For keen watchers of events in Nigeria, the scenario in the political front could not have been more revealing understandably in the build-up to the 2015 general election.
High wire politicking by politicians of different hues has dominated the Nigerian space in the past few weeks when five of the seven aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors formally dumped the party and went into a merger with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC.)
The development was seen by many as the climax of months of prevarications and self-denials by the defecting governors who have been junketing all over the country, holding reconciliation meetings with leaders of the party and former heads of state in protest against what they described as injustice and impunity rocking the umbrella party.
But in a strange twist, the crisis rocking the PDP came to a head on Tuesday, December 2, when five out of its seven aggrieved governors, joined the APC in a move which has been described as a major political earthquake since the birth of the present democratic dispensation.
The defecting PDP governors are Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Ahmed Abdulfatah (Kwara), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto.)
However, two other governors – Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Alhaji Sule Lamido (Jigawa) – declined to move with their colleagues to the opposition party as they reaffirmed their loyalty and membership of the PDP.
The road to the December declaration by the aggrieved governors may have been paved few months ago when the group, together with other PDP bigwigs had staged a walk-out of the party’s special national convention in Abuja on August 31 to form the new PDP, which was chaired by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje.
Reacting to the defection of the governors, the PDP initially welcomed their decision, saying “It is within the rights of any Nigerian citizen to associate with anybody he or she deems fit.”
According to the party, by the open declaration, the governors “have unveiled their true intent which most Nigerians suspected ab-initio. They have chosen to abandon a broad-based national platform and embraced a narrow group of ethnic and religious bigots whose main intention is to unleash a state of anarchy on Nigeria.
“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,” it added.
The party also said that contrary to the impression members of the splinter group were trying to create, the courts have ruled that the party was not factionalised just as it reiterated its commitment to the peace process embarked upon by the president, which it stated was on course.
But despite the assurances, the splinter group maintained its stand, saying with the defection of the governors, the PDP was in trouble.
It then called upon President Goodluck Jonathan to prepare his handover note, as he would lose in the 2015 presidential election, if he runs.
It would be recalled that the APC, in its desperation to consolidate the new party, had embarked on nationwide membership drive when its leaders visited the state capitals of the aggrieved governors while capitalising on the big internal crisis rocking the ruling party.
To this end, APC Interim National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande led a strong team of party leaders, including Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, governors, senators and others to Kano, Dutse and Yola on a mission to woo Kano State governor, Kwankwaso, Jigawa State governor, Lamido and Adamawa State governor, Nyako.
The team had earlier paid similar visit to Rivers and Sokoto states. Also on the entourage were Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former Speaker, Aminu Bello Masari, Senator George Akume, Alhaji Abdullahi Gwarzo, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, Alhaji Kashim Imam, Senator Annie Okonkwo, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and governors – Babatunde Fashola (Lagos State), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo).
But expectedly, the PDP frowned at the meetings. Its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement wondered why the APC leaders were wooing the governors of the PDP they had castigated in the past.
According to him, “Joining the APC is to join in promoting divisions in Nigeria.”
But faced with the reality of a looming mass defection of its members to the APC and its political implications to the fortunes of the ruling party in 2015, the PDP appears to have beaten a retreat as the leadership thought it wise to open its doors to aggrieved APC members in the affected states.
The tit-for-tat game strategy is reportedly directed to contact deputy governors of the defected governors, 2011 governorship candidates of the APC in the affected states as well as party chieftains like former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau and other notable leaders of the opposition.
The drive by PDP to poach the APC in the affected states is coming against the background of growing discontent in such states as Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa and Kwara over the defection of the PDP governors into the APC. The crisis was reported to have snowballed into threats of defection into the PDP by many APC chiefs in the affected states.
According to reports, tempers have risen within the state chapters of the APC owing to an alleged new deal signed between the new leadership of the party and the new PDP which was leaked to all the affected states.
A major part of the deal said to have raised eyebrow was the one that made the defected governors leaders of the party in their respective states, a clause said to have been rejected by Alhaji Bafarawa in Sokoto, Shekarau in Kano and Dele Belgore in Kwara.
Wamakko recently disclosed his involvement in the merger talk reached between some new PDP members and the APC, stating that he remained a “key player in the merger arrangement with the opposition party.”
But the development did not go down well with Bafarawa, a former governor of the state who, it was learnt has resolved to move out of the party since it was clear that he with the incumbent governor would not work under the same political platform in the state.
“It is true that Bafarawa is set to dump APC, the party he nurtured to its present status because of the ill-fated arrangement made by some leaders of the party to co-opt some new PDP members into the party. Since the governor will automatically take over the party as its leader, there is no point for Bafarawa to remain in the platform as ‘second-fiddle’ leader. That arrangement cannot work,” said a source.
The former governor is believed to have opened fresh talk with old PDP members in the state for possible defection. “We are expecting our political leader (Bafarawa) to formalise his defection talk with ‘old’ PDP members in matter of few weeks.” A source has revealed
The PDP latest move is believed to be a face saving strategy to bring the umbrella party together after series of severe crisis of confidence as a result of deep internal schisms that has refused to abate.
But whether the Africa’s largest party can weather the raging storm, only events of weeks ahead will tell.