The G7 governors of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, otherwise known as the rebel governors on Tuesday in Abuja announced their decision to merge with the All Progressives Congress, APC. The defection of the governors into the main opposition party may have eroded the power base President Goodluck Jonathan would need for re-election in 2015.
The governors, at the meeting they had with the leadership of the APC said their decision was aimed at rescuing the country.
A former Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Abubakar Baraje, announced the decision after the meeting, which was held at Kano Governor’s Lodge in Abuja.
Among the governors at the meeting were that of Rivers (Rotimi Amaechi), Kano(Rabiu Kwankwanso), Adamawa(Murtala Nyako), Kwara(Badulfatah Ahmed) and Niger(Dr. Babangida Aliyu), as well as that of Jigawa and Sokoto states, Sule Lamido and Aliyu Wamakko respectively were absent.
Some leaders of the APC like its Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and a former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), were in attendance.
The defection of the governors and by extension, members of the new PDP is perceived as the most explicit internal threat to President Goodluck Jonathan’s assumed plan to run in elections in early 2015.
The seven governors and ex-presidential hopeful Atiku Abubakar formed the splinter group opposed to Jonathan in August.
But there appears to be an immediate crack in the new merger as one of the seven, Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, said that “he remains a member” of the People’s Democratic Party.
“After exhaustive deliberations, the two parties agreed to merge in order to rescue our fledgling democracy and the nation,” said a joint statement, read out by Kawu Baraje, chairman of the splinter group, who is not himself a governor.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Ahmed Gulak, declared that the defection by some aggrieved governors of the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) was a welcome development.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Gulak said their movement is not a threat to the PDP and the Presidency ahead of the 2015 general elections, assuring that the pronouncement by the aggrieved governors would now spur influx of new members to the PDP from other parties.
“Well, I know that five of them said that they will join the APC. But two later issued statements that they are not part of the arrangement – that is the Governor of Niger and Jigawa States. This is the fact on ground. The Presidency does not feel threatened, the PDP does not feel threatened,” Gulak said.
In a statement by the nPDP National Publicity Secretary, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, the party asked President Jonathan to start writing his handover notes ahead of the 2015 Presidential election.
Chukwuemeka Eze said that with the new arrangement, the All Progresssive Congress, is now the majority party in the country while the PDP now becomes the minority party, adding that “In the circumstances, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan must now start writing his handover notes because his ambition to maouevre the party structures so as to get a third term in office in 2015 has suddenly collapsed.
“Now, we have reached the stage that we can only say: “PDP, your sinking ship has been abandoned to you! You brought this misfortune upon yourself, now you must bear it alone! As for us, we are happy to belong to the APC, where our value is appreciated, where we are made to feel truly wanted, and where we can now join forces with like minds in our struggle to liberate Nigeria from PDP’s misrule, which is soon to end,” it said.
Eze said that the merger has shot up the number of APC State Governors to 18 while PDP’s shrinks to 16, with All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party having one governor each. A similar permutation exists in the National Assembly where we now have the majority with PDP and its allies in minority.
The PDP has been in power since shortly after the end of military rule in 1998, but it has increasingly been riven by internal squabbles.
Many northerners say Jonathan’s running again would violate an unwritten PDP rule that power should rotate between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south every two terms.
The president has also made powerful enemies elsewhere, including the governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi, who is from Jonathan’s own oil producing Niger Delta region but defected nonetheless.
“It is a blow to the PDP in terms of prestige, but most of the departing governors were from states where the president polled badly in 2011 and would not have been expected to win,” said Antony Goldman, head of Africa-focused PM Consulting.
With most of the defecting governors due to leave office in 2015, it is unclear how much help they can give the APC, Goldman said.
The more hotly contested the race, the more likely it is to turn violent, as it has in the past, analysts say.
It is also likely to hurt state finances, as the demands of patronage needed to fight the election grow.