Nigeria’s political transfer window is open
The prospect of four years in the political wilderness appears to be too much for some members of the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).
Gbenga Daniel, the former governor of Ogun State who was head of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign, is one. On 14 March he quit active politics saying he was going to focus on “rejuvenating his nonprofit”.
- Three days later, a throng of his supporters “protested”, pleading with him to rethink the move and instead lead them into the fold of the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC).
Daniel, in a grand gesture, says he has no choice but to “listen to his supporters”.
All of this is just a roundabout way of joining the APC and supporting his old friend Dapo Abiodun, the governor-elect of Ogun.
- It’s the political equivalent of rescinding your signed contract in order to leave a football club on a Bosman transfer.
But it also speaks of a damaging rift within the PDP, financed to a large extent by Nyesom Wike, governor of the disputed Rivers State. Wike had pushed hard for the national chairman position in the PDP to be given to a member from his own region, the oil-rich South-South.
- “It appears the PDP is now bent on self-destruction. It has obviously allowed money moguls to dictate its thematic largeness. The party has lost its soul,” said Bode George in 2017, when he was pushed out of the national chairman race by Wike’s machinations.
Some might choke on their coffee to see references to the soul in the backscratch today/backstab tomorrow of Nigerian politics. Let’s just pause for a moment for a glance at the convoluted politics of Ogun State:
- The two factions of the PDP in Ogun State held parallel primaries producing two candidates.
- The courts – and later the Independent National Electoral Commission – favoured one of them, Buruji Kashamu, a former drug lord indicted by a grand jury in the American state of Illinois in 1998, who had earlier been expelled by the party leadership.
- Daniel and a section of the party decided instead to back the APC’s Dapo Abiodun.
- By contrast, the outgoing APC governor blatantly refused to support Abiodun, preferring to throw his weight behind his godson, Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied People’s Movement.
Defection winds blowing
In the following days, there could be more dramatic episodes and the question is not if but when the gale of defections begins to the APC. The newcomers would surely include politicians already nursing ambitions for 2023, or eager to get into the good books of President Muhammadu Buhari and escape the hammer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), like these guys for a start.
- All eyes will be on Rabiu Kwankwaso now. Like the former Senate president Bukola Saraki, who defected to the PDP before the election but lost his seat, Kwankwaso lost his bid to return to the Senate by proxy as his preferred candidate, the PDP’s Aliyu Sani-Madawakingini, was defeated at the polls.
- While Saraki’s political godson Abdulrazaq Atunwa lost his bid for governor in their home state of Kwara, Kwankwaso’s in-law Abba Yusuf is on the verge of an upset in Kano, where the APC governor Abdullahi Ganduje was involved in a bribe scandal. If he wins the seat, Yusuf and his Kwankwasiyya political movement could most likely be courted across party lines.
- Members of the “third force” parties could also be slowly making their way back to either the PDP or APC in the days before the 12 June inauguration and angling for cabinet posts and positions heading federal agencies. Some of them adopted either Buhari or Atiku ahead of the polls and could now formally jump ship.