With the recent defection of Senate minority whip, Godswill Akpabio and former Delta State governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan to the APC, the stage appears set for the governing party to make inroads in the South South. In this piece, JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH looks at the political equation in respect of how this may change the tide for the party in the region.
One of the biggest upset in this season of defections and carpet crossing is the defection of Senate minority leader and former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC). For the major opposition party in the country, Apkabio’s exit was the unkindest cut of them all. It was a big blow to the PDP ahead of the 2019 general election.
It is even so when it is considered that the defections of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, governors of Sokoto, Kwara and Benue did not come as a surprise to the party and political analysts as well. By permutations and hindsight, it was already apparent that these men’s heart and soul were no longer in the APC. Their exit from the governing party was expected, which explains why their movement did not generate a storm as envisaged.
But when rumours filtered in that Akpabio was planning to defect, not a few political observers dismissed it as mere beer parlour gossip. The thinking was that a possible defection of the former govenor who was one time chairman of the PDP govenors forum and a prominent member of the last administration was the last thing anybody could think of.
Like a bolt from the blues, Akpabio eventually defected to the APC last month, with a pledge to take the people of Akwa Ibom State and the entire South South zone to the centre of meaningful visibilty. He told the huge crowd at a ceremony to mark his defection that he decided to join APC because he discovered that President Buhari “is a man of integrity and a nationalist’’.
Akpabio noted that he decided to join a party that is poised to sweep away poverty and impunity from the land. He said he joined APC to help salvage the country.
“The country is at war and all the hands must be on deck to salvage the situation and not to aggravate it.
“As keepers of national emergency, everyone should put heads together. I decided to join to emancipate the people and provide succour for the people”, he said, adding that the PDP of today lack vision, even as the party’s leadership is replete with arrogance.
The dust of Akpabio’s defection was yet to settle when news filtered in that former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, was planning to defect to the APC. The former governor confirmed his defection by attending the APC caucus meeting last week Tuesday at the presidential villa. He said that one of the factors that brought him to the ruling party was the massive developments coming to the Niger Delta area under the Buhari administration.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Uduaghan said, “Politics is about interest. I’m from the Niger Delta and I managed a lot of crises in Niger Delta. Sometimes I went to the creeks and engaged the boys and my principle when I was managing the Niger Delta crisis was out of engagement. And the current APC government succeeded in managing the crises they met through engagement.
“The president was seeing a lot of leaders from the Niger Delta, while the vice president went from state to state of oil producing states, making a lot of engagements and agreements were reached. Nobody at that level had gone from state to state before in Nigeria. This was the first time and of course if that is happening, the crisis is not over, they need to be supported by those of us from the Niger Delta who are passionate about Niger Delta so that, in moving forward, we can have solutions to the crisis of Niger Delta.
“If a new person comes he would start putting agreement up again and all that. Secondly, in the area of infrastructure, this government has done very well. Talking about my state, for the first time a rail line came to Delta; for the first time the gas city, which we have been talking about, a committee has been officially inaugurated and for the time we have human capital development projects, school feeding and a lot is happening in Niger Delta.
“So for me, let me join the party to be able to effect changes because we cannot achieve anything by working from the outside in the Niger Delta. Some of us have to join the APC train and many people are going to come with me so that we can achieve a lot more in the Niger Delta for the APC government. Politics is about regional interest and I’m interested in the Niger Delta”.
Pundits aver that Uduaghans exceeding coming almost immediately Akpabio left the PDP shook the fabric of the party in the South South. For them, this is a step in which the party may fall or else overleap in the zone.
But there are Keen observers of the polity are still skeptical about the possibility of the defections of Akpabio and Uduaghan changing the political tide for APC in the South South. No doubt, these two politicians have paid their dues in the South South and their exit from the PDP is instructive but the question is, can they muster the kind of number that would cause an upset in the region for the APC?
The APC performed abysmally in the South South in the 2015 general elections. Save for Edo, the PDP is firmly in control of the South South. Until recently, the PDP was turning into a South South and South East party but with the recent defections from its fold,the party is gradually losing its mojo.
The APC was in control of the south West, North West, North East and North central but recent events especially the incessant killings in the north central becoming the epicentre of herdsmen killing in Nigeria may jeopardise the APC’s chances in the region.
According to some politcal analysts, the APC needs to regain lost grounds in the North Central by making inroads into the South South and South East. It is trite to say that the APC will still have a strong show in the North East, North West and South West in the 2019 election. Bracing the party further are recent events, which indicate that the South South seems to be the new fertile ground for the APC.
APC is wooing former governors into its fold to change the narrative of the party in the region. Politics, they say, is a game of numbers and anything the APC does to woo new members is a welcome political strategy ahead of 2019. But will the desired results be achieved in the general election? Only time will tell.
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