Moves by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to stop some of its prominent members from defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC) are yet to make the desired impact as the would-be defectors are reportedly forging ahead with their plans.
Even though the PDP has embarked on fence-mending moves in the last few weeks to avert the coming defection, which a source said would be in two phases, the affected party leaders are bent on quitting the opposition party.
Some actors in the defection plan told LEADERSHIP Friday that they have made up their minds on their movement to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Those reportedly on their way out of the PDP are Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle, his Cross State counterpart, Benedict Ayade, a former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Senator Grace Folashade Bent.
The PDP had on Wednesday launched last-minute efforts to stop the Zamfara governor from defecting to the APC.
LEADERSHIP Friday learnt that the party held a series of meetings and consultations with critical stakeholders on how to stop Matawalle, who is rumoured to be planning to defect to the ruling party on April 14, against doing so.
It was gathered that as part of the strategies to stop the governor from leaving the PDP, the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, was scheduled with other members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to visit Matawalle yesterday.
The NWC members had earlier met on Tuesday at the party’s national secretariat, Abuja, on how to convince the governor not to leave the PDP.
The PDP Governors’ Forum (PGF) led by its chairman and governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, was also in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital on Wednesday, to persuade their colleague not to defect to the APC.
Those in the know told LEADERSHIP Friday that the planned defection of Governor Matawalle was not because of any disagreement within the party’s family but due to permutations on securing a guarantee for a second term in office by 2023.
Speculations on Matawalle’s defection had become rife after his recent meeting with three APC governors, led by the chairman of the APC national caretaker/extraordinary convention planning committee and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.
There are also insinuations that a former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani Yerima, was prodding Matawalle to join APC in order to dislodge the governor’s predecessor, Abdulaziz Yari.
The Zamfara governor’s associates who craved anonymity said last night that Matawalle had jettisoned the defection idea after meeting with the PDP governors on Wednesday. But another associate said Matawalle was still consulting with critical stakeholders on his next move.
But highly-placed APC officials privy to the development insisted that all arrangements had been perfected and that Matawalle, Ayade, Fani-Kayode and Bent were only waiting for the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from his medical trip to London.
When LEADERSHIP Friday sought to know the veracity or otherwise of the claim, one of the would-be defectors confirmed the defection plan, saying President Buhari’s medical trip abroad was delaying the plan.
“They told us to wait for President Buhari’s return to the country, so that they can take us to him at the presidential villa for introduction ahead of our formal defection to the APC,” one of the would-be APC members said last night.
Also, another member of the “group of four” told our reporter in confidence that apart from the four PDP members, who are on their way to the APC, there are other PDP governors and members, who might be part of what he called the “second wave”.
“I can tell you authoritatively that apart Zamfara and Cross River governors, there are two more PDP governors and an influential member who will join us and probably that will be in the second wave. The four of us ready to move now are in the first wave of defection that is going to hit the PDP soon,” he said.
He added the two PDP governors, who are currently taking their time, are from the South West and North East respectively, while a prominent member of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) from the North was also bidding his time.
Governor Ayade for some time has been having a running battle with some influential members of the PDP in Cross River State, a development that threatens his grip on the party structure in the state.
Although the PDP national leadership had intervened in the Cross River leadership tussle and had sent emissaries to Ayade to assuage him, it’s clear the governor was not satisfied.
For Fani-Kayode, it’s not clear whether he has been wronged by anyone in the PDP family both in his native Osun State chapter and at the national level, a source close to the former minister said he is leaving the opposition party because he has found a new political ally in Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
The source added that Fani-Kayode’s decision to quit the PDP is also not unconnected to Bello’s presidential ambition.
“He believes Governor Yahaya Bello is a bridge builder, a young man and clear-headed one for that matter. He believes Nigeria will need his type come 2023 elections.
“I think Fani-Kayode wants to be part of Governor Bello’s movement ahead of 2023 and he can’t achieve that while still in the PDP,” the source added.
For her part, Senator Grace Bent is said to be a staunch PDP member in Adamawa State for about 20 years now.
She was elected to the Senate to represent Adamawa South Senatorial District from 2007 to 2011. She is currently a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT).
Her troubles in the PDP started in 2019 immediately after the election of Governor Umaru Fintiri, who she accused of sidelining the party’s stakeholders in the affairs of the state despite their contributions to his electoral victory.
We don’t respond to rumours, says PDP
When contacted by LEADERSHIP Friday on the planned defection of the governors, PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said the party “does not respond to rumours.”
But last night on Channels TV programme, Politics Today, he accused the APC of intimidating and blackmailing PDP governors to join its fold.
Also, in a swift reaction to the rumours making the rounds in Cross River State among party stakeholders that Ayade is defecting to the APC, the commissioner for information, Mr. Asu Okang, said the governor is still a bonafide member of the PDP.
Okang said Ayade has not told any of his followers that he is warming up to defect to the APC.
He said, “As the last count, Ayade has not given any directive as to his alleged movement to the APC.
“The rally you saw today is not a signal that the governor is moving to the APC, but to let you know that he is still in charge of the PDP politics as far as Cross River State is concerned.
“The local government chairmen and the 196 councillors had thought it wise to come together and rally support for the governor. We are still a PDP state, Ayade is still a PDP man, and so anyone thinking that the governor is moving to the APC is making a very big mistake, until everybody begins to understand that the governor isn’t moving to anywhere other than the PDP, that is when you will understand that such a person is making a very big mistake,” Okang said.
An associate of the Zamfara State governor who sought anonymity told LEADERSHIP Friday that the state chief executive was still consulting with stakeholders on his planned defection to the APC.