2019: Ominous gale of defections and other matters

At the rate defections from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC) have been going on ahead of next month’s election, curious and quite foreboding it should be to observers. It should not be surprising if the main contest between President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) and his challenger Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (PDP) ends up a ‘no-contest’. Whether or not this would augur well for Nigeria’s democratic system in the long run should be a topic for another day. No less a person as former two-term Bauchi State governor Adamu Mu’azu, who was also PDP Chairman in the last dispensation, is the latest defector. He is accompanied by former Head of Service of the Federation, former Minister of Defence and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed. Yayale held these key positions at various times under the Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan administrations. So, he is an influential politician no one can overlook. Quite a few others of various political weights have joined the two Bauchi heavyweights in defecting from PDP to APC. Of course, it is obvious that both men would campaign for Buhari.

In Niger state, the immediate past chairman of PDP in the state, Abdulraheem Enagi, recently defected from the party and joined APC along with his followers. Four PDP governorship aspirants of the PDP led by Ahmed Ibeto who left his ambassadorial post to join PDP late last year have moved to APC along with their thick population of supporters.

You may say that the defections are happening on both directions-APC and PDP. However, it is the calibre of people who are making this last moment decisions and the amount of following that they enjoy that appear to be tilting the balance of support in favour of APC, perhaps the desire to work for the re-election of President Buhari as their main attraction.

It is just as curious that the PDP governors, expected to be led by Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, have not been showing firm commitment to Atiku’s pursuit of the presidency so far, at least publicly. Rather, they have subtly campaigned for Buhari by highlighting his ‘strides’ in their states in a manner that could undermine their presidential candidate. Or how do you explain a situation when a South-east state PDP governor acknowledged the fact that the presence of the federal government in infrastructural development in the area under the Buhari government has been unprecedented. Another PDP governor from the South-south expressed similar sentiment recently. Even Wike who does not appear to be on the same wavelength at any time with the president told Buhari when he went to commission the new look Port Harcourt International Airport that his people “will love this”. It could be that these developments have had a telling negative effect on Atiku’s campaign, as his team tends to watch every step that the opponent’s camp takes and reacts or concocts outright lies to gain some momentum. In addition to this is the sticky image issue that Atiku has had to contend with, even prior to the campaign kick-off in November. Curiously also, he has rather carried on with the campaign than make any serious attempt at burnishing the sagging image.

The irony of the current political situation is that it is not as if the Buhari administration has been insulated from pre-election turbulence. Far from it! The opposition is not short of spokesmen in their various corners firing verbal salvos at the president and his government. Are they not the ones that came up with the wild and unbridled rumour that Buhari did not recover from his illness? There is nothing they did not do to pin on Mr. President, a strange identity of someone from Sudan. The fluke has died down now and the originators have been put to shame. That is the effect of phantom lies. However, they are not done yet. The opposition is now parading motley of political parties in some incoherent number as being the electoral block behind Atiku. Even, one Galadima who was on Buhari’s side throughout the tortuous campaign in 2015 is now moving from one TV house to another singing like canary about his previous association with the president and his doomsday prediction that the APC flag-bearer is certain to lose the forthcoming election.

Already, PDP leaders are sounding as if they are preparing for defeat in the election as they drum it in the ears of everyone who cares to listen to them that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC would rig the election in favour of the APC candidate. Only a party that is not sure of its electoral fortune would take on the umpire in that manner.

However, as things stand, the Atiku camp knows it has a huge job in its hand against the incumbent president. Should the gale of defections continue at the rate that we are seeing it now, the Atiku camp would have to contend with a battle against desertion which will be a costly distraction in his quest to wrest power from Buhari.

Sanni writes from Lagos

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