Defectors from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are realising too late that their decision to cross carpet may not be worth the effort and risk as they have been subjected to humiliating remarks by leaders and members of the party, writes MIKE ODIAKOSE.
Since the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, lost the 2015 general election last year, it has witnessed unprecedented defection of its members to the All Progressives Congress, APC. The floodgate of defection started less than one month after the party lost the election with its former National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, being among the first set of chieftains to dump the party that changed their fortunes for the 16 years it was in power.
Chief Oke, who appeared to be a committed member of the party and was also a member of the committee that harmonised over 8,000 Goodluck Support Groups before the election, described PDP as a dead party after it lost the election.
Vowing never to return to its fold, Oke was quoted to have said “You would agree with me that a flowing river doesn’t flow backward, which is why I too would never look back or return to the PDP because there is nothing there that could attract me any longer.”
Oke, a one-time governorship candidate in Ondo State, described the PDP as a “sinking boat” whose members are stranded and blind.
“I have repeatedly told my supporters that the PDP is dead and it would be difficult to revive it since it is satanic,” the former PDP legal adviser noted.
If Oke was expecting leaders of the APC to applaud him for describing his former party in very derogatory terms he must have gotten the biggest shock of his sojourn on the political terrain as the reaction from the founding National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, spoke volumes of how APC leaders perceive PDP defectors. In an interview, Chief Akande tore PDP defectors to shred, describing them as political parasites that are hungry to harvest where they never sowed.
Responding to the gale of defection from the PDP to APC, Chief Akande said “You know, in a country where most leaders are parasites, a parasite, when it kills the original host, it will have to go to another host and kill it. Only we in the APC should be careful, the defection is not a strange thing but I know it is always done by parasites. But those who are defecting from one party to the other, by nature, they are political parasites, they have killed the original hosts which was PDP and they are now coming to APC which is the new host, and it is for APC to guard its own loins and prevent the parasites from killing the party because a parasite has no root of its own but feeds on the little food that the host is having.
“So running away from PDP, the APC must be careful in dealing with those parasites. But, that may not prevent true democracy because it depends on how we define it, the type of democracy in Nigeria is not anywhere in the world, it is a moribund democracy.”
Chief Akande’s vituperation against PDP defectors was reinforced by the new Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Hon Abike Dabiri, who described them as political prostitutes.
According to Dabiri, who was a former member of the House of Representatives, “the rate of defection from the PDP to APC is shameful. Political prostitutes, politics of convenience, not conviction.” She passed the damning judgment on PDP defectors on Twitter on Monday, January 11.
The hard knock on PDP defectors has also gained grounds at the state level where they are treated with scorn by members of the ruling party.
For instance, when former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Ifeanyichukwu Jim Nwobodo, defected to the APC shortly after he was mentioned as one of the benefactors of the $2.1 billion Dasuki arms deal saga, the South-East APC lampooned him and said he defected to evade justice.
When Nwobodo defected at a state APC stakeholders meeting hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Onyeama, he laboured to explain why he dumped the PDP, stressing that N500 million released to him by the former NSA was meant for PDP leaders in the South-East to mobilise for the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan as president in the 2015 election.
Nwobodo said his joining the APC was not for a job.
“I am not looking for a job. I am talking because I want peace. I want our people to be part of the government at the centre. I had a problem being an opposition governor. I am not coming into the APC because I want anything. I want our people to reintegrate and have our own share of the federal government’s resources,” he said.
He further stated that he had always been a member of the APC while he was in the PDP, noting that the ruling party’s ‘change’ slogan started in 1983 when he was an opposition governor.
However, his reasons for defecting to the APC apparently did not cut ice with leaders of the party in the South-East who told him to his face that it was fear of the backlash of ‘Dasukigate’ that propelled him to defect to the party.
Spokesman of the APC in the South-East, Osita Okechukwu, insisted that the party must screen Nwobodo and others that are cross-carpeting to the party in droves through ‘the window’.
“Political parties are like churches and mosques; they have open entry. However, there is the need to sieve the defectors. Is it not a paradox that those who are fingered in the Dasukigate scandal, people who rigged and mangled the 2015 general elections, are today wearing the badge of virtue and principle?
“We are not talking of position but pollution of our great party. He (Nwobodo) should first cleanse himself of the Dasukigate scandal. Don’t forget that the first cardinal programme of the APC is war against corruption; it is there in our manifesto. My take on his defection into our great party through the window is the same with those who classified him as a fugitive of justice, given his involvement in the Dasukigate scandal,” Okechukwu added.
The rough deal defectors are receiving from the APC was recently extended to Senator Uche Ekwunife when she dumped the PDP and attempted to grab the senatorial ticket of the APC. Ekwunife had defected to the APC on January 8 and signified her intention to run for the Anambra Central Senatorial District election on the platform of the party.
Speaking on her defection, Ekwunife said ”It is better now for me to join the APC. Let the heat be there. I am already on campaigns for my return to the Senate, to complete my contract with the people of Anambra Central Senatorial District.”
Ekwunife’s ambition to fly the APC’s flag hit the rock as the screening committee rejected her candidature and lampooned her for her penchant to cross carpet from one party to the other for flimsy reasons. The committee went further to describe her as a “fair weather hen.”
In its report, the five-member screening committee chaired by Osita Okechukwu noted that she joined the race for the APC ticket barely two weeks after she joined the party.
The committee noted that, “Most importantly, our deep concern is her record which showed that she dumps political parties at will, leaving the parties factionalised from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Grand Alliance to the Progressive Peoples Alliance, back to the PDP or vice versa and now to APC.’’
The committee concluded by saying that “She is more or less a fair-weather hen therefore her antecedent contravenes Section 4(3) of the 2014 Guideline for Nomination of Candidate for Public Office. Caution is valour.”
APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, sealed the hope of PDP defectors last week when he gave a very strong signal that if they defected to feather their nest then they may be disappointed in the long run. He reminded them that the APC is not a party where members share dollars in veiled reference to the Dasukigate.
Speaking at the party’s grand reception for its newly registered members in Cross River State, Odigie-Oyegun said: “We are not the Ghana-must-go party neither do we share dollars. Do we?’’
Political observers are of the view that the message from the APC to PDP defectors is very glaring- that they are unwelcomed visitors that the party would rather do without. Unfortunately, this message has not sunk into the defectors. The fear in some quarters is that they will get the import of the message from APC leaders during the primaries for the party’s ticket in future elections. Senator Ekwunife has already gotten her hand burnt and time will tell who among the PDP defectors will be the next among those that APC leaders labelled political parasites, prostitutes and fair weather hen.