It has been a harvest season for political parties across the country. The number of defections has been few. Politicians whose chances are threatened move to the platform they feel could serve as comfort zone. Others align, cook up fancy names and register same as a means to an end.
In Niger, receiving defectors has become the climax at political rallies ahead of the main contests. In Bida, recently, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) received members and supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and those of the Advance Democratic Party (ADP) during its zonal rally. The PDP also said it received defectors from the APC and other parties in Chanchaga, Edati and Suleja local government areas.
Among those who were received into the APC’s fold at its governorship rally held at the Trade Fair ground in Minna were four PDP governorship aspirants who lost in the primaries. They include former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa Ahmed Ibeto, Alhaji Aminu Baka, Alhaji Umar Ahmed (Dogokonli) and Alhaji Hanafi Mu’azu Sudan.
The party also lost bigwigs like former Minister of Sports Engr. Sani Ndanusa and its immediate past chairman in the state, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Enagi. They were also personalities such Shaba Ibn Bello and Saba Usman as well as Abubakar Jigo and Mohammed Shaba.
The defectors were formally received by the APC’s national deputy chairman, Otunba Adeniyi on behalf of Comrade Adams Oshiomole at the ceremony which was witnessed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Director General of President Muhammad Buhari Campaign Organization and Minister of Transport, Rotimi Ameachi and Senator Abdullahi Adamu among others.
Ibeto, a former deputy to former governor Mu’azu Babagind Aliyu who led his colleagues to the event, promised to work with them for the return of the APC at all levels in the elections. Since Saturday’s public show of the harvest of some of its stakeholders to the ruling party in the state, there has been an apparent lull in the party even as its leadership has maintained silence on the matter.
Analysts have warned that the loss suffered by the main opposition has been massive and will greatly alter the calculations ahead of the elections, especially looking at the influence they all enjoy in their respective bases and across the state.
Among the defectors, Ibeto, Sudan and Ahmed are all from Zone ‘C’ just like the incumbent governor, Abubakar Sani Bello who is seeking a second term as well as the PDP governorship candidate, Umar Nasko. Analysts say with the development, Nasko’s chances have become slim in the area hitherto deemed as his support base.
Also beyond Zone ‘C’ Ibeto is said to command serious influence and followership across the state with his strength even more prominent in Niger South. His return to PDP then had somehow boosted the party’s chances with many predicting that the former ambassador is the only aspirant that possesses the required political clout to fight the incumbent.
There was therefore apprehension within the party when he lost the ticket to Nasko with fears heightening over his repeated absence at the party’s rallies ahead of the main contest. So, his defection about a month to the elections along with three aspirants, analysts predict, would be the last straw against the main opposition party.
Apart from the four former aspirants, the exit of the former Minister of sports and the immediate past chairman of the party, according to observers, would also immensely hurt the PDP in the elections as the duo are also political leaders not only in Zone ‘A’ where they hail from but the entire state.
Enagi’s leadership style while he presided over the affairs as chairman had endeared him to many party faithful across the state with observers arguing that more loyalists are likely to join him in the new party. And the fact that he also belong to the late former governor Abdulkadir Kure’s politcal dynasty also seem to have increased his influence across the party’s structure with such also likely to work against his former party as the elections get closer.
Like Enagi, Sani Ndanusa also pulls a lot of weight within the PDP heirachy in the state but beyond that he also comes from an influential and respected family in the state. So many believe that his exit would also be a big blow to the party.
With its visibly depleted ranks therefore, it is obvious that the main opposition party may have to return to the boardroom to restrategise but analysts say even at that, the time is too short to achieve any meaningul progress before the election.
The situation is also compounded by the fact that Niger always tilts towards the ruling party and the incumbency factor plays a significant role in all its elections.
Beyond this is the apparent absence of a godfather of note who is devoid of any baggage. The late Kure played the role of a unifying figure whose influence is felt across all the zones in the state. However, former governor Aliyu who would have been the natural successor has been finding it difficult to unite the party since the demise of Kure probably because of the lingering rivalry between the two with the consequent crack which split it into camps. Such conflict which was left unaddressed before the demise of Kure is still robbing off on the party.
Aside this, both the former governor and the party’s governorship candidate are in court over allegations bothering on abuse of office. Although both of them are yet to be found guilty by the court, the case no doubt has negatively affected their reputation in the eyes of the voting public and is bond to swing the pendulum against them and the party.
Another critical disadvantage the party faces ahead of the elections is the obvious lack of resources to prosecute its campaign and elections. So far, the party’s campaign has been devoid of vigour that has become it’s characteristic. In a highly monetised campaign and election the system encourages, a main opposition party can hardly make any significant impact if its volts are empty. As things stand therefore, the party faces a herculean task with its chances getting slimmer by the day as the clock ticks towards the elections.