From Judex Okoro, Calabar
As 2019 general election draw nearer, political activities are gathering momentum, and as usual there seem to be no dull moment for the political class. Already, the jostle for who gets what, when and how has taken the centre stage.
However, the gale of defection is on and is perennial. The defectors give all sorts of jejune excuses for leaving one party to the other. While some are moving to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), perhaps just to belong to the mainstream and be part of the rendezvous, others said PDP, which gave them “food for 16 years,” has become a bedlam. So, to the defectors, they can no longer remain in such a party of inactivity and confusion. According to this group, PDP is in a state of inertia.
And Senator Florence Ita Giwa, the latest entrant into APC, sang the same song of other defectors as she joined her political soul-mates in APC on Friday, March 31, 2017.
Daily Sun recalls that in 1999, she went to the senate on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, representing Southern Senatorial District, but she was among the first to defect to PDP because it was in control at the national level.
The former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was welcomed by APC bigwigs including Senator Bassey Otu, said she moved to a party where she could make impact alongside her contemporaries.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after her registration in APC by her Antai Ema ward chairman, Mr Inyang Okon, in Bakassi local government area of Cross River State, Ita –Giwa said: “I feel that with my status and political standing in Cross River, it is out of place to jump from one faction to another. It is too small. So I need a strong platform devoid of sheer impunity, selfish interests, where I will meet my contemporaries.
“I have been idle in the PDP for over a year now. I needed a platform of very mature, serious, committed people, so I have chosen that platform which is APC.”
Mama Bakassi as she is fondly called, said: “I have not come here to struggle for any seat with you people. I have been given appropriate seat to sit down. I am not a quiet politician. APC has been too quiet. Now that I am in APC, that silence, quietness will stop ‘idle’ in the PDP for over a year now.”
She assured of her commitment to work for the current dispensation led by President Muhammadu Buhari, whom she described as being “largely misunderstood by many.”
Mixed Reactions Trail Her Defection
However, mixed reactions have continued to trail Senator Ita-Giwa’s defection after about 14 years sojourn in PDP. While some said it was not unusual of her given background, others argued that she was not obliged to remain in one party till death. This later group further argued that politics was about interest and service to the people.
Commending Senator Ita-Giwa for her defection, the Bakassi APC chapter chairman, Mr. Cyril Ene, and immediate past Senator of Cross River Southern Senatorial District, Prince Bassey Otu, all promised to give her a level-playing ground in the party’s affairs.
On his part, former Calabar South Local Government Chairman, Ekeng Henshaw, who is currently Cross River coordinator of Niger-Delta Grassroots Movement (NDGM), said with Ita-Giwa, APC in Cross River has been moved from “step five to step one.”
Equally commending Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa for taking the bold step to cross over to the ruling party, Paul Adah, former House of Representatives member for Bekwarra/Obudu/Obanliku federal constituency on the platform of the PDP, said her movement was a minus for the PDP and a plus for APC.
According to the immediate past Commissioner in NDDC Board and APC stalwart, “whether we like it or not, she did not come alone because she has numerous supporters and admirers. It is obvious that she came with her supporters. However, only politically myopic people would argue that she has lost political relevance.
“She is not a local politician, but a national one who has fans across the state and country as well as across parties just like some of us, don’t forget that she has been a senator of Southern Senatorial district and Presidential Adviser to former President Obasanjo, surely, APC would leverage on that.”
Debunking allegations that she crossed over because she wants political appointment, Adah said: “She left because of no activity in PDP and has been idle even as she held the position of Chairman, Cross River Deep Sea Port Authority. So her leaving is a confirmation of the ineptitude and directionless of the PDP-led administration in the state.”
Reacting too, a university Don, Dr. Osegha Abang, contended that with the present political configuration in the Southern Senatorial District, she has clout and if she works assiduously with Sen. Bassey Otu , they could make things difficult for PDP within the zone.
Abang, a lecturer in Linguistics and Communication Studies department, University of Calabar, said “politics is about permanent interest and if you look at actual definition of politics, it is who gets what, how and when.
“So, if she is not satisfied because she is not getting what she wants in the present dispensation, she has every right to move on. Therefore, one cannot remain stagnant because you believe in something. Her movement from one party to another does not make her inconsistent, but about her interest and how to serve her people.”
But lashing out at her over the defection, APC Vice Chairman, Central Senatorial District in Cross River, Cletus Obun, said for Sen. Ita-Giwa, leaving from one party to another has become a tradition, an indication of her instability and infidelity in political relations.
Worried at the way politicians of her calibre take advantage of odd situation, Obun, former member of the State House of Assembly representing Boki II State Constituency said “Mma Bakassi’s coming or defection portend two immediate tendencies. Firstly, you know that after 70 years of age, her political energy must have waned down. So, what you are left with is her past glory.
“Secondly, why PDP might feel psychologically and politically demented, APC cannot rejoice because APC does not need her to win Presidential election in 2019, so, no cause for jubilation.”
Hoping she will stay and groom a political party and see it sustained over time at the twilight of her political carrier, the APC chieftain said “the party can only feed and gain from her past glory as her age can no longer carry the verve needed for massive support.”
Also speaking, the chairman, Cross River University of Technology, CRUTECH, Governing Council Board, Dr Emil Inyang, said “she has no electoral value any longer because the Bakassi local government as a whole where she comes from has less than 4, 000 votes. So her moving over to APC does not make any impact on the party that made her what she is today.
“For us in PDP, we are not shaken because when time for election comes we shall test our strength again in the field and I can tell you that even in that Bakassi we shall defeat her because we know her tricks of winning election.
“This time we shall slug it out. Well, her leaving is good for PDP because it will make us to sit up. The Governor need not panic at all rather he should re-organise the party and begin to play politics the way it should be played. I can tell you without mincing words that Cross River is a pure PDP state and nobody should be deceived that those who defected will run the party over. Not at all!” the former Biase Local government area in Southern Senatorial Zone said.
Another staunch PDP member and member of Cross River Law Reform Council, Ndoam Egodo said: “Mma Giwa defection to APC is of no value; she has since lost her political value in the state. So her movement will not impact negatively on PDP, neither will it add to the electoral vale of APC. She merely returned to where she belonged and re-united with her old political pals in APC as indicated in her speech.”
Implications of her defection
Political watchers say her defection may open the door for other defections as some of the appointees of Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, have been gearing up towards joining APC since last year.
They were shell shocked in spite of her close rapport with Ayade that she could leave the PDP and move on.
According to them, since the emergence of Governor Ayade in 2015, the duo have been working as dependable allies even when the governor was advised against the new ‘political romance’ because of her political antecedents.
Late last year, rumour mills had it that Ayade was building his political dynasty around Sen. Giwa, adding that Ayade has so cultivated ‘Mma Bakassi’ that she not only had the ears of the governor, but was one of ‘Oga’s’ confidants. This manifested in her conspicuous presence at almost every major events in the state as seen during the 2016 Christmas Festival and Calabar Carnival. Besides, she was appointed Chairman, Bakassi Deep Sea Port Authority. It is, therefore, paradoxical for her to say she was idle in PDP, one of the PDP chieftains, said.
Speaking on the possibility of other PDP chieftains joining her in APC, Dr. Osegha Abang, a University Don, said: “With her movement, it does appear to me that many will follow her because of the seeming inactivity in PDP. It is possible she might have influence within the Southern zone.
“She has the rhetoric and the clout expected of notable politicians. So, you find out very soon a good number of people who have been with her might want to follow her if the inactivity and the in-fighting within PDP continues.”
But dispelling the rumour that Governor Ayade might defect to the APC, Special Assistant and Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, said: “It is not true that the governor is defecting to any party. You can see that both Sheriff and Makarfi have all visited the governor in furtherance of peace moves in PDP. Besides, remember that this rumour of defection to APC have been on even before now. So, those who are still speculating are just living in the past.”