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ANALYSIS: The Defection Blow; 2019 Politics Has Just Begun

By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER)It is anticipated that less than a year to the 2019 general elections, political activities have taken various lively but intriguing dimensions. After a long waiting which ignited many speculations, what may be considered as the window of more political realignments still to come played out early this week in Abuja.

The game started from the National Assembly NASS as the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki read out 14 names of his colleagues and co-party the ruling (APC) members, announcing their defection and resolve to pitch tents with the leading opposition PDP. The same trend followed the same day – in the House of Representatives as 37 APC Lawmakers dumped the party for various opposition political parties, including the PDP; ADC and APGA.

Although, a handful of the Senator like Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun central) has since come to renounce his purported defection, yet, the development this was neither sudden nor shocking to many.

The following day, it was the turn of the Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom. On Tuesday, the Governor who recently announced to the public that he has been given a red card in the APC declared return to his old party – the PDP, which during preparation for the 2015 general elections, denied him the Governorship ticket. After his declaration, followed the kwara State Governor Alhaji Abdul Fatai Ahmed, who on Thursday dropped the hint of becoming the second Governor to bid the ruling APC bye-bye. Still to come is the Sokoto State helmsman and former Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.

Interestingly, Saraki who has been the arrowhead of different oppositions within the APC is yet to officially announce his defection. Although, his declaration will be a mere formality or what else, if his State’s Governor who is still very committed to his political god father has announced his planned defection? Obviously, he must have gotten the clearance from his boss.

Giving the many unanswered agitations of the members of the PDP in the APC, who while the failed negotiations lasted, first formed themselves under the name – nPDP and later another, acronym – R-APC, many have predicted the present gale of defection.

 However, what now raises concern and which may spell doom for the APC are: party caucus influence and public perception, with respect to checking further cross carpeting and winning general elections. The argument that most of the defectors have fallen out of favour with their State Governors, as well as lacking reasonable political values is tenable. Still, cross carpeting is a serious matter, when related to the understanding of common man on the street – most of whom are easily influenced by vicious sentiments.  

Apart from this, more intriguing in the defection hurricane is the seemingly contradictions in the manner of approach by President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Previously, the President has been giving audience to his loyalists in both the Senate and House. The last of such session was the one held after his return from Netherlands recently with the House of Representative enthusiasts.

The delegation which was led by the former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdul Mumin Jibrin opened up to their host, that some of them were aggrieved, still, clamoured that he (President) would do well, if he could assist in prevailing on the APC Leaders with a view to resolving their differences with them. In fact, the President who seemed very relieved with the meeting was said to have requested for more of such interaction. But in spite of this, the question is: to what extent can he (Buhari) be independently attentive to these Lawmakers and consent to their demands, especially to save their political ambition?

Expectedly, President Buhari immediately after the first batch of mass defection met separately with the APC Senators as well as their counterparts in the House. The questions again are: to what extent will the Lawmakers be convinced and confident with his discussions and persuasion with them, most especially on how they will remain relevant in their States and ultimately, their political ambition in the 2019 general elections will be actualized? These questions are very noteworthy to every Buhari loyalist (Lawmakers).

Take it or leave it, how the issues are addressed is the main factor that will determine where their interest lie and who they pitch tent with. After all, it is frequently said: ‘in politics, no permanent friend; no permanent enemy; but only permanent interest’.

As important as the issue of interest appears, the APC National Chairman, Oshiomhole from all indications seems not to be given any recourse to it and that is not funny. It is commendable that he is equally engaging the NASS APC Legislators, but equally important is, what the subject of his discussion was and how willing is he, to support them in their demand?

For instance, the Buhari loyalists in the House led by the Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos State) in their meeting with him, about three days after the defection requested for automatic ticket for re-election. The former Edo State Governor was categorical in his NO response.

Although, I appreciate the fact that Oshiomhole might wish to be very careful and respect the position of the Lawmakers States’ Governors, before ratifying their request. Despite this, I expected him as a veteran unionist, a vast negotiator and politician to have moderated his reply as well as be more diplomatic. I consider the manner of his response as somewhat careless and daring. But can the ruling party in this trying moment afford this type of attitude and expect to gain loyalty from its members and foot soldiers? Is being carelessly blunt or resorting to grandstanding is the best answer? These will hardly safe the situation.

As the PDP is presently boasting of receiving back to its fold, more of its stalwarts, the APC has in turn asserted that the defectors would very soon, make a U-Turn. This is real politics in the play and such is expected in times like this. Still, as it has been established earlier, what determines where a politician stays is where his personal desire will be fulfilled.

Therefore, can the APC toy with this? Whereas, the PDP from all indications is not only agitating to receive more members, but might go ahead and use the complaints by the aggrieved APC members as the score points. This might not be totally achievable, but the former ruling party will definitely not fail in an attempt to explore the opportunity if it poses itself.

The fact of the matter is that none of the APC and PDP can afford to take anything for granted at this minute. Undoubtedly, the two parties are expected to be more diligent on how to woo more members to their side and retain the insiders.

Ironically, some actors in the defection game have also realized the danger in the move. Despite being the main players in the saga, Saraki; the House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; Saraki’s political son, Governor Ahmed of Kwara and his Sokoto State’s counterpart, Tambuwal are yet to move. For sure, they will still go and join their fellows, but I guess the issue on their mind, will be the question on: when is the right time?

As for Saraki and Dogara, the source of concern is likely to be the threat to their positions, having faced with fact that the APC still controls majority in the two chambers. Again, Saraki needs to contend with the disposition of his State’s PDP.

The Kwara State branch of the first opposition has said it loud and clear that the former Governor is not welcomed into its fold. The fear is that, once Saraki returns, he takes charge of the State party’s machinery and this will be an affront to Leaders who have been holding the party, while he is away over four years ago. Definitely, Sarakis’s coming will stir another protest which the extent of the damage cannot be easily predicted. This is a big task for the PDP National Working Committee NWC.

In the case of former Speaker and Sokoto State’s Governor, Tambuwal, I guess the issue for him might be weighing the losses and gains of his action. Governor Ahmed seems to be the most ‘insulated’ of all – as all he needs is just the final directive from his boss – Senator Saraki.

Generally, the APC might be at an advantage – being the ruling party with more spread and number of States in its kitty. But in spite of this, the party’s Leadership must tread carefully, otherwise, it might still lose more membership and this will impact on its chances. And just like when the APC was still in the opposition, the PDP and other parties (in their coalition) need to work very hard to gain more members as well as get the public to their side, so as to spring the surprise and ultimately wrestle power back from the ruling party.

Finally, as the situation stands now, nothing is really foreclosed on both sides. The game has just started; it continues and ‘it is not over until it is over’!

E-mail: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com; Twitter: @tajudeen Balogun; Facebook: Tajudeen Balogun; Skype: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com



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