Danger Signal in Gale of Defections


Tuesday last week will go down in history as a low political moment for the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC] since it won the 2015 general and presidential elections. It was also a low moment for Nigeria’s democracy, given the overzealous and partisan actions of security agencies on that day.

Early that day, police and Department of State Services [DSS] agents reportedly laid siege to Senate President Bukola Saraki’s Maitama residence while Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] agents laid siege to Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu’s Apo Quarters residence. The reason for the double siege soon became clear when Saraki slipped out and presided over a Senate session at which 15 senators announced their defection from APC.

The senators that defected to the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] include Rabiu Kwakwanso [Kano], Dino Melaye [Kogi], Barnabas Gemade [Benue], Shaaba Lafiaji [Kwara], Rafiu Ibrahim [Kwara] and Usman Nafada [Gombe]. Senators Suleiman Hunkuyi [Kaduna], Ibrahim Danbaba [Sokoto], Ubale Shittu [Jigawa], Isah Hamman Misau[Bauchi], Suleiman Nazif [Bauchi] and Lanre Tejuosho [Ogun] also defected to PDP while senators Monsurat Sunmonu [Oyo] and Abdul-Aziz Nyako [Adamawa] defected to African Democratic Congress [ADC]. Saraki read the letter announcing their defections at plenary.

Later the same day, 37 House of Representatives members also announced their defection from APC in a letter read by Speaker Yakubu Dogara. While most of the defectors went to PDP, four of them from Oyo State went to ADC. Most of the defectors were from Kano, Kwara, Benue, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa and Oyo states. In the wake of the defections, most newspapers announced that APC had lost control of both chambers of the National Assembly to PDP. Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan however disputed the count, saying APC still retained control of the Senate with 52 senators to PDP’s 50; 3 APGA senators and two vacancies in Bauchi and Katsina, which he said are safe APC seats. The problem is that more senators and Reps are expected to defect from APC when the National Assembly resumes from its sudden and long adjournment in September. Senate President Saraki and Speaker Dogara are most certain to defect as well.

To add to APC’s problems, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom defected to PDP last week, and indications are that Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed will follow suit. President Muhammadu Buhari however took the gale of defections calmly, saying the defectors had problems with their state governors and not him, and that he wished them the best in their future endeavours. APC national chairman Adams Oshiomhole however said the defectors have no electoral value.

If PDP ends up with a majority in the National Assembly, that will be the most significant development in the national political scene since 2015. It is certainly a big psychological blow to APC and a huge political and morale booster for the opposition. Whether it will affect either party’s chances in 2019 remains to be seen. We must however join all patriots in warning that the security agencies must not be used in political maneuvering. This is a very big danger signal for 2019. If the police, DSS and EFCC are blatantly used to prevent defections, the question on everyone’s lips is, will they play the same partisan role in next year’s elections? Source: Daily Trust Sunday

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