Some prominent political heavyweights are now defecting to the Social Democratic Party in an obvious move to wrestle power from the ruling All Progressives Congress and make the opposition Peoples Democratic Party irrelevant in the next elections; but will the party live up to expectation?
By Olu Ojewale
THE handwriting is now on the wall. The two political giants in the country, the ruling All Progressives Party, APC, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are not going to have it easy in the 2019 general elections. The recent emergence of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, as a prominent political party is largely seen as a third force in the political equation and the one which might upset the apple cart at the next elections.
It is not that the SDP is a new party, but the defection of prominent political bigwigs from the PDP and a possible exodus from the APC to the SDP headed by Olu Falae, a former minister of Finance, is largely seen as a big thing.
What seems to give the SDP some strength is none other than the defection of some prominent politicians from the PDP on Thursday, March 1. Tunde Adeniran, a professor of Political Science and a former minister of Education, announced the defection on Saturday, March 3.
Political watchers say with the likes of Adeniran; Jerry Gana, a professor of Geography, and former minister of Information and Culture; Junaid Mohammed, a second republic lawmaker and an elder statesman from the North, among others in the midst, the SDP could now be regarded as the third force that might provide the balance that the Nigerian political terrain needs.
Interestingly, both Adeniran and Gana were members of the Board of Trustees of the PDP before the defection to the SDP. Even when Adeniran was a chairmanship candidate in the December 9, national convention of the PDP, Gana was one of his staunch supporters. Since he lost the election to the chairmanship post, Adeniran severed his relationship with the PDP.
In any case, sources close to the party said the recent defection from the PDP was just the beginning of massive defections expected not only from the PDP, but also from the APC to SDP in the days ahead. There are some disgruntled leaders in the APC who are not likely to follow the party to the next elections. Analysts say they are just waiting for the right moment to jump the ship, especially if the ongoing peace mission entrusted to Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the party fails to heal the gaping wounds in the party.
According to available information, among the parties that have already joined the SDP are Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, and the Peoples Salvation Party, PSP and eight other unnamed parties. The SDP, analysts have argued that the defection to the SDP by some disgruntled APC and PDP members ahead of next year’s elections would make the party a formidable one.
By midweek, no fewer than five serving governors and 35 senators were reportedly set to join the SDP. Alfa Mohammed, the national publicity secretary of the party, who made the claim refused to the names of the governors and senators, but hinted that they or their proxies had been attending the party’s meetings.
Mohammed said in Minna, Niger State, on Tuesday, March 6, that the affected governors and senators were from “all parts of the country.”
That notwithstanding, Mohammed said 50 civil society organisations had embraced the party in a coalition that aimed at unseating the ruling APC in 2019.
It is understood that the Olusegun Obasanjo-inspired Coalition for Nigeria Movement, CNM, was also in talks with the SDP to work together. Olu Falae, a former presidential candidate, who was once a minister of Finance, heads the SDP.
“The mass movement of prominent politicians from both APC and PDP to the SDP last Thursday was a kick starter for the chunk of other politicians and civil society groups eager to join the SDP
“In the next two to three weeks, the mass movement into the SDP will become more pronounced especially at the national and state Houses of Assembly and I am sure that the party will soon become the majority at the National Assembly,” Mohammed claimed.
According to him, the national secretariat of the party had directed all state offices to commence registration of new members at ward levels from Monday, March 5, adding that local and state congresses would be held soon before the national convention.
Similarly, Olu Agunloye, a former minister of Power and Steel, who is chieftain of the SDP, said on Wednesday, March 7, that the party remained the only viable alternative to deliver real change to Nigerians.
Agunloye, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Lagos, said the party had the programmes to move the country forward, with its focus on delivering development through good governance in the country.
Agunloye, who was the SDP candidate in the November 2016 governorship election in Ondo State, described the defection of Adeniran and Gana to the party as good a development and that their coming would add value to the party.
He said the party had received other prominent politicians into its fold, while so many others had indicated interest to join the party.
“Just two days ago, a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Party, APC, in Adamawa joined the party with about 16,000 of his supporters.
“So many people have also indicated interest to join the party from across other political parties, we are expecting more people soon,” he said.
Agunloye, however, said the party would welcome people who were ready to align with the party’s vision to reposition the country and not people who were coming just to seek tickets for their aspirations.
On the speculations that SDP was in talks with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to join it, Agunloye said he had no knowledge of the moves.