Gale of defections to APC -Thisday
For the first time since 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lost its grip on the presidency as well as its leadership in the National Assembly. Overnight, a party that one of its leaders once boasted would rule Nigeria for 60 years has suddenly found itself in the opposition. And it would seem that many of their leaders and members do not know how to handle the situation hence the recourse to drifting into APC. This bodes ill for our democracy.
However, we must state that the problem did not start with the 2015 general elections as political parties mean little to most Nigerian politicians. Indeed, from 1999, many of our politicians have been criss-crossing from one party to another. While some defections have been seamless, others have generated heated controversies. A recent case is that of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who last year defected to APC from the PDP but refused to step down as Speaker. Defections have also generated bad blood between governors and their deputies. When Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State defected to PDP, his deputy refused to follow suit. The disagreement which ensued degenerated to a point where the deputy governor was removed from office.
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State is currently at daggers-drawn with his deputy for ditching PDP for APC. A week to the general elections, the deputy governor of Rivers State, Mr. Tele Ikuru, also announced his defection from APC to PDP in a calculated move to embarrass Governor Rotimi Amaechi who doubled as chairman of the APC presidential campaign organisation. Governor Olusegun Mimiko who recently rejoined PDP after sojourning in the Labour Party (LP) is still smarting from the defection of his deputy to APC on the eve of the presidential election. The issue is that there are hardly any binding ideologies in the political parties. Several chieftains of APC and officials elected on the party’s platform used to be prominent members of PDP.
We concede that politicians have the right to defect to any party of their choice. But a situation where they change parties like clothes raises questions about our democracy. Very often, we find a defecting politician lampooning a party that gave him all the political opportunities in life. In fact, many of them only see the bad side of their parties whenever they stop benefiting from tickets, positions and appointments. It would seem that the defections are motivated by selfish interests. Such politicians have scant regard for the people who elected them into office and sure see the parties simply as a vehicle to gain political power.
It is pertinent to note that the political and democratic development that Nigeria needs requires the existence of a strong opposition that can make the government and the ruling party sit up and be alive to its responsibilities. And it is heart-warming that the president-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), has advised prospective defectors to APC to have a re-think as they would be given the cold shoulder.
We believe that it is morally wrong for a person to canvass for votes on a party’s platform only to dump the party after securing victory. The incoming National Assembly should consider amending the Electoral Act to make it impossible for a person to keep his office after dumping the party that brought him to power. This is one way to strengthen our parties and, by extension, our democracy.