No fewer than 5,000 members of the All Progressives Congress on Saturday defected to the Peoples Democratic Party in Bayelsa State.
Among those who dumped the APC were immediate former Chairman of the party, Chief Tiwe Orunimighe; serving member of the House of Assembly, Belemote Alfred-Watson; former militants’ leader, ‘General’ Africanus Ukparisia, President Muhammadu Buhari’s representative in Ogbia in the 2015 elections, Chief Orifie Ene, 98 leaders of the party alongside their supporters.
The carnival like event took place at Ox-Bow Lake Pavilion, Yenagoa, where the defectors, all carrying brooms (symbol of the APC), bade farewell to their former party.
The members, who came en masse to the venue, displayed their party cards which they later tore to shreds.
They were received by Governor Seriake Dickson; his deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd.); Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Konbowei Benson; State Chairman of the PDP, Moses Cleopas and other chieftains of the PDP.
Receiving the defectors, Governor Dickson told the mammoth crowd that the defection had sounded death knell for the APC in the state.
He boasted that the APC would not be able to win any election in the state, saying that the PDP is united more than ever before.
He said that those who defected to the PDP were the real members of the party different from the supposed leaders of the party whose influence was prominent only on the pages of newspapers.
The Governor said, “Let me appreciate properly our brothers and friends who were on the other side, because you see, I know those who mattered on the other side because I was leading the battle for you.
“With what has happened today, we are winding down APC; today we have wound down APC. These are the original founders of APC who made it thick; they tried but we were too much for them.
“Our politics is the politics of appreciating people, recognizing people and thanking them, ensuring peace, stability, development of our state.
“Today you are all welcome, feel at home, for those of you who will be caucus members you will receive the invitation very soon as members of the caucus of the party from your ward, to federal constituency , to state, to senatorial.
“You have equal right with everybody in the party but give them regard for keeping the house intact while you were away.
“In our party there is brotherly love, support and cooperation, so imbibe that and if there are issues bring them to my attention as leader of the party. The appointments that you can get you will get them, the contracts and empowerment you will get them, we are the same people.”
Dickson called for calm and decorum among aspirants, noting that all ambitions are legitimate and that nobody should be intimidated.
He promised that he and other leaders of the party would ensure that there is level-playing field for all members.
He advised other members of the APC who had yet to change their mind to do so, saying that the “grassroots of the APC are back home to the PDP and APC members should note that they can never win any election in this state.”
Speaking also at the event, the former Chairman of the APC, Chief Tiwei Orunimiye, said that he alongside others brought the APC to Bayelsa but decided to dump it because of its lack of mission and vision.
He described the leader of the party in the state, Chief Timipre Sylva, as a businessman rather than a politician.
He criticized Sylva’s approach and violent disposition to the resolution of party issues from the state to the national level.
The former APC chief said that Bayelsa would not opt for cultism in place of good and creative leadership provided by Governor Dickson.
He contradicted an alleged claim by Sylva that those who defected to the PDP betrayed him, saying those who left the party were the ones who engaged the PDP during the last election at Southern Ijaw.
He stressed that Sylva could go to court to contest the outcome of the last election because of the efforts of the 98 leaders who led their followers into the PDP on Saturday.
In his address, the State Chairman of the PDP, Chief Moses Cleopas, described the APC as party that was not only dead in the state but would also die at the national level.
He urged members of the PDP to exploit their leadership qualities to win elections for the party in the state.