Reminiscent of the fate the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) suffered in the build up to the 2015 presidential contest, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, again lost another of its key figure to the opposition party barely 204 days to the next general election.
The latest entrant to the PDP is Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State. His defection, which the APC leadership described as shocking, is coming less than 24 hours after the party lost over 40 federal lawmakers in one fell swoop.
Daily Sun can authoritatively reveal that apart from Ortom, three other governors and some ministers are expected to join the PDP. But they are likely to be joining one after the other, unlike what happened in 2014, when five governors left the PDP at once to join the APC then.
For instance, sources told Daily Sun that the next on the line after Ortom is Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal. Sources reveal he will defect on or before this weekend.
“All things being equal, our governor is expected to return to the PDP by this Sunday,” one of the sources said.
PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan who confirmed this, yesterday, said among those currently in talks with it are some serving ministers in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The opposition spokesman, who was reacting to the defection of Benue State governor, noted that more leaders of the APC would dump the ruling party in no distant time.
“Just wait. Even ministers in Buhari’s government are making contact with the PDP,” Ologbondiyan, who urged all those who were in the PDP before 2015 to return home ahead of 2019, added.
Daily Sun recalls that in the last one week, Ortom and the APC have been playing what political pundits described as “hide and seek.”
He first gave the hint that he was leaving the APC about two weeks ago. But he recanted after his meeting with the leadership of the party in Abuja last week. However, by yesterday, he let the cat out of the bag. Ortom’s defection followed a heated political battle with his political godfather and leader of APC in the state, Senator George Akume.
Ortom who announced his defection at a meeting with council chairmen and councilors at the banquet hall of the Government House, Makurdi, said his decision followed his consultation with various stakeholders in the state after he was given a red card by Akume.
He revealed that he had already submitted his letter of resignation to his Ward chairman who had also decided to follow him to PDP. He also said 10 out of the 17 House of Assembly members have indicated interest to join him in his new party.
He thanked the 13 out of the 23 council chairmen as well as all 276 councilors who attended the meeting for keeping faith with him, stressing that his people have said that he is too young to retire from active politics.
“So many have heard that I’ve been given red card, some have heard that I’m outside the pitch. So much falsehood and lies are being peddled against me and my government. The lies are coming from the same people that have endorsed me at several fora.
“They endorsed me as a veteran of the party but I told them there is a process through which a candidate can emerge. I told them that others should be allowed to express themselves for the game.
“I have issues and the national leadership of the APC was aware. I have consulted my constituents including the 276 councilors that are here. Apart from the Tarka chairman that said she is going to consult, all others have said that my stay in APC is no longer acceptable.
“And so, I hereby formally resign from the APC. This is my letter of resignation to show to the whole world that I am no longer a member of the APC,” Ortom said.
Meanwhile, APC has described his defection as “somewhat surprising.”
In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party reiterates its earlier decision to respect the rights of every citizen to choose their political affiliation.
The party recalled efforts made by the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole to address some of the grievances raised by the Benue State governor pertaining to the local politics in Benue State.
“The governor had left the meeting saying he was satisfied with the assurances given by party leaders. We are still working on giving effect to the resolutions from the meeting. Therefore, we are somewhat surprised by Governor Ortom’s decision.
“The party reiterates its earlier position that it respects the rights of every citizen to choose their political affiliation but expresses hopes that those who have left the party will rescind their decisions.
“Even with this development, we don’t think it is too late for reconciliation. We have to continue to talk. As long as people keep their minds open and have the courage to put the real issues on the table, reconciliation is still possible.
“The party once again calls on members across the country to remain calm as the party leadership continues to work hard to position the party strongly for the next general elections,” the APC said.
In a related development, The APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena has called for the dismissal of Saraki from the party for anti-party activities.
Nabena in a statement, titled ‘Time to expel Saraki from APC,’ noted that “clearly, Saraki had a big hand in organising the events that transpired at the National Assembly. He has, therefore, lost the moral justification to remain in APC. The time to expel him from the party is now. The public outing by the deserters at the National Assembly was the culmination of months of anti-party activities organised and directed by Saraki. And every scene in that dramatic work of shame revealed his hand. “
But in Benue State, a group known as Benue Youth Alliance For Ortom 2019 (BYAFO2019) commended Ortom for finally taking the decision to dump the APC.
In a press statement signed by its National Coordinator, Iorliam Shija, the group said the governor’s action indicated that he represents the yearnings and aspirations of the people of the state.
“Benue youths are no longer concerned with partisan party politics, and are interested in issues that would direct and secure the future of the Benue people. Therefore, we urge Governor Ortom not to look back as we are with him.
“The issues that necessitated the governor’s action are pro-people and BYAFO2019 is proud to have him as the governor, determined to leading the Nigeria’s Food Basket State from its current situation.
“We therefore call for support from well meaning people of the state to support the governor in his drive for good governance and a secured future,” the group said.
Apart from Tambuwal, it was further gathered that Kwara State governor, Abdulfatai Ahmed, and another from the North-east would join the PDP before the party primary commences.
Investigations further revealed that more lawmakers would join the PDP before the party’s primary which begins next month.