In 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had 21 state governors, the then All Peoples Party (APP) had nine, while the Alliance for Democracy (AD) had six. As at May 30, 2007, PDP controlled 30 states, ANPP controlled four, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) – one, AD -one. As at June 2021, the PDP is in control of only 13 states, the All Progressives Congress (APC) controls 22, while APGA controls one.
In 2007, PDP became bloated with every politician willing to join, with the party having a large number of governors who became very powerful and controlled every aspect of the party including many appointments made by the then-president. This was the genesis of PDP’s crisis.
Some 14 years later today, the APC is gradually towing the same line, gradually becoming saturated with 22 out the 36 state governors of the federation, and string likelihood of further defections by opposition governors to its fold. As 2023 approaches, the governors will be in the engine room of the party; they will decide who gets what. The politics of the 2023 presidency will trickier because President Muhammadu Buhari is completing his second and last term. His influence will dwindle and his style of non-interference will further give the governors the effrontery to play their games.
Getting more elected officers into the fold of a political party in Nigeria is a good strategy for winning elections. The APC seems to be banking on that as 2023 approaches. However, the APC and President Buhari should also be cautious on the dangers of massive defections into the party. The defections appear to be largely skewed to one direction, with the APC having so many powerful competing bigwigs but with few opportunities in the party. The bubble may burst. This was how the PDP found itself in an unending internal crisis. On the other hand, the opposition PDP may be small but with less trouble of massive and counter-productive competition. Such a situation may give the PDP the space to be more organised to accommodate varying interests.
Most effective defection takes its bearing from the state governor. So it seems APC tactically delayed its states congresses to September 18, for the new governors joining it to have the control of the party structures and become its leaders. Any PDP governor in the Northwest, North-east, North-central and South-west decamping to the APC will for sure meet obstacles that will disrupt an existing stability and leadership structure. For example, the APC in the North-west, North-east, North-central and South-west have strong structures, a reasonable war-chest and strong leadership. A new governor coming into a party in Nigeria is automatically the leader of the party- thus displacing the current leaders and making some ambitions weightless. If such a governor is not well-rooted politically he will have strong opposition within the party.
The defection of Zamfara state Governor Bello Matawalle and others to APC is understandable; he needs the political environment and the APC platform. But for other governors, especially those from the South-east, their defection from the PDP to APC is an imbalanced equation to students of politics. In the South-east, a defecting governor will find zero internal opposition because the party’s structure is weak in the region. However, such a governor will definitely face monumental opposition from the PDP. In the South-south the problem will be similar but with some minimal effect on the defectors.
Defection from a party to another is often not a guarantee of an election win. For example, prior to the 2019 elections, some bigwigs defected from the APC to the PDP, but most of them lost the elections in their ‘new party’, with few exceptions like Governor Aminu Tambuwa of Sokoto state. Defection always works if the political environment provides the needed grease to lubricate the wheel of victory.
The political effects of the current defection on President Buhari will come to the fore towards 2023. APC governors are the wonders of the new rising political class, after the dissolution of the Adams Oshoimhole-led NWC, they now fine-tune the APC with ease from the presidency and critical stakeholders. They hold the keys to who gets what, when, where. They can bless at will, they may become the ‘councilors’ of the ruling party. On the other hand, the opposition are seeing defeat on their faces even before the ballots are cast; so they will employ every critical strategy to survive. Buhari and the APC have to be wary of this.
Zayyad I. Muhammad,