Southeast: Politics of 2019, defections
For the greater part of Nigeria’s return to democracy, the Southeast geopolitical zone could be described as the bastion of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Prior to the historic defeat of the party in 2015 election, the fortune of the erstwhile ruling party has been on a steady downward slide.
Enugu State is about the only place in Southeast where opposition has found it very hard to disturb the flow of political power since 1999. PDP finds an easy electoral bargain store in the state. Perhaps, as a result, the state had been rewarded with the positions of President and Deputy President of Senate. Enugu is also on record as having produced the National Secretary and National Chairman of PDP.
Ebonyi State, which could have been very near to that record, fell far short having not produced a party functionary other than deputy national secretary even when it produced a President of Senate. But Ebonyi cannot forget 2003, 2011 and 2015 in a hurry on account of the massive inroad opposition political parties made in the state, by harassing day light out of PDP.
In neighbouring Abia, PDP was privileged to have produced both a national chairman and national secretary, but it could not throw up a President of Senate. With its chequered history in Abia, PDP once yielded its lofty political space to a makeshift opposition party in utter display of political acrobatics.
Imo State has remained a basket case for PDP. After holding the governorship for eight years, opposition parties took over, albeit by a mixture of guile and political delinquency. Despite its misadventure the state had produced a President of Senate and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives.
Anambra has a story of shame to tell about its politics in the hands of PDP. After governing the state for four years, PDP had to use brigandage to snatch another three years, before it was shoved aside and kept out of political power in the state.
At the build up to Nigeria’s eventual return to democratic governance, Anambra State occupied a pride of place due to the fact that the foundation chairman of PDP, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, hails from the state. Ekwueme’s loss of the party’s presidential ticket in 1998 and 2003 accentuated the apathy from Anambra citizens and by extension some others states in the geopolitical zone. It was therefore not unexpected that the same forces that denied Ekwueme the fruitage of his leadership of G34 that transmuted to PDP also scuttled the cohesion of the party in Imo.
Although many politicians from the Southeast, particularly those from Anambra demanded Igbo membership of PDP in 2003, the predominant disposition was that “having invested much in mobilisation and the fact of belonging to the mainstream, Southeast is better off in PDP.”
Fresh Clamour For Review
BUT commentators on Southeast politics had noted that while PDP held sway as the ruling party, most political actors in the zone saw the platform as the easiest route to elective positions. Thus falling back on the fangled federal might, elections were rigged as candidates were imposed such that instead of the law, cash ruled.
Next to that, the PDP system made governors tin gods as they decided who goes where either in the National, State or Local government council. Dictating the political tune, politicians from the zone effortlessly danced according to the governors’ political lullaby.
It is against that background that the recent rash of defections in Southeast is predicated. No sooner had PDP fallen from political grace than most of the Southeast governors started making overtures towards the new ruling party and political leaders. Oblivious of their theatricals during the 2015 election, some of the governors began to tailor their governance style after that of President Muhammadu Buhari, in obvious attempt to be more APC than APC.
As early as June 2015, governors of Ebonyi and Enugu States were associated with plans of possible defection. With fear of the ruling party using the governorship election petition tribunals to sack them, some of these governors started doling out favours to leaders of the new ruling party.
Matters took a turn for the ludicrous when one of the state governors who lambasted Buhari as being a dictator and enemy of democracy, approached the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), announcing his willingness to infuse N5b into APC in his state.
Anambra, Ekweremadu and 2019
THERE is no official statement to that effect, but sources have hinted that APC plans to select its presidential running mate in 2019 from Southeast. In response to that kite, most political front-liners, including former President of Senate, Ken Nnamani, Senator Jim Nwobodo, former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, started crossing over to APC they spurned before.
But while the lure of vice president and other perks from membership of the ruling party may explain the defection of some prominent politicians to the ruling party, the forthcoming governorship in Anambra has added a new dimension to the mad rush into APC.
It is generally believed by most governorship aspirants in the state that the APC ticket amounts to an automatic electoral victory. Most moneybags, out of fear of possible persecution or strangulation of their businesses have moved or are planning to move over to APC.
In states where the governors are PDP in name, but APC in spirit, many lawmakers are also planning to jump ship, in the belief that the governors would as usual determine who makes it to the National or States Assembly. This thinking must have fueled speculations that the Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, was holding clandestine talks with some leaders of APC to perfect defection plans.
Even before Senator Kabiru Marafa voiced his unsolicited advice, fears that the fourth term Senator may be heading to APC started making the rounds in Enugu when it became obvious that the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, has only time and circumstance between him and the ruling party.
But in the case of Ekweremadu, those who are in the know claim that he is positioning himself to take advantage of the new gesture of friendship from the Presidency to the Southeast, especially given the prediction that the President is disposed to having a President of Senate from the zone to confer a semblance of balance in his administration and douse the flame of secessionist agitations.
However, Ekweremadu came out through a statement released on his behalf by his Assistant on Political Matters, to deny interest in defection. Yet some political watchers insist that the DSP knows that the CCT was programmed to convict Saraki and that in such eventuality only his membership of APC could guarantee his transition.
They say Ekweremadu could be forced out of office when the only Senator from Southeast in APC is supported to be Senate President since it would be quite odd for President and Deputy to come from one geopolitical zone. “It was such a scenario that informed Senator Marafa conditionality,” they claim.
On the other hand worried by alleged subterranean moves to have the Deputy President of Senate to defect to APC, Enugu State chapter of the party came out publicly to warn that such a move would create further mess in the polity.
Enugu APC in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Mrs. Kate Offor, recalled that the election of Ekweremadu as the deputy president of senate poisoned the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President, adding that for him to defect to the ruling party would not only cause chaos in the Senate, but also in the state chapter.“We don’t want one party state; most importantly we don’t want him to infest APC with confusion, which is his trademark in the PDP from the time of Governor Chimaroke Nnamani in 1999 till date,” Offor declared.
Apart from faulting Section 68(g) upon which some politicians were standing to lure Ekweremadu to APC, Enugu APC said: “Whatever is the position of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we want him to remain in PDP. We wish to make it very clear that Ekweremadu is an unwanted guest in Enugu State APC. Let him stay and salvage the inferno festering in the PDP.”
The party stated that the Deputy President of Senate “contributed in no small measure to the mess PDP found itself today, via unbridled impunity and unconscionable anti-internal democracy antics,” adding that Ekweremadu “set the high jump, Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is facing in court today.”
Although the Special Assistant to the Deputy President of the Senate on Political Affairs, Hon. Okey Ozoani, dismissed the speculations as “the fantasy of those peddling it”, the movement of eminent former political heavyweights from PDP to APC suggests that the senator may be thinking along same line to avoid being left in the lurch to suffer political comatose.As the wind of defections continue, a rights activist, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, told Nd’Igbo residing in Lagos recently that time has come to ask politicians to state their reasons for identifying for any political party.
Okonkwo said defectors that cannot sufficiently explain the contents of the constitution of their chosen political party should be seen as traders trying to make deals with the people’s will.As APC plans its midterm convention, it is left to be seen whether the plan to aggregate Southeast in APC is realistic or fantastic.
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