Monday, March 17, 2014

Nigeria Election: PDP Tries to Wrest Back Momentum from the APC

Nigeria's game of political musical chairs looks set to continue as the ruling party and opposition − as well as figures within − try to gives themselves the advantage. When Nigeria's four main opposition parties decided to band together in February 2013 to create the All Progressives Congress (APC), it sent shockwaves across the country's political landscape. For the first time since Nigeria's return to civilian government in 1999, it looked like the ruling People's Democratic Party's (PDP) dominance could be realistically challenged − especially as increasing numbers of disgruntled PDP members decamped to join the new party. Soon after the APC was established, five PDP governors and 37 members of the House of Representatives defected, while nearly a dozen senators declared their intentions to follow suit.

At the start of 2014 it seemed that all the momentum was with the APC, but this picture has been significantly complicated recently. At the start the February, the APC recorded its most high-profile defection when former vice-president Atiku Abubakar left the PDP to join the opposition. The event was a big victory for the APC, but was partly diminished by the divisive effect the move had on Abubakar's considerable support base. Only a fraction of his supporters chose to follow him to the APC, with the rest either choosing to remain in the PDP or shift allegiance to the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), a party Abubakar had considered joining, instead.

With the 2015 general elections around the corner, Abubakar's defection raises questions over his political ambitions. In 2011, he ran to be the PDP's presidential candidate but lost out to President Goodluck Jonathan, and rumours have emerged that APC leader Bola Tinubu offered Abubakar the party's presidential ticket in return for crossing the floor, something Abubakar denies. Nevertheless, with many similarly prominent figures within the APC, it remains to be seen how all of their ambitions will be accommodated.
Elsewhere, the APC has faced also faced challenges. The 11 PDP senators who wish to defect to the APC have still not been able to do so formally as a court continues to deliberate the legality of such a move.

The PDP has regained its majority in the House of Representatives after six APC members defected to the ruling party along with a member of another opposition party. And at the state level, key party leaders in Kwara and Adamawa states also decamped to the PDP. They followed in the footsteps of their counterparts in Kano and Sokoto states, meaning that in all but one of the five states from which governors defected from the PDP to the APC in November 2013, the APC has lost its original party leaders to the PDP. The growing number and intractable nature of such disagreements reveals a weakness within the APC, but the opposition party itself has pointed the finger at external factors.

 It accuses the ruling party of using government funds to lure its members, especially legislators, into defecting, and alleges that some of them are being offered as much as between $1 million and $5 million in bribes. The PDP has denied these allegations, calling the APC a sore loser.What is clear, however, is that this game of musical chairs is far from over as politicians attempt to put themselves in an advantageous position in view of the upcoming party primaries. As we continue to move through the pre-2015 election period, here are some things of which to take note.

Source: Think Africa Press

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