By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Daud Olatunji
•I’m not leaving APC, Buhari my candidate — Okorocha
•Defections rock Ogun APC; Gbajabiamila protests
ABUJA—Ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for the voluntary withdrawal of candidates for governorship and state legislative elections, there was tumult in the camps of two All Progressives Congress, APC, governors denied footing in their state chapters of the party.
While Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State was making moves to ensure unity in his camp, there was confusion in the camp of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State over the strong resistance to his approach by the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP.
The DPP in Imo State, Vanguard gathered, had offered Okorocha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, its governorship ticket. The party was, however, strongly laying down what it described as frustrating demands.
Meanwhile, the determination of Governor Amosun’s protégées to find alternative platforms was actualised in the House of Representatives and the Ogun State House of Assembly as some of his allies switched parties to the Allied Peoples Movement, APM.
APC leader in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, made a dramatic effort to stop Amosun’s preferred governorship candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, from defecting but his effort was rebuffed by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
The guideline of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, gives tomorrow, December 1, as the last date for any candidate to withdraw from the election.
With many of his preferred aspirants denied the platform of the APC, and notably, Nwosu as governorship candidate, Okorocha and his associates were said to have resolved to move into the DPP.
However, that option was as at press time yesterday, facing challenges following strong conditions given to the incoming candidates.
While the Okorocha camp was being offered the governorship slot, it was gathered that the DPP was not willing to provide more than 50 per cent of the House of Assembly seats to the Okorocha camp.
The DPP in Imo State, is also said to be unwilling to give up the structure for Nwosu to take over.
The Okorocha camp was also said to be apprehensive over the claim that some allies of Okorocha, who were offered party tickets by the Adams Oshiomhole-led national leadership, were refusing to give up their APC tickets for the DPP as canvassed by the Okorocha group.
APC peace meeting
Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State has said that Okorocha would not defect from the party and would support the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governor spoke when he led the APC South-East Reconciliation Committee to meet with Okorocha at Government House, Owerri.
“We are here for peace and reconciliation, and we have had an indoor meeting with the governor of Imo State, and he assured us that he would not leave APC and he is not leaving APC.
“He will work for Muhammadu Buhari as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2019, and we shall continue the dialogue between now and some few hours.
“We are happy so far because we have achieved a lot. We are happy so far because he has assured us that he is not leaving the party. He is contesting for Senate in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and hopefully, we shall achieve the peace we are looking for,’’ Governor Ganduje said.
I’m not leaving APC — Okorocha
In his brief remark, Governor Okorocha said the crisis in Imo APC would have been avoided if the right actions had been taken.
He stated: “There have been so many rumours making the rounds that I was leaving APC. Like I told you, I am not leaving APC, I will remain in APC, and President Buhari is my Presidential candidate.
‘’Other things will be as the committee may discuss. I am just a person; I am not everybody. I am just one man. I can only speak for myself; every other candidate has the right to speak for him or herself. As it is now, I assure you that I am in APC and will remain in APC.”
A similar scenario was also playing out in Ogun State as some political associates of Governor Amosun were also said to be thinking twice about defecting to the APM which the governor’s associates are using to perfect their electoral aspirations.
Amosun’s loyalists, it was learned, were also divided into two factions. It was gathered that while some vowed to defect alongside Akinlade to APM, others were said to have pledged to remain in the APC, irrespective of the circumstances.
The governor, it was learned, was weighing his options on the issue.
At press time yesterday, political observers were waiting for a formal declaration by the governor’s associates for the APM.
Indicative of that fact was the recent defection of a member of House of Representatives, Mikhail Kazzim, representing Abeokuta North/ Odeda/Obafemi-Owode Federal Constituency to APM.
Defections in Ogun
Meanwhile, Amosun’s preferred successor, Akinlade, yesterday, formally defected from the APC to the APM on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Three other House members also defected from their respective parties for others.
The lawmakers included Mohammed Kabir Ajana and Salisu Koko, who moved from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Social Democratic Party, SDP, respectively, while Rabiu Kaugama dumped the PDP for SDP.
Meanwhile, a mild drama followed the defection of the lawmakers, especially that of Akinlade.
Just as Speaker Dogara started reading the notice of the defection of the lawmakers at the plenary, the House leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, suddenly got up from his seat and shouted “Point of Order, Mr. Speaker, Akinlade cannot go. Akinlade cannot go.”
But he was ignored by the speaker who continued to read the defection notice.
As soon as Dogara finished reading the letters, Akinlade got up and bowed to the chair.
He also shook hands with the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, and proceeded to where the majority leader, Gbajabiamila, was seated to exchange pleasantries with him.
Gbajabiamila, however, ignored him.
To further ruffle the moment, Akinlade hung a hand band on Gbajabiamila’s microphone, bowed, and returned to his seat.
Subsequently, Gbajabimila took the band, walked up to the speaker and handed it over to him.
Other frantic efforts by the House leader to protest the defection were unsuccessful as lawmakers rose in unison to prevail on him.
Meanwhile, four members of the Ogun State House of Assembly also dumped the APC for APM.
The four defectors included the Majority Leader, Adeyinka Mafe, Chief Whip, Idowu Olowofuja (Abeokuta South 2), Tunde Sanusi (Obafemi-Owode) and Ganiyu Oyedeji (Ifo 2).
The defection letters were read on the floor of the House of Assembly yesterday.
The lawmakers in their letters blamed party injustice and mandate theft during the APC direct primaries conducted on October 7 as part of the reasons for their action.
The defecting lawmakers claimed they won the primary election but were denied the victory by the National Working Committee of the party, which, they said submitted other names to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Dayo Adeneye, did not respond to phone calls yesterday.