The high profile defections that has hit the All Progressives Congress (APC) has altered the balance of power among the country’s two main parties ahead of the 2019 elections. Before the current defections, APC was the dominant party in most parts of the country.
The APC controlled all the states in the North West (Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kebbi). In the North East, the APC controls Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa except Gombe and Taraba which are PDP controlled states. In the North Central, the APC was fully in control of the region until the recent defections.
The PDP controlled just one state in the South West, Ekiti State, which it has now lost to APC in the July 14 elections and also 9 out of the 11 states in the South South and South East.
But the recent defections from the ruling party has changed that equation. The defections have given the PDP a foothold in the North Central, with the defections of the governor Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed to the PDP and also Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue State, who also has moved to the PDP. Before the defections, the APC controlled all the states in the region.
The defection of Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal to the PDP, has also given the PDP a foothold in the North West another region that before now had only APC governors. This means that for the first time, since the PDP lost the 2015 national elections, the party now has a foothold in all regions of the country, a position that could give it some leverage in the 2019 elections.
Internal wrangling within the APC has also put several more states in the play ahead of the 2019 elections. Kano, the state that gave the APC and President Buhari the highest votes in the 2015 national elections is now up for grabs by the PDP due to the defection of the former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso from the APC. Internal wrangling in Kaduna between the governor, Nasir El-Rufai and the senators from the state also means that all is not well in the state and could impact on the party’s fortunes ahead of the 2019 national elections. Atiku’s influence in Adamawa state also means that the state could be turned against the APC in 2019.
Buhari has traditionally had is strongest support in the core north which is now looking shaky with the defections. The monthly job approval rating conducted by NOI Polls shows that while Buhari’s job approval rating stands at just 42 percent nationally, in the North West, it stands at 69 percent and in the North East at 57 percent.
Analysts have told BusinessDay that the defections could serve the death knell on Buhari’s ambitions in 2019 as the states, where he had maintained his traditional electoral stronghold are also swinging away from him. They note that the political forces that guaranteed victory for Buhari in the 2015 election are fast turning against him.
Buhari’s former allies started the defections in earnest on Tuesday July 24 in the National Assembly when 37 members of the House of Representatives and 14 Senators left the ruling party for the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Then came the defection of Governor of Benue State Samuel Ortom two days later, followed by Tuesdays’ defection of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, and in quick succession, the Governor of Sokoto State, Waziri Tambuwal also announced his defection from the APC on Wednesday hours after the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi, dumped the APC.
Reacting to the gale of defections a political analyst, Katch Ononuju, told BusinessDay on Wednesday that the most significant of the defections was that of the Sokoto State Governor, which he said was notable because it indicates that the political and religious bastion of the Fulani Caliphate has also abandoned Buhari. He believes that Buhari may opt out of the presidential race to avoid the humiliation of defeat that now looks looming.
“Now we have gotten the Fulani against him (Buhari) by Sokoto Governor defecting. You will now see a real implosion. Kano is gone too because Ibrahim Shekarau has been appeased to allow a working arrangement with Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso and with that now done, they have now broken away and don’t forget the Emir of Kano is with them. So you have Kano the political and Sokoto the spiritual and the Deputy Governor has joined them. Kaduna has also left Buhari.”
When asked about the South West which appears to be for APC, Ononuju said the South west will fail Buhari because the national leader of the APC and South West political giant, Ahmed Bola Tinubu is not making serious efforts to ensure Buhari’s re-election apart from making his faction of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to take control of the ruling party.
Analysts and stakeholders said further that with defection of Tambuwal and Rabiu Kwankwaso from the North West, Buhari and its APC stronghold are facing imminent electoral defeat because the duo made Buhari and APC victory in the region in 2015 possible and their defection will make his re-election impossible in the region.
Also speaking to BusinessDay, Abdul Majeeb Coordinator National Movement for Good Governance and a Kano based political activist said that as one of the foot soldiers of Buhari and APC in the North, he can conclude that APC is dead and buried with defections in the area.
“Now that Kwankwaso is no longer in APC, the party and Buhari cannot win Kano and Kano is the state that determines victory because of its voting capacity. The same thing in Sokoto where Tambuwal has left”.
Aondoakaa Yayoo a party Chieftain from North Central observed that the defections of Governor Samuel Ortom and Senate President Saraki from APC to PDP means the ruling party and Buhari will lose the zone in the next round of elections.
“How can APC and Buhari win Benue and Kwara when Ortom and Saraki are in PDP? How can they win Kano and Sokoto when Kwankwaso and Tambuwal are in PDP? It is impossible. APC cannot win, Buhari will be defeated.”
But APC remains optimistic that it will win despite the defections. In a statement yesterday, the party said it is neither distracted nor surprised by the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governors Abdulfatah Ahmed and Aminu Tambuwal of Kwara and Sokoto states, National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi and others from the party.
In the statement signed by the National Deputy Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, the party said the defectors had the right and freedom to pursue their political ambitions wherever they so desired.
Nabena, who saluted the courage of the defectors to come openly and declare where they belonged, advised Saraki, Ahmed, Tambuwal, Abdullahi and the others to maintain and enjoy the spirit and atmosphere of freedom.
“The defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki; Governors Abdulfatah Ahmed and Aminu Tambuwal of Kwara and Sokoto States; National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi; and others, to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) neither surprises nor distracts the All Progressives Congress (APC). Every follower of events in recent times could decipher the signs that foretold the exit of Saraki, Tambuwal, Ahmed, Abdullahi, from our great party,” he said.
However, PDP while welcoming Governor Tambuwal and others, noted in a statement on Wednesday that the return of Governor Tambuwal, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom, Kwara state Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and Kano State Deputy Governor, Hafizu Abubakar in addition to scores of federal legislators to the party, reflects the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians across board, who are now returning to the repositioned PDP as the only vehicle to rescue our nation from the mis-governance of the APC.
“Indeed, the patriotic action of these leaders and their supporters has given Nigerians a renewed hope of returning our nation to the path of national cohesion, peace and economic prosperity that has eluded her in the last three years of the incompetent administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the dysfunctional All Progressives Congress (APC),” the party said.
The PDP also noted that the coming weeks will witness the influx of more APC governors, federal legislators, other elected and appointed officials at very high levels, into the repositioned PDP.
But as the news of the defections raged in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday announced that he is proceeding on a 10-day working holiday with effect from August 3, 2018.
The leave which will be spent in London, also affords the President an opportunity to meet with his doctors, even though this was not stated in the statement announcing his leave. The president’s return to London will once more raise concerns over his health which has been issue since he became president in 2015.
The current leave is the second this year, as the President had proceeded on a similar leave from the 1st of April, 2018, as a prelude to the official participation of the President at the last Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London.
The leave is also coming just few days after the President was elected Chairman Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) at the meetings of the Joint Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and ECOWAS as well as the 53rd Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS.
A statement by Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina, said “ in compliance with Section 145 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, a letter has been transmitted to the President of the Senate, and the Speaker, House of Representatives to that effect.
He disclosed that “While the President is on vacation, the Vice President will be in acting capacity as President.” President Buhari had embarked on similar medical holidays that lasted over 100days in 2017.
“President Buhari will be in London for the holidays”, according to Adesina.