Ejiofor Alike writes on how some PDP leaders who destroyed the party by defecting to the APC to protest against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged refusal to respect the party’s zoning arrangement, have returned to agitate for a breach of the party’s constitution with their anti-zoning stance
Following the obvious marginalisation of other Nigerians by one section of the country since Independence in 1960, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in 1999 enthroned the principle of rotation of the presidency between the North and the South to end any form of marginalisation of any section in power sharing arrangement. To ensure that this principle is not breached, the founding fathers of the party also made sure that it was entrenched in the party’s constitution. It is on record that PDP lost power to the All Progressives Congress (APC) when some of its governors, National Assembly members and other chieftains defected to the then opposition APC in protest against the alleged refusal of former President Goodluck Jonathan to honour this zoning arrangement ahead of the 2015 general election.
Shortly before the elections, PDP was deeply divided over whether Jonathan should seek re-election in 2015 due to its zoning arrangement. Jonathan had in September 2010, hit back at pro-zoning presidential aspirants in the party and accused them of jettisoning zoning in the past by contesting against a southerner in the 2003 and 2007.
Some of the PDP leaders, who destabilised the party and defected to the APC had accused Jonathan of planning to renege on a promise he allegedly made in 2010 to stand down after a single term as president.
On November 26, 2013, five PDP governors – Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Rabi’u Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), defected to the APC. In a bid to justify their planned defection, seven PDP governors (G7) under the chairmanship of the then Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, some senators and other chieftains of the party had broken away from the party to form a splinter group headed by Abubakar Kawu Baraje to give the impression that the party had a faction.
But for some strange reasons, Governor Aliyu of Niger State and Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State remained in the PDP while five others defected to the APC. A month later in December 2013, the gale of defection also hit the House of Representatives when 37 PDP members of the lower legislative chamber defected to the APC. One month later in January 2014, the rank of the APC in the Senate swelled with the defection of 11 PDP senators to the then opposition party.
The senators that defected included: Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central), Shaba Lafiagi (Kwara North), Mohammed Ndume (Borno South), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), Magnus Abe (Rivers South East), Wilson Ake (Rivers West).
Others were: Bindo Jubrilla (Adamawa North), Abdullahi Gobir (Sokoto East) and Alhassan Aisha Jummai (Taraba North).
The 11 senators communicated their decision to decamp to the APC in a letter addressed to the then Senate President, Senator David Mark.
In their two-page defection letter, the 11 senators argued that: “This action and decision is as a result of the division and factionalisation in the Peoples Democratic Party that sponsored our election into the Senate.” Saraki submitted the letter to Mark during the plenary session. Barely one month after Saraki led the PDP senators to join the APC, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar also joined the opposition APC in February 2014.
Though Atiku had debunked speculation that he was joining the APC to run for president, he eventually contested the party’s presidential ticket with President Muhammadu Buhari. Some of those who defected to APC with him also contested the party’s presidential primary.
The defection of the five PDP governors, National Assembly members and Atiku gave victory to the APC in the 2015 general election. The then Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) and Governor of Imo State, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, had acknowledged this in May 2015 when he noted that the November 2013 defection of five PDP governors was a major factor for APC’s victory in the 2015 general election.
Speaking at a valedictory dinner organised by the PGF, and held in honour of the then outgoing governors, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Messrs Kwankwaso, Amaechi and Wamakko, the then Imo State governor said “make no mistake about it, without the five governors that joined the APC in 2013, we would not be here today”.
“The moment the PDP lost five governors was the moment it lost the presidency and its planned 60 years in power,” Okorocha reportedly said.
However, after these defectors had reduced the former ruling PDP to an opposition party with their pro-zoning stance, some of them, who have since returned to the PDP, have become anti-zoning elements for obvious selfish reasons. Jonathan contested the 2015 presidential election against the agitation of these elements who wanted the PDP to zone the presidential ticket to the North. He lost the election to President Buhari of the APC.
With Jonathan’s loss, power returned to the North, in line with the aspiration of the defected PDP governors and National Assembly members. These elements had wanted Jonathan and the PDP to concede the presidential ticket and by implication, power to the North for eight years.
With Buhari, a northerner, enjoying the eight-year tenure, which Jonathan had wanted to enjoy under the PDP in 2015, justice demands that power should return to the South through any political party. The ruling APC has aligned itself with this popular clamour. But in a strange twist, some of these former PDP defectors, who have returned to the PDP, now insist that the party should ditch zoning in a veiled move to ensure that the North retains power for another eight years, which is against the spirit and letters of the zoning principle in PDP’s constitution. To realise their selfish mission, they have used a 37-man committee set up by the party to throw the presidential ticket open to aspirants from all the zones of the country.
The 17 southern governors, some of their northern colleagues and other prominent northern leaders, as well as the ruling APC have insisted on the need for power to return to the South in 2023. But the few PDP leaders, who destroyed the party in their agitation for zoning, have returned to the party to mount selfish campaign against zoning the presidency to the South.
The question political analysts have asked is: Did they return to the PDP to bury it after they had reduced it to an opposition party?