The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suffered mass defection of its prominent members to the All Progressives Congress (APC) nationwide at just about the same time when the national headquarters of the party is enmeshed in a messy leadership tussle. Daily Trust on Sunday takes a look at the big names that have left the party eight months after it lost power at the centre.
A former governor of old Anambra State and one-time Minister of Sports, Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, who admitted receiving N500 million from the former National Security Adviser, retired Col. Sambo Dasuki, has dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC) along with two other party chieftains .
Nwobodo, who represented Enugu East Senatorial District between 1999 and 2007 in the Senate on the platform of the PDP, moved to the APC in Enugu along with a former senator, Chief Fidelis Okoro, who represented Enugu North Senatorial District and another chieftain of the PDP, Richard Ozobu.
Nwobodo said he was joining the APC not to take anybody’s position but to bring Igbo people into the mainstream of Nigeria’s politics.
The decampees were received at an APC meeting in Enugu convened by Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, with the state party chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye, other state executives and the national vice chairman, South-East, Emma Eneukwu, in attendance.
Nwobodo is alleged to be a beneficiary to the tune of N600 million in the arms deal. He is said to have admitted receiving the money but for his personal use.
Reacting to the defection in a statement, APC South-East Caucus spokesperson, Osita Okechukwu, said Nwobodo entered APC through the window as a fugitive running from justice.
“At any rate, certain political observers in the state think that his entry into the APC will not bring good fortunes to the party because the man is already a spent force politically, and has lost the kind of magic and charm he used to have in the NPP (Nigeria Peoples Party) days”, he said.
Last weekend, prominent PDP members particularly from Benue South Senatorial District of the Idoma ethnic group defected to the ruling APC. A delicate re-run election between former Senate president, David Mark of the PDP and ex-student union leader, the youthful Daniel Onjeh of the APC, is expected to be conducted on February 20 as ordered by an appeal court. The defectors were led by the former deputy governor of the state, Chief Stephen Lawani, former Senate president, Ameh Ebute, two ex-ministers of state for Niger Delta and Education, Dr. Sam Ode and Prof. Jerry Agada respectively, as well as former federal permanent secretary, Chief Mike Okibe Onoja.
Others who left the PDP for the APC in the state include; Egbiri Idah, a former commissioner, former Secretary to State Government Bartholomew Oche, former Senator Godwin Okpe, former deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly Ralph Igbagbo and a former chief of staff to Senator Mark, Dr. John Enyi.
They were received into the APC in Otukpo by the National Chairman, John Oyegun, last Saturday during the senatorial flag-off campaign of Daniel Onjeh at the Government Model Secondary School, Otukpo.
The defectors are politicians with structures on ground in the district which means the PDP has extra work to do to convince the electorate to vote for Mark’s return to the Senate.
Onoja in a statement through Comrade Alegwu Adadu and Hon. Alex Onah Aboh, chairmen of APC in Ado LGA, Igumale and Akpoge/Ogbilolo Ward, said he moved in the interest of the Idoma nation.
“There is no one individual whose ambition can measure up to the collective interests of the people. Wherever and whenever the well-being of the citizenry is concerned, everyone must be prepared to make necessary sacrifices,” the statement said.
On Ode, however some observers think he may only want to take a pound of flesh. He, however, gave his reason for leaving the PDP as simply, “my experience.”
Interestingly, while the APC is happy that the defectors have finally stripped the PDP of its firm hold in the zone, feelers have however compared the impact of the defections to a little drop of water in the sea.
The reason being that at the PDP still controls all four House of Representatives seats and 11 of the 14 House of Assembly seats in the contentious senatorial district popularly referred to as Zone C.
In the words of the Minority Leader of the state House of Assembly, Audu Sule, “It appears that some people don’t know the worth of David Mark in Idoma land. The man will spring unimaginable surprises and he will win the election.”
Despite having some notable figures in the PDP including its immediate past national chairman who is also former governor of the state, Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu and former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister Senator Bala Mohammed, the party is recording massive defections of its members to the opposition in Bauchi State.
Some of the personalities that defected to the APC in Bauchi include former Minister of State for Health, Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate, a former chairman of Alkaleri Local Government Area Dr. Musa Badara and the Commissioner for Education, Special Duties and Environment in both Mua’zu and Yuguda’s cabinets, Auwalu Abdu, a former member of the National Assembly and Comrade Iliyasu Zwal who is also a former member of the state House of Assembly.
Apart from the high profile defections, the party also received groups and other supporters of the PDP into its fold.
A founding member of the APC in the state, Senator Salisu Musa Matori, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the party made the haul due to its clear ideology of bringing succour to the people.
State publicity secretary of the party, Auwal Jallah, told our reporter that the party is presently in talks with many individuals and groups who want to leave the PDP for the APC.
“The party has set up a committee which is looking into the various interest groups and individuals who have shown their willingness to join it,” he said.
On the part of the PDP, its state secretary, Barrister Mukhtar Abubakar, who spoke to our reporter on telephone, admitted that the party had not recorded any high profile defection from the APC or any other party in the state.
“Honestly, we have not recorded or received any prominent political figure who joined the PDP in Bauchi State. However we have received many people from the grassroots including groups who joined the party,” he said.
In Abia State, Senator Nkechi Nwogu, a two-term member of the Senate, representing Abia Central Senatorial District at the Senate, decamped to the APC.
An outspoken senator, Nwogu was unable to return to her seat on account of her failed governorship aspiration. She said she was leaving the PDP because of lack of internal democracy in the party and because the PDP government derailed from its original objectives. She said they were disenchanted with the leadership style of former governor Theodore Orji.
Nwogu said the PDP was bedevilled with endless intra-party squabbles and manipulation by governors, adding that she came to the APC with her followers from 105 wards in the state and urged Abians to shun sentiments and embrace change.
In Cross River State, the PDP has lost cohesion with which to win future elections as many influential members and their sympathisers have abandoned it for the APC.
Dignitaries that have decamped to APC in the state include former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba, Third Republic governor of the state, Mr Clement David Ebri, former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Venatius Ikem, Mr Gody Jedy Agba, ex- General Manager Crude and Marketing of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Dr Peter Oti, Chairman of Internal Revenue Service in the state during Senator Liyel Imoke’s tenure, Mr Soni Abang, former Chairman of the PDP in the state, Mr Victor Abang, Special Assistant to the Senate President, Dr Alex Egbona and former Chief of Staff to former governor Liyel Imoke.
Speculations are also rife in the state that the senator representing the Central Senatorial zone of the state, Senator John Owan, following a frosty relationship with the governor, is planning to decamp to the APC.
Among these defections, the ones that have caused the most pain to the PDP are those of Ikem, Agba, Adah and Oti who are from Obudu, the same local government area with the state governor, Senator Ben Ayade.
Ayade reacted through his adviser on Public Affairs, Tony Undiandeye, by saying;”People that have defected from PDP in the state to the APC have small minds. It is quite unfortunate.”
The victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last presidential election has changed the political game in Edo State as the APC bounced back to reckoning while the PDP receded to its shell.
Three heavyweights of the PDP, retired Major General Charles Airhiavbere, former governor of the state Senator (Prof) Oserheimen Osunbor and Barrister Ken Imasungbon left the PDP for the APC with thousands of their supporters.
In Ekiti State, some big PDP members recently left the party for the APC. They include; former Senator Ayo Arise, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Hon Femi Bamisile, Dr. Tope Aluko and Mr Olatunde Olatunde, with indication that about 40 members of the PDP are putting finishing touches to becoming members of the APC. When Sunday Trust contacted some of the big wigs to find out the reason for defection, they were unanimous that the PDP is infested with elements who have continued to create crisis in the party.
In Anambra State, former stalwarts of the PDP who are now in the APC include former governor of the state, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, Senator Uche Ekwunife and Tony Nwoye.