End the defection intrigues – Leadership

By The Citizen
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The issue of lawmakers defecting from one party to another has tested the patience of the present leaders of the National Assembly. While the transitions from PDP to APC and vice versa have been seamless in the House of Representatives, the Senate chamber has been shaken to its foundation by these political peregrinations.  The matter has also caught all the major branches of government in the maelstrom, each struggling to maintain dignified independence in the face of brickbats that threaten their integrity and independence. Peddled as a precursor to the horse-trading that will herald the 2015 electioneering, the brinksmanship of all the gladiators has been tried and tested. As things stand, there is neither victor nor vanquished in the defection drama.

On Wednesday, both chambers upped the drama sketches with a section of the upper chamber asking Senate president David Mark to declare the seats of 11 defecting senators vacant by invoking Order 14 of the Senate Standing Rule and Section 68 sub-section 1g of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). In the Green chamber bribe-for-defection precipitated by news reports on the millions of dollars shelled out to defectors caused a stir. But whether the probe ordered by Speaker Aminu Tambuwal would justly unravel the undercurrent or not, the Senate president adroitly fended off schemes to tilt ruling in favour of either of the sides and maintained the status quo.

Though he would neither declare defecting senators' seats vacant nor read the letter written by 11 defecting senators on the floor of the Senate, the reality is that the document is already in the public domain. Interestingly, as the intrigues raged, no one had queried the legality of defections by the PDP converts. It is surprising that the ruling party that has benefitted more from the saga since Senator Wahab Dosunmu became the first lawmaker to jump ship from the Alliance for Democracy to the ruling PDP 14 years ago, and under the same constitution, is most vociferous about the contradictions and windows in the constitution that make allowance for sitting public officers change their political platforms on the ground of intra-party squabbles and consequent factionalisation.

The fuss about reading a letter or not is unnecessary. It does not impede lawmakers' official activities on the floor. Their defections have become a fait accompli. The recent nationwide membership registration of the APC puts the matter to rest. The slant in their contributions on the floor of the National Assembly reflects new affiliations and no presiding officer can decree or deny their right to self-determination and association.

We laud the neutrality and imperturbability of these presiding officers in the face of daunting bellicosity from either side. Since these defections are a foregone conclusion, it may just be good for litigations to cease on this political drama. It is also in the enlightened self-interest of the ruling party and democracy to stop overheating the polity over the matter. The PDP will benefit more by letting the people go than forcing and holding back disgruntled party men and women against their wishes and censuring their fundamental freedoms.