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PDP Shrinks, ACN Swells

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Defections from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have continued to boost  opposition parties, especially the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. MOYO FABIYI  notes that the trend may continue ahead of the 2011 elections as the PDP faces intra  party crises in almost all the 36 states of the federation.

The issue of carpet-crossing, decampment or defection played a prominent role in the  politics of the First Republic so much so that it was entrenched in the 1979  constitution ahead of the ill-fated Second Republic that defection was illegal,  which meant any public office holder who defected to another party automatically  loses his seat. The same clause was also entrenched in the 1999 constitution  currently in operation.

However, the ruling party threw caution and constitutionality to the dogs when it  was reaping from defection. Therefore many public office holders today saw nothing  bad when they decamped to the ruling PDP and continued in office. For example, the  likes of Senators Musiliu Obanikoro and Adeseye Ogunlewe defected from the Alliance  for Democracy, AD, and retained their seats in Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber  for the remaining part of their tenure.

The tide has turned against the PDP in the gale of defection occasioned by the  crises that has rocked the ruling party in almost every state of the federation.  Ahead of the 2011 elections, the issue of zoning which had torn the party apart, the  electoral victories of the ACN in Edo and Ekiti State and the Labour Party LP’s  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 dubbed  “political earthquake” on Saturday, 31 October, 2009 at the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium,  Benin City. At the rally, hundreds of thousands of PDP loyalists publicly announced  their readiness to jettison the PDP and pitch their tent with the ACN.

Prominent PDP leaders from across Edo State attended the rally including council  chairmen, councillors and other party chieftains who declared their defection from  the PDP to the ACN. Like in many other states, where crises have reduced the ruling  party to a mere shadow of itself, the decampees in Edo State blamed their defection  on one “Mr. Fix it” whom they accused of being responsible for the woes of the party  in Edo State.

About three weeks ago, a similar earthquake shook Delta State where a former  governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Ovie Omo-Agege, not only jettisoned  the ruling party and embraced the ACN; he announced that about 10,000 of his  supporters were ready to move with him to the ACN. That was before the Court of  Appeal sitting in Benin City sacked the former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta  State and ordered a fresh election within 90 days.

In Ogun State, former All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP governorship candidate,  Senator Ibikunle Amosun has expressed willingness to join hands with the ACN in the  state to further his political ambition. Similarly, his Oyo State counterpart,  Senator Abiola Ajimobi recently tilted towards the ACN, in his 2011 political  calculations.

Perhaps the most stunning news recently concerning defection came from the floor of  the Senate last Wednesday. Senator Adego Eferakeya from Delta State and Senator Joel  Danlami from Taraba State announced they have resigned their membership of the PDP  and were ready to join the ACN. Their colleague, Senator Umar Argungu from Kebbi  State decamped from the PDP to pitch his tent with the General Muhammadu Buhari led  Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. The trio have thus brought to four the number  of senators that decamped from the PDP within one month. The first PDP senator to  decamp from the PDP to ACN was Ehigie Uzamere from Edo State.

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Each of the defectors blamed their decampment on the unending crises within the  ruling party in their states. They were afraid that their continued stay in the PDP  might nail their political coffins. They therefore have the leverage in the  constitution that allowed defection where a political party is engulfed in crises  that divides it into factions.

The PDP could not pretend that all is well with the party considering the spate of  cross carpeting rocking the party. An influential member of the party from Adamawa  State, Senator Jubril Aminu exclaimed on the floor of the Senate that: “I wish to  draw the attention of PDP national headquarters to do something because the rate at  which the crossing away from the party is alarming.”

The Senate President, David Mark, could not but agree with Senator Aminu after  Mark’s subtle but vain attempt to keep the defecting senators in the party.

“I don’t understand how you will leave the known for the unknown,” Mark had earlier  remarked. But the three senators were determined to forsake the PDP for other  parties that are better organised and prepared for the task ahead in 2011 as against  the ruling PDP, which had been be plagued by crises in almost all the states in  Nigeria.

Meanwhile, a source at the National Assembly confirmed that more elected members of  the PDP will defect to opposition parties, especially the ACN, in the next few  weeks. “More members of the National Assembly are taking their time; they will soon  join their colleagues in the ACN and other opposition parties. The issue of zoning  that is presently tearing apart the PDP will force more office seekers to move to  any political party where they feel their aspirations will be met.”

And in Lagos, the former minority leader in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Avoseh  from Badagry area of the state decamped recently from the PDP to the ACN for the  same reason.

“I have watched with keen interest, compared and contrasted what the ACN has done  and is still doing in Lagos and Edo states, with the performance of governors in  other states. Definitely, we have (in Lagos) a governor that has succeeded in  accelerating the progress of the state in just three years. It takes only  courage  coupled with tenacity of purpose, doggedness of will and ruggedness of patriotic  spirit to face every challenge in the state,” Avoseh said.

From across the country, the recent gale of decampment may leave the ruling party a  shadow of its former self even before next year’s general elections.

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