At last, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, on Wednesday formally announced his defection from the All Progessives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party.
This is coming a day after the APC lost 13 of its senators and 37 of its House of Representatives members to the PDP, thus giving the majority status to the former ruling party in the Senate.
Ortom made the declaration during the meeting with local government chairmen and their councillors at the new banquet hall of the Government House, Makurdi.
Thirteen local government chairmen and 276 councillors were in attendance.
Ortom, who said that despite the intervention of the national leadership of the APC, the “state chapter of the party has continued to launch attack on me.”
“This morning, I had wanted to go to Abuja to attend the meeting but some youths in the state refused, they asked me to go back.
“But let me formally inform this gathering that I have forwarded my resignation letter from the APC to the chairman of my council ward and he has promised to join me in the new party,” Ortom declared.
Immediately he announced his resignation from the APC, the governor displayed his resignation letter to the people.
“As I talk to you, 10 out of 17 state lawmakers of the APC are ready to follow me to the new party. May I formally announce to you that I have formally moved to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,” Ortom declared.
Earlier, the 13 council chairmen and leaders of the legislative council in attendance promised to follow the governor to the PDP to ensure his re-election aspiration.
Earlier, youths under the auspices of ‘Coalition of Benue Youths’, comprising 40 groups on Wednesday had stormed the government house and prevented Ortom from travelling to Abuja as they forced him to return to the government house.
Ortom was on his way to Abuja to meet with the leadership of the APC with a view to settling the rift between him and Senator George Akume.
The governor had around 10am taken off from the Government House, Makurdi when the youths in their hundreds blocked his route.
The youths carried placards with various inscriptions such as: “Ortom don’t go back to the APC,” “We don’t have land to donate for ranching,” “The APC is Miyetti party,” Our farms are not for cows,” You must leave the APC,” Ortom is our party, “ and “2019: On Ortom we stand.”
Terrence Kuanum and Pastor Dave Ogbole, who spoke on behalf of the youths, advised the governor not to attend the meeting but to seek an alternative platform for his re-election bid.
The youths threatened not to vote for him if he shunned their advice and attend the meeting.
To give fillip to their declaration, Ogbole, ordered the removal of the APC flag from the governor’s official car.
The governor’s driver complied immediately by removing the APC flag.
“We need a leader that will protect us and you have shown that in the past three years but we don’t want you to attend the meeting with the leaders of the APC.But if you insist, there is no problem but be ready to crush all of us,” Ogbole said.
The governor, who pleaded with the youths to allow him attend the meeting with the promise to protect their interest had to make a U-turn when the youths insisted that he should not go to Abuja for a meeting with the APC leaders.
“I know the support you have shown and still show to me but I promise you that I will protect your interest,” the governor pleaded.
Ortom’s defection somewhat surprising, says APC
But the APC on Wednesday lamented Ortom’s defection, saying the party found the governor’s action “somewhat surprising.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the party was surprised because efforts were being made by the national leadership of the ruling party to ensure that Ortom did not dump the party.
Abdullahi said. “The party recalls efforts made by the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to address some of the grievances raised by the Benue State governor pertaining to the local politics in Benue State.
“The governor had left the meeting saying he was satisfied with the assurances given by party leaders. We are still working on giving effect to the resolutions from the meeting. Therefore, we are somewhat surprised by Governor Ortom’s decision.
“The party reiterates its earlier position that it respects the rights of every citizen to choose their political affiliation but expresses hope that those who have left the party will rescind their decisions.
“Even with this development, we don’t think it is too late for reconciliation. We have to continue to talk. As long as people keep their minds open and have the courage to put the real issues on the table, reconciliation is still possible,” he added.
PDP hails Ortom, says Benue gov courageous
But the PDP has welcomed Ortom back to its fold, adding that two more APC governors will join the party before this week runs out.
The PDP also urged all its members in the APC to return ‘home’ and salvage the nation.
The party also hailed Ortom for allegedly showing patriotic courage and boldness in what the party described as “these times of brazen dictatorship.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said that the return of the governor to the PDP confirmed the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the APC “do not have the welfare of Nigerians at heart, as they have continually offer flimsy excuses over the mindless killings that have caused untold sorrows across the country, particularly in Benue State.”
He said, “The PDP recalls that the Buhari-led Federal Government has failed in its basic responsibility of protecting lives, property, and the territorial integrity of our nation.
“Painfully, Nigerians are being slaughtered in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara and Sokoto, nearly on a daily basis.
“The party also recall how the APC-led Buhari administration, would rather plead for the accommodation of persons who have been repeatedly fingered as being responsible for heinous killings in the Benue valley rather than take decisive and concrete actions to preserve lives of Nigerians.
“The PDP, however, hails the governor for standing firm by the people of Benue State and refusing to mortgage their welfare to a government that has consistently demonstrated cluelessness.
“We urge the governor to rest assured that he will be accorded his dues and rights as a member of the PDP.”
Ologbondiyan added that the return of Ortom to the PDP, which he said was a reflection of his people’s desire, allegedly further confirmed the rejection of the Buhari -led APC administration by Nigerians.
“It also buttresses the fact that the PDP remains the viable platform for all Nigerians that are desirous of rescuing our nation from the gross mis-governance and authoritarianism exhibited by the APC-led administration,” he added.
PDP set to receive Sokoto, Kwara govs
Also, the national leadership of the PDP has set in motion modalities to receive two governors elected on the platform of the APC into its fold, The PUNCH learnt on Wednesday.
The governors are said to be coming to fortify the party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
A national officer of the party, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said that the two governors might declare for the PDP before Sunday.
He named the two governors as Aminu Tambuwal and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Sokoto and Kwara states, respectively.
He said that the two governors would be the first set of “about five governors” the party would be expecting to defect to it from the ruling APC.
The source said, “Anytime from Thursday (today), we are expecting two governors to publicly renounce their membership of the APC. The two governors are going to be the first set of governors that will come after the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom.
“We are also expecting more members of the National Assembly and even state Houses of Assembly members in coming days.”
Tambuwal and a former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, may join the PDP presidential race soon.
When contacted, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said that the “PDP is expecting more people, including governors in coming days.”
Secondus, who said that he would not want to be specific about the number of governors that would defect to the PDP, insisted that “very soon, the APC will be empty.”
He added, “The APC won the 2015 general elections in borrowed robes. Unfortunately, it does not have the capacity to manage its success.
“The leadership of the party and the leadership it produced for the country do not have the capacity to manage the huge success and a country with divergent opinions and ethnic groups like Nigeria. That’s why both the country and the people are in a mess.
“Like I said yesterday, soon, and very soon, those deceiving themselves that they are not losing sleep over the loss of their membership will start having migraine that cannot be treated.”
Defection not a threat to Buhari’s re-election – BCO
However, the National Coordinator, Buhari Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Danladi Pasali, has said the defection of some senators and House of Representatives members from the APC to the PDP will in no way affect the re-election of President Buhari in 2019.
He said the lawmakers defected in order to save their political ambitions, noting that no serious politician could have left the party at this critical time when election was just a few months away.
Addressing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, Pasali stated that with or without the former APC members, “the President is already the man of the masses and no serious politician could dump President Buhari or the ruling party at this particular moment.”
He said, “All of those that defected to the PDP need Buhari in their political career more than Buhari needs them. Except few among them, the majority of them rode on the wave of popularity of President Buhari in 2015 to secure their mandates.
“So for us at the BCO, we regard this as great political miscalculation and suicide. In most cases, you can’t make progress if you have an enemy within because he will pretend to be with you, but in reality he is using the relationship to bring you down,” the BCO leader stated.
He counselled the President to be wary of those pretending to support him when in reality, they were his political detractors.
Pasali asked Nigerians to judge the President on the parameters of his developmental strides, stating that his administration had revived the rail, agriculture and education in the country.
“The masses of this country know what Mr President stands for, and they tested the good governance that they never witnessed before in terms of infrastructural development in the area of roads, rails, agriculture, health, education and employment generation,” he argued.
Buhari meets APC senators after gale of defection
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday evening met behind closed doors with senators elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The meeting, which was held inside the First Lady Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, started at about 10pm.
The meeting came barely 24hours after a gale of defection hit the APC caucus in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
As of the time of filing this report, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who has yet to defect from the APC, was not in attendance.
The senators were led to the meeting by the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan.
About 43 senators elected on the platform of the APC attended the meeting.
Buhari was joined to receive the senators by the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, among other top government officials.