Gale of defections: Thin hope for PDP as fortunes plummet

…Defectors intimidated by govt instrument – Secondus

…No, APC more transparent – Gombe gov

‘…Party’s 2023 chances slimmer’

…We aren’t losing sleep – PDP

…Nemesis catching up with them – Ojo

‘…It’s gradually losing grip as main opposition party’

 Ahead 2023 general elections, governors, lawmakers and other critical stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been leaving the party for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU and BODE OLAGOKE in this report x-ray the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the dark clouds over the leading opposition party.

Governor of Ebonyi state Dave Umahi left the party last year; the governor of Cross River state, Ben Ayade, also defected to the APC not long ago and only last week, a PDP senator, Peter Nwaoboshi, followed the same route. On June 29, 2021, the Zamfara state governor, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, left the PDP for the APC. Also, all the 24 members of the House of Assembly as well as the three senators and six out of the seven members of the House of Representatives defected to the APC.

Not long ago, the senator representing Delta North Federal Constituency, Peter Nwaoboshi, defected from the leading opposition party to the APC. In Cross River state, thousands of PDP members in Abi local government area, which is the constituency of former Governor Liyel Imoke, defected to the APC. Significantly, after dumping their umbrella for the broom, the crowd proceeded to conduct a symbolic burial of the PDP by setting ablaze a coffin draped in the party’s colours.

On Wednesday, the last and only PDP member in the House, Jonathan Gaza, who represents Keffi/Karu/Kokona federal constituency of Nasarawa state, also dumped the party for the APC.

As these defections continue, especially from the opposition to the ruling party, it has brought about a sense of panic in the opposition ahead of the 2023 general elections. 

PDP’s excuses

In his reaction, the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said those who left were intimidated by the instrument of the APC-led federal government. Addressing journalists at a meeting of party leaders recently, Secondus, however, said the PDP would win the presidential election in 2023 “because the masses are with the party.”

He said, “Let me also emphasise that APC governors and the government of APC are overbearing on the system and moving to poach our governors and this to them is regarded as an achievement. I have never seen where you have an economic crisis, insecurity crisis, then the ruling party poaching governors.

“They are going after our governors, but we are going after the masses of this country. The governors have one vote each, but we are after the people, the masses. The masses are solidly behind us; the masses are for the PDP and we stand here to state clearly that we shall form this new government coming in 2023 because of the masses and not because of the governors.

“It is a shame for all the governors that left the PDP for fear. They were intimi­dated by the instrument of this government, but I’m hap­py that the masses in their states especially in Zamfara have not left.”

Buhari gives reasons

On his part, President Muhammadu Buhari who congratulated Governor Matawalle on his defection to the APC, governors and other politicians for joining the ruling party, saying it’s “becoming more popular and because of its impressive performance record and commitment to good governance.”

In a message delivered on his behalf by the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, at the defection ceremony in Gusau, President Buhari said, “I’m proud of your timely and wise decision to join the governing party and our doors are wide open to other politicians who believe in our vision to re-build Nigeria.

“Your voluntary decision to join our party confirms the fact that our agenda for good governance is the only reason why Nigerians are getting attracted to the APC because the other alternative didn’t work.”

A statement by his presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, further quoted the president as urging APC governors and elected lawmakers across the country “to continue to work harder to ensure our party maintains its popularity and retains power beyond 2023.”

He reminded all elected party officials that their “performance at all levels will impact significantly on the fortunes of the party,” adding that “party leaders should avoid complacency at all times in order to build the APC from strength to strength.”

Gombe gov’s take

Reacting, the Gombe state governor, Inuwa Yahaya, who ruled out the possibility of the country heading to a one-party system, said PDP members were moving in droves to APC “because the ruling party is more transparent.”

Speaking with one of our reporters, the governor said Nigerians should expect more political parties coming up to join the existing ones as soon as they meet INEC’s requirements and constitutional provisions.

He said, “A party that is in control necessarily has to attract people that are ready to give their support and they are coming because they realise that APC is more solid, more on the ground and more transparent and open in terms of how it deals with everybody; the high and the low. That is why they are coming; so, we welcome them and anybody that says no should have a re-think because the party is about people and all politicians are invited and welcome to any party that they think belongs to the right track. That is what APC is.”

Ex-Edo commissioner’s view

In his view, a one-time Commissioner for Information in Edo state, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said the continuous defection of governors from PDP to APC was a testimony to the leadership “tactlessness and spinelessness of the Prince Uche Secondus-led NWC.” 

Afegbua, therefore, called for the sack of Secondus, warning that the “ugly trend if not addressed portends doom and could lead to the collapse of the party.” He, in a recent statement, said, “When I raised the alarm two months ago about the gradual decimation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the Uche Secondus leadership, many had thought I was raising dust over nothing.

“The events of the last one month and the continuing defection of major PDP stakeholders to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is a further testimony to the leadership tactlessness and spinelessness of the Secondus-led NWC of the party.”

The statement partly read “It should be of urgent concern to all stakeholders and organs of the party, including the Governors’ Forum, to arrest this obvious drift which has left our dear party naked before Nigerians, home and abroad.

“There is a more compelling need to urgently call for a stakeholders’ meeting to mitigate, amongst other things, this obvious decimation of the PDP by a leadership that is utterly bereft of ideas, confused, intellectually hollow, phlegmatic and absentminded in the affairs of the nation and the party.

“An opposition party that should be gaining momentum because of the leadership failures of the ruling APC is at best losing some of her best hands across the nation and losing the much-needed momentum.

“All these defections portend bad omen for an opposition party that should gain maximum mileage under a system that has been run aground by the menacing incompetence of the APC-led federal government. On a regular basis, critical stakeholders are defecting to the APC, such bile in the dish.”

An analyst’s opinion

A public affairs analyst, Samuel James, said with the gale of defections, the chances of the PDP to win the 2023 elections “are becoming slimmer.”

In a phone chat with Blueprint, James said, “We all know that Nigeria’s democracy is still evolving. In most cases, it is difficult for a ruling party to lose a state that it’s in control of. So, the more states a party controls, the better chances they are to get to win the 2023 general elections.

“APC has more governors and more states; out of the 36 States, PDP is in control of 13 while the APC is in control of 22. It simply means that APC is already leading PDP with nine states, from where they can use their governors to make a big difference in the 2023 general elections. So, with all these, the 2023 chances of the party are becoming slimmer.”

PDP scribe’s assurances 

Defiantly, the PDP deputy national publicity secretary, Diran Odeyemi, said the party was not losing sleep over the defections of its members.

Odeyemi, in an interview with Blueprint Weekend, said PDP would win the 2023 elections “because of the suffering, corruption and the level of insecurity Nigerians are experiencing under the APC administration.”

“We are not losing sleep. We are not, because a political party generally is like an open door and nobody closes it. People can come in and people can go. Since the election will be taking place in 2023, we believe a lot of repairs would have been done for us to win the presidential election.

“We are going to win the election based on three advocacies: Number 1, virtually all Nigerians have joined PDP in opposing the government of APC. With the suffering, inflation, corruption and with insecurity, everybody has become opposed to this government. So, we believe that Nigeria can not afford to continue suffering. As a result, they are going to vote for the PDP.

“Number 2, PDP as a political party is going to present a candidate whose performances would have won about 50 per cent of the votes. We are seriously working on this and as soon as we come up with our candidate, Nigerians will clap for us. Finally, we believe as a party we don’t have an internal crisis that will warrant anybody defecting. So, we hope and anticipate that we will reap from their crisis very soon.”

An expert’s outburst

Stating reasons for the defection of PDP governors, a political analyst, Jide Ojo, said “nemesis is catching up with the party for its 16 years of misrule.”

Ojo, in a phone chat with our reporter, lamented that, “We are gravitating towards a one-party state. That is the irony of this whole thing, because we were hoping we are having a de facto two-party system as you have in other democracies like in the UK, where you have the conservative and the labour parties; in the US where you have the republicans and the democrats. 

“When people have a desire, they will go after it. Yes, about the argument that Uche Secondus needs to go for peace to reign, there are allegations of corruption and embezzlement against him by some members. But then PDP is not new to such controversies.

“The defections are a nemesis that is catching up with PDP. 16 years in the government; recall how PDP also poached the governors of the opposition to strengthen its hold on power. So, it’s now being treated the way they treated other parties in the past.”

Any way out?

On the way out for the party to militate against consistent detections, Ojo said, “It must show beyond just parroting; it must show that it is a born again party. You know part of the problems of the PDP was the imposition of candidates as well as the lack of internal democracy. Look at what happened in their governorship primary election in Anmabra state. Also, remember the South-west zonal congress held in Osun state, it was fraught with vote-padding and other corrupt practices. One wouldn’t have expected that to be happening in the PDP, especially with Secondus apologising for their 16-year misrule, pledging that they had turned a new leaf. 

“So, it’s left for them to do some house-keeping, pursue the rule of law, pursue pro- people policy, and let their governors, senators and representatives be seen to be different.

“They need to review the party; the chances of the party to win 2023 elections are getting slimmer. They can review their activities as a party and re-build the party; they should make sure their congresses from ward to local government, state and ultimately to the national convention are credible; that will throw up credible candidates. 

“If they can re-build and follow rule of law, if credible candidates emerge from their primaries and they shun money politics, then the party will become attractive to politicians of note.”

An analyst’s view, BMO’s expose

An analyst, Musa Ilallah, writing from Maitama, Abuja, noted that the recent defections of top-notch PDP members point to the fact that PDP is gradually losing its grip as a leading opposition party in the country, having failed to provide a mature, foresighted approach as a credible opposition.”

According to the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) in a signed statement by its chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and secretary, Cassidy Madueke, “And just like that exodus signposted PDP’s loss at the centre in 2015, the latest one is a harbinger of what the opposition party should expect in 2023, especially as APC is evolving into a truly ideological political powerhouse built on integrity.”

Ilallah noted further that, “The high-profile defections and other massive defections of middle and low-level PDP members to the ruling APC explains in unambiguous terms that PDP has failed as a ruling party up to May 29, 2015, and now as an opposition party.

 “Non-performance, massive looting and inability of the PDP to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians while in power, despite the enormous funds at its disposal, and lacking the capacity to be a good opposition party have further confirmed that PDP is a sinking ship.

“Today, there is a twist in the narration as opposition members of the PDP are moving massively into the fold of the ruling APC. We are really and truly living in interesting political times.

“The greater secret about the mass exodus of PDP members to APC is largely attributable to the integrity, maturity and selflessness of the President that he has brought to bear on governance and party politics in Nigeria.”

He added that, “All hope is not lost for PDP to reclaim its leadership role as Africa’s largest opposition party and perhaps return to power in 2023, if it sits up and does the needful. Time is certainly not on its side.”