This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Eight PDP Governors Move to Defect

Lagos and Abuja — As political calculations towards the 2015 elections heighten, it has emerged that at least eight Peoples Democratic Party governors are set to leave the party. It is not a question of "if" but of "when", said a senior political actor familiar with the developing strategy.

The governors are those of Rivers (Rotimi Amaechi), Adamawa (Murtala Nyako), Kano (Rabiu Kwankwaso), Jigawa (Sule Lamido) and Kebbi (Seidu Dakingari).

Others are Governors Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara.

To underscore the frustrations of the group with PDP, three of the Governors: Lamido, Kwankwaso and Wamakko boycotted the PDP peace parley in Kaduna yesterday, which had Vice-President Namadi Sambo in attendance.

THISDAY has learnt the eight governors are firmly resolved to work together politically, claiming that they have been "thoroughly marginalised in PDP" and have lost confidence in the party leadership, which they say has been totally "commandeered" by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Aso Rock political apparachik.

The governors, according to several sources, have come to the conclusion that their political fortunes can only dwindle in PDP and as such are weighing their strategic options and next political moves having reached some political "agreement-in-principle" with the Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari - led opposition merger group, All Progressives Congress (APC), after several meetings in Lagos and Abuja.

"The governors are, however, agreed on a number of decisions at present," sources close to the state chief executives told THISDAY.

One of these is to approve the agreement with and move en-mass, with the Senators, House of Representatives members, state assembly members, local council chairmen and political structures at all levels in their states, into the opposition APC.

And in doing this, they will be keeping their political structures in their states, at the local government and state levels, intact and alter the political landscape of Nigeria effectively making the PDP-led Federal Government a minority government as they will then have 21 state governors against the PDP'S 15.

PDP currently has 23 governors to the opposition's 13. They will have absolute majority in the House of Representatives, given the numbers in the North-West, and share power in the Senate depending on which Senator follows them.

In their discussions with APC, they are also seeking guarantees and assurances of equality of membership, a level-playing field, internal democracy at the federal party as well as the adoption of their political leadership structures as the legitimate leadership of the merged APC in their states.

In the race for the presidency, they are demanding full internal democracy and total transparency and openness in the choice of the presidential candidate of the emergent coalition party.

According to sources, the eight governors have cited various reasons, ranging from marginalisation, moves to hijack the PDP structures from them and using the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to persecute them, to other untoward moves against them, as reasons for their move to defect.

They also specifically complained that under Bamanga Tukur's leadership, PDP had allegedly perfected the moves to dismantle their leadership of the party in their states, and weaken them through federal ministers and friends of Aso Rock.

These ministers, according to them, are being empowered to fund parallel political structures.

For instance, the Rivers State governor allegedly spoke of marginalisation within PDP, plans to prop up his former ally-turned-political-foe to hijack the PDP structure in the state from him and moves to oust him as chairman of the Nigerian Governors' Forum and promote his arch-political rival, Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio in the process.

Jigawa Governor Lamido has also complained of persecution within PDP leadership because of the rumour that he has presidential ambition resulting in the use and unleashing of EFCC on him as exemplified in the arrest and prosecution of his son by the commission on flimsy grounds.

For Kwara Governor Ahmed, his political godfather, former governor of the state, Senator Bukola Saraki, has been marginalised within the party for allegedly daring to contest against President Jonathan in the build-up to the 2011 election and for moving the motion in Senate that paved the ground for the probe of oil subsidy fraud.

"Despite being proved right with the uncovering of huge subsidy fraud, Saraki should be praised and honoured as a whistle-blower, instead the Villa is using the police against him," said the sources.

Governors of Sokoto, Kebbi and Adamawa involved in the defection plan have also cried of marginalisation and persecution within PDP, while Babangida Aliyu is said to be facing the same charge as Lamido: "nursing a presidential ambition in 2015".

For Kwankwaso of Kano, the charge of marginalisation is even worse: the sources say he has never been consulted in any federal appointments in Kano and no one in the Presidential Villa has ever called him to discuss his security challenges and find out how he is coping.

The sources insist that they are not sure if the Presidency called him with any support after the last dastardly Kano bombing, which claimed 25 lives, but point out it was Bola Tinubu and APC leaders that came in a symbolic gesture to see the Kano people "in their hour of need".

"The president does not call him to find out how the state has been coping in respect of the incessant bomb blast," another source close to the governor lamented as all attempts by Kwankwaso to reach the president to discuss the security problems have proved abortive.

The defection would be a major blow to the PDP and is said to enjoy the moot support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

If that is true, Nigeria could witness a major alliance of the North-west where most of the defecting governors come from, and the South-west, controlled by the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Following the 2006 population census, the North-west comprising seven states and with a total population of 35,915, 468 followed by the South-west with six states and a population of 27, 721, 832 have the highest of the six geo-political zones.

Other zones and their populations are as follows: South-south-21,034,081; North-central-18, 963, 717; South-east-16,395,545 and North-east-14, 331, 233.

When contacted, a senior presidency official said he was not aware of the development and that he would check.

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