By Tonnie Iredia
Anyone who imagines that the recent gale of political defections in Nigeria is about to end does not understand the real rationale for the trend. A strong political analyst on the other hand can decipher with relative ease that we are at the peak of the trend and that many more are coming. While laymen may fear that some of the defections are suicidal, the dramatis personae are out rightly confident of the game and can with ingenuity explain the gains of their movements. Only a few days ago, the immediate past Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan made a surprise move to the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC in a state generally regarded as a traditional strong-hold of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The former governor attributed his defection to his quest to attract more development to his state and bring a permanent solution to the Niger Delta crisis. While many were wondering which APC people would accompany Uduaghan into the creeks to engage the people for peace, the former governor threw a defection bomb that he is not alone. Perhaps bigger Deltans are involved considering the loaded statement of Uduaghan where he described himself as “John the Baptist to the numerous Deltans that are coming into the APC.” Only time will tell who the other invading missionaries are.
The case of Senator Godswill Akpabio, another big fish-defector into the ruling party is slightly weightier to comprehend. The former governor of Akwa Ibom state has moved from the PPD with the mind to operate not simply as a missionary; instead, he has promised to lead APC in 2019, to snatch Akwa Ibom state the way Hitler invaded Poland during the Second World War. The argument that he cannot achieve such loses sight of his prowess as the “uncommon transformer” who in his days as governor did whatever he chose to do, in a big way. Indeed, during the Federal Government’s ‘Good Governance Tour’ organized by Labaran Maku, a former Information Minister, the media quoted Akpabio to have told the Maku-led team in Uyo that he personally replaced the winner of an election with his preferred candidate, Aloysius Etok. So, the PDP may have a tough time from the former governor. The only aspect of his defection plan which is controversial is his reported desire to help President Buhari fight against corruption and poverty, which is not a transparent area of his strength. We don’t even know if he has gotten out of corruption charges leveled against himself by some of his people including an Abuja based lawyer and activist, Leo Ekpenyong who petitioned him for allegedly looting Akwa Ibom state treasury
The point to be made is that the defectors are ready to do big things to justify their movements. Another point that is obvious is that on a general note, the defections follow a given pattern depending on where one is going and where he is coming from. It is certainly safer to defect to the ruling APC because whereas the party heartily welcomes defectors, it goes out to heat-up the polity over any defections from its own side. Such level of political intolerance is easy to see. For instance, while former Governor Uduaghan moved rather peacefully from PDP to APC in the spirit of the constitutional provision of freedom of movement and association, all defectors from the APC are in turmoil and scampering for safety here and there. Rallies have been organized against notable defectors such as Senator Bukola Saraki in Kwara, Senator Musa Kwankwaso in Kano and Governor Waziri Tambuwal in Sokoto. Incidentally, rallies in Ikot Ekpene, Sokoto and Illorin were peacefully held without state authorities placing obstacles on the way of the organizers the way Senator Kwankwaso was disparaged in Abuja. In fact, as he was declaring to contest the presidential ticket of his party, many people who were probably his followers were organized to publicly burn their red caps as a sign of renouncing his leadership making it look as if political ambition is a crime
The seeming tepid but civilized approach by the PDP should however not be taken to mean that there is substantial difference between the APC and the PDP. Anyone who has followed Nigerian political history knows that both parties are identical twins. Their members are similarly motivated by ambition and personal interest which they often seek to achieve by whatever means. PDP members are presently acting meek because they now lack their hitherto control of state instruments of coercion. If power changes in 2019, all the present gladiators in the APC will be looking for public sympathy when they are at the receiving end of the political game. They will suddenly find that for any political rally, a police permit will be hard to get while the public media that are singing their praises now will not even accept their advert placements irrespective of their high revenue value. This is cause for concern because if the nation remains in a cycle of political intolerance where a level playing field cannot be guaranteed for our elections, the electorate can hardly ever choose the best candidates who can move the nation forward.
A change from this sordid state is not about to happen especially now that the ruling party has successfully sourced a super active chairman, Adams Oshiomhole who is conversant with how to maximise power. In his days as Edo Governor, he supervised a governorship election in which the contest was suddenly postponed for security reasons without the knowledge of even the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC. That is how security is politically defined these days especially in developing societies where elections are fought as a war rather than played as a game. Accordingly, it was not against the run of play that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo was not briefed on the National Assembly invasion. If he knew, he probably would have scuttled the plan through intellectual reviewing as a professor and senior advocate. With rumours making the rounds now that the invasion was a collective decision, our learned VP must have learnt some valuable lessons.
As the rest of us are beginning to understand the gains and gravity of political defections, let no one be misled into believing that the defections are ending. In the case of the APC, granting state maximum rulers known in Nigeria as Executive Governors the power to supervise “indirect” primaries in their states can hardly reduce the gale. As for the PDP, defections will certainly come as all their stalwarts are presidential candidates.