By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
LESS than seven months to the 2019 general elections, the political firmament is astir. A flurry of alignments and realignments of politicians is ongoing at a dizzying pace.
The alignments had been going on for a while but reached a crescendo, this week, when 51 federal lawmakers, 14 senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives left the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for opposition parties. There have also been defections to the APC from opposition parties across the states.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is the major beneficiary of the latest defections in the National Assembly making it to be in strong contention for the majority party in the Senate.
However, APC senators insist they are in the majority with 53 members to PDP’s 48 even though only 39 senators were available when the APC Senate caucus met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday night.
Senate President Bukola Saraki was not at the meeting and has kept mum on his reasons for shunning the parley where the legislators assured the president of their loyalty and support for his reelection bid, next year.
Some of Saraki’s loyalists have defected to the PDP with others including the Kwara State Governor, Abdufatah Ahmed, saying they are tired of the APC and are asking Saraki to show them the way forward.
After the gale of defections in the National Assembly, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State also defected to the PDP. There are claims that more APC lawmakers and governors such as Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and Ahmed of Kwara will join the PDP soon.
Will Tambuwal defect to PDP tomorrow?
After weeks of discussions with leaders of the PDP, sources close to Tambuwal said he will defect to the opposition party, tomorrow barring last-minute hitches.
Considered to be angling for the presidency in 2019, the governor is said not to be in the good books of some powers in the presidency, said to be behind recent subtle media attacks agqinst the governor over his policies in Sokoto State among others.
The hitherto peaceful caliphate state woke up to attacks by unknown persons, who invaded the state from a border town. After the mayhem, no fewer than 35 people were killed, thousands of people were displaced and several houses and other property were destroyed.
In a statement, Tambuwal attributed the widespread killings across the country and the seeming inability of the security agencies to secure lives and property of citizens to “failure of leadership” and ineptitude in spite of the huge amount of money being spent on security by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. He also called for the re-jigging of the national security architecture, in order to make it more effective and efficient.
His attribution of the killings to ‘’leadership failure,’’ sources said angered some forces in the presidency.
Besides, Tambuwal’s Agriculture policy, under the “Cattle Breeding, Milk and Beef Production Project,” which the Sokoto State Government said is designed to make the state a model of modern agriculture hub especially in animal husbandry that is driven by technology as against the current problematic mode of cattle herding in Nigeria, is also generating angst against him.
Said the source: ‘’Tambuwal’s cattle-breeding policy in Sokoto is said to be offensive to a federal government that is determined to set up cattle colonies. Following the senseless killing, this project that is to train the people ‘in the new and modern methods of Cattle Breeding for sustainable upgrading of our Local Cattle Breeds in the state and beyond for maximum productivity in terms of good quality Milk and Beef production’ is now in danger of abandonment, as many of the expatriate and other personnel working on the project, have become so frightened by the recent carnage that they are now expressing unwillingness to remain in the area. The horrendous killings were curiously carried out in the same Rabah area of the state where this project is sited.
‘’The ill fate that befell Sokoto was just a mindless ploy by some interests, to bully Governor Tambuwal, and blackmail him into abandoning his 2019 presidential ambition. But the governor has made up his mind. He will leave the APC and decamp to the PDP on Sunday.’’
Rehash of 2015 scenario
The series of defections and realignments appear to be a reenactment of the scenario before the 2015 general elections when the APC snatched power from the PDP, the first time a ruling party lost a presidential election and the majority in the National Assembly Nigeria.
Then, a major bloc, n-PDP left the PDP for APC. Now the n-PDP has returned to the PDP.
Like the PDP in 2015, which had internal wrangling that led to the emergence of n-PDP, the APC faced its own problems that led to the formation of Reformed APC, r-APC, whose members have decamped to the PDP.
In 2015, former President Olusegun Obasanjo led a campaign to stop President Goodluck Jonathan. He is at it again and is now leading moves to stop President Buhari.
The scenario indicates that the ruling APC may be given a good fight at the polls, if leaders of the PDP did their home work and manage the challenges that will arise from battles for its tickets at all levels especially the presidential, governorship and National Assembly.
PDP leaders said they were aware of the formidable challenge the APC constitutes and would do the needful to surmount the hurdle and save Nigeria from the socio-economic and political abyss she has been flung into by the APC.
To achieve its objectives, the PDP is rallying other opposition parties. Recently, it went into an alliance with over 30 political parties known as the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP. Will the alliance succeed like that of APC in 2015 or go the way of previous alliances and accords?
Nigeria’s political history is replete with failed alliances and mergers.
In the First Republic, the United Progressive Grand Alliance, UPGA, consisting mainly of the National Council for Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, and the Action Group, AG, could not stop the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, because UPGA leaders could not sink their ambitions and differences.
In the Second Republic, the Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, People’s Redemption Party, PRP, and the Great Nigerian People’s Party, GNPP, formed the People’s Progressive Alliance, PPA, which also failed to click against the National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
In 1999, the Alliance for Democracy, AD, which had swept the South-West in earlier polls aligned with the All Peoples Party, APP that made huge impacts in elections in the North with the intention of beating PDP at the presidential polls. It gave the PDP a good fight but failed to win the election.
In 2007, about 15 parties came together and formed the Action Congress, AC but the party made little or no impact in the presidential election. A move by Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, to join forces in the 2011 polls did not yield dividends.
However, the opposition had cause to rejoice in 2015 when the merger of the ACN, CPC, All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, bolstered by the n-PDP trounced the PDP at the polls.
Given the claims and counter-claims of APC and PDP leaders, Nigerians are in for another fierce and interesting election. Whether or not the opposition alliance will be second term lucky is a question of time.