Published On: Mon, Jul 23rd, 2018

Buhari buckles as mass defection looms in APC

meets nPDP as governors, senators, others may defect this week

By OBINNA EZUGWU

Faced with imminent mass exodus of key stakeholders, including governors, senators, members of House of Reps and other chieftains of the All Progressive Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari, last week Thursday, in a last ditch effort, reversed himself and met with Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom as well as other governors of the ruling party.

However, the outcome of the meeting was unknown at the time of this report, but indications emerged that Buhari may have made deals with them to forstall their exit.

For instance, Gov. Samuel Ortom, one of the key players in the political cauldron recanted his earlier claim of dumping the party after the meeting giving signal that he may have been placated by Buhari, as well as the other disgruntled chieftains. Other governors at the meeting were Abdul’Aziz Yari of Zamfara, Ogun’s Ibikunle Amosun, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, and Aminu Masari of Katsina State, in what was a desperate attempt to stop the imminent departure of the Senate president, Ortom and the New PDP faction, now Reformed APC (R-APC) planned this week.

Although the meeting was held behind closed doors, a party source told BusinessHallmark that Buhari, on the advice of the APC governors, pleaded with Saraki to stay back in the party.

“It is about deals, politics is about disagreements and agreements,” the source who preferred anonymity because he is no longer the spokesperson of the party in the East said. “The meeting was an attempt to prevail on Saraki and his people not to leave the party. The governors prevailed on him (Buhari) to meet the Senate President. I cannot say that everything has been sorted out, but there is hope.”

The Thursday’s meeting came on the heels of Wednesday meeting between the leadership of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike; the party’s chairman, Uche Secondus; former Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido; Senator David Shuaibu and aggrieved APC stalwarts, including Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, his Kwara and Benue States counterparts, Abdufattah Ahmed and Ortom, as well as Saraki and other top notchers, in Ilorin to finalise arrangements for their defection to the party opposition party.

It was learnt that the meeting was held to finalise the terms of their defection billed to be announced before the end of the week.

Ortom had on Monday last week, declared that he had been given a red card by the party, and that he was on his way out.

“As for party, I have been given red card and I’m outside the pitch,” he said at the inauguration of a Special Adviser to Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Jerome Torshimbe. “So, if I have been given red card and I’m standing outside, I’m a free man.

“I don’t know what will happen next; but I’m waiting. If approached, then I will tell the Benue people that I’m joining another football club.

The governor is having a running battle of supremacy with Senator George Akume who apparently is eyeing senate presidency. But beyond that, he has been in the bad books of President Buhari over the handling of herdsmen killings in the state. He had severally criticized the Buhari government for failing to stop the carnage, and had gone ahead to organise mass burials for victims contrary to Abuja’s preference of secret burials to avoid bad publicity.

The leadership of the party had, following the governor’s declaration, summoned both him and Akume to Abuja with a view to resolving the issues at stake. After the meeting, the party’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole clarified that the governor has not left the party, and the governor eventually backtracked insisting that he was still in the ruling party, but that it was the Benue chapter that gave him red card.

“I am here in APC, I am a member of APC, I am still flying the flag of APC, I only said I was given red card but I have been corrected by the national secretariat.”

But the governor, from feelers, could still be on his way out of the party and he is not the only one.

In Sokoto state the bad blood between the presidency and the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, has rubbed off on the current governor, his political godson, Tambuwal who has for a long time, not been on the same page, by any means, with Abuja. He reportedly said last week, following the gruesome murder of over 42 people in his state, that Nigerians did not elect Buhari to be killed.

Tambuwal had particularly fallen out with the presidency over allegations of him lobbying for the office of Vice President to Yemi Osinbajo while Buhari was away in London over health issues, and it looked as though he might not be able to continue. It is the same reason that had seen Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, go from being a front line governor; a potential candidate for Buhari’s successor, to a quiet backbencher, while his predecessor, Ali Modu Sheriff, who now heads Buhari 2019 Presidential Support Committee, is being propped up as the new leader of the party in the state. He, like Tambuwal, incurred the anger of Buhari’s men for allegedly seeking the country’s number two job in Buhari’s absence.

Tambuwal, it was learnt, is on his way out of the party despite the concerted effort by Oshiomhole and other governors of the party to convince him to remain. And the Ilorin meeting certainly lent credence.

Fortnight ago, five governors of the APC: Yari, Shettima, Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa, Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa, Masari and Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger, met the Sokoto governor behind closed doors in a bid to dissuade him from rejoining the PDP. But it doesn’t seem to have worked.

A source within the R-APC ranks who preferred anonymity, told BusinessHallmark last week that he was certain the governor would leave the party.

R-APC, the breakaway faction of the APC led by Buba Galadima, a long time ally of the President, joined the new Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) formed on Monday, in what is a culmination of long cries of marginalisation by the New PDP faction of the ruling party, as well as the President’s long term allies relegation into irrelevance by the ‘Aso Rock Cabal.’

Uncertainty had surrounded the status of its supposed members in the National Assembly, including Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; Senator Shehu Sani; Senator Abdulaziz Nyako, among others.

On Friday fortnight ago, news began to make the rounds that the Kaduna Central Senator, Sani, along with his Kaduna North Senator, Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, had dumped the ruling party. However, Sani clarified that they were still in the party, but were getting ready to leave.

“Clarification: I’m yet to leave the Broomcity FC for the Umbrella United or any other club on the Premier league. Discussion and consultations are ongoing,” the senator wrote on his Facebook wall.

“If such will happen, it will be backed by a signed formal letter to the club management; and a formal announcement on the side of the pitch by myself. Thank you.”

Prior to the events of that Friday, Sani who alongside two other Kaduna senators, had been at loggerheads with Governor Nasir El-Rufai, and made a similar Facebook post saying that they were already on their way out.

“We, the prosecuted are on Exodus, riding on horses, chariots and caravans, departing Pharaoh Thutmose’s Egypt; we are now at the coast of the Red Sea, about to leave the land of cruelty and injustice,” he satirically wrote.

Weeks before Adamawa Central Senator, Nyako told his supporters that he was preparing with the teeming supporters of his father and former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako, to leave the APC due to marginalization and that he had spoken to former Kano governor, Kwankwaso among others who assured him that there was a new party coming up.

“We have no option than to go; but we are still discussing the party to move to with our entire structure. I have spoken with Prof. Jerry Gana in SDP. I also spoke with Attahiru Bafarawa and fixed an appointment for him with Admiral Nyako. Bafarawa wants us to return to PDP,” he had said.

President Muhammadu Buhari and All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Photo Credit: www.heraldnigeria.com

“On Thursday, I went to Abeokuta and sat with (Olusegun) Obasanjo about ADC. He directed me to see Col. Oyinlola who assured us that we will be absorbed with our structures if we join the party. I also spoke with Kwankwaso before the congresses.”

Attempts at finding common grounds by the party’s leadership had served to slow down their move. However, latest developments indicate that things would soon get to a head as it concerns their status.

They are said to have finally decided to announce their departure from the ruling party in the coming days as the ongoing effort by the Oshiomhole led executive to convince them to do otherwise has thus far, failed. But it remains to be seen whether Buhari’s intervention would succeed.

The APC chairman had, on Monday night, met for several hours, with Saraki at the latter’s residence in Abuja in an effort to stop their defection. But it was a meeting that, sources say, failed to achieve results and Oshiomhole left feeling dejected. Saraki’s defection would of course, mean that the APC will also lose the Kwara governor, Ahmed.

It was on the same Monday that the Special Adviser to Dogara on Special Duties, Hon. Usman Bawa, resigned his membership of the APC, a move many suggested, would precede the defection of his principal. Bawa had followed the steps of Saraki’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed who, a day ago, dumped the ruling party.

When the Senate President returned to Ilorin last week, he was welcomed by teeming supporters, some of whom pleaded with him to lead them out of the APC.

He was accompanied by the former presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe; Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad; Senator Rafiu Ibrahim; former Speaker of the state assembly and Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Razaq Atunwa.

Meanwhile, the ruling party continues to celebrate its victory in the Ekiti as a sign of people’s acceptance of President Buhari. Whether the preponderance buying of votes, as captured in videos, influenced the outcome of the polls or not, it has mattered little to the Minister for Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to whom the victory “is not just a defeat for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but a defeat for all the nay-sayers, who made themselves spokespersons for Nigerians.”

Indeed, the Ekiti outing has given the party some kind of bragging rights, and members have begun to dream of taking over the entire South East and South South in 2019. President Buhari’s loyalists, under the aegis of Buhari Support Organisation, Enugu State chapter, on Sunday predicted that the victory would be replicated in the South East in 2019.

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