Many believe that many of the defectors, especially the returnees to the PDP, have predictable and inevitable hurdles to cross as they continue with their survival games. Judging by ongoing developments, they may have started realising that a huge gap exists between expectation and reality.
In their new port of call, some of the serial defectors have started paying the price. Their former party, the APC, is not sleeping on guard. Its national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has not relented in turning the heat on the defectors, thereby putting them on the defensive. There is also caution in the PDP, owing to the antecedents of the defectors and their penchant for jumping ship.
According to observers, there are six major challenges confronting the gang of defectors. For the heavyweight defectors, it is a moment of emotional wrenching as they are leaving a formidable ruling party for an opposition platform whose image they had dented when they disowned the platform four years ago.
Despite their varied political experience, they are not insulated from miscalculation and summersault. The defectors, in the view of analysts, may have uncritically confused public yearning for more dividends of democracy under the Buhari administration with the desperate push for regime change by unpatriotic elements who have nostalgic feelings for ‘business as usual.’
The uncoordinated defection project may have created division among the defectors, based on their antagonistic ambitions. All the prominent defectors—Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso—harbour presidential ambition in the PDP. Yet, they seem to be ruling out consensus candidacy.
Although PDP National Chairman Prince Uche Secondus has assured the defectors of equal opportunities, those who waited behind in the party in 2015 and consequently became victims of their earlier defections are fighting back and resisting their integration, thereby compounding the challenge of harmonisation between old and new structures. To the old members, it is improper to reward those who crippled the PDP in the past with presidential ticket, to the detriment of loyal chieftains who have been labouring to rebuild the party.
Also, there is the burden of perception. Apart from suffering the indignity of being unfairly perceived as serial defectors, many Nigerians have continued to probe the motivation for the defection. The realisation that personal motive, and not national interest, is the driving force, may have made some of the defectors to lose public sympathy, goodwill and solidarity.
The outcome of by-elections, particularly in Katsina, Bauchi and Kano states, did not reflect any negative consequence of defection. The fact that APC won the by-elections with wide margins have increased the confidence of its leaders. Mocking the defectors, Presidential Senior Special Assistant Garba Sheu said while they claimed that APC was no more popular, it has continued to win elections.
For the most prominent defector, Senate President Saraki, these are not the best of times. Since 2015, he has been in the eye of the storm. Following his emergence as the Chairman of the National Assembly, the eminent politician, who succeeded his illustrious father, Second Republic Senate President Olusola Saraki, as Kwara kingpin, ran into turbulence. His career as the number three citizen has been full of tension. The tribulations of his predecessors—Evan Ewerem, Chuba Okadigbo and Adolphus Wabara—pale into insignificance in the face of multiple crises that have threatened his survival. Saraki has the right to vie for the Senate Presidency, but to the forces that opposed him, his emergence marked the collapse of party supremacy and the enthronement of indiscipline. To watchers of the National Assembly imbroglio, the logjam would have been averted if there was reconciliation between Saraki and aggrieved APC leaders who opposed his candidature after Gen. Muhammadu Buhari assumed the reins as President. The result has been uncanny mistrust and suspicion.
Saraki was arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged corruption. The protracted litigations that ensued further deepened the gulf between the legislature and the Presidency. After surviving the court case, crisis also brewed between him and the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris over allegations of links with suspects in the Offa robbery. To many senators who sided with Saraki, the hand of the executive has been heavy on the Senate President.