These are certainly not the best of times for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Borno State.
To make matters worse, the state has been the hotbed of opposition politics; long before the return of the current political dispensation.
Although the PDP has dominated the political scene at the federal level, it has remained in opposition, though a promising one, in this North-Eastern state since 1999.
It came close to forming government at the state level on two occasions. First, in 2003 and then in 2007 on both occasions, Alhaji Kashim Imam arguably one of the most visible faces of the party in Borno, contested but lost the governorship elections.
The party did not stand a chance in 2011 due largely to its self- inflicted internal wrangling.
Imam was poised to get the party’s ticket for a record third time but was schemed out by conflicting interests in Abuja.
In protest, Imam allegedly consented to a political understanding with the All Nigeria Peoples Party.
As a result of this understanding, his then running mate, Zanna Mustapha, emerged as running mate to the governorship candidate of the ANPP, Kashim Shettima.
Shettima eventually won the elections. Imam was said to have approved the move by many of his supporters to defect to the ANPP.
At a time many expected the party to pick up the pieces in order to rejuvenate itself, it appears to be going deeper into crisis.
This time around, the crisis at the headquarters appears to have paved the way for an unprecedented high level of defections by a number of the party faithful into the All Progressives Congress.
A combination of factors namely the crisis rocking the party at the national headquarters, the feeling of abandonment by the PDP-led Federal Government and what some referred to as the performance of Governor Shettima led to the recent defection of many of the party’s leading lights to the APC.
In September alone, no fewer than 45 leaders at the state and local government levels pledged allegiance to the APC.
It all started with the defection of 15 party leaders on September 14. The Deputy State Chairman of the PDP, Habu Hamman; State Secretary, Mallam Gana Radu; and Woman Leader, Hajia Fati Kakena led the defecting members who were welcome into the APC by Governor Kashim Shettima.
The defectors jointly signed a statement which was read by Hamman. In it, they claimed that their defection was based on the achievements recorded by the Kashim-led administration.
The statement read: “We the Borno State Executive Committee members of Peoples Democratic Party in Borno State have voluntarily resigned and withdrawn our membership from the party and shifted our loyalty to All Progressives Congress under the leadership of Kashim Shettima, Executive Governor of Borno State.
“We as members of the State Executive Committee of PDP decided to take such decision due to some developmental achievements carried out by the present administration that touch the lives of the common man in the state.
“We shall continue to give our support to this administration on developmental aspects in the state. Despite all the security challenges facing the state for years, we witnessed tremendous achievements by the present administration.”
As if that was not enough, 31 campaign officials, who ran the campaign for Mohammadu Goni, the PDP candidate during the 2011 governorship elections, joined the ship of defectors; barely two weeks later. Goni, was the governor of Borno State from 1979 to 1983.
Fifteen state party officials and 17 members of the Hawul Local Government Council chapter of the party were among the new set of defectors.
Those familiar with Goni’s political exploits at the return of democracy in 1999, argue that his contributions to the PDP ensured that the party won two out of three Senatorial seats, two seats in the House of Representatives, as well as some state House of Assembly seats.
The ANPP was in full control of national and state assembly seats before the 2011 elections.
An engineer, Kabir Wanori, was the Secretary of Planning and Strategy in Mohammed Goni Campaign Organisation who led the second set of defectors to the Borno State Government House.
The grouse of this set of defectors is what they perceived to be the Federal Government’s neglect of the state and its people during their most trying period.
While speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Wanori said they had since realised that no “true Borno man has business working for the PDP, given the PDP-led Federal Government has showed a lackadaisical attitude to our state in the darkest days of the Boko Haram insurgency.”
Others, who spoke during the meeting at Government House pointed to what they described as the Federal Government’s insensitivity to the plight of the state.
They said the President Jonathan-led Federal Government “gave Borno State a paltry N200m as relief after giving over N20bn to Cross River State over Bakassi and N3bn to Nollywood actors (in the Nigerian film industry), whereas Borno’s problem is about life and death as well as destruction of property worth billions of naira.”
Wanori and his colleagues were not done, as they presented Shettima with a set of promotional audio tape recordings featuring various local musicians who composed songs eulogising him and his administration.
The governor could not hide his joy as he assured the erstwhile PDP members of equal opportunities as they pitch their tent with the newly registered APC.
He explained that all of them can be rest assured that they will not be treated as defectors but as foundation members of the APC, which was only recently registered as a new political party.
Shettima further assured members of the group that they and several others who took a similar decision earlier on will enjoy equal rights and privileges with officials and members of the legacy parties namely: the ANPP, ACN and CPC who fused to become the APC.
The governor refrained from making any comments about his feelings on the perceived neglect of the state by federal authorities.
He instead appealed to the group to join hands with his administration to reinvent Borno State.
Borno State was the stronghold of the defunct Great Nigeria Peoples Party (1979-1983). It was on the platform of the GNPP that the late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim propagated his politics without bitterness maxim.
Not much appears to have changed with the return of democratic rule on May 29, 1999 after another spell of authoritarian rule which lasted about 16 years.
Borno has remained one of the few states which have remained under the control of the opposition All Peoples Party which later became the ANPP and has now metamorphosed into the APC since 1999.
The state has so far survived the incursion of the ruling PDP which has formed government at the federal level ever since.
However, apart from local grievances being expressed by some of the party faithful who have remained true to the cause of the party in the state, political observers point to other factors.
They are of the view that for the most part, those who should rally the troops and provide leadership for the party in the state operate from the nation’s capital.
The current level of insecurity has further worsened matters because most of these men have remained isolated from the situation on the ground.
Northern politics has for a large part been anchored on the ability of the leader to identify with the challenges of the ordinary folk at the grass roots.
For most people in this part of the country, a politician is considered real when he identifies with the people during weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies and other social events which they hold dear.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abubakar Jalo, however expressed confidence that the party would outlive its current internal crisis.
According to him, the resolution of conflict was an integral part of political party management.
He said “All of these problems you are seeing today will be resolved because the PDP as a party is committed to resolving them.
“Mr. President and the party under the leadership of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur are talking with members of the party who have issues with the party and I can tell you we will emerge stronger at the end of it.”
As the politics of 2015 begins to take shape, more defections should be expected.
However, it remains to be seen if the PDP in this troubled state can recover from the current spate of misfortunes which has befallen it.