By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor; Chioma Gabriel, Demola Akinyemi & Ola Ajayi
LAGOS — The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was at the weekend being threatened with exodus of prominent members displeased with the procedure set for the forthcoming legislative and gubernatorial primaries.
As at weekend, major names exiting the party included Senators, former Governors and members of the House of Representatives with erstwhile Senate Leader, Senator Olusola Saraki; his daughter, Senator Gbemi Saraki; Senator John Shagaya and Senator Rasheed Ladoja himself, an erstwhile Governor of Oyo State being among the most prominent figures.
In a remarkable exception, the PDP itself absorbed one of its harshest critics, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Mohammed Ali Ndume who decamped from the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP to the PDP.
Set to defect
Among the major names also believed to be on the way out of the party are Senator George Akume, PDP, Benue Northwest; Senator Sylvester Anyanwu and about half of the members of the Plateau State House of Assembly.
Already exited from the party is Hon. Bawa Bwari, the erstwhile Chief Whip of the House of Representatives who last week picked up the membership form of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Bwari is now believed to be the rallying point of the opposition to Governor Babangida Aliyu in this year’s gubernatorial election.
Waiting on the wings
While Senator Joel Danlami has himself already made a public denouncement of the PDP in favour of the ACN, a number of other PDP Senators are equally playing hide and seek waiting for the last minute to renounce the party.
Senator Sylvester Anyanwu, PDP, Imo North who like a number of other senior party figures has been on war path with Governor Ikedi Ohakim over the use of what sources described as a “Government template” for the National Assembly primaries is also poised to leave the party.
Sources in the ACN say that he is likely to fly the flag of the party in the forthcoming general elections.
Senator Chris Anyanwu who sources say is also on edge on account of the attacks against her by the Ohakim camp is, however, believed to be standing her feet reportedly vowing not to leave the PDP for another party.
Erstwhile Minister of Aviation and Nigeria ambassador to Ireland, Dr. Kema Chikwe, Vanguard learnt is the favourite pick of the Ohakim camp in the challenge against Senator Chris Anyanwu, the former broadcast journalist who is now the serving Senator for Imo East senatorial district.
Other PDP bigwigs in the Southeast are equally on edge contemplating their options. A number of them including a one-time gubernatorial aspirant in Abia State, Chief Ikechi Emenike, Vanguard learnt at the weekend, was set to make a decision on his next option following his displeasure with the harmonisation exercise which ceded the party structure in the state to Governor Theodore Orji.
Saraki directs supporters to join ACPN
Kwara strongman, Dr. Saraki, yesterday directed his supporters to join Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, so as to realise the ambition of his daughter, Senator Gbemisola Saraki as the next governor of the state at the end of the tenure of her elder brother, Dr. Bukola Saraki later this year.
Addressing his supporters at his GRA country home in Ilorin, Saraki said his decision was because he had been locked out of the party that was handed over to him by then Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in 2002.
Remarkably, the senior Saraki said he had no problems with his son and outgoing Governor who he said had done much to develop the state, saying rather that his problems were with some unnamed senior party figures in the state.
Declaring the PDP dead in Kwara, he said: ”I and all who believe in me have been forced to take the decision to dump the Kwara PDP and move en mass to ACPN which we believe is the best platform to take the state to a greater height. We believe in people oriented politics, we also have faith in a party that is committed to a service delivery and will not circumvent the interest of the good people of Kwara State.
Reasons for defection
’’As the 2011 elections approach, some forces in PDP in the state have begun to cause confusion and disunity among the teeming members of the party for selfish reasons. There are proven cases of political intimidation, assault of party members and illegal suspension of ward executives of the party, thereby killing the party at the grassroots.
“All these and many other attributes for which the PDP in Kwara State is reputed and respected have as today been frittered away. It is, however, unfortunate that the door of the PDP has been locked by these people against the decorum and against genuine members party.
In Benue State, Senator George Akume, the erstwhile Governor of the State is also said to be on edge as sources claimed at the weekend that he had been left home and dry during the recent ward and local government congresses of the party.
Akume who once commanded the party structure before the advent of the serving Governor it was learnt is embittered that he could not get a single delegate from the congresses conducted last week. Akume could not be reached for comments at the weekend.
Shagaya, Vanguard learnt was especially moved because he lost his junior brother during the last Christmas eve bombing.
The brother was on admission in a hospital near the site of the bombing and was abandoned due to the stampede that followed the bombing. Reacting to the decision of Senator Shagaya to leave the party, the State Chairman of the PDP in Plateau State, Mr. Haruna Dabin said yesterday:
“Party membership is a voluntary association but for me, why would anyone want to leave a winning party where they have all been stakeholders.”
There is no problem that can not be sorted out in-house, these are matters that have been discussed even up to the President, who is the leader of the party.” “Lets disagree in house but lets not be disagreeable, and even if I don’t get it today, I shouldn’t destroy the house. Tomorrow I will get it and even if I don’t get it, my children and my children after them will get it.”
Bwari who is hoping to fly the ACN ticket in Niger State was equally dismissive of the efforts of Dr. Aliyu in Niger State saying, “A lot of hope was on him when he came in as Governor and we thought we were going to witness the kind of development we had never witnessed in Niger State, but the story is not the same today, so Nigerlites expect apology from him for unfulfilled promises he made.”
But he was immediately countered by the Director General of Press, Niger State, Bala Abdulkadir who said that Bwari and others leaving the party were uncomfortable with what he described as the good performance of Dr. Aliyu.
“Within this period he has virtually touched the lives of Nigerlites, and they are leaving the party not because of anything else but because they have no basis to match the performance of Governor Babangida Aliyu. He has come to make a point and that is why people are yearning for his return.”
Former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Ladoja at the weekend himself stated reasons why he dumped the PDP for the Accord party. He said, “A party that does not believe in people will fail. Since 2007, I have been advising the PDP to try and reconcile with the people of the southwest. They have refused to do that.
Instead, they believe that force which they used in 2007 elections will see them through again”.But, he added, “ we have seen the effects of their inaction. Since that time, they have lost Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun.
That was in PDP. So, PDP will be swept off in Oyo state and I am not bothered because I know my party will win because the people of Oyo state are ready for us. They have tested me and they have found me worthy and they are going to vote for me again”.
He dismissed the comments credited to Senator Kamardeen Adedibu that he left to save his face. Insisting he would not join issues with the son of his former godfather, he simply said, “the election of April will answer that question. You see, his father said it in 2004 when we wanted to do confab that this is the election that would make us know who the people of Ibadan loved. We did the CONFAB and people said it was Ladoja they wanted.
History is repeating itself. Anyway, it is of no use talking to people that don’t know what they are talking about in politics. We are talking about people who want to serve and not about people who want to loot.
Since the time he has been in the senate, has he talked one day? Is that the type of representation we want in Oyo state? He asked. He promised that he would run an all-encompassing government that would be responsive to the welfare of the people.
“We are going to give a government for all. It will be for the teachers, market women, artisans, and professionals. I can assure you that want people will enjoy in my new government will be incomparable with what they have seen before”, he said.
The National Chairman of the Accord Party, Muhammed Nalando Ladoja was different from people in power today and “he wants to come back to salvage this state. These people have destroyed what he built and Accord has given him the mandate to come and salvage the people of this state”.