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Friday, 11 November 2016

Defection: South West APC leaders await Tinubu’s directive

John Alechenu and Leke Bayeiwu Abuja

There are strong indications that a gale of defection will soon hit the All Progressives Congress in the South-West.

It was gathered that many members of the APC, who are loyal to a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, are awaiting his directive before leaving the ruling party.

It was gathered that high-profile meetings of politicians across party lines were being held discreetly to fine-tune strategies for the emergence of an alternative political platform to fight for power come 2019.

Towards this end, governors and lawmakers, especially senators from the South-West, are said to have intensified consultations to ensure that they are not used and dumped in the next dispensation.

Confirming this development, Senator Adesoji Akanbi, representing Oyo South, said Nigerians would soon see the outcome of the new political alliances and realignments.

Speaking with The PUNCH on Thursday, Akanbi said some of those, who were part of the formation of the APC, and who had become uncomfortable with the turnout of events after the party attained power, might be considering their options.

“You know that ambition can drive people and a lot of people, when it comes to amalgamation like that of the APC, some people may feel cheated and may not be happy with the outcome of the whole thing. It is normal.

“There is no way you can form a new party in a room. Nigerians should not be too eager to see the outcome of such (secret and closed-door) meetings because they are still coming out to the public to canvass for support. Let us all wait and see.”

In a veiled reference to Tinubu, he said, “Personally, someone like me is a committed member of the APC and I still have my leader.

“Politics is about the grass roots. You have to know what your people want before you can decide on what to do. I am from the South-West and we have a way of doing our thing. We still have a leader.”

Akanbi, who declined to name names, insisted that the people of the South-West had their way of responding to political challenges when they occurred, adding that the decision of the leader, most often than not, was in line with the popular wish of the people of the geo-political zone.

He said, “I have not mentioned any name but whatever it is, it is going to be a collective decision. Personally, I am an advocate of regional integration. When I say regional, I am particular about the South-West, where I come from.”

The recently suspended Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, had, in an interview with The PUNCH, hinted that an alternative political platform was in the offing, which might emerge in the political space within the first two quarters of 2018.

Frank had said, “I say this without fear of contradiction; major political re-alignments are going on in this country. I don’t want a scenario whereby my party, the APC, will lose out.

“I don’t want us to lose our members to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party or any other political party for that matter.”

The ruling APC, however, remained confident on its ability to withstand whatever the opposition would throw at it in the years ahead.

The party’s National Vice-Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that the party was fully aware of subterranean moves by some individuals, whom he did not name, to cause disaffection within the party.

Eta added, “You know, in political parties, the concept that operates is the concept of free entry and free exit.

“We are aware of the subterranean moves being made by those who want to defect. They started by trying to divide the party to pave the way for them to defect but we remain strong.

“Those who want to defect, we wish them well. I even think it is better for them to leave us to build our party instead of them remaining and undermining us.

“If they want to form a new party, good luck to them; we will meet in the field in 2019. But for those of us, who were in the trenches to ensure that the APC was born, will remain in it to build and strengthen it to give Nigerians the purposeful leadership they deserve.”

A highly-placed member of the party, who confided in one of our correspondents because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, “It is glaring we have issues.”

He said those “making noise” about forming an alliance or a new political party were either trying to draw attention to their perceived marginalisation or were simply testing the political waters.

The party chieftain added, “We will be playing the ostrich if we deny the fact that some of our members are weighing their options because their physical and material investments are not yielding the kind of dividends they expected.

“We are not under any illusion that people will leave when the time comes. We are however working round the clock to ensure those with electoral value don’t join them.”

Attempts to get a reaction from Tinubu’s media aide, Mr. Tunde Rahman, were unsuccessful.

He did not return calls to his mobile on Thursday.

Rahman did not equally respond to a text message sent to him on the subject as of the time of filing this report.

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