“Meanwhile, we staged an open walkout on him at Eagle Square during that sham described as a national convention; they leaders of the party called a meeting and we decided to honour our leaders and elders by attending the meeting; a committee was set up and we also accorded the committee some level of due regard and respect, only to be slapped with such a letter that can best be described as impudent.
“From the tone and contents of the letter from the Villa, it became clear to all of us that the President was not interested in resolving the contentious issues and we decided to leave the party for them and go over to the APC”.
Even the last opportunity to avert the defection was bungled last Sunday.
Although the seven governors had waited for him to meet with them in Abuja, as scheduled, the President surreptitiously called off the peace parley, claiming that he was tired after returning from the meeting of the Honorary International Investors Council, HIIC, in London. Jonathan shot himself on the foot by calling off the meeting when all the governors had already settled down in Asokoro waiting for his arrival for the final push to salvage the party from the brink.
“The President wanted to give the whole world the erroneous impression that it was the seven of us, who actually sought for peace, forgetting that he had intervened before and asked us to sheath our sword and we respected him and still waited,” the governor explained.
“As far as we are concerned, we are gone to the APC for good and there is no turning back. Any of the governors, who wants to still remain in PDP can do so; but for me, it is over and forever,” the governor said.
THE DRAMA OF DEFECTION
Meanwhile, Aminu Kano House, an imposing edifice on Jose Marty Crescent, in the high brow Asokoro District of Abuja, is not a thoroughfare. Vehicles don’t stop and pick passengers around the building, which is the official residence of the governor of Kano State. Neighbours of Aminu Kano House – including Lagos House and Ondo House – are aware of the unwritten rule prohibiting loitering around the area. But that Tuesday morning, the golden rule was consciously waved for political expediency. As early as 8am, scores of vehicles had started piling up opposite the house. As the vehicles screeched to a halt, the occupants moved towards the governor’s residence. Before long, convoys bearing political bigwigs from the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressive Congress, APC, also breezed in and went straight into the waiting arms of their host, Dr. Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, the Kano State Governor.
Kwankwaso, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Murtala Nyako, a retired admiral and governor of Adamawa, GovernorAhmed Abdulfatah of Kwara, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and chieftains of the rampaging APC had gathered there for one main reason: to make a clear statement that they there were fed up with the political crisis in the ruling party and were ready to move over to the opposition APC.
And, already waiting eagerly to receive the decampees into their fold, were APC bigwigs, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Ogbonanya Onu and scores of other chieftains. On the side of the leadership of the faction of the PDP popularly known as nPDP, were the chairman, Alhaji Kawu Abubakar Baraje, Dr. Sam Jaja, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Senators Bukola Saraki, Adamu Abdullahi and former Bayelsa governor, Chief Timipre Sylva.
Inside the expansive building, the defecting governors met for about three hours with their new-found party and concrete decisions taken before they emerged to address anxious reporters on the lobby of Aminu Kano House.
”We are merging,” Baraje, said; and added that “all these are implications of merging! What we are telling you is that we have merged and we have agreed to merge”.
But as they sauntered out with broad smiles on their faces, it was clear also that some dramatic developments that could jostle the merger arrangement had just taken place to the discomfort of the parties. Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, and his Kwara counterpart, who were at the parley, had sneaked out even before the final decision to merge was taken. While Abdulfatah, a scion of Bukola Saraki, took permission from his boss to travel, Aliyu, on the other hand, stormed out of the venue when the decision to merge with APC was being taken. He, like his Jigawa counterpart, Sule Lamido, does not appear to favour a hurried defection to the opposition earlier than January next year. For that disagreement on transition timeline, Lamido did not even come to the venue of the meeting. Sokoto governor, Aliyu Wamakko, a staunch believer in the early defection to APC, was out in Senegal, attending an international development programme but had sent words to his peers to count on his support.
Not many can fault the two governors for their deft decision given the peculiar socio-political atmosphere in the two states. Both are walking on a tight rope, which requires tact and patience and political engineering to sort out. Even before now, Lamido’s traducers had used tar brush to paint him black, apparently to scuttle his alleged presidential ambition and weaken him and his supporters. The Federal Government-controlled Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been unleashing its hound dogs on the Lamido family, bringing up accusations of huge money laundering against his two sons. In fact, the children were in detention as at the time the governors were to move over to the APC. It was therefore impudent for Lamido to have closed his eyes, take a plunge into the opposition when his beloved children were languishing in the EFCC gulag. His decision actually paid off, as the children were left off the hook subsequently – at least for now.
Babangida, on the other hand, has been very discrete about his next political move because he is surrounded by political sharks, whose allegiance to the Presidency is rather very difficult to decipher. Not many can say what if former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida and his successor, Abdulsalam Abubakar, are angry or happy with President Goodluck Jonathan or if they would ever support a party with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari playing an active role.
As a man, who defers seriously to the two former heads of state, known to be actively involved in Niger state and Nigerian politics, it would be foolhardy for Aliyu to cross over blindly to the opposition without getting the clearance of the political decision-makers in his domain.
In fact, the fear is that leaving PDP at all not even now or in the future, would effectively deny him the slim political edge and structures that he enjoys as a governor and could therefore quicken his plunge into his political wilderness. Both former heads of state are said to have their preferred candidates for the governorship of the state and it is not likely that the governor can adequately and effectively confront them from the fringes of opposition in Niger State.
For sure, the difficulty in arriving at a common position on when to move to the APC, clearly demonstrates the intense war that has been raging between those wholly committed to the new marriage and those opposed to the deal.
The inability of the two men to also make up their mind at once over the matter, has now given the PDP a ray of hope that it had not lost all members of the G-7 to the opposition.
That glimpse may be responsible for the party’s somewhat initial arrogance and refusal to admit the painful loss of its stalwarts and field commanders to its main rival at a time it should be consolidating for the big showdown in 2015.
Sounding surefooted as ever, the Presidency and the PDP leadership dismissed the defection by the five governors as a non-issue that did not pose any serious challenge to its electoral fortunes.
Political Adviser to the President, Ahmed Gulak, was quick to call the bluff even without weighing the full import of his boast. “The Presidency does not feel threatened. PDP is the party to beat. We have heard it before; even people who occupied higher offices left the party and still came back to its fold.
“It is good that the five governors have shown the world that they have taken a stand to leave so that PDP will not be distracted,” the adviser noted.
But just as the statement was sinking, the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, who is at the centre of the raging storm, came out openly to admit that the defection of the five governors was shocking and an anger taken too far.
He hit the nail on the head, arguing that the governors should still pursue the option of dialogue and reconciliation.
Tukur’s mild tone differs sharply with the acidic tongue of his National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, who dismissed the governors’ action as inconsequential.
Metuh said, “We wish to state categorically that the PDP remains unperturbed as we are now rid of detractors and distractions.
“We urge all our members nationwide to remain focused and close ranks, now that agents of distraction have finally left our ranks,” the PDP spokesman pleaded.
Despite its hard lined posturing, it is clear that the party has been hit below the belt and its top echelon left tongue-tied. President Goodluck Jonathan, whose hard line hawks unwittingly frustrated an early resolution of the intra-party feud that finally decimated the once cohesive party, is yet to find enough courage to openly speak on the matter.
BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE – KWANKWASO
Kano State Governor, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, told Vanguard in an interview that defecting to the APC was one of the best decisions he had ever taken and that he would stand by it.
Kwankwaso said that he came to the conclusion to move over to the opposition party after the PDP, which he co-founded in 1998, deliberately and consistently undermined him and his administration in all matters relating to him and his office.
The governor said, “Let me say this and very clearly; the decision we made to move over to the APC is one of the best ever taken by me and we have no regret whatsoever. I stand by it and I will always abide by it.”
It is to be noted that the crack in the ranks of the PDP poses a real threat to its winning streak and may as well reshape its future. As things stand, any further slide in its ranks, may effectively push it to the precipice and render it impotent in the nation’s political arena. With the latest development, PDP which initially had a sweeping majority of 27 governors and almost 90 senators is now facing serious threat from the new APC. The PDP now has 18 governors with the APC following with 16. There are reports that no fewer than five more PDP governors may be on their way to pitting tent with the APC and that would put a final nail on the PDP coffin.
All hope is not however lost if the party wakes up from its slumber and makes amend where it hurt some persons. But as it is today, the PDP appears as a man who has put his hand into a burning furnace and cannot hope to get out without some burns. How soon it withdraws from the searing heat will also determine its health now and in the months ahead. But is it ready?