Defections: What Hope For The Common Man?
The hurricane of defection shaking the murky waters of Politics in Nigeria, has thrown up questions on the meaning of the concept, intents of the defectors and the common good of the people.
Defection as a political concept could be traced to the British Parliament made up of the House of Lords and House of Commons, constituting two major parties: the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.
In course of contentious debates, the British parliamentary system, permits a member or members to cross the red carpet that demarcates the ruling and opposition party.
That action which defies party interest, signifies passionate support for an issue under debate and it is done for public interest and that of the people being represented.
Cross carpeting, in the British Parliament, in most cases, is therefore, a temporary exit from ones original party because the crosser returns to his original party after voting on the other side of the carpet. They return because, a common ideology and functional manifesto bind party members together.
It is this phenomenal crossing of the red carpet, that has today turned out to be “defection” or “decamping” in Nigerian party politics and other African countries with British and American connections.
The principle of cross carpeting is mostly anchored on the constitutional rights of citizens, and for politicians, to enjoy freedom of association, speech and personal dignity. And these rights are supposed to be sacrosanct in most democracies such as those of South Africa, Switzerland, Canada and Nigeria, just as that of Britain and America.
However, there are no reckless defections in the democracies of developed countries, as it is common in Nigeria. In developed democracies, it is almost unthinkable for party officials, political appointees and elected public officers to abandon the party through which they got positions.
This is so because, in developed countries, the ruling party, government and the judiciary respect the constitution and human rights, as such politicians might not easily pick on violation of rights as a reason to decamp from one party to another.
Instead, they will seek redress against such violations within the party or in the court of law.
In contrast, defection has become a means of revenging party and political associates, even when matters are reconcilliable. Although, the rights of politicians are often violated, thus warranting defection, other genuine measures would have been able to take care of certain conflicts. But such methods are barely utilised in Nigeria.
The trend began since the 2003 to 2007 eras, especially in the PDP, when Olusegun Obansanjo the then president and leader of the party attempted to have a third term in office, but was botched. The political skirmishes then, almost sent many members of the party, notably Alhaji
Atiku Abubaka and his supporters on exile to other parties but for quick resolution that made them to remain in the party. However, they later crossed to the APC in 2014.
In 2015, the worst tornado of defection wrecked the PDP and some how, the All Progressives Congress, before and after general elections. The defection were kick started by national legislators who defected back and forth, and later influenced people to defect in droves at the national, state and local levels. Party officials, political appointees, elected officials and ordinary members also went on the exodus.
The massive decamping was also influenced by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo's public relations stunt, wherein, he publicly tore his PDP membership card to symbolise the end of the road for a party he pioneered the formation.
With President Goodluck Jonathan’s exit from power, the floodgate of defection was opened. Even kit and kin and beneficiaries of former President Jonathan's politickings, shamelessly defected in Bayelsa State, putting the state in a savoury political spotlight in the country.
Two schools of thought exist on why defection is the order of the day. One school of thought contends that it is a constitutional right; a way of disentangling oneself from suppression, to freely aspire for any position; lack of sacrosanct party ideologies and manifestoes; lack of internal democracy in parties; high handedness and greed on the part of party and elected leaders as well as mis-governance.
The second school of thought sees the aforesaid as mere excuses, and argues that greed, disloyalty, unpatriotism and quest to remain relevant in politics, non-performance on the part of defectors who were in party or public offices are reasons for defection.
For those in the opposing school of thought, defection has become a political gimmick and propaganda device, played up with deceptive slogans and political orations that pour out bogus promises meant to attract the poor masses as followers.
This thrives mostly in states, where leaders are not seeing as good until they leave office, but are later seen as good when new leaders come on board. In Bayelsa State for instance, the former Military Administrator Lt. Col. Caleb Olubolade (rtd.) was not seen as good while in office, but later seen as good after his tenure. Also the Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s regime which though was trapped with political suicide was, not seen as good, but now reckoned with and commended.
Considering this political culture of castigation and regret, it has become easy for politicians to jump the ship as well as use propaganda as means of easily swaying the electorate to their side.
Besides, such politicians hope to buy the candidature of any party they have crossed to, with the hope of also handing out peanuts to the impoverished electorate or using thugs to get votes, and later abandon them to poverty. And the scenario has been worsened by the degree of poverty and ignorance occasioned by bad governance and lack of effective civic education and public enlightenment.
These have disempowered some electorate from making informed political decisions before and on election days. The political manoeuvrings that are again spotted ahead of the forth coming governorship elections in Nigeria, especially in Bayelsa State, have thrown the pertinent question of whether the defections are for the common good of the people. The answer to this poser could be become clear after the primary elections of the political parties, especially, APC and PDP, and at the end of the general elections.
While the outcomes are being awaited, the following expo are guides to the question posed. One, if decampees are really out for the common good and want to provide good governance, if not elected as flag bearers, they should give the olive branch to winner of the primary election in their party and support same for the general election.
Two, they should not return to their former parties – a tall order, you may say. Three, when the candidate of any party finally wins the governorship election in December 5, 2015, aspirants and candidates of other parties should support the governor-elect. They can do so by congratulating the winner; transferring their supporters to him or her; selling the alternative programmes they could have implemented if they were to be the governor as well as refuse monetary settlements for losing the elections.
By so doing, Bayelsa will develop better, and their ambition to become governor, for which they decamped to other parties, would be seen as genuine. To this end, it is imperative to call on whoever wins the governorship election, to show large heart and run an inclusive government that will involve opponents with brilliant ideas in order to forestall unending legal battles after the election as was the case in past elections.
Aspirants, candidates, incumbents as well as their supporters should therefore, see Bayelsa State as one large family, and maintain peace through out the electioneering period. By so doing, Bayelsa State will be lauded as haven emulated the sportsmanship and peace loving example of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who conceded defeat, and the common man will be better for it.