Despite the overwhelming internal contradictions in the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, it has succeeded in making inroads in seemingly unexpected places in the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. Will this series of migration propel the PDP into a rude awakening or lead to its eventual disintegration?
By Arome Attah
_“PDP is in vegetative state, awaiting funeral arrangements and final burial.” Sen. Teslim Folarin_
Senator Teslim Folarin must have, no doubt, looked at the gale of defections among the Governors and other prominent members of the People's Democratic Party, PDP to the ruling APC to arrive at the above statement. And, going by the exploits of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, who doubles as the ruling party’s Interim National Chairman’s success, in winning new political heavy weights into the APC fold since he assumed the leadership of the party, you cannot but agree with Folarin.
And of course, the latest defection of Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state and his supporters which has brought the number of governors that have left the PDP to APC to three in just under one year, is not just befuddling to observers, but mind bugling.
Political commentators have been at a loss to explain the reversal of PDP’s fortunes, despite the inherent contradictions in the ruling APC. Many followers of the polity would not say that the PDP was taken by surprise by the Zamfara governor’s defection. After all, long before Matawalle announced his exit from the PDP, it is a known fact that Zamfara state is predominantly APC state, though like some states, it is fragmented into various factions.
But despite the inherent challenges, the Buni led APC has continued to harvest from the opposition PDP great numbers of prominent members from unexpected places, making the APC to look more formidable. And not surprisingly, the Interim National Chairman is being praised beyond measures for his subtle moves that have deftly repositioned the Party.
The team that have been instrumental in this new push to make in – roads into the PDP strongholds, ACJ's investigation revealed, are the governors of Kebbi, (Sen. Atiku Abubakar Bagudu) Niger ( Abubakar Sani Bello) and Kogi, (Yahaya Bello). The Kogi state governor our investigation further revealed, is the current face of APC and the man running the party’s hatchet job.
After the 2015 general elections, APC had 19 governors while PDP had 17 but currently APC has 22 states with antennae gradually spreading into the seemingly impenetrable South-east and South-south geo – political zones. All, thanks to the four governors.
In view of the fact that APC has an incumbent President at the centre, the implication for the PDP that have lost three governors, governors that in today’s reality control state apparatus, the party, according to political observers,may have a herculean task in 2023 and this might as well be the end of its era except it sits up and re strategize, it might be swallowed up.
Perhaps, this realization explains the ferocity with which the PDP leadership is prosecuting Bello Matawalle’s defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Can this legal action help PDP reclaim the governorship seat in Zamfara State?
Addressing a press conference recently at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said no law allows Matawalle to cross over to any other party with the governorship mandate statutorily given to the PDP through the ballot box, as already established by the provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the standing judgment of the Supreme Court on the matter.
Relying heavily on judicial interpretations, he averred that votes scored in elections belong to the political party and that the candidates nominated to contest at an election by his party, acts only as the agent of his party.
“Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution as the pronouncements of the Supreme Court in Faleke v. INEC (2016) is clear in holding that it is the political party that stands for election, that votes scored in elections belong to the political party and that the candidate nominated to contest at an election by his party, acts only as the agent of his party.
The PDP cautions (it's elected) members not to allow themselves to be pushed into losing their seats as the provisions of the constitution is very clear in cross carpeting, except in a situation of a division in the political party upon which platform they were elected. There is no division in the PDP to warrant defection of any of our members.”
PDP is no stranger to high scale defections. The foundations for its loss of power at the centre began in November, 2013, when five of its governors; Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa left the party and joined the newly formed APC. Much later, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tambuwal and former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki would follow the governors and decamped to the APC. And it’s like history is repeating itself.
But can PDP reinvent itself in this season of seemingly insurmountable odds staked against it and proof political pundits wrong?
Political commentators believe that PDP can still turn the table around. For instance, even though it is the ruling party, it is not a bed of roses for the APC. Since the party’s rise to power about six years ago, its congresses have been characterized by unprecedented rancor and power struggles among factions vying for control of party machineries and this among other things have weakened the party.
Kola Ologbondiyan told ACJ that the defections of its members to APC are prelude to PDP’s rise. According to him, “APC government at the centre has failed woefully and the ‘join the APC and your sins are forgiven’ desperate tactics of the government in power for membership will not stand the test of time. The electorates know that with APC’s high level mismanagement of the nation’s economy, coupled with the unparalleled insecurity in the land, APC will not go anywhere. Remember that Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Shehu Sani, Aminu Tambuwal and Rabiu Kwankwaso etc, left the ruling APC to rejoin PDP”.
According to a source, the current legal battle between the PDP governorship candidate for Ondo State election in October 2020, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) and Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has equally raised two germane issues that can wreak maximum harm on the APC. Jegede and the PDP has on technical grounds, asked the Supreme Court to decide if the APC was right to nominate a candidate for the Ondo governorship election when it had caretaker committee, which is not recognised by the constitution. The supreme court has also been tasked to decide on whether Buni could be an executive governor, while at the same time working in an executive capacity as the Interim National Chairman of the APC.
Whether it succeed in this or not, the PDP needs to do more to exploit inherent deficiencies in the APC.
For instance, it is possible to reverse the loss for the PDP in the next Imo, Ebonyi and Cross River governorship elections. For the records, APC has never won governorship elections in either of these three states in 20 years. The fact that the governors of these states have defected to the APC may not necessarily mean that the electorates will kowtow the governor’s directions.
Either way, the Buni led APC has continued to unleash unprecedented foray into the opposition PDP, and in the process, harvesting high caliber points that might make it practically impossible for the APC to lose in the next elections.
Though the recent defections of governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, Ben Ayade of Cross River and Bello Mattawalle of Zamfara states are a big leap to the party’s 2023 fortune, political observers are of the view that, as the party prepares for its forthcoming congresses, its success or failure depend largely on the leadership deftness of Mai mala Buni in dealing with the ensuing crisis from the congresses and the dexterity of his successor and his Exco.