Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar last month dumped the APC, a move indicative of the possibility of some other politicians to follow the trend before the 2019 general elections. In this report, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH attempts a prognosis of the possible big names that are poised to defect from the ruling party.
The antecedents of a typical Nigerian politician can be likened to John Quinton’s observation. The former chairman of Barclays Bank probably had Nigerian politicians in mind when he declared years ago that “politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel”.
That has been the story of Nigerian politicians for some years now and with the next political season around the corner, the unfolding scenario is no different. Ahead of the 2019 general election, political realignment has started in earnest.
Last week, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar dumped the ruling All Progressives Congress for an unknown destination. He cited exclusion in the inner workings and fractionalization of the party as reasons for embarking on this latest defection.
In a statement titled, ‘Resignation of His Excellency Atiku Abubakar (Waziri Adamawa) Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007 from the All Progressives Congress’ Atiku said he was relaxing comfortably and luxuriously in his house in Abuja on December 19, 2013 when members of the All Progressives Congress showed up. According to Atiku, they had come to appeal to hm to join their party after his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), became factionalized as a result of the special convention of August 31, 2013.
The former VP said, “The fractionalization of the Peoples Democratic Party on August 31, 2013 had left me in a situation where I was, with several other loyal party members, in limbo, not knowing which of the parallel executives of the party was the legitimate leadership.
“It was under this cloud that 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 other founding fathers and I had for the PDP could be actualized 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 fractionalization 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. Like you, I said that because I believed that we had finally seen the beginnings of the rebirth of the new Nigeria of our dreams which would work for all of us, old and young”.
Stating his reasons for leaving the APC, Atiku continued: “However, events of the intervening years have shown that like any other human and like many other Nigerians, I was fallible. While other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalization, the All Progressives Congress has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.
“Only last year, a governor produced by the party wrote a secret memorandum to the president which ended up being leaked. In that memo, he admitted that the All Progressives Congress had ‘not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance’.
“Of the party itself, that same governor said ‘Mr. President, Sir Your relationship with the national leadership of the party, both the formal (NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), and former Governors of ANPP, PDP (that joined us) and ACN, is perceived by most observers to be at best frosty. Many of them are aggrieved due to what they consider total absence of consultations with them on your part and those you have assigned such duties.’
“Since that memorandum was written up until today, nothing has been done to reverse the treatment meted out to those of us invited to join the All Progressives Congress on the strength of a promise that has proven to be false. If anything, those behaviours have actually worsened”.
Atiku’s exit has continued to generate ripples in the polity. Kaduna State governor, Nasir el- Rufai described it as good riddance to bad rubbish, assuring that no governor will follow the former vice president.
Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow, governor of Atiku’s home state, Adamawa, was the Presidential Villa last week where he pledged his loyalty to President Buhari. He dismissed insinuations that he might follow suit, saying he would pitch his tent with the ruling party for the rest of his life.
Bindow said, “Let me talk about Atiku first before myself. The former vice president is more than matured enough to decide whatever he wants to decide for himself. As far as I am concerned, I am one of the founding fathers of APC. When I was in the Senate, we were the ones, alongside the current Senate president, that worked very hard to ensure that all members of the National Assembly move to APC”.
Political analysts have averred that if politicians in the country choose to play true to type of what is archetypal of them, then the stage is set for a harvest of defections. The thinking is that apart from Atiku’s supporters who are certainly going to move with him from the governing APC, there are other prominent politicians in the partt, especially those with ambition, who will be warming up to tow the former VP’s part. This might trigger a mass exodus from the party.
Events in the past few days gives credence to this political forecast. Below are the some of the party bigwigs who may likely thread on Atiku’s path.
According to political watchers, it is just a matter of time before the former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, will eventually dump the APC, probably for the PDP. The leader of the Kwankwasiya movement has never concealed his desire to be president of Nigeria. He contested the APC Presidential primaries in 2014 where he emerged runner up to President Buhari.
No doubt, it is becoming clearer that President Buhari will run for a second term in 2019 and for Kwankwaso to realise his presidential ambition, he has to look elsewhere. The PDP has been wooing the Senator back to the party. The party has also zoned its presidential ticket to the North and Kwankwaso may fancy his chances against Atiku. Afterall, in the last APC primaries he defeated Atiku and may repeat the same feat in the PDP primaries.
However, he may face some hurdles, as the PDP structures in Kano is already in the hands of former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, who also nurses presidential ambition. In the APC, he is being schemed out by the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Last week, according to his nephew, Kwankwaso reportedly gave his supporters the go-ahead to dump the APC. The revelation came from no less a person than the former governor’s nephew, Iliyasu Kwankwaso, who is the present commissioner for Special Duties in Kano State. He was quoted to have said Senator Kwankwaso was ready to decamp to the PDP for the actualisation of his presidential ambition since he could not achieve it in the APC.
According to Iliyasu, the Senator representing Kano Central Senatorial District, has already asked his supporters to join the PDP. His words: “Already, he has given the go-ahead to his supporters to join the PDP in Kano state so that they can contest in the forthcoming local government election in the state.
“But what I can assure him is that the APC will win all the 44 local governments because of the growing supporters’ base of Governor Ganduje.
“It was because of Kwankwaso that the chairman of the PDP was thrown out of office because they wanted to hand over the party structures to him ahead of his defection. They want to use red caps to cause confusion during President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit next month. We will not allow that because Kano people are for Buhari all the time”.
The Senator has, however, refuted the report. “Disregard fake news circulating through Social media that Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso ordered his followers to dump APC for PDP.. The news is untrue and total lie, disgust it. Senator Kwankwaso and his followers are still in APC”, he said.
Senator Shehu Sani
An activist turned politician, Senator Shehu Sani may have to leave the APC for him to achieve his dream of becoming the governor of Kaduna State or retain his seat at the Red Chambers. The running battle between the Senator and Kaduna State governor, Nasir el- Rufai is well documented. Efforts to reconcile the duo have proved abortive.
Senator Sani wanted to contest the gubernatorial election in 2015 and was persuaded to drop out of the race because stories making the round then was that Buhari had already endorsed el- Rufai to be governor. He now opted for the Senate where he won convincingly. But since then, things have been going down the drain.
The APC in Kaduna has already endorsed el- Rufai for a second term. The governor has the right of first refusal . That is another door shut for Senator Sani. The governor is also grooming someone to take over Sani in the Senate in 2019 and presently, the governor is controlling the structures of the APC in the state.
Pundits posit that unless some form of reconciliation takes place before then, the governor will make sure Sani doesn’t get the APC senatorial ticket. If that scenario plays out, Sani may have no choice but to defect to another party to realise his gubernatorial ambition or return to the Senate.
Senator Dino Melaye
Arguably the most controversial Senator in the Red Chamber, coming back to the Senate as an APC Senator may be a tall order for the Kogi West Senator. In a case similar to Shehu Sani’s, Dino Melaye and his state governor, Yahaya Bello, are having a running battle of supremacy. In Dino’s case, political watchers contend that the governor will deploy all resources to make sure he doesn’t get the APC Senatorial ticket in Kogi West.
At the party’s national level, Dino has stepped on toes and burned many bridges. In the Senate, he has been one of the biggest opposition to some of the president’s policies. One would will be forgiven to think that he belongs to the opposition party. It was Dino who hammered the final nail on the coffin of acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, during his confirmation hearing. He makes the job of the opposition easier in the Senate. His fight with the wife of the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, is equally not forgotten.
At the moment, Dino’s only ally in the APC is Senate President Bukola Saraki, which may not be enough to save him. To return to the upper chamber or challenge the governor for the gubernatorial ticket, he may need to leave the APC.