PDP Members’ Defections And Fears About One Party ‘Democracy’ By Sayo Akintola

Pigeon is a domesticated bird. It flocks around residential buildings; and has its nest in some. It’s generally believed in the Yourba parlance that a Pigeon as a faithful, loyal and honest animal (bird)would always stay with its ‘landlord’ in the time of trouble. ‘Eyele ko ni ba olowo re je, ki o ba mu, ki o di ojo ibi ki o y’eri’
But this cannot be said of President Goodluck Jonathan as his friends of many years in PDP are beginning to desert him in the party for the opposition.

Several high-ranking members of Nigeria’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ditched the ruling party Wednesday for the All Progressives Congress (APC) just three days before gubernatorial elections. Defections were the latest in a trend of politicians across the country moving to join the opposition party less than two weeks after APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari was elected president.

The wave of defections led Nigerian Senate President David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekwewremadu, to issue statements this week reassuring PDP members they would be the “last men standing” for the ruling party. Niger state Gov. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu said the PDP defectors lack political fortitude. “I would rather resign from politics than defect,” Aliyu. “Those defecting from the PDP, based on the outcome of the presidential and national assembly elections, lack principles of integrity and morality. They are indeed stomach politicians.”

Olusola Oke, former national legal adviser of the PDP and a gubernatorial candidate in the 2012 election in Ondo state, led a group of former members from his south senatorial district to join the APC on Wednesday. “I resisted the wind of change that was blowing, until it was almost trying to blow me out. Now, I have surrendered,” Oke said. “I have come over not because the PDP lost election. I have come over because the wind of change that is blowing across Nigeria must blow in Ondo state.”
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More than 100 PDP members in Gombe state have deserted the party in the last two weeks. Dozens of party members in Oyo, Kwara, Edo and Katsina states have also decamped to the APC. The mass of defections have aggravated fears that the PDP will collapse and Nigeria will become essentially a one-party state, after years of lacking a viable opposition in the political landscape that was controlled by the PDP. The APC was formed in 2013 by four opposition parties that merged to knock the PDP from its 16-year rule.
One cannot but observe the dangerous trend democracy is taking in the country. The orgy of defections has further reinforced the school of thought that describes Nigerian politicians as lacking in principle, ideology and character.
It sounds most absurd to hear that the Political Adviser to the out-going president has also jumped to the opposition party with a view to remaining relevant at the end of the present administration. One would have thought that Gulak would be the last man standing with the president and the ruling party given the importance of his position in the Jonathan’s cabinet.
As a matter of fact, there’s no way Gulak would be exonerated from the messy situation that PDP has found itself. It is noteworthy that most of the destructive political steps taken by PDP in the area of imposition of candidates across the country must have the inputs (action or inaction) of the president’s adviser on political matters.
Lack of internal democracy was the bane of PDP. Interestingly, APC was well known for this anomaly until the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
Many excruciating sacrifices were made by key leaders of the party who had to jettison their personal ambition to save the party from ignominious defeat. And it paid off for them. They all savour the sweet aroma of victory now.
Olusola Oke, former Legal Adviser of PDP and governorship candidate of PDP against the incumbent, Segun Mimiko that decamped to APC was a candidate of humiliation by the party that he helped to build.
It was not in doubt that Oke was on his own when he contested with Mimiko of then Labour Party and Akeredolu of ACN now APC.

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The build-up to the election was most interesting as the debate organised for the candidates to showcase the stuff they were made of revealed a lot of inherent intrinsic value of each of them. And it was glaring that Oke was far, far above other candidates in terms of knowledge of the problems facing Ondo State and how to tackle them. It was obvious that he had done a lot of research work to enhance the enunciation of his programs and action plan for the state. But he was disappointed by his own party, the party leadership rather than lend him some helping hand decided to support the incumbent governor, a candidate of LP and a friend of the president.
He cried out for financial support from the party; none was forthcoming. And at the end of the day he lost gallantly to Mimiko. The defeat was a tip of the iceberg for Oke and his teeming followers as they were sidelined by Abuja when Mimiko decamped back to PDP from LP. All the structures of the party were given to Mimiko while Oke and other PDP members were made to play a second fiddle in the party in the state. This created a lot of crises that lingered until the presidential election; and the result of the election in the state is now history.

This scenario could was replicated across the country where some anointed sons of Mr president were given the power of life and death in their respective states at the detriment of the collective interest of the party.
One finds it most absurd that Mr President and the PDP leadership failed to dissuade Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswan from contesting against former national chairman of the party in the Benue National Assembly election to the Senate. Gemade should be old enough to be Suswan’s father; I stand to be corrected. Gemade is the occupant of the seat in the Senate. He was seeking re-election from the party tah he co-founded. But because of the huge influence of the governor who has spent the constitutionally allowed eight years as governor wanted to leave the government house for the Senate come May 29.
This precipitated the defection of Gemade to APC where he was spontaneously offered the ticket. He contested against the the president’s anointed son and won.

In Oyo State, the story would have been different for the governor, Abiola Ajimobi if PDP had been more discreet in the conduct of the state governorship primary which Tesilim Folarin won on a platter of gold. When a strong member of the party in the person of former governor of the state, Adebayo Alao-Akala was seeking the party’s nomination, Jumoke Akinjide, FCT Minister of State was busy wooing Rashidi Ladoja of Accord Party to come and contest on the platform of PDP. When the clandestine plan fell flat on the face of Patience Jonathan and David Mark that called series of meetings in Abuja for the aspirants, Tesilim Folarin was settled for at the expense of more formidable candidates. And this led to the defection of strong PDP leaders in the state to LP and SDP.
The crisis, in no small measure accounted for the defeat of Jonathan in Oyo State. And if care is not taken, may lead to the defeat of the party in the governorship election on Saturday as most of the Abuja politicians in the state are solidly behind the electoral victory of Rashidi Ladoja of Accord Party at the expense of Folarin. At the end of the day, Nigerians should still expect continued exodus of political prostitutes from PDP to APC at the end of Saturday’s elections.
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Unfolding events thereafter will determine what is left of PDP’s self inflicted disaster. But one thing remains sacrosanct; PDP cannot remain the same again.
One cannot but commend the loyalty of Senate President, David Mark and his deputy who have vowed never to leave PDP. Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu also belongs to this group of PDP leaders who have resisted the temptation of leaving the party for APC. There is no doubt that unchecked mass movement of politicians to APC from other parties particularly, PDP, may signal the end of democracy in Nigeria. The truth of the matter is that our nascent democracy requires a very formidable opposition for it to grow. PDP would have continued with its lackadaisical attitude to governance if APC had failed to survive. The party realized it too late that APC had come to stay and it paid dearly for it. That’s the essence of a formidable opposition.
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APC on the other hand, requires a formidable opposition in PDP and other parties to keep the ruling party on its toes at all times from May 29. The danger one can foresee in the absence of a strong opposition is the tendency for Buhari administration to derail mid-way; and this may not augur well of the survival of democracy in Nigeria. The reason being that there might not be a formidable alternative to APC should the Buhari government fail to deliver on its promises and PDP had been completely depleted and too weak to give a good fight at the polls in 2019. It will be too disastrous!God forbid!

Author: News Editor

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