Chief Bode George
A burden that continues to deter the progress of the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999, when Nigeria returned to civil rule, is internal crisis.
In the South West zone, which comprises six states, Lagos is the only state where the PDP has not savoured power. Internal crisis has not only kept the party losing to the better-organised All Progressives Congress (APC), it has also prevented it from playing the expected vital opposition role.
However, the two major blows, which appear to have knocked the party off balance and may eventually keep it down for a long time, were last week’s defection of six of its eight lawmakers in the State House of Assembly to the APC and the Court of Appeal’s verdict that recognized Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction as the authentic national chairmanship of the PDP as against the much respected and popular Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.
Prior to last week’s development, there had been two factions of the state executive of the party. One faction led by Mr. Moshood Salvador and the other by Mr. Segun Adewale, aka Aeroland.
The Salvador group that was in control of the party’s secretariat and also has the upper hand prior to the Court of Appeal’s verdict belongs to the Makarfi’s group while Adewale’s faction is of the Sheriff’s group. But no sooner the judgment was pronounced last Friday; Adewale’s-led faction sprang into action relegating the rival group.
Since the two developments the party has been in disarray. Its loyal members do not know where to go and cannot tell who is really in control of the party.
The defection of the six lawmakers came after weeks of speculation of their intention to cross carpet from their party to the ruling APC.
It was however not just the ranks of opposition in Lagos that was further depleted, if events in the past few weeks were spotlighted. This is because the defection is not limited to Lagos, it is happening across the country. No doubt with this development, Nigeria is gradually drifting into a one-party state, where there is no opposition and an alternative voice to issues.
A few weeks back, some PDP members defected in Anambra and Enugu. These were people considered to be strong loyalists of PDP and probably the pillars of the party in their areas.
In Enugu, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and some PDP members joined the APC. It was the same scenario In Anambra, when Andy Uba, Ifeanyi Ubah and some PDP members defected to the APC. A senator each from Ondo and Akwa Ibom also defected to the APC just some couple of weeks ago. Before then, some House of Representatives member had also defected.
Many political analysts are apprehensive for the country’s democracy claiming it would not help its maturity. They based their argument on the fact that, for a country to thrive, it needs a vibrant opposition.
Before the Lagos lawmakers defected, there had been rumour but it became a reality last week Thursday when they formally announced their decision on the floor of the House.
In the letter stating their defection which was read by the acting Clerk of the House, Azeez Sanni, five of them: Mosunmola Sangodara, Surulere 2; Fatai Oluwa, Ajeromi Ifelodun 2; Dayo Famakinwa, Ajeromi Ifelodun 1; Hakeem Sokunle, Oshodi-Isolo 2; Jude Idimogwu, Oshodi-Isolo 1 were mentioned and they took time to give reasons why they left PDP.
The minority leader, Akeem Bello, only announced his defection when lawmakers were speaking on their colleagues who defected. They all claimed they left the PDP because of the crisis and leadership tussle in their party and the outstanding performance of the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
After the exercise, the Speaker and APC members of the House welcomed them warmly. The Speaker, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, commended the legislators for leaving their party. He welcomed them with the song, ‘You are welcome in the name of the Lord, and I can see all over you, the glory of the Lord.’
The APC lawmakers in the House took turn to commend the defected PDP lawmakers for their actions, claiming that it was a good decision.
Taking a cursory look at the underlying factors that may have led to the defections, a source in the party said, “The ruling party’s delay in conducting council polls is perhaps one of the reason the PDP lawmakers may have either been coerced or enticed to defect.
“Most of the people residing in the constituencies where the defected legislators represent are occupied by non-Yoruba indigenes and they may equally vote in same pattern they did during the 2015 election anytime the council poll is held.
“The ruling party may continue to drag foot on holding the local government election until the remaining two PDP lawmakers defects.” The Lagos PDP spokesman, Mr. Taofik Gani declined comments on the development, saying: “The party is still consulting to know which position to take.
But a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the defected lawmakers are going to regret their actions in the nearest future because nobody pushed them out of the PDP. He contended that the defection would not affect the fortunes of the party in the state.
However, Chief Bode George, who has always been the backbone of the PDP in Lagos, said he would henceforth take a back seat instead of continuing to waste his time, knowledge and resources on what the ruing APC has made up its mind to use government machinery to do to the opposition parties.
Adewale who has since assumed the position of authority after the Friday’s Court of Appeal ruling, promised that the impunity in the party, particularly the Lagos chapter will end.
He said the court has finally returned the PDP to the people with the decision to uphold the party’s constitution of the party by affirming the leadership of Sheriff, adding: “The affirmation of Sheriff as the authentic national chairman was not just a victory to those of us that believes in his leadership but a victory to the grassroots members of the PDP that now have a voice. It is also a victory to our democratic institutions, the rebirth of a formidable opposition, which will definitely engender the delivery of good governance and bring to an end the impunity of the ruling APC government.”
He said Makarfi and Sheriff factions have tested their claim to the leadership of the party in courts resulting in many contradictory court orders and directives with the attendant effect on the unity of the party.
Adewale said the party would use every available legal means to reclaim its mandate from the members of the Lagos legislators who defected to the APC. “These are people not known to their constituencies before they were presented by our party as candidates in the 2015 elections. Yes, they are within their constitutional right of association to determine which political party they will belong but they are also constitutional bond to drop our mandate once they are no longer comfortable with the PDP ideologies and manifestos.”