THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says governors who left the party were intimidated into joining the All Progressives Congress (APC). But the defected governors in counterclaim say they left because of problems in the PDP, which they describe as a ‘sinking ship’.
Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi, Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade and Zamfara State governor Bello Matawalle – three governors elected on the platform of the PDP – recently defected to the APC.
Some PDP members who are pushing for the resignation of the party’s national chairman Uche Secondus point to the defection of the governors to drive home their argument that PDP needs a change in leadership. They argue that the development shows that Secondus was not competent enough to lead the national opposition.
As the next election cycle draws closer, PDP continues to lose high profile members.
Some members of the National Assembly elected on the platform of the PDP have also defected to APC.
On August 4 reports emerged that a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) Joy Emordi has dumped PDP for the APC.
And there are fears within the PDP that more governors would leave for the APC.
On May 21, a few days after defecting to APC, Cross River Governor Ayade had hinted that more PDP governors would be joining him in to the ruling party.
“More governors from the PDP are joining the APC. Just watch you will see and then realise that I know what I am saying,” Ayade said on ‘Politics Today’, a Channels Television programme.
Ayade had already been proved right after Zamfara governor Matawalle formally joined the APC on June 29. It remains to be seen whether even more PDP governors would dump the opposition for the ruling APC, as Ayade suggested.
* PDP says defected governors were intimidated into joining APC
But PDP is finding explanation for the defected governors, saying that the turncoats succumbed to intimidation by the ruling party.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP Kola Ologbondiyan told The ICIR that Umahi, Ayade and Matawalle were intimidated to joining the APC.
“That (defections) is due to total intimidation. The defection of the governors is largely a function of intimidation by the ruling government,” Ologbondiyan said in an interview with The ICIR.
For the party’s members in the National Assembly who also defected, PDP spokesperson said some of them know “they might not be returned (to the National Assembly) due to circumstances surrounding elections in their various constituencies and as such they go in search of greener pastures by going to the other side to see if they can find a space there. We have such cases.”
* Defected governors hit back, say they left because PDP is going nowhere
Describing PDP as “sinking ship”, the defected governors blamed the manner the party leadership was running its affair.
Spokesmen for Umahi and Ayade, in separate interviews with The ICIR, dismissed PDP’s claims that the governors were intimidated into joining APC.
When contacted by The ICIR, Umahi’s Chief Press Secretary Francis Nweze said the Ebonyi State governor’s defection was borne out of conviction. Nweze also stressed that the leadership of the PDP was not fair.
Reacting to PDP’s claim that Umahi’s defection was as a result of intimidation by the APC, Nweze said, “That statement does not have any meaning. It is meaningless. Governor Umahi’s move to APC was based on conviction. My principal (Umahi) clearly stated why he left PDP for APC and in a recent interview some days back he confirmed to the general public that he is very comfortable and happy in the APC.”
Nweze added, “I wonder why anybody will be talking about intimidation. Which intimidation? Who intimidated who? That statement does not have any kind of meaning. It is just meaningless.”
Reacting to insinuations that Umahi’s move to APC was aimed at forestalling possible harassment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the end of his tenure as governor, Nweze said, “When you talk about EFCC you talk about money spent and in Ebonyi State when you see what the governor has done with the little resources that is available to the state you will wonder how he was able to get money to execute all those projects so the question of being afraid of EFCC does not arise. In fact, the governor said from January he would start accounting for every money spent so his defection has nothing to do with EFCC.
“It is about conviction and the fact that the PDP leadership was not fair as you can see from what is happening now in the party.”
Christian Ita, Ayade’s Chief Press Secretary, also dismissed PDP’s claims that the governor defected due to intimidation by the ruling APC.
Rather, Ita stressed that ongoing developments in the PDP had justified Ayade’s decision to dump the party.
“Ayade left the party (PDP) over two months ago so why is it still an issue? As we speak today can you not see what is going on in PDP? It is a disorganised party so who is talking of intimidation? It is a party that cannot handle simple matters of discipline within the party.”
Ita added, “Intimidated by who? The fact is the man (Ayade) has moved on. He has moved on. Nobody intimidated him. We have seen evidence of how the party (PDP) is being run, that party is dying. When the governors issues were brought up they (PDP leadership) did nothing about it. They should stop talking about intimidation and concentrate on how to save the party.”
PDP has said it will sue the governors that defected to the APC.
Ita also dismissed the threat. According to him, the governors cannot be sued because they did not commit any offense.
Reacting to the PDP threat, Ita said, “Sue under what law? I am a lawyer. Can you sue somebody for what is not known in law? You can only sue somebody for an offense that is known under the law. So what is the offense? The Electoral Act is clear on this. Only members of the National Assembly may lose their seat (when they defect) but there is exception to that when there is a division in the party and today you can see that PDP is in disarray.”
PDP is currently embroiled in crisis after the resignation of seven national officers precipitated a move for the removal of national chairman Secondus. Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike is believed to be behind the move to oust Secondus before the party’s national convention scheduled for December, where the national chairman is expected to seek a second term in office.
Wike made a surprise appearance at a BOT meeting convened to resolve problems in the party on August 5.
However, the BOT meeting failed to reach a consensus on how to resolve the crisis. Instead, the BOT said it would set up a fresh reconciliation committee to address the issues and also opted for further consultations among stakeholders including the PDP Governors Forum, National Assembly members, the National Working Committee (NWC), former governors and former ministers, among others.
The Wike camp, which is insisting on Secondus’s resignation, wants the party to set up a caretaker committee that will run its affairs in the interim and oversee the December national convention.
But Secondus and his supporters have accused Wike of plotting to hijack the party for his selfish interests.