Like a bolt out of the blue, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara took everyone by surprise when he defected from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). This is coming at a time the APC is struggling with leadership instability at the national level and the PDP is enjoying some relative stability. In this piece, GBADE OGUNWALE reports that Dogara’s actions tend to raise more questions than answers
On Thursday, July 9, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara spent the whole day at the national secretariat of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). As chairman of the screening committee for the upcoming Ondo State governorship election, Dogara was up and doing as he and members of his team buried their heads in a heap of documents submitted by the nine aspirants seeking the party’s ticket for the race. The former Speaker had arrived at the secretariat a few minutes after 10 am. He emerged from the committee room a few minutes after 10 pm, looking tired and exhausted. Anxious reporters who waited patiently for him to brief them after concluding his assignment somehow added to the day’s workload. He still spared about 40 minutes to answer questions from the inquisitive reporters, revealing in the course of the interview that two of the aspirants failed to scale the hurdles. That was his last assignment for the PDP.
Fifteen days after, precisely on July 24, the news of his defection to the APC hit the media space. The fact that his defection was first announced by no less a person than APC’s Interim National Chairman, Mai Mala Buni, erased any doubts about the authenticity of the news. Buni had taken him to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House for a one-on-one meeting with the President that eventful Friday. At the end of the parley, the two visitors stepped out with a whiff of fulfilment about their mien. It was a done deal.
Dogara used to pride himself as one of the founders of the PDP at the time the party was formed way back in 1998. He first got elected into the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP in 2007 to represent the Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency, Bauchi State. He got re-elected in 2011 on the PDP platform but defected to the APC in 2014 alongside other prominent chieftains of the PDP at the time. It was a survival strategy to reap from an emerging Buhari tsunami that swept through the country’s political landscape during 2015 general elections. On the strength of APC’s majority seats in parliament, Dogara emerged Speaker of the House through some horse-trading and backstabbing that edged out Femi Gbajabiamila who was the preferred candidate of the APC national leadership.
Again, he moved back to the PDP in 2018 as a sitting Speaker, following disagreements with the leadership of the APC at the time. He did not relinquish his position despite the minority status of the PDP in the House he presided over. The 2019 elections came and Dogara fought fang and claw to retain his constituency seat, but this time, as a floor member of a minority PDP in the House. He had remained in the shadows until his recent re-defection to the APC.
Dogara said he resigned as a result of some irreconcilable differences with Governor Bala Mohammed. He accused Mohammed of repeating the mistakes of the previous administration.
In a resignation letter he tendered to the chairman of his local ward, Dogara listed a number of infractions against the governor. Incidentally, his resignation letter was dated July 24, 2020, the same day he was taken to meet with President Buhari. Apparently, he had gone to meet the President with his letter of resignation from the PDP tucked in his breast pocket.
There are however diverse views and insinuations making the rounds regarding his exit from the PDP. To the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Senator Walid Jubrin, the former speaker’s defection was all about his quest for either the presidential or vice-presidential ticket of the APC come 2023. Jubrin said Dogara might have thought it impossible for him to reach such height if he remained in the PDP. National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan is of the view that Dogara should have allowed the party’s national leadership to intervene in the matter. He said Dogara’s defection was strictly a local issue of Bauchi politics. Ologbondiyan, however, said there was no crisis in the Bauchi chapter of the PDP to warrant the former speaker’s exit. He added: “The decision is personal to him and we wish him the best in his future endeavours.”
A party source from Bauchi State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said Dogara defected from the PDP for reasons he did not tell the public. He said Dogara’s grouse stemmed from personal issues with his state governor. The source acknowledged Dogara’s contributions to the defeat of the immediate past governor, Mohammed Abubakar, the source added: “But the moment Bala Mohammed assumed office, he relegated Dogara to the background and took actions that suggested that he wanted to divest the ex-speaker of his political clouts in the state.”
He said the governor denied Dogara inputs into key appointments in his cabinet and even went ahead to revoke some choice land allocations from the ex-speaker. The governor was also said to have allegedly displaced Dogara in the choice of party officials down to his ward level and replaced them with his own men. The source, however, described the defection as hasty, saying that the PDP Governors Forum was already seeking ways to resolve the rift between him and his governor at the time he exited the PDP. “As a matter of fact, he was scheduled for a meeting with the PDP governors on the day his defection was announced,” the source added.
There are permutations on what might have motivated Dogara to join the APC at this time. Some analysts posit that his entry into the ruling party may, sooner or later, alter the leadership composition in the House of Representatives. His highly placed backers in the APC is believed to be propping him up to unseat Gbajabiamila. The move is believed to be all about 2023 general elections. It is said to have been initiated by a faction within the leadership of the APC at the national level. The alleged political brinkmanship appeared to have been given some credence when Dogara, a few days after joining the APC, led three members of opposition parties in the House on a visit to Buni.
The Nation gathered that the federal lawmakers that accompanied Dogara to see Buni were Danjuma Usman Shidda (APGA, Taraba State); Sam Izuigbo (Anambra); Hembe Hembe (Benue). Another source attributed Dogara’s defection to a quest by the leadership of the APC to strengthen and fortify its hold in the Northeast geopolitical zone. Of the six states in the Northeast zone, Bauchi has the highest voting population, a development considered a huge asset in political calculations. It is also being touted in certain quarters that the move was targeted at a high ranking Presidency official, who, by virtue of his position, is vested with enormous powers and responsibilities. Others said it is meant to serve as balancing act for the fact that the said official hailed from the same geopolitical zone as Dogara and they share the same religious belief.