“I am not bothered about the defections. Ordinary Nigerians have developed confidence in us and are defending us. I assure you, majority of Nigerians are appreciative of our efforts.”
Those were the exact words of President Muhammadu Buhari after the gale of defections that hit the All Progressives Congress (APC). If the results of the just-concluded bye-elections in Katsina, Bauchi and Kogi states are anything to go by, then the president is indeed correct as the defections could pass for a mere exercise. The APC simply stole the show at the weekend, as though it never experienced a storm within its fold.
The ruling party won three national assembly seats in less than 24 hours. The victory is coming at a time when the PDP and APC are laying claim to the majority in the upper legislative chamber following the defection of 14 senators. To think that the APC made this mark within the northern region where it lost the senate president, three governors and other political bigwigs makes the situation kind of surprising. Many observers had felt that the crisis rocking the ruling party would affect its chances in future elections.
In 2013, when seven governors and prominent politicians pulled out of the PDP to form n-PDP, the effect was felt in the then ruling party. The n-PDP had teamed up with the APC in the general election and many pundits believe that the move ended the 16-year reign of the PDP.
Before Buhari proceeded on a 10-day vacation to London, he went to Bauchi to campaign for the APC. On Thursday, it was Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who led the APC team to Daura, hometown of Buhari in Katsina state. The PDP also held a rally which had its former governors in attendance. Interestingly, both parties had sizable crowds, giving the impression that it would be a tough race but in the end, Ahmad Baba-Kaita of the APC trounced Kabir Babba-Kaita, his elder brother, with over 150,000 votes, making APC to retain Katsina-north senatorial district after the death of Mustapha Bukar in April.
For the Bauchi south senatorial election, APC won in six of the seven local governments in the senatorial district, while the PDP struggled for a win in Bogoro local government where Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house of representatives, is from.
Lawal Gumau, candidate of APC, was declared the winner with 119,489 votes, to defeat his closest rival Ladahan Salihu, of the PDP who polled 50,256.
Also, Haruna Isah of APC won the Lokoja/Kogi federal constituency by-election and defeated Bashir Abubakar the candidate of the PDP. Isah secured 26,860 votes while his opponent had 14,845 votes.
THE ROAD TO 2019
The results of the by-elections show that the ruling party still has its grip of power while it prepares for the 2019 general election which is less than six months. While the wave of defections was at its peak, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, had quipped that Buhari would win in the northern states where most defections took place, even if he was presented on sick bed.
He had said: “I am not God. It is only God who can say the APC will win or not. But what is clear is that if you remove the God element, I think we are prepared to coast to victory because Nigerians will certainly reject a second looting. Nigeria can’t survive a second looting. Never!”
Festus Keyamo, spokesman of the presidential campaign, also released demographics in favour of Buhari and the APC despite the defections. No doubt, the bye-elections were a litmus test for the APC.