After months of speculations, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Tuesday, decamped from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Saraki was among other PDP governors and bigwigs that left in 2014 to join the then newly formed APC.
A week ago, the Senate President had presided over the defection of 15 senators on the floor of the Senate, a development that easily confirmed that the crisis in the ruling party must have run deep and wide.
Saraki had announced his defection on his twitter handle before making available to the media a lengthy statement which was signed by him.
“I wish to inform Nigerians that, after extensive consultations, I have decided to take my leave of the All Progressives Congress (APC),” he said.
According to him, “This is not a decision that I have made lightly. If anything at all, I have tarried for so long and did all that was humanly possible, even in the face of great provocation, ridicule and flagrant persecution, to give opportunity for peace, reconciliation and harmonious existence.”
The SenatePresident was treated to a rousing welcome in Ilorin, Kwara State, his home town, by thousands of supporters, friends and political associates.
Saraki’s acrimonious elevation, and ordeals
Saraki has been at loggerheads with the leadership of the APC and the presidency. His problem with the party started shortly after the inauguration of the 8th Assembly on June 9,2015. He was said to have defiled the arrangements of his party leadership which had shared out the principal offices to certain individuals. Saraki’s emergence was seen as an affront on powers that be in the APC and the seed of discord was sown thenceforth.
To pay the former governor of Kwara State in his own coin and to ensure he does not enjoy his tenure in office, the presidency in cahoots, with some chieftains of the party had allegedly moved against him, slamming some allegations against him.
First, he was accused of false declaration of his assets when he was governor of the state 13 years ago. He became the first serving Senate president to be docked in the Code of Conduct Tribunal on corruption charges. The case went up to the Supreme Court, where he was discharged and acquitted, recently.
While that was going on, the Senate President was again slammed with a forgery case alongside his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. Both of them were dragged before the Federal High Court, Jabi, Abuja, over alleged forgery of Senate Rules. The High Court, in a ruling by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, held that the charge which was endorsed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami, constituted a gross abuse of judicial process.
The most recent is the allegation that Saraki was complicit in the robbery incident that took place in a bank in Offa area of Kwara State in which about 30 people were said to have been gruesomely murdered.
On several occasions, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, had invited Saraki to Force Headquarters in connection with the robbery. Last week, the Senate President was interrogated at the National Assembly complex.
Implications of his defection
When politicians move, especially at this very high level, they move with people, influence, sentiments and panic. For instance, when Saraki got to Kwara, his home state, immediately after the defection, people started to send certain signals in the air. And these signals may go in the way of mass defection to follow Saraki; it could also manifest in terms of counter-defection to be able to balance the political space. Whichever pattern it is going to take, no one can easily say for now. But definitely, it is going to change a lot of things.
Expect mixed feelings in Kwara PDP
For PDP at the state level in Kwara, Saraki’s defection may not be well-received by some entrenched interest in the party. Although the national secretariat has welcomed him with open arms, it is not going to be the same at the state level. It is natural because politics is all about space. When you are at the state level , the tendency if to think that you have the whole political space to yourself and the space is now being threatened by another bigwig who is coming from the national level; it may make a lot of people uncomfortable at the state level.
The movement, no doubt, is going to change a lot of things, but nobody is sure whether the change is going to be positive or otherwise.
Possibility of other defections
In a matter of days, Samuel Ortom of Benue State defected; Ahmed Abdulfatah of Kwara State also defected; there are indications that more governors are going to move. This is because the wind of this defection is caused by some fundamental issues- ideological issues. Observers have always said that APC is a party of strange bed fellows. Although that did not prevent them from winning elections in 2015, it is not the ultimate in democracy; it is sustaining the power that is the ultimate. It is now manifesting that those in the APC are divided into two- there are APC members by nomenclature and APC members by ideology. So, it is expected that more governors will move.
Political calculations ahead of 2019
There will be alignment and realignment of forces. With the movement of the Senate President and two governors, some other bigwigs, who according to feelers, are planning to move, Nigerians can only expect more decampments. And this may give the APC a tough fight. It is going to be a very interesting competition in 2019.