Sunday, 17 January 2016

PDP, APC Defection: Political Laser Fever

It is another season of defections in Nigerian politics. The current wind of defection seems to be blowing politicians from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party to the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Most active politicians in the country today may have been in at least two political parties since democracy returned in 1999, while there are those who have joined up to four parties.
Several political scientists and analysts have hinged the incessant change of political parties by politicians on the lack of clear distinction between the parties in terms of ideology and philosophy.

This is perhaps why many political analysts strongly believe that there is no major difference between the APC and the PDP – the two biggest political parties in the country.
Some close watchers also attribute the phenomenon to the scarcity of politicians with discipline and selfless political goals. To this school of thought, any party is home to such politicians.
The PDP ruled the country for 16 years – between 1999 and 2015 – and was boastfully rated by its members as the biggest party in Africa. The party was so successful that it held on to the presidency and dominated the National Assembly and the 36 states of the federation. At a point, the PDP had the ambition to rule the country for 60 years.
During this period, the party had its influence over opposition parties like the Alliance for Democracy, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, the Action Congress (later Action Congress of Nigeria), the Congress for Progressive Change, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, among others. Then, these parties were much smaller compared to the ruling party.
Two years to the 2015 general elections, the ANPP, CPC, ACN and a faction of APGA merged to form the APC, which became the biggest opposition party.
The emergence of the APC on the political scene had sparked a round of defections.
Nigerian politicians have various reasons for ‘cross carpeting’ from one party to another. One reason is due to intra-party crisis, which forces aggrieved members to join another party.
For example, during the formation of the APC, there was a mass exodus of aggrieved PDP members to the APC. In 2013, some PDP leaders and members had formed a breakaway faction called ‘New PDP,’ which later merged with the APC.
By December 2013, another round of defections began — that time, at the National Assembly. In the House of Representatives, 37 members of the PDP, on December 18, 2013, formally declared their defection to the APC.
In January 2014, a former Governor of Kwara State and Chairman, Senate Committee on Ecology and Environment (now the Senate President), Senator Bukola Saraki, led 11 senators of the PDP – out of the 52 pencilled for defection – to the APC.
On March 15, 2014, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Aba, had also left the PDP for the APC, while condemning his former party.
Within the period too, the likes of ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi and ex-Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, who both left the PDP for the APC, had returned to the PDP.
There is another category of politicians who defect to pursue personal political ambitions, especially electoral tickets.
There was a round of defections when political parties began to shop for candidates for the 2015 general elections. Some candidates had emerged through primaries, while others were issued automatic tickets through adoption and consensus agreement.
While some aspirants were satisfied with who was chosen and how the candidate emerged, others were not. Some of those who were disgruntled left their parties for another to pursue their ambitions.
Prior to the 2015 general elections, mass defections were recorded in Lagos, Kaduna, Oyo, Rivers, Benue, Ondo, Ebonyi, Ekiti and Enugu states, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi and Cross River, most of which bordered on party tickets.
It was in the same period in 2014 that the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who is now Governor of Sokoto State, surprisingly left the PDP for the APC, where he contested the governorship election.
By December of the same year, a former Governor of Oyo State, Adebayo Alao-Akala, left the PDP for the Labour Party, where he re-ignited his governorship ambition after he lost to former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, at the party’s primary. Again, he recently defected from the LP to the APC.
Another surprise defection was that of a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, who returned to the PDP – the party he left for the APC in 2013 – to pursue his Adamawa State governorship ambition.
Ribadu failed in the 2015 poll and his recent visit to the former National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, ignited the rumour that he may be on his way back to the APC.
The pursuit of party tickets had also led to defections in the National Assembly and across the states.
There is also a crop of politicians popularly referred to as “AGIP” – Any Government in Power. This category of politicians, analysts say, is made up of those who are usually in the ruling party.
An APC chief had lamented, “In this country, you have an army of politicians – the so-called AGIP (Any Government in Power). They are the people who do not believe there is oxygen outside government. Therefore, they must be in every government.”
This is, perhaps, what happened after the PDP lost to the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari defeated the incumbent former President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28, 2015 presidential poll. Soon after the result was declared, the ruling party began to haemorrhage members. The PDP was so depleted with the exit of its top shots that it has not recovered from it.
Suddenly, the APC became a greener pasture for those who have taken politics as a profession. Mass defections were recorded in Edo, Jigawa, Plateau, Kwara, Ekiti, Adamawa, Enugu, Benue, Ondo, Oyo, Abia and Imo states.
Today, there seems to be another cause for defection. Watchers of the recent gale of defections are linking it to the anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari-led administration.
The Federal Government, through the EFCC, is investigating alleged diversion of a $2.1bn anti-terrorism arms procurement fund by former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), who served under the Jonathan-led administration.
The anti-graft agency had traced parts of the fund to mostly PDP chiefs, party allies and contractors. Most of those named had claimed to have spent the monies given to them to execute Jonathan’s re-election campaign.
For instance, former Governor of the old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, who admitted to have collected N100m for the campaign, dumped the PDP for the APC penultimate Friday.
The ex-Minister of Youths and Sports, few days to his defection, claimed to have collected the money as the Chairman of the Contact Committee of the PDP Presidential Campaign for the South-East, stating that the only fund received by the committee for its work was N100m from (the then) National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Adamu Mu’azu.
As common with most defectors, Nwobodo had condemned the PDP and blamed the party’s leadership for allowing five governors to leave for the APC in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
Nwobodo said, “I am not coming into APC because I want anything. I want our people to be reintegrated and have our own share of the Federal Government resources.”
Rather than become jubilant for capturing “a big fish” as common with political parties when a major politician joins them, some APC members were said to be unhappy with Nwobodo joining the ruling party and this had openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the development.
Later, Nwobodo, in his reaction to the cold reception, had told members of the APC in Enugu not to feel threatened by his defection to the party.
The ex-governor, who was a senator and presidential aspirant in the PDP, stated that he did not come into the APC to take anybody’s place.
The reason for Nwobodo’s rejection became clearer when the spokesperson for the party in the South-East, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, one of those displeased by the defection, said his party should screen defectors from the PDP to the APC before granting them membership.
Okechukwu, who pointed out that he was not opposed to new members joining the APC, said, “Political parties are like churches and mosques; they have open entry. However, there is the need to sieve the defectors.”
He asked, “Is it not a paradox that those who are fingered in the Dasuki scandal, people who rigged and mangled the 2015 general elections, are today wearing the badge of virtue and principle?”
“We are not talking of position but pollution of our great party. He (Nwobodo) should first cleanse himself of the Dasuki scandal. Don’t forget that the first cardinal programme of the APC is war against corruption; it is there in our manifesto.”
According to him, Nwobodo entered the APC “through the window” as the ex-governor has yet to register as an APC member at his ward.
Okechukwu further said in parts, “My take on his defection into our great party through the window is same with those who classified him as a fugitive of justice, given his involvement in the Dasukigate scandal.
“To be candid, Chief Nwobodo used to be our model: a principled politician and a Zikist. But in more than a decade, he has shed his principle and kind of descended into the arena.”
Apparently, the Presidency is aware of the implication of recent defections widely believed to be suspicious. It stated on Tuesday that the defection of politicians accused of corruption from other political parties to the APC would not stop them from being investigated and prosecuted.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Adesina said the present administration’s anti-corruption fight would not be based on party affiliation, adding that the President would not encourage any cover-up.
“It is not in the nature of this administration to cover anyone who has questions to answer on corruption, irrespective of party affiliation,” he said.
The candidate of the PDP, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, had also defected from the party to the APC penultimate Friday to contest the rerun senatorial poll for Anambra-Central Senatorial District.
Ekwunife, who was declared the winner of the March 28 senatorial election in the district whose election was also affirmed by the Anambra Election Petitions Tribunal, was sacked by the Court of Appeal on December 7, based on the petition by her opponent in APGA, Chief Victor Umeh.
Ekwunife would later say, “I defected to the APC because the PDP postponed its state congress and primary indefinitely, pending the release of the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP Chief Olisa Metuh (by the EFCC). The APC primary will be transparent, free and fair. However, if I don’t emerge as the APC candidate, I will support whoever the party eventually picks. I am not desperate to be in the Senate.”
A former PDP senator from Enugu State, Mr. Fidelis Okoro, who was in the Senate between 1999 and 2007, had also crossed to the APC same time with Nwobodo.
Similarly, a former member of the Senate, who represented Akwa Ibom-North-West Senatorial District, Senator Alloysius Etok, same day, dumped the PDP for the APC.
Those who defected with Etok were Otu Ita-Toyo, Eseme Eyibo, Ekpe James and Dr. Ita Udosen, among others.
According to a social commentator, Mr. Bayo Olupohunda, long before the return of democracy, Nigerian politicians had been known to hold no scruples when it comes to dumping a political party to which they had once sworn allegiance.
In his article on January 12, titled ‘A Season of Defections,’ he lamented that it appeared Nigerian politicians had still not learnt the democratic principles of party allegiance as it obtained in advanced democracies.
Olupohunda said, “Sadly, some politicians who are facing corruption charges in court are now defecting to the APC. Some of them can also not imagine a situation where they would be in political oblivion for the next four years. There is also a sense in which one sees these defections as a way of seeking protection.
“This argument feeds into the widespread belief that defecting to the ruling party protects a politician from prosecution if they have been indicted of corruption. The argument to support this is that there are many politicians in the APC today who have been indicted of corruption but are walking free.
“Unless the APC debunks the claim and wipes its fold clean, the revelation does the party no good. Accepting allegedly corrupt politicians who defect to swell its ranks also puts a question mark on the party’s change mantra.”
However, former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, told SUNDAY PUNCH that it would be undemocratic to disallow anybody from joining the APC.
“Our constitution guarantees freedom of association. The APC has never been a cult and will not be a cult where only certain people are allowed (in). APC is open to all Nigerians who believe in the core values of the party,” he said.
Fashakin also said Nigerians would have seen that some of those going to the APC are especially those who have “baggage” and cases to answer with the EFCC and security agencies.
“If that is the case, you will see that at the end of the day, they will meet a president, who is the national leader of the party, who will not compromise the rule of law on the altar of partisanship,” he said.
Fashakin pointed out that the defections would not amount to anything. He noted that Buhari loved the country so much that he would not allow any wrongdoing on the part of anybody who claims to be close to him.
The PDP, however, told SUNDAY PUNCH that it was observing the defections and expects to see more drama in the political scene towards the 2019 general elections.
According to the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Abdullahi Jalo, politics is a dynamic and continued game that has to do with interests.
He said, “There are some people we call ‘bread-and-butter politicians.’ You can also understand why Nwobodo defected. There was a lot of confusion in Anambra (after his defection) because people were highlighting the money Dasuki shared, which you can understand as, maybe, he is running there (to APC) assuming he may not be picked up to cough out the money he collected.
“APC members are now saying even if he has entered the party, he is not welcome. He knows why, at an immaterial time, he wanted to defect. Maybe he thought the PDP would not shield him; maybe he would be shielded by the APC, being the ruling party.”
Jalo said the annulment of Ekwunife’s election as senator might have led to her defection to the APC to create “political confusion in the political scenario in Anambra,” with the hope of getting the ticket.
He added, “It is not just an issue of morality but desperation and interests. The PDP is doing everything possible as an opposition party to help its members to withstand the challenges from the opposition.
“From 2017, we will know how the situation looks like, whether President Buhari has worked or not. Then, we shall start to see the drama of the political situation in the country.”



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