BY KINGSLEY OPURUM
In this piece, KINGSLEY OPURUM X-rays the underlying rationale behind the defection of political big wigs from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East and its implications.
It goes without saying that the realignment of political forces in the South East geo-political zone has put the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on the edge as some redoubtable political heavyweights in the PDP have ditched the party to join the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Watchers of this political trend are perturbed at the astronomical rate in which this latest trend, in the last few months, is sweeping a zone that used to be PDP’s political fortress.
Among the PDP defectors are a former Senate president, Sen Ken Nnamani; a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; an immediate past governor of Enugu State, Sullivan Chime; a former governor of the old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo; and a former speaker of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Eugene Odo.
Others are a serving Senator Andy Uba; former Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, John Nwanunu, Nkechi Nwaogu, Fidelis Okoro, Chris Agboti; and a member of the House of Representatives, Tony Nwoye. Businessmen, Emeka Offor and Ifeanyi Uba, as well as the owner of Peace Mass Transit, Sam Onyishi, have also identified with the APC.
For more than a decade, the PDP has had a supremely good ride in the region as it was previously in total control of the entire five states of the zone until now that the party controls Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi while APC controls Imo State and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has Anambra State.
To underscore the volume of political clout the PDP wielded in the South East, in 2015, all the 15 senatorial seats were initially won by the PDP. The APC subsequently clinched the Imo North senatorial seat when a bye-election was conducted in that district last year.
Of the 41 House of Representatives seats, the PDP won 38 leaving only three for the APC. The main opposition party also swept majority of the seats in the five state Houses ofAssembly.
The PDP also swept the presidential election in the zone. Its candidate, former President Goodluck Jonathan, polled a total of 2,464,906 votes in the zone. His main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, got a paltry 208,248 votes.
Meanwhile, pundits have continued to wonder about the rationale that accompanies the political twists and turns, which have culminated in colossal defection of PDP chieftains to APC in Igboland.
In a bid to adduce a possible reason for the political upheaval, some commentators have pinned it down to the fact that the defection of those politicians is a ploy to evade prosecution, having perceived the anti-corruption war to be lopsided, while others are of the opinion that the decampees are simply scrambling for political relevance and contracts to keep body and soul together.
Hunger for contracts, appointments and anti-corruption survival tactics.
Various reasons have been deduced for the exodus. The deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, recently said that PDP members exiting to the APC were hungry for appointments and contracts, stressing that they would regret their actions.
“We want them to see if they can join the lunch, breakfast or dinner going on in the APC. At the appropriate time, we will know who is who,” he said.
Similarly, the factional chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said the APC would not fulfill whatever promises made to them.
A PDP chieftain from the north said that some party members were running to avoid being probed by the EFCC.
“Some PDP governors in the past administration have today decamped to the APC and the singular objective is to avoid being probed or investigated. Most of the ministers today in the APC administration were governors of various states. If the former governors of Admawa, Katsina, Jigawa and others are being probed, what stops the government from probing former governors of Rivers, Plateau and Lagos states?” he asked.
Preparation for 2019
Pundits have said that the reason some PDP chieftains are gravitating to the ruling party is to have a viable and stronger platform on which to contest elections considering that the PDP’s crisis has shown no sign of abating.
One of the defectors stated that elected officers on the party’s platform who are in their first term wouldn’t want to suffer defeat while seeking a second term.
“Let me tell you, I am convinced that some of the elected senators jumping ship is to secure their second term bids. Look, nobody would want to lose election for anything. The PDP is now a sinking ship. It has no relevance and cannot be used again. If you want to contest any election and you are still in the PDP, what it means is that you don’t have a platform. Remember what happened in Edo and Ondo states governorship elections last year.
“That is why Governor Ayodele Fayose saw it and said that he was considering the possibility of leaving the party. I think that is why they even made him chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum so that they will hold him back,” he said.
Recall that the political mediation being brokered by former president Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has suffered a setback; and the only hope for the party seems to be the much awaited judgment of the Supreme Court.
Analysts are wondering whether the much anticipated Supreme Court judgment will pave way for another gale of defections and finally nail the party’s coffin.
APC ‘s Plan B
The national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odige-Oyegun, recently said that the Igbo deserves the presidency of Nigeria, going by their industry and history in Nigeria.
He noted that it is only through the platform of the APC that Igbo presidency could be guaranteed. Oyegun said that the people of the South East are entitled to full participation in the national ruling party, disclosing that most states in the zone are already embracing the party.
“This is the semi-final in the South East. I will come one more time to bury PDP in the South East.
“This is a humbling experience wth the wreckage of our once upon great party PDP, there seems to be no other option. The only place for any active politician now is the APC. The PDP that was dear to us is now dead.
“I thought I was coming for its funeral today but the chairman said he has postponed it till his next coming,” Oyegun said.
Some analysts have opined that since the former Governor of Lagos State and the national leader of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who called the shots in the political landscape of the South-West, is allegedly disenchanted over the goings-on in the party, replicating the 2015 Presidential election feat in the region may be a hard nut to crack, which is why APC has decided to turn its attention to the South-East as the party’s plan B.
These analysts believe that if APC succeeds in capturing the South-East, the party will not pander to the whims and caprices of Tinubu in the build-up to the 2019 Presidential election.
Some political commentators have posited that the defection of these PDP chieftains to APC may spell doom for the ruling party, believing that these new APC members are not faithful party members but are solely interested in positions and contracts, and if such is not given to them, they will plot the party’s demise and decamp.
A chieftain of the APC and political analyst, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, said the defections may cause an implosion in the APC. He argued that some of the PDP defectors do not want to go into the “grave” with the party so they look at the APC as the safe haven for them.
“Some of them are sponsoring small parties now so that when they cause a serious implosion in the APC, they will find their way into the small parties. So the people running up and down now to register new parties are just proxies.
“The financiers, the heavy weights are hiding somewhere. The APC must be very careful. However, I want to advise Mr. President never to have pity on any one coming in under any guise. Arrest them, probe them and if possible, jail them,” he said.
Similarly, national secretary of Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO), Nnenna Lancaster Okorie seems bothered also.
The former Senatorial aspirant under APC platform in Abia North in the 2015 general elections, said “If the South East are all rushing to join the party, is it all the people that are rushing that will have the opportunity to run for presidency? It is not but I said whatever their reasons may be, those in APC must have done something good to encourage other people to join.”
But it appears that a simmering tussle is brewing as the new APC entrants seem poised to hijack the party structures in the region from pre-2014 chieftains of the party.
For instance, it is perceived that members of old guard in the mould of former governor Ogbonnaya Onu, Sen Chris Ngige, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, are in for a tough season as the new entrants who are mainly money bags are out to dictate the pace of the party in the region.
Nevertheless, the first major test for the APC in the region is the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State.