With one month to the campaigns in Nigeria as prescribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, political parties have been hit by a gale of defection and anti-party activities.
Several party chieftains and ward chairmen have reportedly jumped ship at the grass roots level. Before their recess, some aggrieved members of the House of Representatives and Senate defected to other parties over unmet demands and perceived injustice.
However, there are some influential politicians who are not interested in jumping on the bandwagon but seem content in giving their parties sleepless nights. They also do not show remorse for their perceived anti-party activities.
The examples are many. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, recently threatened to mobilise northern Christian electorate to vote against their party, APC, for fielding the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had named a fellow Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate, a development considered insensitive and unacceptable by several Christian bodies and many prominent politicians like Lawal and Dogara.
A livid Lawal, who was the chairman on the occasion, exclaimed that it was a grand conspiracy against northern Christians. A few days after the outburst, he and Dogara held a closed-door meeting with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, at his private residence in Rumueprikom, Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the state. The visit came barely 24 hours after Wike broke the silence following the disagreement between him and PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Meanwhile, Wike is unperturbed over the outrage that greeted his romance with the ruling party. Even at the height of the anger that surrounded his invitation of an APC governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to inaugurate a project, Wike didn’t give a hoot. This perhaps explained why a socio-political group, PDP New Fora, accused him of anti-party activities and called on the party’s national working committee to suspend him.
In a related fashion, some members of the APC in Ogun and Osun states have raised the dust over alleged anti-party activities respectively championed by former governor Ibikunle Amosun and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola. While the Aregbesola group was accused of colluding with the opposition in a move that saw the ruling party lose Osun State to the PDP, Amosun has been labelled a ‘disaster’ waiting to happen in Ogun State.
To avoid what it called an impending danger, a pressure group under the aegis of Ogun Renaissance Movement appealed to the leadership of the APC to expel Amosun, who has been under fire over his recent comment that the 2019 governorship election in the state was rigged in favour of his successor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
Amosun, who spoke at an event in Abeokuta, pledged to work towards removing Abiodun from office (in 2023). The group warned that failure to sanction Amosun would embolden him to carry on with his anti-party activities.
Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is another APC strongman that stirred the hornets’ nest when he alleged that delegates who voted at the party’s presidential primary were bribed to influence the outcome. He said many of those induced with money had since regretted their action. The former Rivers State governor spoke at an event to mark the 60th birthday of the founder and General Overseer of the Abundant Life Evangelistic Mission, Apostle Eugene Ogu, in Port Harcourt.
Amaechi came third at the APC presidential primary where Tinubu, the winner, defeated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and 12 others to clinch the ticket.
A number of party supporters and chieftains, including the Director-General of the Asiwaju Tinubu-Shettima Coalition for Good Governance, Adebayo Shittu, found Amaechi’s utterances unbelievable.
Shittu quipped, “Can Amaechi isolate himself from those he claimed induced delegates for votes? He, just like other aspirants at the APC primaries, cannot point fingers at others without implicating themselves. What does he mean by delegates regretting that they collected bribes for votes? Is he indirectly saying the governors who brought them collected bribes and expressing regret too? I wish to have an opportunity to square up with him on this issue.”
When asked if Amaechi’s outburst was a testament to the noticeable cracks and divisions among Tinubu’s co-aspirants and APC chieftains as witnessed in the case of Aregbesola, Amosun and Osinbajo, who have since gone silent after the convention, Shittu said no group or political party would claim that it did not experience infighting during negotiation among members.
It would appear, therefore, that a structureless, ‘partyless,’ formation will define outcomes in Nigeria’s 2023 general elections.
This is because the interests of the contending gladiators are likely to find resolution across party lines, and within strange, ‘formless’ structures.