Though the 2023 general elections is still a bit far away, fortunately, or unfortunately, the heat is on in Nigeria’s political space and politicians are firing from all cylinders already.
As if to lend credence to the popular saying that politicians think of the next election while visionary leaders think of the next generation, the race for the 2023 general elections has been informally declared open while politicians’ attentions have shifted away from the myriad of socio-political and economic challenges bedevilling our nation.
Every day, there are reports of killings, kidnappings, rape, robbery and skyrocketing cost of living. But to Nigerian politicians, those are no longer important issues. What borders the political merchants in Nigeria now is the 2023 elections and their personal interests.
Little surprise that the horsetrading has begun in earnest as there are many high-powered meetings going on up and down around the country, most of it nocturnal while others are covert.
Predictably, the year 2021 has been declared the decision year when the polity shall witness a lot of political manoeuvres: alignments and realignments, betrayals and reconciliations. A year when old foes will renew their friendships and blood relations will break ties.
Already, these have started playing out as we are beginning to see a lot of cross-carpeting particularly from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
First, it was the controversial chieftain of the PDP, Femi Fani-Kayode, who was, penultimate week, a subject of a botched defection as reports have it that the former minister of aviation had joined the APC but was rejected as a result of reservations against his membership by some chieftains of the party.
According to the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, Salihu Lukman, the attempt by Mr Femi Fani-Kayode to join the APC was resisted by the insistence of many APC members and leaders that Mr Fani-Kayode was not welcome to join the party because he doesn’t have the values required to be a member.
Nigerian media space, especially social media, around the late evening of Monday, February 8, 2021, was agog with the photos and news of APC National Chairman, Mai Mala Buni and Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, in the company of Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, a notable leader of the Peoples Democratic Party with speculation that Mr Fani-Kayode was on his way to joining the APC.
That speculation was, however, confirmed a few days later by Governor Yahaya Bello while addressing a gathering of supporters in Kogi State. Bello said, “Fani-Kayode has joined the APC in good faith. He has seen the light, chief Fani-Kayode has joined us.”
But reacting to the development, the PGF boss said for APC leaders to associate themselves with Mr Fani-Kayode, is simply rewarding scandalous behaviour.
Recalling how Mr Fani-Kayode has fabricated stories, distorted, insulted and damaged information about the party and its leaders, he stressed that elementary rule of decency would require some good distance between “our leaders and such a person”, adding that “Not even the ward leaders where he is located should be associated with him except for reasons of family ties.”
The former aviation minister was known for his chronic criticism of the APC and it’s leadership, including President Muhammadu Buhari, whom he called many unprintable names.
Meanwhile, a lot of theories have trailed Fani-Kayode’s botched trip to the ruling party. While some theorized that FFK as fondly called decided to join APC having heard that the ruling party had decided to zone the presidential ticket to the south and was heading there to try his luck and rightly position himself for the benefits ahead. Others said he was been sent there as a mole by the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is believed to be nursing a presidential ambition, to do a hatchet man’s job.
In a similar vein, on Tuesday, reports surfaced that former two-term governor of Ogun State who was also the campaign manager for the PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Gbenga Daniel, has joined the APC. Though the former governor had earlier announced his retirement from active politics, however, his body language has always suggested that his mind was in the ruling party. If anything, he was reported to have worked against his own party, the PDP in favour of the incumbent governor Dapo Abiodun, who was a candidate of APC at the last governorship election in Ogun State.
Daniel who has since picked up the membership card of APC at the ongoing registration of new members is expected to meet with the chairman of the caretaker committee of the APC and governor of Yobe State Mai Mala Buni on Wednesday.
On the same day, a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Sen. Iyiola Omisore, also defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC. Omisore defected to the APC at his polling Unit, Ward 6 in Ile-Ife, Osun State, after which, he picked his membership card. The former Deputy Governor had contested 2018 governorship election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
As that was going on, news also filtered in that former Chief of Army Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Lt.-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika has joined the APC.
Ihejirika, who was the Chief of Army Staff between 2010 and 2014 under former President Goodluck Jonathan, announced his defection to the APC at his Isuikwuato country home in Abia North Senatorial District.
His defection to the ruling party has ended speculations that he wanted to join the PDP and run for the governorship seat in 2023.
Also, two House of Representatives members – Blessing Onu and Yakubu Shehu Abdullahi – have also defected to the party.
Abdullahi, who is the member representing Bauchi Federal Constituency, defected from the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) to the APC.
Onuh said she was leaving APGA due to leadership crisis at all levels of the party, adding that she decided to leave after consultation with her constituents.
There have been earlier reports of some governors of APC meeting with former President Goodluck Jonathan
with a view to wooing him to run as the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 election.
That was however refuted by the Chairman APC caretaker committee, Mai Mala Buni, who said the governors only visited the former president to felicitate with him on his birthday celebration.
But on Tuesday, report also surfaced that some PDP chieftains led by former Senate president, Bukola Saraki, met with former president Goodluck Jonathan on the same issue.
Saraki, who is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee, after the meeting, assured party faithful that ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan is going to avail the party of his experience, time and resources to regain the presidency in 2023.
Addressing newsmen, Tuesday, after leading members of the PDP national reconciliation and strategy committee to a meeting with Jonathan at his Maitama-Abuja home, Senator Saraki also dismissed speculations that Dr Jonathan will be defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
He stressed that rather than dump the PDP, Dr Jonathan will be at the forefront in 2023 to ensure the PDP recaptures power at the centre.
Dr Saraki added that those “disturbing” the former President into quitting the major opposition party should perish the thought as he (Jonathan) remains a PDP man to the core.
According to analysts, one of the trigger effects for this mass exodus into APC was the reported decision of the ruling party to zone the 2023 presidency to the south. Wth this development, Nigerians are likely to witness many more defections of southern politicians into the ruling party in the days ahead.
The ongoing nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise by the ruling party has also contributed in no small measure to the mass exodus of politicians into the APC as many grassroots politicians are reported to be trickling in into the party at the various wards.
With the way things are going, analysts fear Nigeria may be turned into a one-party state. This may not augur well for our polity and fledgling democracy.
Aready, Chairman of APC Women, Youth and Persons with Disability sensitization and mobilization Committee for the nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise, governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, has boasted that the party would use the registration exercise to attract all Nigerians into its fold.
Should that happen, analyst say the strength of opposition politics will be drastically weakened resulting in the ruling party behaving as occasion serves it.
Predictedly, the year 2021 has been declared the decision year where the polity shall witness a lot of political manoeuvres: alignments and realiagments, betrayals and reconciliations