Less than 100 days to the 2023 gubernatorial election, high-profile members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Gombe State are decamping to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), threatening the chances of the major opposition party of returning to power in the state.
The mass defections from the opposition PDP, mainly to the ruling APC and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), has been described by political observers as a repeat of what befell the party in 2019, which led to its defeat during the poll.
Unlike what was obtained in the state in late 2021 and early 2022, when members of the ruling APC were decamping to the opposition party, this time it is frontline members of the PDP that are decamping to the ruling APC.
Before the PDP’s primary elections last May that ushered in Muhammad Jibril Barde as the gubernatorial candidate of the party, several big shots from the ruling APC defected to PDP with a vow to dislodge Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya from power in 2023.
Former commissioners and serving special advisers as well as other aides to the governor resigned their appointments to pitch tents with the opposition party, PDP.
During the primaries, six prominent politicians vied for the PDP’s governorship ticket — Muhammad Jibril Barde, Dr Abubakar Ali-Gombe, Dr Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna, AVM Adamu Shehu Usman (rtd), Dr Babayo Ardo Kumo, and Gimba Ya’u Kumo.
After a keenly contested primary election, Barde defeated the other five aspirants to emerge as the flag-bearer of the PDP. Immediately after the election, the other aspirants pledged to work for the victory of the party.
However, not too long after the dust of the primaries had settled down, the gains of defection recorded by the PDP in the last three years took a reverse gear when prominent members, including at least four serving members of the state House of Assembly, moved to NNPP and APC.
Just within two months, thousands of card-carrying members of the PDP have decamped to the ruling APC, citing lack of internal democracy and nonchalant attitude of the party, especially its flag-bearer for the governorship seat in the state.
An insider in the PDP, said not long after Barde’s victory at the party primaries than he began to disassociate himself from the members of the party, who he perceived as his “enemies” because they supported other aspirants.
He alleged that the gubernatorial candidate picked his running-mate, Mr Timothy Danlele, without consulting the party executive or other leaders in the state.
The party member added that the campaign council was filled with people that are closer and loyal to Barde, leaving out several prominent members, a decision that hurt them.
Barde was also accused of running his campaign alone, without contacting the party leadership. “As a candidate and member of the party, he ought to be answerable to the PDP, but Barde chose to discard other leaders and run his campaign alone.”
Moreover, during the flag-off of the campaign among the six aspirants that contested for the PDP ticket, only Dr Abubakar Ali-Gombe attended the event, while five other aspirants – Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna, AVM Adamu Shehu Usman (rtd), Dr Babayo Ardo Kumo, and Gimba Ya’u Kumo – were conspicuously absent during the flag off ceremony.
Also, over a month after the flag-off of his campaign, members of the PDP accused the gubernatorial candidate of refusing to sit down with other party leaders and elders to prepare a campaign timetable for the 11 local government areas of the state.
There was also a leaked audio clip, in which Barde allegedly condemned and insulted prominent members of the party, “who he felt were against his emergence as the PDP governorship candidate.
“As I am talking to you now, the party leader in the state, Dankwambo, is not even in the country; the campaign director-general, Senator Usman Bayero Nafada, is said to be in Kano, while the governorship candidate himself is in Abuja.
“This is to show you that the party lacks direction. Therefore, no serious politician will stay back when those that are supposed to unite the party and lead us to victory are not on the ground to fight for the party.”
Political observers believe these are some of the several factors that triggered massive defection from the PDP by prominent members and other leaders of the party in the state.
The latest is a technocrat-cum-politician and two-time gubernatorial aspirant under the PDP, Dr Jamilu Isiyaku Gwamna, who only returned to the party last January to realise his long-term ambition of contesting the governorship seat.
He was said to have defected to APC with thousands of his supporters. Just a day after his defection, he was made the coordinator of the APC gubernatorial campaign council.
Other decampees include a former deputy governor, Mr Charles Iliya; former commissioners during Dankwambo, Ahmad Abubakar Walama, Saidu Kawuwa Malala, Alhaji Bakura Bajoga, Dr Ahmed Gana; a former member of the House of Representatives, Umar Ahmed Sulaiman, six members of the state assembly and several party officials at ward and local government levels.
In their respective remarks after announcing their defection, they cited the internal crisis and ‘lack of direction’ by the PDP leaders in the state as their reason for dumping the party.
Just last Thursday, the Public Relations Officer of the PDP in the state, Murtala Usman Dukku, announced his resignation from his position.
In a letter addressed to the state chairman, he cited the internal crisis rocking the state chapter of the PDP as his reason for resigning from the post.
“I wish to write to inform you that I have resigned from the post of PDP state PRO as of today December 22, 2022, due to the nonchalant attitude of the gubernatorial candidate towards the members of the party and his utterances to the general public,” he wrote.
However, our correspondent gathered that some of the defectors have long held political ambition to contest for different elective positions, and having failed to clinch tickets under the PDP, they returned to the ruling APC, “for apparent political cover in the event the party wins election at the centre.”
When contacted, the state chairman of the party, Major-General Abnon Kwaskebe (rtd), faulted the report that there was disunity in the party, saying the PDP is strong and ready to wrest power from the ‘dying’ APC.
According to him, the decampees left PDP for “greener pasture” in the ruling APC.
“They are used to getting largesse from the government during the time of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo. But having been in the opposition party for over three years, they have become impatient, so they want to be in the ruling party,” he said.
He, however, said the party is strategically planning to return to power, adding that loyal members of the PDP that chose to remain despite the difficulties will be “handsomely rewarded” for their sacrifices and patience.
Responding, the spokesman of the Barde Campaign Organisation, Junaidu Usman Abubakar, said the defections were from all sides as people are also leaving APC and other parties to PDP.
He debunked the allegations that Barde is running his campaign alone, saying the campaign council will not join issues with wandering politicians that lacked political value.
“There is nothing like sidelining anybody; these are people that he defeated in the primary election, and there is no way they will be happy with his emergence as the gubernatorial candidate.
“For instance, Jamilu Gwamna, when he returned to the PDP early this year, said he was mistreated in the APC. But what has changed in the APC that he has now re-joined it? “
The campaign spokesman claimed that the decampees accused Barde of excluding them in the campaign activities because they were not given money to share.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that although the party is enmeshed in internal crisis, the APC chances are still narrow, as people at the grassroots are still disappointed with the party over its failures, especially at the national level.’