LongRead: For love of country? 12 Nigerian politicians who defected in the last decade
The defection of Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday, June 29, has further seen the rank of PDP governors reduced following the defection of Ben Ayade of Cross River State early this year, and Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, last year.
What made Matawalle’s defection more laughable is the fact that he had once sworn on the Holy Quran that God should punish him every day of his life if he should dump the PDP.
While announcing his formal defection in Gusau, Matawalle had said:
“As from today, I, Bello Matawalle Maradun, governor of Zamfara, am happy to announce my defection from the PDP to the APC. As from today, I am a full APC member and leader of APC in Zamfara.
“I am calling on all APC stakeholders in the state to join hands with me to build the party and move the state forward.”
But many Nigerians recall that in 2019, Matawalle had sworn that if he ever betrayed the PDP or decamp to the APC, God should punish him for the rest of his life.
“If I ever betray PDP, may I not live in peace for the rest of my life, I swear by Allah. If I leave PDP or cheat any of our members, may Allah punish me every day,” Matawalle had said.
Nigerians are waiting to see the kind of punishment Allah will mete out on Matawalle for betraying the PDP and its members.
Irked by the gale of defections that has hit the PDP in recent times, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in his usual brash manner, gave the defectors a piece of his mind when he was asked what he made of such moves.
“Those governors who defect to the APC are not only shameless but they are hopeless and unconscionable. People who could not win an ordinary election, the party used technicality and went to court and got a victory. Now, they say they are leaving the party. Hopeless, shameless human beings; people who have no conscience,” Wike had said.
Though politicians all over the world have a right to move from one party to the other if they feel their ideologies and political beliefs are not being met by their party, defections in Nigeria have become a big political issue with politicians jumping ship purely for their gains and not the interest of the people who elected them in the first place.
Defections, or rightly put, cross-carpeting, by Nigerian politicians is so common place that a politician can move from one party to the other at the drop of a hat, often coming up with spurious and funny reasons for making the move.
With the election year fast approaching, Nigerians have come to expect cross-carpeting as being part of the game which often comes with so much drama, horse-trading and intrigues, the impact being that proper governance is paused and substituted with political maneuverings that heat up the polity and create unnecessary tension.
Indeed, Nigerian politicians are the most unpredictable set of humans as they could be in Party A in the morning but by the evening, they have moved to Party B, usually eulogizing the new party they had spent years castigating.
In the 22 years since the advent of democracy in the country, many politicians have shown how not to be committed as they jump from one party to the other with many of them, like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar being dubbed a serial defector all in a bid to become Nigeria’s president.
Others like former Akwa Ibom State Governor and now Minister of the Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, had spent years criticizing and insulting the APC when he was in the PDP but recoiled when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) went after him on allegations of corruption, and promptly moved train to APC in search of succour.
Today, despite the avalanche of allegations against him, especially with the rot in the NDDC, and in apparent fulfillment of former APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole’s comments that any corrupt politician who joins the APC automatically has his sins forgiven, Akpabio seems an unblemished character.
Like they say, politics is a game of numbers, that is why parties curry defectors. They celebrate it when they get new additions, but sob when they experience exits.
When a ruling party is affected, the pain is severe, as they deploy the state apparatus to get back at the ex-member or would-be defector. No ruling party takes defection from it lightly as it sees it as ‘treason’, an attempt to overthrow the government, sort of. The ruling party dreads defection, fights it, rebuffs it and blackmails the defector. The more it pretends that it was not affected by the loss, the more it is visible to all that it suffers excruciating pain from exits.
On the other hand, the heaven blazes at the welcome of a defector. The reception is broadcast on live television. Red carpets are rolled out. The best DJs select the dance tunes. Uniforms are sewn and crowds are rented. The new brides are welcomed with open arms. They are priceless possessions. Their sins are forgiven, old things have passed away. They become saints who were blindfolded in their previous party but have now seen the light and have joined the winning team!
Though the list is endless and will read like a compilation of serial defectors in a compendium, let us take a look at 12 prominent Nigerian politicians who jumped ship from one party to the other.
1. Atiku Abubakar: Adamawa State (PDP to ACN to APC to PDP)
Former Adamawa State governor and Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the defector-in-chief in Nigerian politics as he has had cause to jump from one party to the other all in a bid to become the president of Nigeria.
Atiku was a founding member of the PDP and became the governor of Adamawa on its platform before he was subsequently drafted by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to become his running mate in 2019.
Towards the end of their regime, and with Obasanjo subtly trying to get a third term, the two fell out and Atiku defected to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in preparation for the 2015 presidential elections.
When he failed to clinch the ticket, Atiku shifted base and moved back to the PDP but, again, lost the presidential ticket to Goodluck Jonathan and promptly defected to the newly formed APC.
He once again lost the ticket in 2015 to President Muhammadu Buhari and true to type, Atiku jumped ship again and resurfaced in the PDP where he got the ticket for the 2019 presidential election which he lost, again, to Buhari.
As the 2023 elections gather steam, it is left to be seen if Atiku will remain in the PDP or will yet again defect to another party with the hopes of getting the presidential ticket.
2. Godswill Akpabio: Akwa Ibom State (PDP to APC)
Godswill Akpabio was a two-term Commissioner and governor of Akwa Ibom State for two tenures, all on the platform of the PDP. While with the then ruling party, Akpabio was the official ‘bad mouth’ for the party, and tormentor-general of the APC, often casting aspersions on then as opposition party.
He was quoted severally describing the APC as a corrupt-ridden party and once swore on his father’s grave that nothing on earth will ever make him think of joining the party.
At the time, Akpabio had said:
“I swear on my late father’s grave that nothing will ever make me join the criminals and the corrupt APC. God forbid that I should do that. I am a man of honour and that honour forbids me from fraternizing with thieves and killers.”
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But when he faced serious heat from the EFCC following petitions of alleged corruption on his neck, Akpabio suddenly ‘saw the light’ and promptly moved to the APC with his hordes of supporters and hangers on.
While receiving him at the Ikot Ekpene Stadium, the then Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan, extolled Akpabio’s virtue to high heavens and ended up saying:
“This defection surpasses all other defections. This is a defection that has shaken the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). They followed Akpabio everywhere to prevent him from defecting but he ignored them.”
3. Rotimi Amaechi: Rivers State (PDP to APC)
After starting his political career as a Speaker in the Rivers State House of Assembly, before becoming governor for two tenures on the platform of the PDP, Amaechi found it convenient to dump the party in 2013 amidst a plethora of corruption allegations and today, Amaechi is the Minister of Transport and a key player in the ruling APC, and one of Buhari’s right hand men.
4. Musa Kwankwaso: Kano State (PDP to APC to PDP)
Musa Kwankwaso was a key member of the PDP before he defected to the APC during his second term as the governor of Kano State. While he was in the PDP, he had made several allegations against the APC and was once quoted as saying that the APC was a den of thieves that did not mean well for Nigeria. All that changed as soon as he decamped to the APC. His interests have since again evolved with him abandoning ship and returning once mire to the PDP.
5. Murtala Nyako: Adamawa State (PDP to APC)
Former governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State joins the list of prominent Nigerian politicians who jumped from one party to the other when he switched camps from the PDP to the APC in 2013.
6. Aliyu Wamakko: Sokoto State (PDP to APC)
Aliyu Wamakko ruled Sokoto State between 2007 and 2015 and defected alongside Amaechi from the PDP to the APC in 2013.
7. Abdulfatah Ahmed: Kwara State (PDP to APC to PDP)
Abdulfatah Ahmed was elected in 2011 as the governor of Kwara State on the platform of the PDP but defected to the APC in 2013. In 2018, while he was still the governor of Kwara, Ahmed returned to the PDP, claiming that the APC had nothing to offer as it was allegedly infested with criminals and corrupt politicians.
8. Aminu Tambuwal: Sokoto State (PDP to APC to PDP)
Aminu Tambuwal who was elected the Speaker of the House of Representatives under the platform of the PDP, defected to the APC in 2014.
He subsequently won the governorship ticket of the APC, defeating the PDP candidate in the 2015 election. However, in 2018, Tambuwal returned to the PDP and narrowly secured his second term bid on the platform of the party and is currently being touted to clinch the ticket of the PDP for the 2023 presidential election.
While holding sway as the head of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, Tambuwal had reportedly reached an agreement with other stakeholders before moving to the newly created APC, and the new party gave him the ticket to run for the Sokoto State governor in 2015.
He was elected as the state governor with the massive support of the party and riding on the crest of Buhari’s popularity. But less than four years after his defection to the APC, things fell apart between him and leaders of the party in Sokoto, especially former governor Wamakko.
The two disagreed on several issues and with Wamakko having the ears of the national leadership of the APC, Tambuwal lost his pride of place and knowing that he stood a very slim chance of clinching the APC ticket for the second time, he bid the party farewell and returned to the PDP.
9. Samuel Ortom: Benue State (APC to PDP)
Samuel Ortom won the election as governor of Benue State in 2015 on the platform of the APC but in 2018 defected from the APC to the PDP where he eventually secured his second term bid.
In leaving the APC, Ortom said the party had made life difficult for the people of the state and as such, could no longer stay in their fold.
The governor was one of the politicians that benefitted from the APC when it was freshly formed as he got their ticket on a platter of gold and went on to win the election, taking over from Gabriel Suswam, who was a PDP governor.
Barely three years after his election as governor on the APC platform, he decided to shut the door against the party. He moved on to return to the PDP where he originally belonged.
Before his defection, Ortom had running battles with top politicians in the state including George Akume, a strong political voice in the state.
Having reunited with the PDP, he secured the party’s ticket for the 2019 governorship election and went on to win the poll by defeating the candidate of the APC.
10. Godwin Obaseki: Edo state (APC to PDP)
Godwin Obaseki was elected as Edo State governor on the platform of the APC in 2016. However, he was disqualified from getting the ticket of the party for his second term bid due to his clash with his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole. Obaseki subsequently pitched his tent with the PDP and was re-elected for the second term in 2020.
Obaseki, realizing that he wouldn’t be able to secure the APC ticket, took the decision to join the PDP. But before that time, he had ensured that he made enough consultations with PDP leaders including Wike.
11. David Umahi: Ebonyi State (PDP to APC)
With permutations for a president of Igbo extraction gathering momentum ahead of 2023 polls, David Umahi, a long time PDP member, defected to the ruling APC in 2020, claiming he wanted to align the state to the center so that they do not lose out in the scheme of things.
The Ebonyi state governor, while announcing his defection to the APC, claimed the PDP had not treated the southeast well. However, political watchers are of the belief that Umahi took the step in a bid to grab the APC presidential ticket in 2023 following calls for the ticket to the zoned to the South-East.
12. Ben Ayade: Cross River State (PDP to APC)
Ben Ayade, the Cross River State governor and one time Senator on the platform of the PDP, took the PDP by surprise when he announced his defection to the ruling party with two years remaining of his tenure.
Ayade’s defection came six months after his Ebonyi State counterpart, David Umahi, also left the PDP, after months of speculations and scheming.
Though it was not really clear why Ayade jumped ship from the party that brought him to power in 2015, he had complained several times of not being fairly treated by the PDP and the injustice meted to the South-South, hence his decision to jump ship.
Apart from the governors who moved from one party to the other, honourable mentions should be given to other politicians like Gbenga Daniel, Bala Ngilari, Sen. Grace Ben, Sen. Elisha Ishaku Abbo, Sen. Abdulazeez Nyako, Sen. Iyiola Omisore, Barnabas Gemade, Sen. Isa Hamma Misau, Yakubu Dogara, Dimeji Bankole, Azubuike Ihejirika, Ephraim Nwuzi, Rochas Okorocha, Hope Uzodinmma, Orji Uzor Kalu, and lots more.
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