It was a promising political career for former Governor Gabriel Suswam, who bestrode Benue State’s political space until his failed senatorial bid in 2015, which has resulted to his feeling the other side of life after 16 years in the corridors of power, FELIX NWANERI reports
There are two tragedies in life. One is to get one’s heart desire. The other is not to get it. This, perhaps, best explains the fate of the immediate past governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, who is presently passing through troubled times.
The Tiv born politician, who before now bestrode Benue political space like a colossus shot to limelight in 1999, when the country returned to civil rule.
The young Lagos based lawyer had then abandoned his wig and gown and headed home, contested and won the Kastsina- Ala/Ukum/Logo House of Representatives seat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The ease at which he was able to navigate his way into Benue politics amidst several home-based politicians, who had their eyes on the federal legislative seat baffled even his adversaries.
But, those who knew him closely where not surprised. They even “prophesied” that it was a matter of time that Suswam gets to play at the big stage. Between 1999 and 2003, Suswam served as Chairman of the House of Representatives Services Committee, and later Chairman, House Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He was re-elected in 2003, and was appointed Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation and later (2005), appointed Chairman, House Committee on Power. After eight years in the Green Chambers of the National Assembly, Suswam felt it was time for greater political calling. This time, he returned home to contest for the governorship and the 1999 “prophecy” came to pass.
He was elected governor of the state that prides itself as the “Food Basket of the Nation” in April 2007 at the age of 41, succeeding George Akume, who no doubt, anointed him as his successor, while he headed for the Senate.
The youth in Suswam and the zeal to make a mark within the shortest possible time, perhaps, propelled him to hit the ground running on assumption office on May 29, 2007. Little wonder, accolades started flowing given his feats in infrastructural development, among others.
But, it did not take long that the undue advantage, which power confers on its wielders, especially in developing countries like Nigeria, manifested and the consequence was Suswam’s infamous fallout with his benefactor and predecessor – Akume.
Like a pack cards, the cozy relationship between the godfather and his anointed successor crashed, justifying the claim by some people that politics is a game of the possible. With the political romance turned sour, Suswam immediately set up his own political structure.
The cold war that ensued later snowballed into a full blown political battle that forced Akume to abandon the PDP umbrella to seek refuge in the then newly formed Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The power game between the two gladiators got to a height in the 2011 general elections. Expectedly, the governorship poll offered Akume the opportunity to seek his pound of flesh from his political son and he did not capitulate.
While the former governor ran for the Senate and was re-elected on the platform of his new party – ACN – without ease, it was Herculean for Suswam as Akume picked and threw his weight behind Prof. Steve Ugba to stop Suswam’s second term bid.
Though Suswam triumphed at the election, narrowly defeating Ugbah by 590,776 votes to 499,319, as well as the courts, after a protracted legal battle, the fallout of the poll was that the stage was set for another political battle and perhaps the biggest showdown as the “relatively unknown ACN” on whose platform, Akume fought the 2011 war later merged with other main opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) to confront the PDP, which then held sway at the centre.
Akume seized the opportunity of the balance of power, which the formation of APC offered to lay a political landmine, which an unsuspecting Suswam eventually stepped on, in the 2015 general elections.
Suswam had planned to replicate Akume’s feat of 2007, by anointing his successor as well heading to the Senate. But, in a clear demonstration of political sagacity, the latter, in his capacity as Benue APC leader, handed the party’s Benue North- East senatorial ticket to someone that also had issues with Suswam – Barnabas Gemade, a former PDP national chairman, who just defected to the APC few weeks to the elections, and who Suswam intended to displace in the Red Chamber.
Akume did not stop at that, he also handed the APC governorship ticket to another PDP defector and former Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom, in order to stop Suswam’s anointed, Prince Terhemen Tarzoor.
The consequence was that Suswam lost on two fronts. First, he lost his senatorial bid to Gemade. Second, his anointed lost the governorship poll. Suswam’s loss was however largely attributed to the issue of non-payment of salaries and the levity with which he handled the issue.
Civil servants and pensioners in the state were owed backlog of salaries and pensions, and they paid the man, who ran the affairs of the state for eight years, back in his own coin.
Before then, Suswam was not known to have lost an election. Perhaps, the shock forced the Kpatuma u ii (black cat) as the former governor is known to temporarily relocate abroad to convalesce though it was speculated then that he was on the run to avoid prosecution over alleged corruption. He later returned to the country, but it has been from one trouble to another since then.
Ortom’s four probe panels
The political feud between Suswam and his successor (Ortom), which started in form of accusations and counter-accusations immediately the May 29, 2015 handover, later assumed a disturbing dimension following the latter’s setting up of four probe panels to investigate the eight-year tenure of the PDP administration in Benue State.
Although, the Ortom’s administration said the rationale behind the probe was not to witch-hunt anybody, the body language of the government showed its readiness not to prosecute the former governor. Governor Ortom had immediately after taken over the helm of affairs in the state, launched four probe panels to investigate Suswam.
He was quick to first, raise a Personnel Audit charged with the responsibility to audit the workforce in the state even before salaries could be paid to workers. The aim was to fish out ghost workers and possibly reduce the wage bill.
Ortom also set up a 16-man Transition Committee with former Head of Service, Mr. Mike Iordye, as the chairman. Iordye served as Head of Service under the Suswam administration for six and half years.
The committee was charged to among other things “study the handover notes of the Suswam administration; interact with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and ascertain the state of affairs; ascertain the assets of the state including physical assets and investments; review the revenue collection machinery of the state with a view to improving revenue generation as well as ascertain the level of indebtedness of the state including commercial bank loans, state revenue bond, arrears of pensions and gratuities, indebtedness to contractors, judgement debts, foreign loans, arrears of salaries and CBN loans.”
But, the Iordye panel deviated from its terms of reference and veered into a probe by visiting projects done by the Suswam administration in the 23 local government areas of the state.
In the report presented to Governor Ortom on July 12, 2015, the committee indicted the Suswam administration of massive looting of state funds and leaving behind a N130 billion debt.
Yet, on the same day, Ortom constituted two other strong judicial commissions of inquiry with the one headed by Justice Margaret Kpojime to probe all revenues that accrued to the state between 2007 and 2015, when Suswam bowed out of office.
The committee’s terms of reference bordered on how such monies were applied, contracts awarded and who awarded them, status of their various jobs, identify any case of fraud and recommend appropriate sanctions.
The probe panel on assets verification was also set up and chaired by Barrister Moses Atagher, with the charge to determine all landed property, vehicles, shares, equipment, factories and their location and to determine whether such assets were under lease agreement, the identity of the persons behind the agreements, their terms and others.
Suswam responded to probes by saying that he was not afraid of being probed, and also tasked his successor to also beam his searchlight on the administration of Senator Akume, who, he alleged collaborated with his estranged political godfather and former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, to sell the state’s only standing company, Benue Cement Company.
Battle with EFCC over alleged graft
Suswam was arrested and interrogated in October 2015, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged wrongful diversion of public funds and questionable financial transactions while he was in office.
Though the former governor was later released on administrative bail, the anti-graft commission gave details of how he and his Finance commissioner, Omadachi Okolobia, allegedly looted over N3.1 billion belonging to the Benue State government.
The prosecution witness and a detective with the EFCC, Junaidu Sa’id, told the court that an investigation by his team revealed that the former governor requested that shares owned by the Benue State government in the Benue Investment and Property Company be sold off for the sum of N10 billion.
According to Sa’id, Elixir Investment Partners was appointed as the stockbroker to carry out the sales of the shares, during which over N9 billion was realised. They were thereafter instructed to pay the N9 billion into three different bank accounts.
One of the accounts, he said, was that of the Benue State Ministry of Finance, where N5 billion was paid, while a total sum of N3.1 billion was paid into Fanfash Resources account.
He noted that when Abubakar Umar, the owner of Fanfash Resources was invited by the EFCC, he confirmed that he received N3.1 billion in his company account and converted the same sum to its dollar equivalent, amounting to $15.8 million and delivered it in cash to the former governor at his Maitama residence in Abuja.
Sa’id also told the court that the Finance commissioner confirmed issuing directives for the payments to be made to Fanffash Resources and Benue State Ministry of Finance.
Arrest by DSS over alleged possession of arms
While the corruption matter is still pending in court, Suswam was on February 25, arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) over alleged illegal possession of firearms, following a raid on his Abuja residence.
The DSS said items recovered during the raid include a Glock pistol with two magazines and 29 rounds of ammunition. Others were a Mini-Uzi with two magazines containing 10 rounds and four rounds respectively; 42 extra rounds of ammunition in a pack; one AK-47; 21 Certificates of Occupancy (C of Os) and one offer of statutory right of occupancy; 23 luxury watches; and 45 keys to various cars.
The secret security service, in a statement issued by Tony Opuiyo, said: “The Department of State Services (DSS) wishes to inform the public that on February 24 2017, between 2100 hours and 0242 hours, the service executed a search warrant at the property of Dunes Investment and Global Properties Ltd located at No 44 Aguiyi Ironsi Way, Maitama, Abuja.
“The operation was informed by intelligence that some incriminating items were stashed in the boots of cars parked at the property, particularly a Mercedes Benz S550 (BWR 135AH) and Masarati 4.7 (BWR 207 AJ), which were subsequently confiscated.
“Following this discovery, the service launched further investigations, which revealed that the cars and the recovered items belong to the former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam who has already been invited by the service and is currently helping in the investigations.”
Freedom not in sight
Suswam has been in detention since his arrest after his bail bid failed, but the Federal High Court in Abuja, last Tuesday, ordered the DSS to produce him in court on May 11, for him to answer allegations of corruption level against him by the EFCC.
The trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who gave the order, directed that a copy of the order should be served on the Director General of the DSS, Mr. Lawal Daura.
The order followed the refusal of the security agency to produce Suswam in court to be arraigned on a 32-count fraud and money laundering charge the Federal Government instituted against him and two others.
Other defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/48/2017, and endorsed by the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami are a former Commissioner of Finance in Benue State under Suswam’s administration, Mr. Omadachi Oklobia, and the then Accountant of Benue State Government House Administration, Mrs. Janet Aluga.
The defendants were accused of diverting the sum of N9.7 billion part of which was meant for Police Reform Programme as well as Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
The Federal Government said it had upon an investigation that was conducted by the Police, uncovered that the fund was diverted between 2012 and 2015, while Suswam held sway as the governor of Benue State. But, the DSS said it will continue to hold the former governor for failing to cooperate with investigators.
The agency, in a statement, said Suswam’s continued detention for over a month was legal. “The case of the former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, is typical.
The Service has continued to hold him in line with the dictates of the law – more so that he has not cooperated on the issues concerning the recovery of large cache of arms at his facilities,” the statement said.
No doubt, Suswam, at a time got his desire – first, a seat in the House of Representatives (1999- 2007) and second, the governorship of his home state (2007-2015), but he has fallen from that glory after his failed senatorial bid in the 2015 general elections.
Senate: Echoes of negative tales from Kogi
CHUKWU DAVID reports on how Kogi has continued to feature in the proceedings of the Senate as a result of power tussle among political gladiators in the state
Kogi State has become a regular feature in the legislative proceedings of the Senate. In recent times, whenever Kogi is mentioned during Senate in plenary, it is not usually for any complimentary development, but for negative issues that attract serious criticisms from the lawmakers.
Most times, the issues border on insecurity, political crisis between the governor, Yahaya Bello and politicians from the state, particularly the three senators representing the state in the upper legislative chamber, especially Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), and lately Atai Aidoko (Kogi East) and Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi Central).
It is pertinent to note that while the tussle for who would become the governor of Kogi heightened, after the demise of the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag-bearer, Abubakar Audu, Senator Melaye was a formidable supporter of Bello, to the point that he (Melaye) declared that Bello was anointed by God to rule the state.
However, few months after Bello was inaugurated, his relationship with Melaye turned sour and even became bitter. In fact, the feud between the two politicians is now so obvious that political watchers are concerned that if it is not properly addressed, it might degenerate to a regrettable end.
This lingering political feud between the duo has actually gone to give credence to the popular saying that in politics “there are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests.”
Melaye served as the chairman of the transition committee that worked out the modalities for a hitch-free handing over of power to Bello and his eventual inauguration on January 27, 2016, and also served as the master of ceremony at the inauguration of Bello at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja.
The senator, who was then highly elated at the emergence of Bello as the governor of his state, was unequivocal in telling the whole world that Kogi people voted for Audu, but God voted for Bello and anointed him as the political leader of the state. He further asked the people to give unflinching support to Bello-led government, describing it as “divinely orchestrated.”
Surprisingly, the close friends of yesterday are today becoming the worst political enemies, with their unabating political conflict threatening the peace and progress of the Kogi people.
Some analysts claim that the genesis of the lingering political impasse between Bello and Melaye could be traced to some of the political appointments made by the governor as it was alleged that the governor sidelined the senator and the party structure at the state level.
However, one of the first issues that Melaye brought to the Senate against Bello was the issue of non-payment of salaries and pensions to workers and pensioners, as well as the continued closure of all tertiary institutions in the state on the account of strike embarked upon by lecturers due to non-payment of salaries.
Another negative issue that featured Kogi in Senate plenary session was the alleged failed assassination attempt on Melaye’s in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital. The lawmaker told the Red Chamber that it was Governor Bello’s killer squard that tried to eliminate him, but God saved him.
The lawmaker explained that he was on a routine visit to his constituency and was received by his constituents in Kabba and other places, but was attacked when he came to the state capital. He claimed that the encounter at Lokoja turned bloody when one of the governor’s hit-men was killed while some persons on his entourage sustained injuries.
The senators condemned the alleged attack on their colleague and stressed the need for politicians not to heat up the polity, while also urging on the importance of members of the different arms of government collectively working to deliver dividends of democracy to the electorate rather than giving them crisis and apprehension.
In another development, the Senate also on March 3, mandated its Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to investigate the allegation of multiple registration against Governor Bello. The Senate had frowned at the alleged issuance of Temporary Voters’ Card (TVC) to Bello and insisted that it must be investigated.
However, this time around, it was not Senator Melaye that brought the matter to the apex legislative chamber, but Senator Mohammed Hassan (PDP, Yobe State), who brought a motion to that effect, pointing out that the investigation would help in sanitising the electoral system.
Hassan in his presentation, said: “There is this situation going round regarding the governor of Kogi State. It was reported recently in the newspapers that the governor of Kogi State was involved in double registration in the voter registration exercise.”
Shortly after that, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held a press conference at which it confirmed that three members of its staff have been sacked over the matter.
Within this month (March), the Senate also passed a resolution on Kogi State, following a motion entitled “Increased and alarming spate of political intimidation and violence in Kogi Central Senatorial District of Kogi State,” sponsored by Senator Ogembe.
The lawmaker representing Kogi Central had in his motion, told the apex chamber that on Saturday March 3, he organised an empowerment programme for his constituents, but that the event was disrupted by hoodlums and miscreants, who meted violence to his constituents.
He also told the Senate that the Police Area Commander, Okene and the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Okene, Okehi and Adavi local government areas within his senatorial district were aware of the programme and the violence unleashed on the beneficiaries and his supporters, yet they did nothing.
On March 14, the Senate also raised the alarm over alleged illegal establishment and equipment of state police under the guise of vigilante service by the Kogi State government, thereby bringing Kogi to a negative light again.
As usual, the Senate mandated its Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, to invite the National Security Adviser (NSA), with a view to investigating the alleged illegal establishment.
The apex legislative chamber also directed that after the investigation, the NSA should advise the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice to disband the unconstitutional security outfit.
The Red Chamber further decried the action of Governor Bello, pointing out that his actions and tendencies had been posing serious security threats to the existence and stability of democracy in Nigeria.
The Senate made these resolutions following a motion brought to the floor by Melaye, who cited Orders 42 and 52, to draw the attention of the Senate to the setting up of the vigilante service in total breach of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said that the vigilante service had already commenced operations and was equipped with sophisticated weapons, even better than what the Police have.
On March 8, Kogi was again in the Senate news, forming part of its major deliberations that day and leading some paper and making front page in others the following day. This time, Senator Melaye accused Governor Bello of importing restricted security gadgets without obtaining the end user certificate from the National Security Adviser (NSA), as required by the law of the land.
Melaye said he had sufficient proof to show that the items were imported without the NSA’s knowledge. He explained that the Customs Service intercepted the items which were in the custody of Nigeria Aviation Handling Company of Nigeria (NAHCO).
The most recent mention of Kogi in the Senate proceedings was last week Thursday, when the Chamber received the sad news of the invasion of some communities in the state by armed Fulani herdsmen, with about 32 persons reportedly killed and property destroyed.
Consequently, the Red Chamber called on President Muhammadu Buhari, to use his powers as the country’s commander-in-chief to stop the senseless killings across the country by armed Fulani herdsmen.
The Senate also urged the President to direct the police, the military and all the nation’s security forces to as a matter of urgency, move into the affected communities in Kogi and other parts of the country and bring the killings under control.
The Red Chamber further called on the Inspector-General of Police and all the security agencies to arrest the perpetrators.
The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a Point of Order by Senator Atai Aidoko (Kogi-East), who told the Senate that 20 people were killed in Ogane-Enugu community in Dekina, while 12 others were killed in Agbejukolo, Agbenema communities in Omala Local Government Area.
No doubt, the Confluence State has persistently featured on the negative side in the Senate, but the development puts a big question mark on the political maturity of some political leaders in the state.
Adeniran: Security apparatus requires urgent rejuvenation
Comrade Debo Adeniran, a human rights activist, is the Chairman of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)
The news of the release of the Dapchi girls is very elating and timely. We rejoice with the families, friends, colleagues and wellwishers of the abducted girls, who have been released by the Boko Haram Sect. It is heart-warming to receive the news of the release even as security agencies continue to pass the buck amongst themselves.
Though the return of the kidnapped students should put a stop to the blamegame that has been going on between security agencies, a number of social media gladiators have started mooting and weaving a “conspiracy theory” to wrap up in the mud, the monumental significance of this release.
As far as we are concern at CACOL, we urge Nigerians to shun making political profits over this highly traumatic incidence. Families, especially children, should never under any circumstance be subjected to situations that de-robes their humanity or commoditise their lives as items for pecuniary and political advantages. At this junction, all human beings with any iota of human feelings should rejoice and feel relieved. While we condemn all acts of individual or social terrorism, we in the same vein demand from government and its security agencies to ensure the release of the remaining Chibok girls that were abducted by the same Boko Haram sect since 2014.
Having stated this, we call for forensic audit the country’s security apparatus with a view to making them more pro-active in tackling security challenges confronting the nation. We must accept that the responses of our security forces falls abysmally below pass mark if not even below failure marks.
Their operational performance is totally untenable just as it does not justify the huge security expenditures particularly the security votes of all chief executive officers of the states in the federation. We call on the Federal Government to rejuvenate the security apparatus to enhance their capacities in combating insurgency and other violent acts in all parts of the country.
Security personnel must be trained and re-training persistently, given that it has become very obvious that the war against insurgency is a long-drawn one that must be confronted with expertise and creative strategies. All incentives necessary for the optimal performance of the security agencies must be given including improving on the living and working conditions of personnel.
SDP: The emergence of third force
The defection of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has provoked a debate on whether the SDP is the much anticipated third force ahead of the 2019 general elections, ONYEKACHI EZE reports
It is, perhaps, the best of time for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which suffered electoral misfortune during the 2015 general elections. Though it was not among the popular parties then, it won a seat in the House of Representatives through Hon. Kwamoti Laori representing Demsa/Numan/ Lamurde federal constituency of Adamawa State.
The party did not win any executive office or any senatorial seat in the 2015 elections. As a matter of fact, SDP did not field a presidential candidate during the polls. Instead, it adopted the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Abdul Isiaq, then SDP National Publicity Secretary, explained then that the decision to adopt Jonathan was based on a report of a committee set up by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on adoption of a presidential candidate. According to him, the then PDP presidential candidate accepted the SDP’s required conditions to warrant the party’s support.
The conditions include faithful implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, zero tolerance for corruption and intensification of efforts to defeat insurgency in the North-East. “Based on the foregoing observations, the committee has unanimously recommended that SDP should endorse and support the candidature of Jonathan.
This is to enable him to complete the restructuring of the polity based on the report of the National Conference, 2014. The party has accepted these recommendations and hereby directed all its supporters and members throughout Nigeria to vote for Jonathan,” Isiaq explained then. Ironically, the SDP National Chairman, Chief Olu Falae, was the joint presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) in 1999. He lost to the eventual winner, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. Since the 2015 general elections, Falae has been in the news.
He was among the politicians accused of collecting money from former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), from the $2.1 million allegedly meant to buy arms to fight Boko Haram insurgents. The sun of N100 million was allegedly traced to Falae from the arms fund. Again, he was kidnapped on his 77th birthday on September 21, 2015, while in his farm at Ilado village in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State, but was released three days later (September 24).
But, Falae’s spirit has not been dampened by these ordeals. Rather, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) continues to trudge on. Also, his party did not allow the electoral misfortune of 2015 and the allegation that it benefitted from the arms fund to hamper its rebuilding. The rebuilding efforts seem to be paying off as the party has gradually become the “beautiful bride” ahead of the 2019 elections given recent developments in the polity.
Just recently, some members of the PDP, who felt aggrieved after the December 9, 2017 national convention of the party, joined the SDP. Among them were two founding members of the former ruling party, Prof. Jerry Gana and Prof. Tunde Adeniran.
A former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Ahmed Rufai Alkali, also joined the defection train. Adeniran was one of the defeated national chairmanship aspirants at the convention, while Gana was Chairman of the PDP Strategy Review and Inter-party Affairs Committee that had commenced merger talk with SDP and other political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
SDP National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Alpha Mohammed, who spoke on the “new arrivals,” said seven serving governors and 15 serving senators have indicated interest to also join the party. He also disclosed that five former members of the House of Representatives have hinted of their desire to move to the platform.
His words: Already, arrangement is on top gear to welcome seven former governors, 15 serving senators, five former members of the House of Representatives as well as six top stakeholders from the two leading political parties in the North Central geo-political zone.
“The SDP is set to provide the much desired credible leadership in Nigeria come 2019. Already, taking the advantages of the failure of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to provide Nigerians with the promised positive change for which it was elected, as well as the crisis in the PDP, which just suffered a rejection at the 2015 polls, the SDP is currently engaged in serious and fruitful discussions with credible and progressive minded individuals and groups within the country.
“The promising team being built by SDP shall comprise of energetic young and experienced middle aged Nigerians, who are passionate about reverting the country back to its glorious days as the giant of Africa. “Meanwhile, one of the centre points of SDP’s quest to rule Nigeria is job creation, women and youths empowerment, and the quest shall be youths driven.
To this end, a committee of experts has been put in place to articulate a programme that would see the party empowering at least one million youths and women in between now and 2018, across the country.” Mohammed’s optimism was justified last week, when Hon. Emmanuel Bello, a former member of the House of Representatives led over a thousand APC members in Adamawa State to join the SDP. The SDP claimed to be the third force former President Olusegun Obasanjo talked about in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari early this year that would win the 2019 presidential election. Adeniran, who buttressed the claim, said in an interview that the SDP is “the third force of the coalition of progressives…. Whatever name you call it, SDP has become a force to be reckoned with and it will soon become a party to beat. People believe that SDP is a viable platform to really get to the Promised Land for Nigeria.”
He also disclosed that members of the Coalition for New Nigeria Movement (CNM) will join the SDP for next year’s general elections “because Nigerians will reject PDP and APC at the polls.” Former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Chief Akin Osuntokun, who is also a member of CNM, corroborated Adeniran’s position, when said the group will collaborate with SDP in the July governorship election in Ekiti State.
He said: “We are doing that with SDP because it is inevitable that election is coming and we have to be mindful of the timeline. It does not mean we (CNM leaders) have finally resolved to work with SDP. We have only asked our people to contest on SDP platform.” The SDP spokesperson, Mohammed, however explained that though the party is presently not enjoying the support of Obasanjo, some members of his coalition attended the meeting where SDP was adopted as a third force.
Mohammed further disclosed that some members of the National Intervention Movement (NIM) were equally at the meetings. “The National Intervention Movement – Dr. Jahlil Tafawa Balewa, the South-West Coordinator of the NIM, Dr. Olu Agunloye, and so on, were there. Then, you have Sani Garba, who is a staunch member of the coalition; he was there. In fact, he gave the closing remarks. “In Chief Obasanjo’s organisation, members were present and I think it won’t be wrong if I say that the organisation was represented at the endorsement ceremony of the SDP.
“The organisation has not made an open declaration, but we have a lot of them coming. Very soon, when we stabilise, one by one, the organisations will visit the party secretariat and make open declarations. “It is a mass movement that we have now; the SDP has become like a mass movement in Nigeria, so many people have been trooping into this party.
The traffic of new members has become so high and it has never happened in the history of Nigeria,” he said. While SDP continue to witness influx of new members, there are some political schools of thought which believe that the party is unlikely to make much impact in the 2019 general elections.
This is probably because none of those who have so far joined the party could alter any political equation, even in their own ward. Former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said the exit of Adeniran and Gana from PDP would not affect the fortune of the party because PDP was not on built on personalities. Although he admitted that the two politicians contributed greatly to the growth of the PDP, Babatope however, said the party should respect their decision to leave and move on.
“I am not one of those calling for their return to the PDP because they have the democratic right to join any party that suits them. Again, they are competent and intelligent adults, who must have reasoned very well before they took the decision.
“Even though the feeling might not be too good, being that I have known them for long, especially Adeniran, I cannot fault or stop their decisions. I believe the PDP will remain strong even with their exit, as the party was built on a strong foundation and not personalities,” he said.
Babatope expressed doubts that the SDP would evolve to be a dominant party before 2019 as political parties need time to develop. He, however, added that “if at the end of the day, the SDP develops into a dominant party like its chieftains have claimed, good, then, we will have three dominant parties. We will all be competing together for the votes of Nigerians.
I think that will be good for democracy,” he said. PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, on his part, described those who left PDP for SDP as retired politicians, who have outlived their usefulness. “They are running around from pillar to post. We will not bother them. They are our fathers.
When the time comes, they will come back and the youths will provide food for them,” he said. No doubt, leaders of the SDP are savouring the turn-around in their party’s fortune, but only time will tell if it will translate to electoral victory in the forthcoming elections.
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