The All Progressives Congress (APC) was again rocked yesterday in the latest wave of defections by some of its key members to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But the ruling party said it remained unshaken.The APC lost its National Publicity Secretary Bolaji Abdullahi, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, 18 Sokoto State House of Assembly members and Kano State Deputy Governor Hafiz Abubakar. Also, 23 of the 24 members of the Kwara State House of Assembly crossed over to the PDP. There are 30 state legislators in Sokoto.
The previous day, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and Ambassador to South Africa Ahmed Musa Ibeto quit the party. A week earlier, 14 senators, 37 members of the House of Representatives and Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom also left.
But in a statement yesterday, APC’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary Yekini Nabena said: “As a party, our attention is on the matter at hand, the 2019 general elections. We are united and focused, with an eye to the continuation of our winning streak in all elections this year, next year and beyond. And we will win.”
The party urged its members in Kwara, Sokoto and the other states to “remain steadfast and courageous and encourage one another in our streets teeming with APC members and supporters from north to south and east to west.”
The statement noted: “Every follower of events in recent times could decipher the signs that foretold the exit of Saraki, Tambuwal, Ahmed and Abdullahi from our great party. We thank them for their contributions to the APC for the period they were with us. We also salute their courage to openly declare where they belong, as we had always advised.
“APC is a party founded and run on the principles of freedom, sincerity and forthrightness. Saraki and the others have the freedom of association and the right to pursue their political ambitions wherever they deem fit.“Our advice and hope is that those who have left would also have the courage to inspire in their respective political environments the atmosphere of unencumbered freedom created by the APC, which enabled them to leave without let or hindrance.”
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed also said the party has lost nothing.He told State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja: “If Saraki were not a member of the APC, the party and the government it leads could not have suffered more than they had already done, with regards to the delay in passing the budget, approving key appointments and so on.
“Saraki has behaved all along as a member of the opposition, deliberately slowing down the progress of the APC-led federal government. It is therefore neither a surprise nor a blow that he has defected. Perhaps, the only surprise is that when he eventually defected, it was a mere whimper.”He added that with the defection in the National Assembly and Kwara State, APC could now have a party that is truly APC.
Explaining why he left the ruling party, Abdullahi blamed the “flagrant usurpation” of his role as spokesman. “In a situation whereby my loyalty is constantly brought into question; my subordinates deployed to subvert my office; and my views constantly second-guessed on the basis of my political affiliation, it has become imperative for me to review my position,” he said.He also fingered the “unlawful dissolution of the validly elected party executive in Kwara State”, saying the move was another phase in the “unrelenting assault” he has endured.
“As a national officer of the party, who sits in that committee, courtesy should demand that my views be sought on a matter that concerns my state and in which I am directly involved. That action, to say the least, was disrespectful,” he said.
The APC yesterday appointed Mr. Yekini Nabena as Acting National Publicity Secretary. Addressing a huge crowd at Government House in Sokoto, Tambuwal regretted how the APC, “which promised so much when the PDP stood under the sway of impunity, could not maintain or manage whatever good it inherited, has not broken new grounds in any positive sense, but has instead reached historically unprecedented heights of impunity in all manner of vices.”
According to him, “all attempts to discuss the electoral promises of the APC-led government, including the restructuring of the country, as promised Nigerians and as contained in the APC manifesto, proved abortive.”He concluded, “because I am totally unable to reconcile myself to a national leadership that offers no redeeming moral beacons, I am here with you today to announce withdrawal of my membership of the APC and return to the PDP.”
There was, however, a paradoxical twist to the story of defection in Kwara State, as some PDP members led by the state chairman, Iyiola Oyedepo, crossed over to the APC.“I hereby officially announce the exit of our members from PDP to APC,” Chief Rex Olawoye, the former publicity secretary, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Ilorin, the state capital. He denounced Saraki, saying PDP members in the state could not work with him.
“Saraki and his cronies have been in the saddle of leadership of the state in the past 15 years with nothing to show for it,” he said. He called on all registered political parties to team up with the APC to ensure ‘‘total liberation’’ of the state.Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike welcomed Tambuwal’s defection, noting that such moves were a collective response to the failure of governance at the national level.He encouraged more people to follow Tambuwal’s footsteps, warning: “If you don’t come out to support what is happening for Nigeria to regain its glory, when the history is written, your name will not be there.”