POLITICIANS from the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party are in a supremacy battle for the soul of Nigeria, and perhaps, to protect their personal interests
By Olu Ojewale
It is now down to a battle of wit between the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as politicking towards 2019 general election gains momentum across Nigeria. For most of the week, the Nigerian political scene was filled with dramas as political actors busied themselves with the act of defection.
From the hounding of Bukola Saraki, the Senate president, to the threat of an upend of the APC majority in the National Assembly caused by defections of APC lawmakers to other parties, especially, the PDP. The defections serve as a reminder of how the PDP imploded in 2013, which culminated into the party’s loss of the general elections in 2015.
In an apparent move not to allow implosion and a possible disintegration of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari has been meeting with some of the leaders of the party in past two weeks. Following the defection of 14 senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 24, the president met 42 of the 52 the remaining APC senators on Wednesday, July 25. No statement was made after the meeting and none of the senators disclosed what they discussed with the president.
Buhari had met with Saraki and four APC governors on Thursday, July 19, in an apparent move to resolve the crisis rocking the party. The governors who attended the meeting in Aso Rock Villa are Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi; Aminu Masari, Katsina; Abdulahi Yari, Zamfara and Ibikunle Amosu, Ogun.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was also in attendance. After the meeting, none of the politicians volunteered what was discussed at the meeting to the anxious reporters waiting for them.
Similarly, the president took time off to meet with Rabiu Kwankwaso, a senator and former governor of Kano State, who has been having a running battle with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of his state, on Monday night, July 23.
But the president’s move to stave off defection of the APC lawmakers seemed to be late in coming.
At the plenary on Tuesday, July 24, Saraki, who had sneaked into the Senate building chambers because of the Police siege on his residence, read a letter informing the Senate that 14 senators from the ruling party had decided to dump the party for the opposition PDP.
Ike Ekweremadu, deputy Senate president, whose residence was equally under Police siege, was not at the Senate session on the say.
Those mentioned in the list are Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and Barnabas Gemade, (Benue North-East) Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba (Sokoto South), Shaaba Lafiagi, (Kwara North) and Ubali Shittu, (Jigawa North-East).
Others are Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South), Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North), Isa Misau (Bauchi Central), Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo Central)and Usman Nafada (Gombe North) were also listed as the defectors.
The rest are Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano Central), Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), Olanrewaju Tejuosho (Ogun Central) and Abdulaziz Nyako (Adamawa Central).
But Adesoji Rilwan Akanbi (Oyo south), who was also listed to have defected, dissociated himself from the group of defectors. He told reporters that he never contemplated leaving the ruling party.
Nevertheless, the defection has drastically reduced the margin of majority held by the APC. It now has 52 out of 109 senators, while the PDP has 50. The African Democratic Congress, ADC, has three, while the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, has two seats.
From the lot Joshua Dariye (APC Plateau Central) is in jail and two dead members. One seat is vacant. Out of the 14 defected, 13 went to the PDP and one to the African Democratic Congress, ADC.
In the House of Representatives, 37 members left the APC. Hence, there are now 192 APC members. The PDP has 156 members and the APGA five. The APC also keeps its majority.
Apparently pined by the development, Ahmed Lawan, the Senate leader, argued that the letter of defection should not be read as leaders of the party were trying to resolve issues involved. He said: “Very seriously, this matter should be stepped down until we exhaust all the opportunities.”
Saraki overruled Lawan and said: “As you know and have seen, the seat beside you is vacant.
“As we speak, the deputy Senate president cannot get out of his house. He is under siege. This morning, I could not also leave my street as well, all being efforts by some people that believe that today’s sitting must not hold because some members want to move or defect.
“It is not something that started today; it will not end today; people have gone, they’ve come back.”
In any case, Adams Oshimhole, national chairman Adams of the APC, while dismissing the defection as inconsequential, said the defection would not affect the party’s fortune in next year’s election.
On his part, Buhari on Tuesday, July 24, described the defections from the APC at the National Assembly as a seasonal occurrence on the eve of elections.
He assured his party members that the defections would do no harm to the party at the elections.
In a statement by Garba Shehu, the president’s media aide, while wishing the defectors the best in their future undertakings, expressed his total commitment to the values of democracy, freedom of choice and a total willingness to work with all members of the National Assembly, irrespective of their political party, for the benefit of the nation.
The president said none of the defecting federal lawmakers of the APC had any specific grievance against him or the government he leads; neither did he harbour anything against any of them.
Similarly, the APC assured its members and supporters that it will continue to consolidate on its majority status ahead of the 2019 general elections in spite of the defection of some members.
The party gave the assurance in a statement by Bolaji Abudullahi, its national publicity secretary on Tuesday, July 24, in Abuja.
It stated that the APC-led federal government will continue to work hard to deliver on its campaign promises to Nigerians.
It stated that APC remained in firm control of 25 states of the 36 states of the federation and maintained clear majority in Federal House of Representatives and state assemblies.
Most of those who defected were said to be dissatisfied with the conduct of their governors over the conduct of primaries held in states in May.
One of the senators told our reporter that he defected because his political future could not be guaranteed in the APC.
While things appear to be going wrong for the APC, the main opposition PDP has until the time of filing the story remained silent.
Nevertheless, some of its chieftains have been reacting privately, saying that the move will enhance the party’s chances in the 2019 general elections.
Rita Orji, a member of the House of Representatives representing Lagos State, in an interview said the defection is a welcome development. She assured that the PDP has enough room to absorb those defecting to the party and assured them that their interests will be taken care of. “All is well with the PDP. I can assure you that those leaving the APC are not doing so because of self interest, but because the party has failed to meet their constituencies’ demands. The APC has failed Nigerians. The party promised Nigerians so many things but has failed to deliver on any of them.” Orji attributed that to cause of the defection.
Suleiman Ukandu, another PDP chieftain, described the defection to the PDP as a welcome development. He said: “Their defection was long overdue for those APC members that decamped to the right party, having being frustrated and persecuted by the party they all laboured for, to bring in power.
“So, it is a welcome development. And our party, PDP, is on the way to entrench good governance by chasing away the incompetent APC President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Also Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun State, said the PDP should be congratulated for the gains it made in the upper and lower legislative chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday, July 24.
The former governor, who would not speak much on the defection saying he had yet to get the full details, however, said that the more the merrier for the party, which looked forward to regaining power at the centre in 2019.
The former governor, who is also the director general of the Abubakar Atiku Campaign Organisation, AACO, in the PDP, said that the former vice president remained well placed to win the presidential ticket of the party and the party to be in power next year.
Notwithstanding defection to his party, former President Goodluck Jonathan has reminded the PDP that it lost most of past elections because unpopular candidates were imposed on the electorate.
On Tuesday, July 24, when he received Philip Gyunka, a senator, who visited him in Abuja, Jonathan called on politicians not to yield to any form of negative influence by godfathers.
He also urged political godfathers to yield to people’s yearning in preparation for 2019, and advised them to steer clear of anti-party activities.
“In politics, if you have a son or anybody and you know the person cannot lead the party to victory, and you are sending the person because you are hoping for something, then you do not like the party.
“If you like the party you, will ask your son to work with the person that you believe can win elections. We lost most of these elections because of this issue of imposition of people that are not acceptable to the public,” he said.
Jonathan also said that sacrificing competence and efficiency on the altar of interest would always be counterproductive.
“I have not gone for elections outside Africa, but at least, before leaving office, I went round to observe election in a number of countries. Politics is like war. I am not saying people should carry guns and knives, but to struggle to win election. People must have that kind of personal interest.
“We need to send people that the people appreciate, people whom they believe in to bring development to their states so that even if it means sleeping there, they will stay there and do the work.
“I commend the national chairman of our party, Uche Secondus, because he has been emphasising that this time, primaries must be on level playing ground, so that whoever emerges, others will support the person,’’ he said.
Fearing the effects the defection may have on the APC, Abu Ibrahim, Senate Committee on Police Affairs chairman, told Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House of Representatives, who are being speculated as being on their way out of the APC to resign from the party or be expelled.
The senator said the developments in and around the National Assembly clearly showed that Saraki and Dogara could no longer be trusted in the APC.
The lawmaker, who is also chairman of Buhari Support Group, said in Abuja: “I know that those who take Saraki like god will go. This is because wherever Saraki goes they will go. But the mistake they have made is not to realise that politics is local.
“Nobody will say Isa Misau and Suleiman Nazif (two Bauchi State senators) were voted because of Saraki. They were voted because of Buhari. They will lose their seats. Saraki will not save them. They can’t even go to their constituencies.”
He also alleged that the plot to impeach President Buhari “would have started on Thursday (July 26)…
“They realised and learnt that we knew. They knew that if they had remained up till today (Wednesday) a lot of things would have happened,” he said.
He insisted: “Me as Abu Ibrahim, I am asking Saraki and Dogara to leave APC today. I will meet Oshiomhole (Adams) to expel them.”
Ibrahim continued: “My position is that Saraki and Dogara should leave the APC. We can no longer trust or discuss APC issues with them again. We cannot afford to continue to harbour moles in our mist.
“Let people be courageous enough and be honest to themselves. We will not miss them.”
In a similar reaction, Yekini Nabena, APC deputy national publicity secretary, also called for an immediate expulsion of Saraki.
In a statement, Nabena accused Saraki of being in cahoots with the defectors. He said: “Being the ringleader, there was no justification for APC to continue to tolerate Saraki. He must go now. Or be shown the way out.”
He said: “Clearly, Saraki had a big hand in organising the events that transpired in the National Assembly. He has, therefore, lost the moral justification to remain in APC. The time to expel him from the party is now.”
Both Saraki and Dogara are believed to be on their way back to the PDP, the party they deserted in 2014 to join the APC.
Indeed, Secondus has been pleading with former members of the PDP to return. He has also been working with other parties and rallying members of the PDP to ensure its victory in 2019.
On Monday, July 9, the PDP formed a coalition with 38 other political parties in the country.
The parties announced when they met at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, the nation’s capital, that they would operate under the Coalition of United Political Party, CUPP.
The announcement followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, by the leaders of the parties, in their bid to defeat Buhari and the APC in the 2019 elections.
Part of the agreement of the MoU was to mobilise support for consensus candidates at the centre, states, and the legislative arm of government.
Leaders of political parties who attended the meeting include that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo-backed ADC, Social Democratic Party of Nigeria (SDP), National Conscience Party, NCP, Labour Party, and a host of other registered parties.
It was also attended by some aggrieved members of the APC. Since the signing of the MoU, the PDP has also been dangling juicy things to members of the APC who may want to join the party assuring them of the party’s cooperation.
Besides, Secondus said the ruling APC is losing the strength to lead the country. The PDP leader who made the claim in Adamawa State on Saturday, July 21, while addressing party supporters at a rally to launch the presidential campaign of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, accused the APC of showing “a sign of a drowning party” by allegedly going after perceived political opponents within and outside the APC.
The PDP chairman, however, noted that his party has nothing to fear, noting that they are ready to wrest power from the ruling party.
He noted that the APC would soon become a history in Nigeria and accused the party of “swimming in the valley of corruption.”
Secondus assured that the rebranded and repositioned PDP had become the party of choice determined and ready to rescue Nigeria from the hands of the APC.
That notwithstanding, Olusegun Adeniyi, a season journalist, in his column titled “Expressway to Anarchy” writes: “Let nobody be deceived, none of the actors in the game of political brinksmanship going on within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is thinking about the people of Nigeria: It is all about retaining powers and privileges. Has anybody, for instance, wondered why neither the executive nor the legislative arm of government has intervened on the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, certificate scandal involving the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun? That is simply because their interest is the same on that sordid matter.
“Therefore, no matter the pretensions to the contrary, the ongoing power struggle is not about the people and their welfare…
“However, I am also aware that when Nigerian politicians get desperate, as APC leaders on both sides of the divide are right now, danger is not too far away for the polity.”
The kind of desperation shown by both the APC and the PDP may as well serve as warning to Nigerians that the parties have other interests other than satisfying the yearning of the masses.
July 27, 2018 @ 12:40 GMT|