A gale of defections has hit Nigeria’s main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which threatens to weaken the party in the run-up to the 2023 general elections. The latest defection is that of Zamfara State’s Governor Bello Matawalle but the PDP has decided to legally challenge this in order to try and stem other defectors. 

This has, however, cut the number of PDP governors to 13 from 16 which has jeopardised the party’s bid to return to power in 2023. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has increased its number to 22 and it now has at least one governor in each of the country’s six geopolitical zones which will both be an advantage in national elections, and enhance its capacity to fund them. 

President Muhammadu Buhari (L) welcomes defecting Zamfara State’s Governor Bello Matawalle (R) to the ruling APC

The defections may not be the end of the PDP’s problems. There is speculation that three more of its governors — Abia State’s Okezie Ikpeazu, Enugu State’s Ifeanyi Uguanyi and Bauchi State’s Bala Mohammed — are considering defecting to the APC. There is a huge risk that the PDP will end 2021 with only ten governors and, with most of them in the South-South and Southeast, it will weaken its national coverage ahead of the 2023 elections. 

The APC’s attraction is that it is increasingly seen by politicians as a more viable platform to win elections. Over the last two years it has won an overwhelming proportion of by-elections outside the Southeast and South-South. This is despite the deterioration of the economic and security situation and the party appears immune to its perceived governance failures. 

Despite this, however, all is not well within the APC even though it has become the preferred destination for Nigeria’s politicians. Its interim leadership keeps delaying the party’s national congresses which will lead to the emergence of its new leadership. Party unity will hold until the convention because the various factions are awaiting its result before deciding whether or not to remain in the APC. 

Meanwhile, a meeting of 15 of the 17 strong Southern Governors Forum has raised political tensions after it called for the Presidency to be zoned to the region. This was agreed by governors from both the PDP and APC who appear to have set aside their political differences in the interests of the South. It has resulted in a major pushback from the North which could complicate the selection battle in both main parties to determine who should succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. 

This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Nigeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.