2019: State of APC (1)

Filed in News by on July 29, 2018

Following Tuesday’s defection of some All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers to some opposition political parties and the resultant intrigues, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu and Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, take a look at the state of the ruling party in all the states of the federation.

THE defection of 50 All Progressives Congress (APC) federal lawmakers to some of the opposition political parties on Tuesday has raised fears that the ruling party may need to re-strategise to retain its grip on power during the 2019 general elections.

Part of the fear is that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which lost most of the states in the three zones in the northern part of the country in 2015 general elections, benefitted greatly as most of the senators and House of Representative members were from the North. Out of the 14 senators that defected, only two are from the South. The two did not, however, defect to PDP but to ADC. The rest of the senators that defected are from the North.

Also, out of the 36 House of Representatives members that defected from APC, only six are from the South. The rest are from the North. Out of the six House of Representatives members from the South that defected, only two went to PDP. The remaining four moved to ADC.

The Nation investigation during the week, however, shows that the development notwithstanding, the three zones in the north and the Southwest zone remain APC strongholds.

In the remaining two zones from the South, the current state of APC is also very interesting as the party prepares for 2019. Although the South-south and the Southeast zones have been Peoples Democratic Party’s strongholds since 1999, it has been observed that APC has made significant inroads into many states in the two zones since 2015. Today, the party remains in control of states like Imo in the Southeast, under the leadership of Governor Rochas Okorocha, notwithstanding the current disagreements and Edo from the South-south, from where the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, hails.

The party is also considered very strong in Rivers State, where the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, hails from; Ebonyi State, from where the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, hails from and Anambra State, from where the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, hails. The party has also made significant inroads into Abia State, with new high profile membership that includes former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, among others.

The Nation investigation shows that if APC effectively resolves some outstanding issues arising mainly from the last ward, local government and state congresses, and other issues that have to do with 2019 tickets, which are threatening the unity of members and aspirants for various offices, the party would not only stand out as the leading opposition in most of the states in South-south and Southeast, but may win some states in this zones, in addition to Edo and Imo.

The intrigues in the states, however, differ and are mainly driven by local dynamics and political leaders interested in the control of their political interests. Explaining the likely effect of the development, Osita Okechukwu, the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria and APC chieftain told The Nation: “I believe Nigeria will be the real beneficiary of the political development. The zenith of democracy is to have strong political parties contesting elections. I agree that the defections may help to strengthen PDP but that does not mean that PDP will likely be in a position to defeat APC in 2019; not at all. As a lover of genuine democracy, I was worried that PDP became so weak and almost shrunk to a mere regional political party, found only in the South-south and the Southeast. If you love democracy, you too would have been worried over the likely effect of the party’s near demise. So, what happened may be good for our democracy, but you and I know that the defections are not enough reason for APC to be afraid; No!”

The current state of APC in the various states of the federation can be summarized thus:

Bauchi

Aside Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives, whose defection is seen as an occurrence in waiting, Senator Suleiman Nazif, representing Bauchi North, Senator Isa Misau of Bauchi Central and Hon. Salisu Zakari are the only three federal lawmakers from the state that are part of the ongoing defection saga. Many observers of the politics of the state are shocked that Dogara could not pull more than one of his colleagues along in the unfolding plot.

“It came as a disappointment to some supporters of the Speaker that he didn’t have an appreciable support among his colleagues from the state. Senator Nazif’s case is different. He has a running battle with the governor. This largely informed his pitching tent with the Speaker and his defection to the PDP. And for Senator Misau, his face off with the presidency and the Police are the likely reasons he felt uncomfortable within the ruling party and had to seek refuge elsewhere.

“Now it is obvious that those opposed to the governor and the party leadership are very few in number. The governor has succeeded in keeping the party together and those leaving the party are largely doing so for personal reasons and political survival, not really out of support for Speaker Dogara. That is why not many people are going with them from our party,” a party official said.

But an aide of the Speaker urged the APC in the state to face the reality of its diminishing support base. “A member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly representing Lere/Bula Constituency, Aminu Tukur, on Wednesday left the APC after complaining of injustices and nepotism. Also, you will recall that the only female lawmaker in Bauchi State House of Assembly, Maryam Bagel had dumped the APC for the Social Democratic Party some few days ago for almost the same reason.

“I am sure they will continue to say there is no problem in Bauchi and Dogara lacks support in the state until all the members of the party will leave one by one. The PDP is daily getting stronger in Bauchi but some failed leaders are busy fooling themselves that their party is the strongest in the state because they are in government. 2019 around the corner and we will all know the truth.

The Nation gathered that both Tukur and Bagel left the APC because of their inability to secure the party’s ticket for the senatorial by-election in Bauchi South holding next week. While Bagel has joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as its candidate, Tukur is said to be shopping for a political party that will field him as its candidate in the senatorial contest.

Lawal Yahaya Gumau, the member representing Toro Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, emerged the APC flagbearer for ?the August 11, 2018, Bauchi South Senatorial District bye-election, after the primaries conducted by the party, on Wednesday night, at the Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports hall, in Bauchi. The federal lawmaker got 847 votes against 776 votes obtained by Dr. Danjuma Adamu Dabo who came second.

Five other aspirants who participated in the APC primaries included Dr. Safiya I. Muhammad , Ahmad Shu’aibu, Muhammad Hassan Tilde, Kabir Tahir and Aminu Tukur. Party sources said Governor Abubakar did not support any of the aspirants as Gumau and nearly all those who contested with him are his political associates. Meanwhile, the governor has said the party in the state will continue to appeal to aggrieved members to bury the hatchet and work for the progress of both the party and the state.

Lagos

In Lagos State, the party is strong and united. According to reliable party sources, concerted effort was promptly made after the last congresses to heal all wounds and it paid off. Although a feeble attempt was made by a former Vice Chairman of the party, Fuad Oki and his group to foment crisis, their attempt was truncated by the lack of followership they suffered and still suffer.

Also, considering the fact that no APC federal lawmaker from the state defected to the PDP, it is safe to say the R-APC, if present in the state at all, is of no political significance. To further confirm that the PDP in Lagos did not benefit from the ongoing defections, in the wave of mass defection swooping through the National Assembly, the party lost its member in the lower chamber, Tony Nwulu, to the Unity Progressive Party (UPP), last Wednesday.

The lawmaker, who is the sponsor of the successful “Not Too Young To Run” bill, disclosed that his dumping the PDP is in line with the overwhelming yearning of his constituents who have lost interest in PDP. Sources in his camp, however, claimed majority of his supporters in Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency have joined the APC instead of following him to the UPP. Nwulu is not seeking reelection as he is eyeing the governorship seat of his native Imo State.

According to the Vice Chairman of the APC in the state, Kaoli Olusanya, “the Oki-led group is irrelevant. The APC in Lagos State is more formidable now than ever before. There is no rancour whatsoever as all our chieftains and elected public officials, both in the state and the national assemblies, are solidly united under the leadership of our National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”

Ogun

Ogun State is another place where nothing may really change between the ruling APC and the opposition PDP in spite of last week’s mass defection of federal lawmakers. To start with, the only legislator from the state named in the list of defectors to the PDP, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, has not only denied joining the opposition party, he was also part of the group of pro-Buhari Senators who visited the President immediately after the defection saga.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, had named Tejuoso as one of the Senators who defected from the APC to the PDP. Reacting, the lawmaker, however, noted that he never joined the PDP even though he is out of the APC in Ogun State. In a tweet, Tejuoso wrote: “Dear friends, I hereby confirm that I have left the All Progressives Congress (APC). However, I am yet to align with any political party as consultations are still ongoing. All politics is local. I remain deeply rooted in Ogun State politics.

The Nation gathered that following talks with some party and presidency big-wigs, Tejuoso may have resolved to remain in the APC. Indications to this effect are very rife as some close associates of the lawmaker who have been identifying with the African Democratic Congress (ADC) as part of alleged plans for Tejuoso to follow suit, are said to be withdrawing from the activities of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo-backed party gradually.

“Senator Tejuoso has made it very clear for all to understand that he is not aggrieved with either the President or the leadership of the ruling party. Like he said, all politics is local. His grievances are rooted in the way the party is administered here in Ogun State. As a peace loving politician, he had thought leaving the party is better than agitating from within. But where he is being assured of some interventions, it is understandable if he is tarrying awhile before deciding,” an associate said.

But the APC in Ogun State says not minding his attendance on Wednesday of a parley of 43 senators elected on the platform of the APC with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Tejuoso remains a former member of the party. “We took careful note of his decision to leave the party, as contained in the letter read on the floor of the National Assembly and confirmed by the numerous statements and interviews he made in the media,” the party said.

Whichever way Tejuoso’s issue is resolved, either he leaves the party or he stays, it is unlikely that the opposition PDP will reap much from the situation ahead of the 2019 general election as the ruling party in the state appears unshaken by the ongoing developments. The expulsion of Senator Buruji Kashamu, the PDP legislator representing Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly is another big minus for the opposition party in the state.

Sokoto

The situation in Sokoto State APC today as we speak is that of uncertainty. The state had lost two Senators and four of its House of Representatives members to the PDP last week. The development has further confirmed the supremacy battle between Governor Aminu Tambuwal and his erstwhile political godfather and predecessor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko.

The two Senators and the Reps members who dumped APC and crossed over to the PDP were all political allies and disciples of the former governor until recently when they took sides in the rift between Tambuwal and his predecessor. Their defection last week, PDP says, may have weakened the base of the APC in Sokoto as the party now has only one Senator while PDP boasts of two.

But analysts say it is too early for anyone to say Tambuwal and his people will strengthen the PDP enough for it to overrun the APC in the state. The state has eleven House of Representatives members. Only four defected to the PDP, leaving Wamakko and the APC with seven. A source within Wamakko political family told The Nation that it was not easy for the governor to get the four lawmakers to defect to the PDP.

“Apart from the two Senators who have personal issues with our leader, all others who defected to the PDP on the request of the governor were lured with a lot of promises and freebies. If this is truly a test of the governor’s popularity within APC, then he can see for himself that he is unpopular. Majority of our party chieftains and members are with Senator Wammako and the leadership of the party,” he said.

The Nation also gathered that a fierce political battle is currently ongoing between the two camps over the House of Assembly. Our sources revealed that Governor Tambuwal actually planned to dump the APC for the PDP last Thursday but had to shelve the plan when it was discovered that majority of the state lawmakers had reneged on their agreement to go with him.

“The battle now is in the House of Assembly. The two camps are struggling to win the legislators to their side. For Tambuwal, it is a must-win battle as he is ready to move over to the PDP anytime from now. But he is disturbed by the hide and seek game some of the Assembly members started since they met with the APC leadership in the state on Wednesday. On the other side, Wamakko needs to retain the support of the majority in the Assembly to prove that he is still the defacto political leader in the state,” he said.

And if feelers from the camps are anything to go by, Tambuwal will defect to the opposition party, very soon. ‘The new plan now is for him to announce his defection imminently. The Nation learnt that to keep his alleged presidential ambition afloat, the governor has been told by chieftains of the PDP that he must join the party early enough for him to be granted a waiver along with other defectors.

Unlike other troubled states, the problem in Sokoto seems to be more national than it is local. Observers of the politics of the state claimed it is actually the alleged presidential ambition of Tambuwal that has been troubling the APC in the state. “It was this same ambition that soiled his relationship with Wammako. It is the same thing that divided the State House of Assembly into two. It is for the same reason he sacked his entire cabinet recently.”

Tambuwal dissolved the Sokoto State Executive Council with immediate effect penultimate week. It was gathered that the governor allegedly told his cabinet members about his decision to contest the presidency in 2019 and his plan to dump the APC, but sources said the governor’s decision did not go down well with most of his commissioners. Days after, he announced a cabinet change.

In the opinion of most observers, it is left to be seen how the defection saga will play out in Sokoto State. Will the APC be dwarfed in the state by the budding realignment of the forces of Governor Tambuwal and former Deputy Governor Muktar Shagari in the PDP, or will Senator Wammako succeed in rallying around his remaining foot soldiers ahead of the 2019 general election? Time will tell.

Ekiti

As it appears, the APC in Ekiti State should be unmoved by the defection saga. Rather than lose any of its chieftains, the party benefited in the defection of Senator Fatima Raji-Rasaki into its fold from the PDP around the same time. Coupled with the euphoria of gubernatorial election victory it is currently enjoying across the state, Governor-elect Kayode Fayemi and his people should lose no sleep over the occurrences at the National Assembly.

Edo

Similarly, the APC in Edo State is firm and strong. National chairman of the party and former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and Governor Godwin Obaseki, are solidly in charge of the ruling party with no dissenting faction anywhere across the state. The peaceful nature of the last congresses in the state, according to party sources, is a proof of the unity being enjoyed by the APC in Edo State.

Though many analysts have predicted cracks in the state chapter of the APC following the replacement of former National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, with Oshiomhole, feelers from the state indicate that the party is not in any way troubled by the development. Instead, the APC has been receiving some chieftains of the PDP and other opposition parties into its fold.

Kwara

Two of the three Senators and all the six House of Representatives members from Kwara State dumped the APC and moved over to the PDP last Tuesday. The remaining federal lawmaker from the state, Senate President Bukola Saraki, is understandably believed to be merely marking time in the ruling party, being the political leader of the state and all the defectors.

Abdulfatah Ahmed, governor of the state, says he might quit the ruling APC. He gave the hint when he played host to stakeholders in Kwara Central Senatorial District on Thursday. Reports have it that the stakeholders prevailed on Ahmed and Senate President Bukola Saraki to immediately dump the APC. The governor said the APC has not met the expectations of the people of Kwara.

Members of the House of Assembly are eagerly calling on Saraki to lead them out of the APC. They say the party has failed them and the people. There are strong indications they are all headed to the PDP except for one or two, especially Hon. Saheed Popoola, who has vowed to remain in the APC even if all others quit the ruling party. Definitely, the APC in the state is troubled.

But the Saraki camp may also become troubled in the days to come. Or what with the state chapter of the PDP resisting the planned return of the Senate President and his people to the party they dumped four years ago? Unless the national leadership of the PDP forces Saraki on the party in the state as it is expected to happen, it may not be smooth for the Senate President and his camp returning to their former party.

Already, the Kwara State chairman of the PDP, Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, has said the national leadership of the party will have to choose between his group and Saraki’s, as he cannot work with the incoming defectors, especially Saraki and Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed. He accused the party’s national leadership for being insensitive to the political configuration in Kwara State and allowing themselves to be swayed by the funding capacity of the defectors.

Thus, in the days to come, both the APC and the PDP may be thrown into crises in the state. While the APC may be left to start a rebuilding process ahead of the 2019 election upon the exit of Saraki and his camp, the PDP may be thrown into a fresh supremacy battle between the returnees and the old members of the opposition party in the state.

Osun

Osun State is another place where the defection saga is not being felt. Preparing for the September 14 gubernatorial election in the state, with candidates already selected through party primaries, both the ruling APC and the opposition PDP are busy on the campaign trail canvassing for votes. No APC lawmaker defected to the PDP in the state. On the contrary, it is the PDP that just lost one of its big wigs, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

While the APC is working pretty hard to cover the ground lost to the opposition party during the last Osun West Senatorial bye-election, the PDP, banking on the euphoria generated by that unexpected victory, is fielding the same candidate, Senator Demola Jackson Adeleke, as its governorship candidate. His emergence has however become another albatross for the party as a leading aspirant, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, has vowed to stop Adeleke’s governorship dream.

Similarly, there are pockets of grievances within the APC over the emergence of Gboyega Oyetola as the party’s candidate with a few aspirants, led by Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, rejecting the results. But the development has nothing to do with the Abuja saga. Analysts insist the disagreement is part of the local politics of the state, although the loyalty of Lasun to the leadership of the party remains in doubt.

Oyo

Oyo State is definitely in the grip of the defection crisis with Senators Monsurat Sunmonu and Adesoji Akanbi featuring on the list of the defectors announced by Saraki last week. While Akanbi had promptly denounced the announcement saying his name was listed in error as he was not consulted on the matter, Sunmonu, a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, said she is moving to the ADC and not the PDP.

Still, the state is a place to watch as the Abuja drama continues to unfold. Apart from Sunmonu in the senate, the APC in Oyo State also lost five of its members in the House of Representatives. The PDP benefitted from this as Hon. Segun Ogunwuyi joined its fold from the ruling party in the state. He represents Ogbomoso North/South/Orire Federal Constituency of the State.

Four lawmakers left the ruling party and joined the ADC as part of the 36 House of Representatives members who moved out of APC last week. Oyo APC lawmakers that defected to ADC are Sunday Adepoju of Ibarapa East/Ido Federal constituency, Olugbemi Samson of Oluyole Federal Constituency, Taiwo Michael of Ona-Ara/Egbeda and Olasupo Abiodun, representing Iseyin/Itesiwaju/Kajola/Iwajowa.

To further indicate trouble for the party, a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Olusegun Olaleye, on Thursday, defected from the APC to the PDP. Olaleye, who is representing Ibadan North II State Constituency in the legislative house, said he left the APC because the ideals of the party had been eroded. Olaleye said his decision was not triggered by the exodus of federal lawmakers from the APC to the PDP on Tuesday.

He noted that earlier before Thursday, he had made consultation with people before arriving at his decision. But party sources revealed that the lawmakers’ action is a fallout of the tussle between Governor Abiola and some other party chieftains ahead of the next gubernatorial election in the state. No doubt, the events of the last few days will affect the fortunes of the APC if not carefully managed.

Political disagreements over the 2019 governorship election and the last congresses in the state had pitched Ajimobi and other APC chieftains, including Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, in a fierce political face-off. The crisis had led to the near factionalisation of the party with the emergence of a splinter group, the Unity Forum comprising of those opposed to Ajimobi’s hold on the party.

A leader of the group, Wasiu Olatunbosun, recently revealed that the group has finally resolved to join the African Democratic Congress (ADC). This development raised fears that ongoing reconciliation efforts may have failed. This fear was further heightened by the defection of Senator Sunmonu and four House of Representatives members to the said ADC last Tuesday.

If claims by Olatunbosun and other chieftains that the Unity Forum has no fewer than nine of the 14 House of Representatives member from the state and a good number members of the House of Assembly members, including the Deputy Speaker, is anything to go by, then the APC in Oyo State and Governor Ajimobi should better prepare for more troubles in the days to come.

The group had hinged its grievances and agitations on alleged marginalisation and high handedness by the governor and his camp within the ruling party. But political watchers in the state said the governorship ambition of Minister Shittu and the allegation that Governor Ajimobi has an anointed candidate other than Shittu is the real bone of contention between the two groups.

Ondo

The APC in Ondo is calm and united, at least on the surface. There have been worries that one or two of the Senators in the state may be bitten by the ongoing defection bug. But as it turned out last Tuesday, none of them made the move. Senator Tayo Alasoadura, given his personal relationship with Senate President Bukola Saraki and his regular defense of him, was touted as one of those who could defect.

Similarly, perhaps due to his running battle with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, which dates back to the run-up to the last governorship election in the state, Senator Ajayi Borrofice was also fingered in the defection plot. But the two Senators were not part of those who jumped ship and this has given some hope that the crisis within the state chapter of the party is being managed well.

But a chieftain of the party from Owo insisted that trouble is not over yet for the APC in Ondo State. “We are happy common sense prevailed and none of our lawmakers dumped the party. But the leadership of the party must prevent future crisis by moving swiftly to resolve some issues within the party here in Ondo State. Some of our leaders are still being shut out and threatened by their own political party. This must change,” he said.

Adamawa

The state lost Senator AbdulAzeez Nyako, but not to the PDP. The youthful Senator and son of former Governor Murtala Nyako, joined the ADC. He was followed to his new party by Alhaji Rufai Umar, representing Gombi Constituency in Adamawa House of Assembly. The lawmakers said they were compelled to leave APC with their supporters due to injustice done to them during the recent congresses of APC in Adamawa.

Although Governor Jubrilla Bindow has repeatedly said he will not quit the APC, the situation in Adamawa remains that of mutual suspicion among chieftains of the ruling party. Pundits insist the party in the state will still lose some of its members to the PDP on the strength of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s return to his former party. Although the Adamawa House of Assembly debunked claims by Prince Uche Secondus that some lawmakers from the APC joined the PDP, it appears all is still not okay yet.

Secondus had claimed that three serving lawmakers and eight commissioners in the state had joined his party. But the Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Information, Abubakar Isa, said only member representing Lamurde Constituency under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Justina Nkom, informed the house of her defection to the PDP.

In a related development, the state commissioner for information and strategy, Ahmad Sajoh, said he was only aware of resignation of the Commissioner of Commerce Umar Daware, from the state executive council. These two confirmed defection and resignation are pointers to the fact that the APC has a serious battle on its hand in the state as things continue to unfold.

But the decision of Nyako and others to pitch their tent with the ADC and not the PDP, is seen by many observers of the politics of the state as a good development for the ruling APC. “With the emergence of ADC as another political force in the state, the pressure being put on APC by Atiku and the PDP will reduce as they will now have the ADC and the Nyakos to also contend with,” a source said.

Kano

Although only Senator Musa Kwankwaso and five members of the lower chamber left for the PDP when the curtain fell last Tuesday, the leadership of the APC is working round the clock to forestall further defections, especially in the State House of Assembly. The former governor is locked in a political battle of supremacy with the current governor, Abdulai Ganduje, his former deputy and ally.

The defections last Tuesday is believed to be the climax of their unresolved face-off. With Kwankwaso eyeing the presidency in 2019, and Ganduje a die-hard campaigner for President Buhari for the same position, the die seems cast between them. Before Kwankwaso finally abandoned the APC for the governor last week, the party has been divided down the line between the two leaders.

Amidst rumors that nearly half of the embers in the House of Assembly are warming up to follow the former governor to PDP in coming days, the two leaders are preparing to test their popularity on the streets of Kano on the platforms of their different political parties come 2019. While the Senator has vowed to stop the second term bid of his successor, the governor said he will retire Kwankwaso from politics in 2019.

Commissioner for Rural Development, Illiasu Musa Kwankwaso, insisted that the defection of Senator Kwankwaso, representing Kano Central, would never affect the chance of President Muhamadu Buhari and Governor Abdullahi Musa Ganduje in the 2019 general elections. He said the two leaders remain very popular with the people of the state.

But Hon. Ali Madaki, one of the defectors, while responding to claims that their exit from the APC is without any effect on the ruling party, said with 2019 around the corner, Nigerians will soon know the truth. He added that the people of Kano know their leaders and will decide accordingly when they come out to cast their votes in the elections of 2019.

Bayelsa

Like some other states, Bayelsa State chapter of APC recorded parallel congresses at the last local government congress. It became very certain then that unlike the general feeling that all was well with the chapter, there were some issues to be resolved for the party to truly challenge the ruling party in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s state.

The issue is that two major factions were fighting for the control of the party. They are the faction loyal to former Governor Timipre Sylva, and those loyal to a former Acting Governor, Chief Nestor Binabo.

Until the congresses, issues that have agitated the minds of observers of Bayelsa State APC, included the need to restructure the party and ensure adherence of zoning as a way of positioning the party to square up with the Governor Seriake Dickson-led ruling PDP in 2019.

The plans notwithstanding, Bayelsa, the home state of Jonathan, remains a strong PDP state, but if the forces in APC can come together before the 2019 elections, the party can spring surprises.

Benue

“Breaking News: Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has finally dumped the failed and dysfunctional @APCNigeria and has returned to the reformed and re-positioned @OfficialPDPNig. We welcome him back to our Party as we await the return/defection of others. PDP! Power to the People.” With the above expression, the national leadership of the PDP celebrated the return of Governor Samuel Ortom to his former party, signaling the return of fierce political hostility in the north-central state.

Ortom, a former Minister of State for Trade and Industry, had dumped the PDP for APC in 2014 after he lost out at the party’s gubernatorial primary election. During a meeting with elected local government chairmen and councilors at the Government House last Wednesday, Ortom disclosed that he was joining the PDP to ensure justice, equity and fairness for the people of Benue. “I have formally resigned from APC to PDP and have presented my letter of resignation to the party’s chairman of my ward,” he announced.

A day earlier, the APC lost another of its Senators, ex-PDP national chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade, to the PDP along with four out of the ten members in the House of Representatives from the state. The defections are the climax of months of political disagreements between Governor Ortom and his predecessor, Senator George Akume. The crisis that engulfed Benue State APC is both local and national.

First, the governor had a running battle with Akume, who is the leader of the party in the state. The two failed to resolve their differences amicably and the result was the factionalisation of the party. After the last congresses in the state, it became obvious to the governor, Senator Gemade and their supporters that Akume has the party structures firmly in his grip. It thus became necessary for them to seek their political fortunes elsewhere since Akume had allegedly vowed to deny them all return tickets in 2019.

Secondly, Ortom had engaged the federal government under President Buhari in a running battle over alleged slow responses to the killings in the state. He has repeatedly accused the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore of sponsoring cattle herders to kill residents of rural communities, claiming in May 2018 that an estimated 492 people had been killed by herdsmen. He says his several public calls have been ignored by the federal government as his frustration mounted for months.

A week before he finally rejoined the PDP, Ortom said the APC had kicked him out and announced that he was shopping for a new party. However, he was back with the party on Thursday, July 19 as he declared, “I am here in APC, a member of APC, I’m still flying the flag of APC” after a meeting with the party’s national leadership in Abuja. But in spite of widely publicised efforts to stop him, he left the APC for PDP.

Will the PDP gain 2019 victory as a result of his return? It may be too early to answer that question for now. Both the APC and the PDP will have to work very hard to gain supremacy in the state from now. For now, the battle for the political control of the state rages on.

Kaduna

Had Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central in the National Assembly, made good his earlier threat to ‘seek transfer to another football club from the Broom FC’, the political calculation in Kaduna State would have been more complex than it currently is following the defection of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi who represents Kaduna North, and Hon. Lawal Rabiu from the ruling APC to the opposition PDP last week.

While there are concerns over Hunkuyi’s declaration last Friday that he is ready to lead PDP to victory during the 2019 general election in the state, many pundits are of the opinion that his defection, with only one member of the House of Representatives, is not enough to threaten the hold of the APC on the politics of the north western state, especially with Senator Sani, his co-traveller in the political war against Governor El-Rufai, deciding to stay put in the APC.

“We came to tell you that we have formally left the APC and we shall not turn back again. We have moved to the PDP with all our structure to join hands to take back power in Kaduna State from the APC,” Hunkuyi said on Friday, while advising PDP executives in the state to cooperate with the returnees to ensure that the party wrestle power from the ruling APC.

Before Hunkuyi joined 13 other Senators to dump the APC for PDP last week, his loyalists and those of Senators Shehu Sani had pulled out of the APC in the state. Chairman of Sani’s APC Akida faction, Tom Maiyashi, and Ja’afaru Abas Ibrahim, legal adviser of Hunkuyi’s Restoration Group made the announcement at a joint press conference on earlier this month in Kaduna. Senators Sani and Hunkuyi have been engaged in prolonged rivalry with El-Rufai, leading to the balkanization of the APC in the state into three.

While declaring on Thursday that he remains a member of the governing APC, Sani, who meet with the party’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said he is optimistic that the ongoing reconciliation efforts undertaken by the party’s national executive, led by the national chairman, will yield fruits. “We are confident that the new leadership of the party has the capacity, the ability to address these injustices. In the words of Frantz Fanon, ‘We revolt because we cannot breathe’.

“So we revolted against the way the party was run because it is suffocating us. Now we have a new surgeon who is doing everything possible to put it back on track. That is why we give him the benefit of doubt that the problem can be solved. If I am here, I am an APC member. If I am not an APC member, you will not see me at the party’s national secretariat,” he explained.

On its part, the APC in Kaduna State said that it is not threatened by the defection of the lawmakers and their supporters as those defecting are not a threat to Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s re-election bid in 2019. “Governor el-Rufai has fulfilled his campaign promises to the electorate. Therefore, the party is comfortable and will emerge victorious come 2019. More so, many people are daily joining the APC in the state from the PDP and other opposition parties.”

Rivers

Rivers State is one of the major states to watch in South-south zone as All Progressives Congress (APC), still contending with the yet-to-be-fully resolved disagreements, prepares to challenge a seemingly united ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While Governor Nyesom Wike-led PDP, by the reason of the power of incumbency and the relative unity it currently enjoys, remains the force to beat, APC, which has the former governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi, has been threatened by the internal disagreement, especially since the contentious ward and other state congresses.

The disagreement in the state APC is centred on the battle for control of the party machinery between the party’s 2019 governorship aspirant, Senator Magnus Abe and Amaechi, the South-south APC Leader and current Transport Minister.

The matter arising from the last congresses has been dragged to the Court of Appeal. But considering the outcome of the court’s ruling late June, and how the stakeholders interpreted it before the National Convention, some insiders said the matter is still far from being resolved.

It would be recalled that the state chapter of the party had approached the Appeal Court to set aside the ruling of a State High Court, which stopped the May 5, 2018 congresses of the party in the state. The appellate court ordered a stay of execution of the state High Court.

Refusing the motion by the appellant on the stay of proceedings, Justice Isarah Akeju, who read the unanimous judgement on behalf of the three-man panel in the Suit PHC/198/2018, held that the grounds of appeal challenging the interlocutory orders of a High Court restraining the APC from conducting congresses were competent.

From their different interpretations of the court ruling and the body language of the contending forces since the last National Convention of APC, it is certain that the congress in the state still poses some outstanding issues among party members. While efforts by the party under the former National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, to reconcile the matter was rebuffed by the members who preferred court settlement, it is yet to be seen how far the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led new National Working Committee would go in re-unifying the Rivers State chapter of APC before 2019 elections. The fear is that if genuine reconciliation is not achieved, the Wike-led ruling PDP will continue to dominate the South-south state.

The depth of the disagreement could be seen momentarily from the fact that from the whole of South-south and Southeast zones, Hon. Barry Mpigi, from Rivers State, was the only member of the House of Representatives listed among the 35 Reps that defected from APC on Monday.

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