The PDP and the August defectors

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By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo


They were celebrated. The defectors. They brought euphoria.  After  Ali Modu Sheriff  and the journey through the valley of the shadow of death in the Supreme Court, the fanfare was understandable.

PDP presidental candidates

They came with the smugness of warriors. They were the political generals that would  decide the battle in 2019.

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The PDP had wooed and pleaded. When they came they came  with good news. They said the ship they had just abandoned was sinking. The defectors, they seemed like game changers.

But they came with  a riotous multitude of ambitions. And  they came  with mercenary instincts. All of them wanted what they could not get in the other ship. The came with a ravenous political appetite. They came with warts too.

Igbos say let their visitors  bring no evil  when they come, so  that  when they depart they do not leave with hunchbacks.

Some called them messiahs.  They  said they preferred to focus on the huge task head. A few others  called them  traitors, prodigals. There are always those who  would not forget the past. And  one or two called them political  prostitutes. They said they could not pretend the defectors came to help the PDP rather than themselves.

They didn’t come cheap. They  let the flirtation linger enough. They  extracted commitments  and political candies from the party that wanted them at all costs.  And you wouldn’t blame the PDP. The elections were deemed lost, by many pundits,  without the defections. So the bargain was naturally  steep—an arm and a leg. They were promised return tickets to the legislative houses. But the big defectors came with only one thing in mind—the presidency.

The direct trade offs seemed good business. Kwankwaso came at the cost of Shekarau, ultimately. Saraki came with Kwara. But he came with  a disputed Senate presidency that has proved a massive distraction for a party that should be focused on rapid rebuilding.  We don’t know if his becoming the leader of the party nudged an unhappy Akpabio towards the exit door. Tambuwal came with Sokoto government house. We would see  how much  of the  the people followed him in a few months. Atiku may not have come with all of  Adamawa.  But he came with political heft,  wide network, political savviness and money. Dino Melaye for Smart Adeyemi wasn’t particularly smart. But Dino has the noise and drama no one else can provide.

The trouble that came with them lies in the implications of the desperate  bargaining that brought them.  And  in the  fact that the big defectors  who came singing solidarity songs were actual rivals,  with mutually exclusive ambitions. It was  easy to promise the defecting legislators return tickets to the National Assembly. It seemed to cost nothing. But the  result is that all the other legislators in the party  would  want automatic  return tickets too. Or they would revolt.  The party has  therefore a dilemma. The  national legislators who don’t  get return tickets in September would  still have many months before May 2019 to make the party bleed. What is good for the goose must be given to the gander. But if all the party’s legislators were offered return tickets then new entrants would be shut out. And they would feel dispossessed.  That could  dampen enthusiasm at the grass roots.

If the party weren’t committed to protecting Saraki and perhaps potentially Dogara, it wouldn’t have made some of these  ridiculous bargains. In practical terms, the control of the chambers of the national assembly could bring the PDP no more than a fleeting excitement. But the party must brace up for the main storm.

Discontent is swirling. Wike has thrown tact and politeness to the wind and publicly vilified some of the defectors, called them moles.  He thinks they were sent by the ruling party to infiltrate and damage the PDP. You won’t blame him. The party had been bitten by a defector once. So the de facto leader of the party  can be excused for seeing moles everywhere. But that development could prove ugly in the coming weeks. There are widespread suspicions that the party is wary of open free and fair  primaries.  Gov Wike and  his  Secondus  seem  fearful of losing the reins of the party to certain strong personalities they cannot  control and from whom they may never be able to wrest control of the party. But without free and fair presidential primaries the defections could turn out a hammer blow on the party.

Names were not mentioned. But  the damage seems done. Those who have been referred to as moles know themselves. They would feel they have been given a bad name so they could be hung. What will follow won’t be a wimpish withdrawal.  Tongues are already wagging, and tempers are rising. They were promised a level playing field. But  it seems Gov Wike and Secondus  have preferred candidates and seem determined  to steer the selection process to a pre determined outcome.  That could instigate acrimony  and a quagmire of law suits which could leave the party disoriented and  fractured before the elections. A pall of  uncertainty and gloom over the candidacy of the party’s presidential  ticket holder would bury its 2019 ambitions. Can the  PDP  survive a righteous  rebellion  led by some of the big  defectors whom they had lionized a few weeks ago?

A rain doctor who has summoned the rain must brace up for the thunderbolts that would come with it.