The nation’s polity is set to witness fresh gale of defections as a result of the resolve of more senators to dump their parties after their governors have indicated interest in or planning to take over their tickets ahead of the 2019 elections.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that many of the senators, especially members of the All Progressives Congress, had relied on the assurances of the national leadership of the party that they would be given automatic tickets to return to the red chamber next year if they did not join their colleagues to the Peoples Democratic Party in July.
Many of them, however, started making last-minute arrangements last week after it had become clear that the governors, some of who are determined to unseat them, would determine their political fate.
Some of the affected senators are Adesoji Akanbi (Oyo South), Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara South), Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun Central), Hope Uzodinma (Imo West), Ahmed Rufai (Zamfara West), Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe North) and Baba Garbai ( Borno Central).
Pressure mounts on Tejuoso to leave APC
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH in Ogun State revealed that Tejuoso, who was among the APC senators that shelved their planned defection to the PDP on the floor of the Senate in July, was shocked last week when he was not listed as one of the consensus candidates announced by the party.
According to a source, Tejuoso, who had thought that he would get the ticket based on the agreement reached between the APC senators and the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, attended the stakeholders meeting in Abeokuta, in high hopes.
He was said to have told some of his associates that he would purchase his nomination form after the meeting not aware that the governor had perfected a smart arrangement to ease him out of the race.
The source said, “The only option available to him now is to test his political popularity by seeking reelection on the platform of another party. I think that is why he refused to obtain the form before the meeting.”
Another source, who claimed to be an associate of the senator, told one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity that Tejuoso would realise his ambition on the platform of another party.
The source said, “The party leadership, including President Muhammadu Buhari, appealed to the senator to rescind his decision to defect when his other aggrieved colleagues did so with an assurance that he and other would get automatic tickets.
“He is a popular candidate. He will realise his ambition on another platform. Other parties are talking to him already.”
Tejuoso had yet to respond to a message sent to his mobile as of the time of filing this report. Persistent efforts to speak with him on the telephone also failed.
However, the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Mr. Wole Elegbede, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the issue would not affect the party.
He said, “There is no crisis with respect to that issue. Senator Lanre Tejuoso has not indicated his interest to seek reelection. He was at the stakeholders meeting where we agreed to go for consensus.
“When they called for consensus, Tejuoso raised his hand in support of the idea. He has not even obtained his nomination form as I talk to you today (Thursday evening).
Akanbi to dump APC this week
In Oyo State, the APC chairman in the state, Dr AbdulAzeez Olatunde, told one of our correspondents that Governor Abiola Ajimobi had purchased nomination forms to enable him to contest the Oyo South Senatorial seat next year.
Ajimobi’s action had, therefore, set the stage for him to vie for the party’s ticket with Soji Akanbi, the current occupant of the seat.
When contacted, an aide to the Senator, Wole Ajayi, said it would be suicidal for Akanbi to compete with Ajimobi who already had the party structure in his custody.
He, however, said a modality was being worked out that would ensure that Akanbi returns to the Senate in 2019.
He said, “We did not make any comment on the issue because the coast was not clear. But today, we know where we are going since the governor has obtained the forms.
“We are not going to contest in the primary with the governor; that will be suicidal. We don’t have the party structure and the financial strength to contend with him.
“We are making consultations on the next move and by Sunday (today) or Monday, we will have an answer to some of the questions being asked by our supporters.
“We will surely make a statement soon. The truth is that Senator Akanbi will participate in the election. He will seek a return to the Senate. How that will manifest will be made known in a few days.”
Buka Ibrahim may join SDP soon
Although a former Yobe State Governor, who is currently representing the Yobe East Senatorial District in the Senate, Bukar Ibrahim, has obtained and submitted his forms, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that he was also planning to defect if Governor Ibrahim Geidam ‘manipulates’ the primary.
It was learnt that Ibrahim, who plans to return to the red chamber for the fourth time in 2019, had mapped out another option to dump the ruling party to test his popularity in another credible political party.
The Senator, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, however, said, “My chances of returning to the Senate are very high because of my performance as a third term Senator. The unpopularity of Governor Geidam in the state now is another plus for me.
“The issue of someone hijacking delegate list will be eliminated by direct primaries which the national secretariat has directed state chapters to adopt.”
On the rumours that he is planning to defect to the Social Democratic Party to actualise his dreams if he fails to get the APC ticket, the senator said, “In politics, there are always options. Let’s wait and see the decision of my party, the APC.
“Every option will be looked into because there is sufficient time between now and the time for the election.”
One of the political associates of the Senator from the Busari Local Government Area, who simply gave his name as Abacha, told one of our correspondents that the senator might defect to the SDP to actual his dream if he failed to get the APC ticket.
Abacha said the senator was perfecting plans to seek re-election on another party platform because there were insinuations that Geidam might manipulate the APC structure in his favour.
He said, “It is not clear yet whether Senator Bukar Ibrahim will get the ticket of the APC because of the governor’s interest in the seat, so since none of them will want to take chances, they will slug it out at the polls in 2019 on different platforms.”
One of the aides of Geidam, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, told one of our correspondents that the governor was doing everything possible to unseat the Senator at all cost.
He added, “Governor Geidam wanted to run for Senate in 2003, but Bukar Ibrahim, who was the governor, then dismissed his ambition, saying Gaidam was unfit to be elected even as a councillor.
“However, as fate would have it, he is today a governor with the party structure in his hands. So, if you like, call it a payback time.”
Saraki’s favourites battle Ahmed in Kwara
The Senator representing Kwara South Senatorial District, Rafiu Ibrahim, said he was banking on his investments in human capital development and infrastructure and his relationship with his constituents and party members to secure the ticket of the PDP for his reelection.
The state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, has, however, gone ahead to perfect his plans on how to replace Ibrahim, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other financial institutions, in 2019.
Apart from Ibrahim, the governor is also contending with the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Gbenga Makanjuola, who alongside Ibrahim, is commonly referred to as Saraki’s favourites.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that some political parties had started making overtures to the senator with a view to using his popularity to contest on their platform but the senator was said to have shunned their offers.
Rather, he had been giving out scholarships and organising empowerments schemes in his constituency apart from his display of loyalty to Saraki.
Ibrahim, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said, “I have enough legislative capability and human relations capability among the constituents and the party to be able to win the election for our party.
“My governor, who is my leader in Kwara South as of today, has constitutional rights to contest too. We belong to the same family. Our leader (Saraki) knows how to build consensus.
“I believe that the most acceptable candidate of the people, the party and the constituents will be chosen. I have no grudge against either the governor or Mr. Gbenga Makunjuola. The best will come out from the PDP so that we will defeat anybody that comes out from the other side.”
Uzodinma in a fix, mulls defection
The Senator representing Imo West, Hope Uzodinma, left the PDP and defected to the APC in order to actualise his dreams of contesting the governorship of the state in 2019.
Investigations revealed that Governor Rochas Okorocha ignored appeals made to him by party leaders to rescind his decision to field his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as the candidate of the APC in the state and endorse Uzodinma.
With the current development, an associate of Uzodinma told SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity on Friday that the senator was already considering defecting to another party to realise his ambition.
He said, “Although Uzodinma and five others have obtained the party’s governorship forms to contest the primary, the senator will defect if the governor manipulates the process. He is a big fish for any party, any day.”
Uzodinma had yet to react to the message sent to his mobile as of the time of filing this report.