting across the country.
Last November, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar left the APC and returned to the PDP fold to nurture his presidential ambition.
Since then, the wind of defection has never ceased to blow across the country, from Ebonyi to Edo, Rivers to Katsina, Lagos to Niger, Enugu to Kebbi, Adamawa to Plateau, and many more.
In February, Jerry Gana, a former information minister, Tunde Adeniran, a former education minister, and Godsday Orubebe, a former Niger Delta minister, all founding members of the PDP, moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which merged with the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and People’s Salvation Party (PSP) to form a formidable party ahead of next year’s elections.
In November last year, Martin Elechi, former governor of Ebonyi State under the PDP, his wife, Josephine Elechi, Solomon Onwe, a former deputy national chairman of the party, and about 6,000 others were received into the APC fold by Join Odigie-Oyegun, APC national chairman.
Other defectors included Edward Nkwoagu, Labour Party governorship candidate in the state in 2015, some former senators, former House of Representatives members, commissioners, special assistants, permanent secretaries and local government chairmen who served under Elechi.
Late December, Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, received hundreds of APC decampees from Opobo-Nkoro Local Government Area at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
In January, the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) dealt a big blow to the PDP camp in the state as major PDP heavyweights, including Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma, member representing Egor/Ikpoba Okha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, a former gubernatorial aspirant of the PDP, alongside their loyalists and supporters, dumped the umbrella and embraced the broom.
Also in January, the APC in Kebbi State formally received Usman Nasamu Dakingari, a former governor of the state, his deputy, and 267,000 decampees from PDP, including three former chairmen of PDP in the state, former lawmakers, commissioners, former local government chairmen and top government officials in the Dakingari administration in the state.
Dakingari, who was governor of Kebbi State for eight years under the umbrella of the PDP, said his move into the APC was to help the party to move Kebbi and the nation forward.
Similarly, the APC in Etche Local Government Area, Rivers State received 1,018 decampees from PDP and ACD in an event that was witnessed by Chibuike Amaechi, immediate past governor of the state and Minister of Transportation.
In February in Minna, Odigie-Oyegun received 34,826 members of the PDP who defected to the APC in Niger State. Among the defectors were Aminu Yusuf, deputy chairman of the PDP in the state, Adamu Usman, a former Speaker of the State Assembly, and Abdullahi Wuse, a former Attorney-General, who said they joined the APC to assist in developing the state.
In some states of the federation, the wind is blowing in the opposite direction as APC’s loss becomes PDP’s gain.
In February, the PDP in Plateau State received over 2,400 decampees from APC in Kampani Zurak, Bashar District of Wase LGA of the state amid smiles, wild jubilation and celebration among the PDP folks.
More than 3,400 members of the APC in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State also defected to the PPD, complaining of neglect and hardship in their former party.
Similarly, Felix Obuah, chairman of PDP in Rivers State, received 1,000 defectors from APC to the PDP, including Ngerebia Emmanuel, APC state ex-officio member and president, Nkoro Solidarity Forum, in an event that took place at Opobo Town, in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of the state.
In the same month in Enugu, over 2,000 members of the APC in Igbo Eze North Local Government Area of the state defected to PDP.
In Bayelsa State, Tarila Tebepah, a professor and former chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), Hon. Stephen Erebor, former Commissioner, Bayelsa West Senatorial district, and Augustine Lugbenwei, onetime chairman, Brass Local Government Council, were among over 6,000 people who defected to PDP and were received at the Government House, Yenagoa, by Seriake Dickson, the State governor.
Adamawa State also saw Ahmed Ali Gulak, a former adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on political matters, and others defect from PDP to join APC in February, accusing that PDP of impunity, injustice and lack of internal democracy.
Gulak said 42,000 members of PDP across the 21 local government areas of the state, including the entire structures of his former party, were defecting with him to join the APC, signalling that “the PDP is destroyed and buried”.
The wind of defection also recently blew in Katsina State, where big names like Senator Ibrahim Idah (PDP), Hon. Ya’u Umar Gwajo-Gwajo, former Speaker under PDP, Alh. Bature Umar Masari, former Director General, PDP Katsina State Campaign Organization for 2015 General elections, and Hon. Musa Adamu Funtua, former state Commissioner for Agriculture under PDP government, bade goodbye to their former party.
Other decampees included Dr. Yusha’u Armaya’u, former chairman of People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), and 34 local government executives; Alh. Ibrahim Abdullahi Tsauri of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and his supporters, and 264 councillors of the PDP defunct local government administration.
The National Assembly is not spared. Jagaba Adams Jagaba, formerly of APC Kaduna State, decamped to PDP; Nnanna Igbokwe, PDP Imo State, decamped from PDP to APC early in the year; Johnson Agbonayima of PDP Edo State decamped to APC, while Edward Pwajok of PDP Plateau State decamped to APC.
Similarly, Emmanuel Ukoette in 2017 defected from the PPD to APC. Ukoette, who represents Oruk Anam/Ukanafun Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State, won election to the House under the platform of the PDP.
Other decampees from PDP to APC are Hassan Saleh (Benue), Adamu Kamale (Adamawa), and Zaphaniah Jisalo, all of who came to the House of Representatives on the PDP platform.
In Benue State, Herman Hembe, immediate past member of House of Representatives for Vandeikya/Konshisha Federal Constituency, who was chairman, House Committee on FCT, dumped the APC for PDP shortly after the court verdict that nullified his election. Though his defection may not have been formally organized, he is now seen publicly in PDP fold at all significant functions of the party seriously criticizing the APC government, particularly that of Governor Samuel Ortom.
Another decampee is Hinga Biem, retired permanent secretary with Benue State Civil Service. Biem had contested for PDP governorship ticket in 2014 but did not win. He joined APC shortly after the 2015 general elections but has also recently defected to SDP, where he is seeking the party’s governorship ticket.
Beyond these, there are also strong indications that some APC stalwarts in the state would likely dump the ruling party to other parties, particularly SDP and PDP.
Barnabas Gemade, former PDP national chairman and caucus member of the PDP, was amongst members of the then ruling party that metamorphosed into nPDP and finally joined the newly formed APC.
As a leading member of the nPDP block in APC also nominated to partake in the ongoing negotiation between nPDP and APC, Gemade, current senator representing Benue North East, is likely going to dump the APC along with his nPDP members if the talks do not materialise. Some pundits are insinuating that at the individual level, he is already in talks with the SDP.
Similarly Mark Gbillah, the Gwer East/Gwer West representative in the Green Chamber of the National Assembly, is said to be weighing options of leaving APC to another party as it has become clear that the party’s kingpins in Makurdi have already shopped for his replacement. The first-term member and deputy chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Upstream, who is a very close ally of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, is believed to be in talks with SDP to realise his second term bid.
Orker Jev, chairman, Business and Rules Committee of the House of Representatives and the third-term member representing Buruku Federal Constituency of Benue State, is another possible defector. As the 2019 election activities heighten, one does not need a soothsayer to project that Jev is dumping the APC. First of all, he is aspiring to represent Benue North-West Senatorial District, currently occupied by former Governor George Akume, who is the leader of APC in Benue State.
Ordinarily, if Jev sincerely wants to realise his ambition, he has to look for another platform since the State Working Committee of APC has signed and sealed that the ticket he is eyeing is an exclusive reserve for Akume.
Jev was among the nPDP delegation led by Kawo Baraje that presented petition to the APC national chairman which indicated his discontentment with APC. Though there are feelers that he would join SDP, it is also said that he is being wooed by PDP and many parties due to his perceived popularity as well as rising support base.
In Oyo State, many notable leaders of the PDP have moved to the APC. The decampees include a former governor of the state and Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s opponent in the 2015 election, Adebayo Alao-Akala; his former deputy and poster-boy of the Lamidi Adedibu political family, Taofeek Arapaja, and former Senate Leader Teslim Folarin.
The list also includes a serving House of Representatives member, Segun Odebunmi, and the immediate past chairman of the PDP in the state, Yinka Taiwo.
Others are Kehinde Olaosebikan, a former chief press secretary to late former Governor Lam Adesina; Ademola Ojo, former state chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON); Asimiyu Alarape, a former speaker of the state House of Assembly; Adedeji Otiti, Brigadier-General Brimoh Yusuf (rtd), five serving state lawmakers, and Ayodele Adigun, a former Secretary to the State Government.
Some of the decampees are interested in replacing Governor Abiola Ajimobi come 2019, while many are interested in clinching the tickets for Senate and House of Representatives as well as other positions in the broom party at the state and federal level.
At the decamping ceremony held five months ago in Ibadan, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, said the party was ready to welcome as many political bigwigs as possible.
“We have a stainless kitchen and we can accommodate as many cooks as possible and because we have a variety of menu in the political kitchen of planning this future, we love those bigwigs and we can accommodate them all. It is in the same forest that you find a hippo that you find an elephant and you will find a rabbit. In political platforms, you must look for the addition not the minus,” Tinubu said.
But as APC received decampees, so did PDP.
Rashidi Ladoja, former Oyo State governor, as well as Seyi Makinde and Sharafadeen Alli and their supporters returned to PDP.
Ladoja and Makinde were the governorship candidates of Accord and SDP, respectively, while Alli was the running mate of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, who contested under Labour Party.
Mulikat Akande-Adeola, Jumoke Akinjide, as well as other bigwigs are still in the party.
Also, Femi Lanlehin, senator for Oyo South, who contested the 2011 election on the Action Congress of Nigeria platform but moved to Accord Party in the 2015 elections to vie for Senate again but failed, has moved to PDP with Ladoja.
Senator Hosea Agboola recently dumped the PDP, saying he was no more interested in politics.
The trio of Makinde, Alli and Lanlehin are seriously interested in becoming governor of the state in 2019. They have signified their intentions and have started work underground to achieve their aims.
The new PDP in Oyo is an amalgam of five political parties, namely, the old PDP, Accord Party, SDP, Labour Party, and Alliance for Democracy (AD).
To bring peace and harmony to the party in the state, there was a proposed sharing formula of the 26 state positions in ratio of 14 and 12 between two groups loyal to Ladoja and governorship hopeful, Seyi Makinde. While PDP got 13 offices, Accord got only six, SDP three, Labour Party three, and AD one.
In Cross River State, John Owan Enoh of PDP, senator representing Cross River Central, moved to APC; Senator Florence Ita Giwa moved from PDP to APC; Alex Egbuna, former chief of staff to Liyel Imoke, moved from PDP to APC; Sandy Onoh of APC, a former Commissioner for Environment, moved to PDP, while Julius Okutu, a former commissioner, moves from PDP to APC.
There are, however, indications that in the weeks ahead, some of these people may return to their former parties following acrimony in the APC congresses.
In Lagos, Musliu Obanikoro, a former senator, moved to APC from PDP; Lagos lawmaker, Jude Idimogu, defected from APC to PDP, while another Lagos lawmaker, Victor Akande, moved from APC to PDP.
Other decampees include Adedayo Clement Adeyeye, who defected to the PDP from the APC last week, Markafi Sherriff, who moved from PDP to APC, and Dino Melaye, who tactically defected to the PDP from APC following a prolonged brush with the Federal Government.
By Our Reporters
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