Ahead of Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections, more leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been moving to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in what is being termed as a bandwagon effect. The development appears to be following a pattern since the emergence of APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the March 28 Presidential elections. The latest addition is the Campaign Coordinator of President Goodluck Jonathan in Edo State and former governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Maj. Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (retired). Airhiavbere dumped the party on Sunday and moved over to the APC.
Airhivbere contested the governorship election with incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole in November 2012, but was beaten by the latter. He later headed to the court but also lost. He defected exactly eight days after the PDP lost the presidential election to the APC and was received by the State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, as well as Governor Oshiomhole at an event held at Garrick Memorial College, in Benin, the state capital. His exit from the PDP is believed to have further affected the struggle of the party to forge ahead after the major defeat it recorded at the presidential election.
At a reception to welcome him, he said he left the PDP because he needed the state to continue to enjoy the benefits of the APC from May 29 when the party takes over government. Airhiavbere, while declaring that he would remain loyal to the APC and the State Government, said he was sure that the APC would fulfil all its campaign promises to Edo and Nigeria. He noted that the state was lacking the presence of a Federal Government and that it was time for the state to begin to enjoy a good relationship with the government at the centre. “I have decided to join the team of change that has come to the nation in the last election so that Edo State will continue to enjoy the benefits of the party at the centre. “Any politician, who means well for this state will ground their arms of hate and join the change train of the APC government, ably led His Excellently, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole,” he said at the reception.
Ojezua said Airhiavbere’s defection would be difficult for the PDP to overcome especially as the State prepares for the House of Assembly election at the weekend. However, it is believed that Airhiavbere’s defection is aimed at positioning himself for the governorship election holding in the state next year. In Benue State where the APC won two senatorial seats and a number of seats in the House of Representatives, three top members of PDP led hundreds of their supporters and party members to the APC, many of them publicly destroying their membership cards.
At a reception in Naka, headquarters of Gwer-West in the state, top members of the PDP, former council chairmen in the state as well as aides to incumbent Governor Gabriel Suswam, declared for the APC. The defectors, including two former chairmen were Abaji Godfrey Ichoghol; Andrew Ayande, a former Adviser to Governor Moses Adasu and current Senior Special Assistant to Governor Gabriel Suswam; Mr. Francis Nyibiam, as well as his colleague, Anta Igbaato. An ex-Youth Director for the Governor Gabriel Suswam Campaign Organisation, Chief John Akperashi Gum, would be defecting to the APC on April 7 while the APC in the state says is is making plans to receive former Minister of Justice, Mike Aondoakaa (SAN), Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Steven Lawani, and Emmanuel Udende, a PDP member-elect of the House of Representatives for the Ukum, Katsina-Ala and Logo Federal Constituency.
Akperashi has withdrawn all his campaign vehicles from the PDP Campaign Organisation and rebranded them with the campaign pictures of General Buhari and Chief Ortom, the APC governorship candidate in the state and formally donated them to the Ortom/Abounu Campaign Organisation.
In another development, a PDP chieftain in the state was beaten and stripped naked by angry PDP members in the state for campaigning for the governorship candidate of the APC in the 11th April election. The incident happened at a birthday thanksgiving service of Solomon Wombo, a PDP member and Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, held at the Akume Atongo Stadium in Kastina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State resulting in pandemonium. It was learnt that irate youths at the event which had Governor Suswam and other PDP chieftains in attendance, descended on Ikyegh after they found a teenager distributing handbills with Ortom’s message titled: ‘Rotation of governorship position among Benue churches: The time for the Pentecostal.’ While beating the unnamed youth, he confessed that the handbills were given to him by Akor Ikyegh.
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