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Anxiety as season of defections unsettles Presidency, APC

It was a matter of when not if, as the signs had been ominous for quite a while. Their grouse made worse by what appeared an official eagerness to ignore same, left them with little options.

season of defections
Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caucus in the House of Representatives, addressing the National Assembly Press Corps shortly after the mass defection to the PDP at the National Assembly, Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

So after barely a few weeks of habitation in the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC), lawmakers who left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the build up to the 2015 general elections for the All Progressives Congress (APC) returned to the PDP; much to the surprise of the Presidency and the leadership of the party.

Stunned for words, President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement that paid tribute to the nation’s democratic ethos, insisting that the right to freedom of association must be upheld by any legitimate government at all times. He wished them well without a word on how well or bad he felt. On his part, national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in his usual belligerent style, told journalists that the party under his leadership did all it could to make the aggrieved members see reasons to remain on the APC platform but all to no avail, describing them as “big masquerades without electoral value.”

For supporters of President Buhari’s re-election bid, Tuesday’s defection of 14 Senators, 12 to the PDP and two to the African Democratic Congress (ADC) from the APC is a wake-up to the danger looming ahead; the possibility of suffering a major setback in 2019. Not surprisingly, the President immediately called a meeting of Senators elected on the platform of the party, which saw to the return of two out of the defectors.

At the House of Representatives, the tale of defection was even worse; what with the loss of 32 lawmakers, many of whom, pitched tent with the PDP. As it were, more defectors are on their way to the PDP, the ADC and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) if the remarks by the various opposition figures are anything to go by.

The Presidency, Saturday Vanguard gathered, is worried by the sudden turn of events, fearing for the worst in states where the APC won overwhelmingly in the 2015 general elections.

APC waning profile in Sokoto, Benue, Kwara, Kano, others

With barely seven months to the polls, the Presidency, our correspondents gathered, is unsure if the APC can muster the kind of popularity it enjoyed three years ago in some states of the federation. In Sokoto for instance, where Buhari polled a total of 671, 926 votes to Goodluck Jonathan’s 152, 199; the APC is losing its grip with speculations rife of the imminent defection of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal back to the PDP, following a week of intense vitriolic against the handling of the killings of 32 innocent people in Sokoto by the Commander-in-Chief.

Tambuwal who is likely to seek PDP Presidential ticket to contest the 2019 polls is enjoying the support of notable traditional rulers, serving and ex-governors, current and erstwhile members of the National Assembly to mention but a few.

Like Sokoto, Benue is up for grab with the PDP in prime position to launch an onslaught, following Wednesday defection of the state governor, Samuel Ortom. In 2015, the APC beat the then ruling PDP to the state, garnering a total of 373, 961 votes to PDP’s 303, 737. As the debate lingers as to whether the governor has the popularity to return to the seat of power in 2019; Ortom has wasted no time in shelving aside leaders of questionable loyalty. Hours to his defection, Honourable Terkibir Ikyange, Speaker of the State House of Assembly was impeached alongside some principal officers and replaced with new set of executive committee. Majority of the members of the state assemblies, this medium gathered would follow Ortom to the PDP as early as in the next two weeks.

Kano where President Buhari garnered an impressive 1, 903, 999 votes compared with Jonathan’s paltry 215,777 is on the boil for reasons not unconnected with the defection of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso to the PDP. The founder of the Kwankwasiyya movement was to demonstrate his importance in the Kano polity when barely a few hours of ditching the ruling party, hundreds of his supporters gathered in a public square and set ablaze a good number of brooms; the APC symbolic emblem, in what a prominent member of the party called ‘hostile politics.’

Dogara and Bauchi

Speaker Dogara is seen rightly or wrongly as one of those plotting to govern Bauchi State; an ambition that has since pitched him on a collision course with the Governor, Mohammed Abubakar. As expected, the President for reasons not too difficult to fathom, has chosen to go with the governor, hoping he would be able to at least match the 931, 598 votes he help garner for him in 2015.

Events of the past two days however do not suggest the North-East state is one to be treated as the stronghold of any of the political parties. The defection of hitherto APC stalwarts as Senators Isah Misau and Suleiman Nazif to the opposition is not only worrisome but troubling.

Oshiomhole’s role

A prominent member of the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) blamed Tuesday’s defection of legislators elected on the platform of the ruling party to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) to what he termed the ‘arrogance’ of Comrade Oshiomhole and the reluctance to address “issues of concern.”

Speaking on Wednesday on condition of anonymity, the R-APC chieftain said aggrieved member of the APC looked up to the new chairman with a ray of hope of settling ‘outstanding issues of concern,’ stressing regrettably that Oshiomhole’s stewardship in only a few weeks has further divided the party more than he met it.

While lauding the decision of 14 Senators and 32 members of the House of Representatives that defected on the floor of the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday, he emphasized the determination of his group to take home “our message of hope” across the States House of Assembly in the next few days.

“Much was expected from him. With his background as a union leader who had settled various industrial disputes in the past, his emergence was greeted with a kind of ecstasy even though some members questioned his democratic credentials at the onset.

“When we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with other groups, we were described as inconsequential. What an insult! So, we are out to prove just how consequential we are and can be.

“We are determined to reach out to our various Assemblies across the states of the federation to come on board with us because we do not have the luxury of time anymore,” he stated.

He also urged the ruling party to brace up for more defections upon the return from recess of the lawmakers in September, noting that the aggrieved elements would not relent until “we cross the finish line.”

Oshiomhole had while reacting to the defections by the lawmakers described them as big masquerades with no electoral value, and insisted for the umpteenth time that he would not lose sleep as a result of their actions.

This is the conundrum the Presidency must find a way of resolving for if as boasted by our source, these aggrieved members succeed in thinning the support base of the ruling party across the states, any hope by the ruling party of retaining its tenancy of the Presidential Villa in 2019 may be hanging in the balance.


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