if anything has attracted widespread reactions in the political space in recent time, it is the final dumping of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by a former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his audacious return to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The political atmosphere has become pressured since this political colossus changed party. Because of that, heavyweight politicians and ardent supporters alike have not pretended their stands by making their voices loud on whether the defection was apt or not.
Following his resignation from the APC, Atiku announced days after that he has pitched his tent with the PDP, his former party and would be joining the opposition crusaders to ‘change the change’.
Apart from his perceived desperate quest to become the president of Nigeria, there are several other obvious reasons why Atiku decided to dump APC. Of course, it is not yet established whether the elder statesman was pushed out of APC or hounded and witch hunted by an unnamed cabal in government.
The thought is provoked by the fact that same Atiku had joined the APC and was glaringly one of its major financiers, and for him to eventually leave what he has assisted to build without any regret, depicts clearly that he may be heading for more gains than loses.
One will retrospect that in 2006, just before the expiration of his tenure with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku, sensing that he did not have Obasanjo’s support to run for the presidency, he defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
He contested the 2007 general elections but lost to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
Atiku afterwards returned to the PDP in 2009 but could not clinch the party’s presidential ticket for 2011. Therefore, he again announced his defection from the PDP to the then newly formed APC, citing, among other things, the “impunity that had become part of PDP’s DNA.” He contested the Presidential primaries of the APC in 2015 but lost to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Certainly, the 2017 defection of Atiku is not be the first. But like in his previous defections, there is always one cogent reason, disagreement or another that propelled him to switch parties.
This time, Atiku attributed his defection to the APC regime of draconian clampdown on democratic tenets and the party.
In a press statement he personally signed and made available to newsmen, Atiku explained that while other parties had purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality, the ruling APC adopted same practices.
He stated that the ruling party had instituted “a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.”
Atiku said, “Members of the APC made the appeal to me to join their party, with the promise that the injustices and failure to abide by its own constitution which had dogged the then PDP would not be replicated in the APC and with the assurance that the vision of the founding fathers which I had for the PDP could be actualised through the All Progressives Congress.
“It was on the basis of this invitation and the assurances made to me that I, being party-less at that time, due to the fractionalisation of my party, accepted on February 2, 2014, the hand of fellowship given to me by the All Progressives Congress .
“On that day, I said ‘it is the struggle for democracy and constitutionalism and service to my country and my people that are driving my choice and my decision” to accept the invitation to join the All Progressives Congress.”
Explaining the reason behind his decision to leave the APC, Atiku said events which unfolded soon after the party took power , proved his earlier optimism was misplaced . He said like any other human and many other Nigerians , he was fallible .
Atiku accused the party of making false promises especially to those who were invited to join.
“More importantly, the party we put in place has failed and continues to fail. A party that does not take the youth into account is a dying party. The future belongs to young people,” he said.
He further explained that he arrived at the decision to leave the APC after due consultation with his God, family, supporters and the Nigerian people from all walks of life.
While many observers including politicians have hailed his firm decision, others have castigated it, describing him as a serial defector.
For the APC, there is no cause to worry. His defection is being considered by the party as a relief from the unwanted. Quite impressed, the PDP is of the position that Atiku’s defection is welcomed due to the fact that it has further shown the failed nature of APC as a party which is not able to positively change the lives of people.
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has insisted that the exit of the former vice president from the party will not lead to mass exodus party. He stated that contrary to speculations, the APC is growing stronger by the day.
“As a parting shot, I want to say let nobody fear that the defection of the former vice president is going to lead to any deluge. If anybody wants to defect, the day he will defect will be the day you will bring out your heavy guns not later as the media are speculating that some will still go with him. It is not like that. You stand and when they look at your right and left they will say that this man has done something great. So, don’t ever be afraid that is going to be any massive defection. As a matter of fact, the contrary will be the case,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the PDP in a statement by the national publicity secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said the party remains Atiku’s home, now and always.
“The PDP welcomes the return of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, (Wazirin Adamawa) to our great party, the PDP today. We are indeed glad that he has realized the unbridled lies/deceit of his former party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). The PDP remains his home; a house he was part of building and which he helped to nurture. We believe his return will add value in the process of rebuilding our party to greater heights.
“This is another milestone recorded by the current leadership of our party in its quest to reconcile, rebuild and restructure the PDP ahead of the 2019 general elections and beyond. We will continue to remain transparent and dedicated to the service of this party. Again, we want to use this opportunity to call on all our members that are still in the APC or other parties to return home,” he stated.
As it is, politics in Nigeria is so delicate and unpredictable that it becomes so difficult to tell exactly what and why politicians shuffle parties to achieve. But for Atiku, the writing is clearly on the wall and it is left to be seen what democracy can portend in the nearby time.
Speaking on the defection, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida said the defection of Atiku is nothing of any worry or wrong.
His words: “He is a Nigerian, he is allowed to go to any party and our constitution allows it, so, it is not new and there is nothing wrong for politician to move from one party to another.”
However, like the popular saying, “a toad does not run in day time unless it is being pursued by something.” Therefore, with Atiku’s defection, there is no wasting time to think that all is well.
Perhaps, there may be gains, just as there might be losses. In a political equation, for a heavy weight like Atiku who has a large national followership to leave a ruling party, it indicates that the part’s support base must have depleted.
This is why Timi Frank, a deputy national publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said the defection of former vice president Atiku Abubakar to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should make leaders of the ruling party sober because, according to him, the failure of APC leaders is the reason for Atiku’s defection and other politicians who have left the ruling party.
As such, it is not dicey of a prevailing situation that the opposition party, the PDP to which the defector, backed by his scores of supporters, is joining can be any less in support status. To this end and regardless of whose ox is gored, Atiku is a big fish and with large chunk of political supporters, his return will raise the status bar of PDP while it is unarguable that the APC’s will be deflated.
Concurring, the Senate deputy president, Ike Ekweremadu described the return of Atiku to the Peoples Democratic Party as a welcome development, not only for the party but also for Nigeria ’s democracy .
Ekweremadu, in a statement by his special adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said “The dumping of the APC by Alhaji Atiku is a welcome development for the PDP, but more importantly for Nigeria’s democracy.
“Nigeria is in dire need of a rescue mission to rekindle hope in our democracy, restore it on the path of prosperity and halt the worsening divisiveness that threatens our corporate existence.”
Indeed, there are pointers that Atiku’s defection must have been propelled by his long standing and or burning political ambition to clinch Nigeria’s presidential throne.
It is factual that the ruling APC, with its posturing resolve to achieve the re-election of President Muhammad Buhari, the coast is not clear for any member to secure the party’s ticket hence the defection of Atiku.
It must be noted, however, that the coalition of Niger Delta youth groups, and some other groups and individuals are rather urging Atiku to rein in his presidential ambition. The Niger Delta group has asked Atiku to rather sit back and play leadership role in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. This was contained in a statement signed by its chairman, Harry Lawson and secretary, Preye Wilson.
As it stands, it is obvious that the defection of Atiku, be it self-serving or not, has come and with mixed reactions, high hopes and expectations. Whether the situation is minus for the ruling APC and plus for the opposition PDP, the reality will soon present itself as event unfolds.