One of the main gist in town has been the anticipated defection of Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Many didn’t see it coming.
He has met with President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo ahead of a reported rally to formally welcome him into the party’s fold.
The interesting thing, however, is that he is leaving the opposition party not long after the PDP welcomed political heavyweights and is close to regaining the majority at the senate. Why is Akpabio’s defection beginning to look like the transfer of the season?
Below are key factors that best offer insight:
CONSOLATORY VICTORY FOR APC?
Akpabio’s defection is coming at a time the ruling party has suffered severe loss, both at the national assembly and at the various states. In what began like a purge, the party first lost 15 senators before 37 members of the house of representatives followed suit and then governors of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto – all within two weeks!
The last time such shake-up occurred was in the buildup of the 2015 elections; with the defectors leaving the PDP into the welcoming hands of the newborn APC.
With the ruling party at the receiving end now, a move as that of Akpabio’s could offer a temporary relief and, as best captured in the words of Lai Mohammed, could mean a one-one goalless draw for both parties.
The consolation makes more meaning with the circumstances surrounding the move brought into the picture. Unlike the case of other politicians whose defections were foreseen, no one anticipated that of Akpabio; not the PDP in the very least. And not when the party is seeking to cement its foundation ahead of the 2019 election.
INROAD INTO SOUTH-SOUTH
Like in the case of Saraki, the senator’s defection is certainly going to reflect in the political rhythm of Akwa Ibom where he has a strong base. There is no doubt Akpabio remains one of the key political figures in Akwa Ibom, and arguably the most prominent governor the state has had. Since moving to the senate in 2015, he still dictates, to a large extent, how things play out in the state’s political theatre and enjoys massive support from both Akwa Ibom citizens and lots of other Nigerians.
And, you would agree, a win for APC in the state in 2019 is going to rub off on the whole of south-south. Currently, the PDP holds sway in five of the six states in the south-south – Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Cross River, with only Edo being controlled by the APC.
Securing Akwa-Ibom is going to have a huge impact on the PDP control in the region. The state had a considerably huge voting strength – 1,644,481 registered voters during the 2015 poll – something big when compared to other south-south states like Bayelsa (605,637) and Cross River (1,144,288) and some south-west states like Ekiti (723,255) and Osun (1,378,113).
SENATE MINORITY LEADER TODAY, SENATE PRESIDENT TOMORROW?
Coincidentally, Akpabio currently leads the PDP lawmakers in the upper legislative chamber; a position he has been in with unquestionable allegiance and loyalty from his party members. His strong influence over his colleagues in the opposition party is in place without doubt, coupled with the fact that he is also well respected across party lines.
When he eventually decamps to APC, he might join hands with other top-ranking APC senators to oversee the alleged plot to impeach Saraki and ensure the APC regains its lead in the red chamber. With his streetsmart intelligence, who knows, the senator might as well end up as the senate president if the plot eventually sees the light of the day, assuming he has the backing of the party on this.
STAUNCH OPPONENT OF BUHARI… AND ALL OF A SUDDEN?
No doubt politics is really insane. Strictly a game of interest. One minute, you are one party’s or individual’s nightmare, opposing virtually everything they do and say; and the next day, you are in bed with them; with all criticisms and opposition forgotten.
Remember when as the chairman of the PDP governors’ forum, how the senator was opposed to most of then-presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari? In the buildup of the 2015 election and even afterwards, he was a staunch critic of Buhari and his agenda.
On one occasion, he had said the governors in the party are worried about the “age of Buhari’s ideas” if he emerges as president. He had said: “There is nothing wrong with his age, but we are extremely concerned about the age of his ideas, we are concerned that a man who could not take charge when he was in his 40s but rather bequeath to historical infamy a regime named after two individuals, Idiagbon-Buhari Regime ,instead of one person as used to be the case.”
The criticisms did not get any better when he moved to the senate and emerged the minority leader. Usually outspoken, he had kept the current administration on its toes regarding many of its policies while speaking on the floor of the senate. In fact, he once said the administration of Nyesom Wike in Rivers state has executed more projects than that of Buhari. Interesting how it is all changing now.
Akpabio’s defection is the equivalent of one of those once-in-a-while type shaking the transfer market; big money and numerous caps to his name. He comes with loads of experience in the kind of politics the APC needs ahead of the election. With his influence in the senate, the APC might as well be on its way to regaining the leadership of the upper legislative chamber – and maybe, having its way into the south-south. (The Cable)