Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Edo polls: Gale of defection as politicians jostle for relevance


The spate of defection among the leading political parties in the state, especially the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress is on the high side and worrying, writes ADEYINKA ADEDIPE

With three months to the governorship election in the Edo State, the political turf is becoming more interesting, dramatic, and somewhat chaotic as bigwigs continue to defect from one party to another to realise their ambition of becoming relevant in the next government.

As political leaders defect to other parties, they claim to have followers moving with them to give themselves some leverage as they settle into their new political party. What is surprising is that some move to a party to align with people they have sworn never to work with, and when this is pointed out to them, they quickly reply that there are no permanent enemies in politics, as interest rules the game.

Another baffling phenomenon taken to a new level in this campaign is the open support for an opposition candidate by prominent members of another party. They show this support, not just verbally, but by providing logistics and other things to boost these candidates’ chances in the election.

While this sort of move was done clandestinely in the past, it has assumed a monstrous dimension in Edo State as political heavyweights outsmart each other in a bid to gain recognition. They also do this to get back at their political party over perceived injustice, and this also heats up the polity as supporters who are not adept in political scheming engage each other in needless confrontations both in the online media space and in real life, while some who are tolerant take it with maturity.

Indications that there would be a wave of defection became noticeable after the primary election of the major political parties in the state. The All Progressives Congress candidate, Senator Monday Okpebholo, was declared the winner after two attempts with the House of Representatives member, Dennis Idahosa, who was initially declared the winner, becoming his running mate.

However, in a surprising twist, the Vice Chairman of the APC in the state, Francis Inegbeniki, one of the party bigwigs behind the emergence of Okpebholo, resigned on June 9. He said that recent happenings in the party had informed his decision, adding that he was staying away from politics and would make his next political move known to the people, noting that a “Tsunami” was about to hit the APC.

Also, the former Director of Media for the All Progressives Congress 2020 Governorship Campaign Council in the state, John Mayaki, withdrew his support for Okpebholo, the governorship candidate of the party, and called on the people of the state to vote for the best candidate. He said his decision was anchored on the fact that the party’s candidate lacked the vision and sagacity required of a leader.

In a similar development, a former governorship aspirant of the APC, Victoria Amu, defected to the PDP. Amu, who served under the former governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, and current Governor Godwin Obaseki, said his decision to join the PDP was due to lack of internal democracy in the APC, noting that she was ready to work with stakeholders in her new party to ensure that the PDP candidate, Asue Ighodalo, and his running mate, Osarodion Ogie, emerged victorious at the forthcoming poll.

Former allies of Governor Obaseki, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, and Charles Idahosa, were two of the biggest names to move from the PDP to APC. Also crossing to the APC from the PDP are the former deputy Director General of Godwin Obaseki Campaign Committee, Gideon Ikhine; former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Francis Okiye; and Nosa Adams, who was a former chairman of Egor Local government and PDP’s state Publicity Secretary.

Idahosa’s move to the APC may not have come to many as a shock because it was clear that he had fallen out with the governor, having supported Obaseki to win his second term under PDP.

The Labour Party has not been spared either. Some notable names in the party have left for other parties, especially with the constitution of an acting state executive council headed by a former Speaker of the State, Elizabeth Ativie (a former APC member). The Kelly Ogbaloi executive council is holding on to power and has attended functions organised by the party’s candidate, Olumide Akpata.

Also, the expulsion of former deputy governor of the state, Philip Shaibu, Vice Chairman, South-South, Dan Orbih, and former House of Representatives member, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama for anti-party activities from the PDP has caused division in the party. The decision to expel them was taken on July 19 by the State Working Committee headed by the state chairman of the party, Tony Aziegbemi.

Speaking on the defections and the likely implications, the Director of Publicity, APC Governorship Campaign Council, Orobosa Omo-ojo, said the injection of political heavyweights into the party, would guarantee its victory at the polls.

He said, “It is only in Governor Godwin Obaseki’s Peoples Democratic Party that politicians are being chased away to other parties. The trend is strange to partisan politics, because the more hands you have to work with, the easier the victory. I am still taken aback by the decision to impeach and eventually expel the former deputy governor of the state, Comrade Philip Shaibu, a few months before a very critical election.

“So, for us in the APC, we are confident that the infusion of political heavyweights like Comrade Shaibu, Charles Idahosa, Nosa Adams, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, Martins Osakue, Kabiru Ajoto, and others, is a guarantee for victory.

“Politicians who spend their money to win elections are crossing over to the APC because they are eager to take back their state from the PDP whose governor has privatised the resources, land, water, air, and resources in the hands of his business partners. Those joining the APC now are simply coming to stop those set of people from presiding over the public assets of the state.

“Nigeria’s democracy is evolving and cross carpeting will certainly be one of the ways that politicians can show discontentment within a political party. There are different reasons why a politician will want to defect from one party to another. Others may do so to protest against the lack of internal democracy arising from the unfair handling of party primaries or outright abuse of the constitution.

“Some other persons may just be tired because of the poor reward system within the party, and in extreme cases, politicians may leave one party because of community or cultural interest, like the present situation where Governor Godwin Obaseki is in constant battle with the Oba of Benin Kingdom. By and large, politics is about self-interest in our clime and politicians expect returns one way or the other for their contributions.

“The movement within political parties will significantly reflect on the outcome of the election because politics is a game of numbers and influence. The polling units across the 192 wards in Edo State are manned and managed by politicians drawn from different parties. Forget about the talk that the people decide the outcome of elections. In most communities, especially in rural areas, the influence of political leaders is substantial enough to change the voting pattern.

“We have a political system where voters, especially the youngsters, see the exercise as an opportunity to make much money. In most cases, voters will approach politicians who they identify as deep pockets to direct them to who to vote for. The only difference is that the situation is slightly different in the urban local government areas. As I said earlier, politics is who you know. It is even so because of the failure of governments; federal, state, and local governments to keep their campaign promises. Essentially, the voters don’t listen to candidates or take their manifestos seriously,” he added.

Also speaking, the Deputy Director General, Media and Publicity for the Asue/Ogie Campaign Management Council, Reverend Olu Martins, said that the defection would not necessarily determine the outcome of the election, noting that the competence of the candidate would play a crucial role in the emergence of the governor of the state in September.

He said, “The recent spate of defections of politicians from one political party to another is again elevated to an all-time high with the Edo State governorship election around the corner and the impact of such actions on the political landscape cannot be underestimated.

“The defecting of politicians has become a recurring phenomenon in the Nigerian political scene, and the forthcoming election is the latest stage for this disruptive trend. My party, the Peoples Democratic Party, is not immune from the effects of the untimely departure of some of its key members to rival parties, and this has raised significant concerns about the political culture of our dear country.

“The defections of politicians from one political group to another have become part of our political culture which is now taken as part of the new normal. The act is indicative of a disconcerting lack of political commitment and loyalty among our political elite. These individuals are more concerned by personal gains, and transient power has consistently led politicians to abandon their party allegiances, rendering them untrustworthy and unreliable in the eyes of the electorate.”

Martins noted that election periods remained the most appropriate time for politicians to express their misgivings or the right time to move to a party where they would feel they could express their aspirations.

He added, “On one hand, such politicians may like a party but not its candidate or they may like the candidate but not the party. They may even like the candidate and also the party but may not be comfortable with the leadership of the party at whatever level.”

“In all, the incessant defection of politicians, particularly during election times, is politically motivated, and in most cases, the motives are pecuniary, though not in all cases, it is just a seasonal issue.

“The question of how beneficial this would be for our party is simple. Everybody is a voter, and our greatest interest is on those who do not have partisan interest and that is, the people directly because democracy is about the people and that is why we, as a party, are doing everything possible to incorporate those who have come to identify with us and particularly the voters.

Our greatest emphasis is on people who may not have partisan interest in our party and that is, the people who form the bulk of the voters. We appreciate those who have come to join us, especially the voters who constitute the bulk of the votes we are looking for. We are keeping our eyes on those who have come to join us and the bigger picture, which is the people, the voters who are as important as those who have come to join us.

“Defection is not good for our democratic growth as an emerging democracy. It shows that we need to deepen our political inclination, our political philosophy instead of moving from one party to another.”

The State Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Sam Uroupa, said his party had expected to benefit from the influx of new members to its fold.

He said, “As the Labour Party in Edo State continues to experience a surge in membership, with notable politicians and members of the public joining our ranks, we are poised to revolutionise the political landscape of our dear state.

“The influx of new members is a testament to our party’s commitment to good governance, accountability, and the welfare of the people. We welcome these new entrants, who share our vision and values, and are eager to join hands with our candidates, Olumide Akpata, and Alhaji Yusuf Asamah Kadiri (SAN) to work together to build a better Edo State.

The trend of defection is a reflection of the dynamic nature of politics in Nigeria. While it encourages political realignment and consolidation, allowing politicians to find platforms that align with their values and goals, it also has its drawbacks. We believe that this development will lead to more competitive and engaging elections, but we also acknowledge the potential risks of political instability and lack of continuity.

“As a party, we are committed to ensuring that our values and ideology remain paramount in this process and will attract like-minded individuals who are committed to our cause. Edo State Labour Party is building a strong, united, and formidable team that will drive positive change in the state and not mortgage its citizenry.

“As we approach the governorship election, we are confident that our party’s strength, combined with the experience and expertise of our new members, will make Edo State LP a force to be reckoned with. We will continue to prioritise the interests of the Edo people and work tirelessly to build a brighter future for all.

“The recent influx of new members into our party in Edo State will undoubtedly impact the outcome of the September 21, 2024, governorship election. We are confident that our party will gain an advantage in terms of numerical strength and mobilisation capacity, and that our new members will bring valuable experience, expertise, and resources to our campaign.

“However, the integration of new members may also lead to internal conflicts and challenges in managing the party’s campaign. We are working hard to ensure a smooth integration of these new members and a united campaign that will propel our party to victory,” he added.

However, politicians who have defected from one political party to another will only begin to count their gains or losses after the outcome of the September 2024 governorship election in the state.


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