22nd November, 2010
Defections from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have continued to boostÂ opposition parties, especially the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. MOYO FABIYIÂ notes that the trend may continue ahead of the 2011 elections as the PDP faces intraÂ party crises in almost all the 36 states of the federation.
The issue of carpet-crossing, decampment or defection played a prominent role in theÂ politics of the First Republic so much so that it was entrenched in the 1979Â constitution ahead of the ill-fated Second Republic that defection was illegal,Â which meant any public office holder who defected to another party automaticallyÂ loses his seat. The same clause was also entrenched in the 1999 constitutionÂ currently in operation.
However, the ruling party threw caution and constitutionality to the dogs when itÂ was reaping from defection. Therefore many public office holders today saw nothingÂ bad when they decamped to the ruling PDP and continued in office. For example, theÂ likes of Senators Musiliu Obanikoro and Adeseye Ogunlewe defected from the AllianceÂ for Democracy, AD, and retained their seats in Nigeriaâ€™s upper legislative chamberÂ for the remaining part of their tenure.
The tide has turned against the PDP in the gale of defection occasioned by theÂ crises that has rocked the ruling party in almost every state of the federation.Â Ahead of the 2011 elections, the issue of zoning which had torn the party apart, theÂ electoral victories of the ACN in Edo and Ekiti State and the Labour Party LPâ€™sÂ triumph in Ondo State have started to take their toll on the PDP.
First, the then Action Congress, AC, (now ACN) in Edo State organised what it dubbedÂ â€œpolitical earthquakeâ€ on Saturday, 31 October, 2009 at the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium,Â Benin City. At the rally, hundreds of thousands of PDP loyalists publicly announcedÂ their readiness to jettison the PDP and pitch their tent with the ACN.
Prominent PDP leaders from across Edo State attended the rally including councilÂ chairmen, councillors and other party chieftains who declared their defection fromÂ the PDP to the ACN. Like in many other states, where crises have reduced the rulingÂ party to a mere shadow of itself, the decampees in Edo State blamed their defectionÂ on one â€œMr. Fix itâ€ whom they accused of being responsible for the woes of the partyÂ in Edo State.
About three weeks ago, a similar earthquake shook Delta State where a formerÂ governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Ovie Omo-Agege, not only jettisonedÂ the ruling party and embraced the ACN; he announced that about 10,000 of hisÂ supporters were ready to move with him to the ACN. That was before the Court ofÂ Appeal sitting in Benin City sacked the former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan of DeltaÂ State and ordered a fresh election within 90 days.
In Ogun State, former All Nigeria Peopleâ€™s Party, ANPP governorship candidate,Â Senator Ibikunle Amosun has expressed willingness to join hands with the ACN in theÂ state to further his political ambition. Similarly, his Oyo State counterpart,Â Senator Abiola Ajimobi recently tilted towards the ACN, in his 2011 politicalÂ calculations.
Perhaps the most stunning news recently concerning defection came from the floor ofÂ the Senate last Wednesday. Senator Adego Eferakeya from Delta State and Senator JoelÂ Danlami from Taraba State announced they have resigned their membership of the PDPÂ and were ready to join the ACN. Their colleague, Senator Umar Argungu from KebbiÂ State decamped from the PDP to pitch his tent with the General Muhammadu Buhari ledÂ Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. The trio have thus brought to four the numberÂ of senators that decamped from the PDP within one month. The first PDP senator toÂ decamp from the PDP to ACN was Ehigie Uzamere from Edo State.
Each of the defectors blamed their decampment on the unending crises within theÂ ruling party in their states. They were afraid that their continued stay in the PDPÂ might nail their political coffins. They therefore have the leverage in theÂ constitution that allowed defection where a political party is engulfed in crisesÂ that divides it into factions.
The PDP could not pretend that all is well with the party considering the spate ofÂ cross carpeting rocking the party. An influential member of the party from AdamawaÂ State, Senator Jubril Aminu exclaimed on the floor of the Senate that: â€œI wish toÂ draw the attention of PDP national headquarters to do something because the rate atÂ which the crossing away from the party is alarming.â€
The Senate President, David Mark, could not but agree with Senator Aminu afterÂ Markâ€™s subtle but vain attempt to keep the defecting senators in the party.
â€œI donâ€™t understand how you will leave the known for the unknown,â€ Mark had earlierÂ remarked. But the three senators were determined to forsake the PDP for otherÂ parties that are better organised and prepared for the task ahead in 2011 as againstÂ the ruling PDP, which had been be plagued by crises in almost all the states inÂ Nigeria.
Meanwhile, a source at the National Assembly confirmed that more elected members ofÂ the PDP will defect to opposition parties, especially the ACN, in the next fewÂ weeks. â€œMore members of the National Assembly are taking their time; they will soonÂ join their colleagues in the ACN and other opposition parties. The issue of zoningÂ that is presently tearing apart the PDP will force more office seekers to move toÂ any political party where they feel their aspirations will be met.â€
And in Lagos, the former minority leader in the State House of Assembly, Hon. AvosehÂ from Badagry area of the state decamped recently from the PDP to the ACN for theÂ same reason.
â€œI have watched with keen interest, compared and contrasted what the ACN has doneÂ and is still doing in Lagos and Edo states, with the performance of governors inÂ other states. Definitely, we have (in Lagos) a governor that has succeeded inÂ accelerating the progress of the state in just three years. It takes onlyÂ courageÂ coupled with tenacity of purpose, doggedness of will and ruggedness of patrioticÂ spirit to face every challenge in the state,” Avoseh said.
From across the country, the recent gale of decampment may leave the ruling party aÂ shadow of its former self even before next yearâ€™s general elections.