“Let’s Defect, If They Accept Us, We Live, If They Reject Us, We Die”

Whenever I express my view on the derogatory terms called “political prostitution” and “politics of the stomach” to the hearing of my colleagues, and add that crop of politicians who notoriously have the predilection to cross carpet to another party are selfish, I am always bombarded with demand for the clarification of the viewpoint to which I have always satisfactory done to their understanding. My conviction on the issue cannot in any way be pooh-poohed as I am a dyed-in-the-wool student of a school of thought that believes that the politics of defection has a debilitating implication on Nigeria’s democracy. Without any iota of exaggeration, there is no denying the fact that party defection which arise from greed and internal party conflict remains a serious challenge to Nigeria’s democracy. For the sake of clarity, it is expedient to say that “political prostitution is a brand of politics where politicians hobnob from one political party to the other and later affiliate with a particular one, and in the process mortgage their intellectualism and pride to align with an entirely different ideology to the one they earlier subscribed to while in the dumped political party.

In fact, party defection and philosophical slipup in the ongoing political dispensation constitute a major problem to democratic stability. It has by each passing political dispensation remained a worrisome trend as politicians defect from one party to another with reckless abandon,not on the basis of ideological disagreement, but on selfish interest, and which poses serious deleterious impact on democratic stability and consolidation. The trend of baseless defections among Nigerian politicians unarguably makes mockery of Nigerian democracy, andnegates the values of opposition parties in democratic system, invalidates opposing views and reduce the efficacy of alternative democratic choices.

To some political observers, the generic nomenclature that fits the retrogressive trend is aptly nomadism. It isunarguably the nature of the game and a brand of politics without principles. You are at liberty to understand it by whatever taxonomy, acronym or synonym that you deem appropriate in this context. The fact remains that it has diverse synonyms that cut across cross-carpeting, floor crossing, party defection or deflection, party decamping, political party prostitution and the likes. Of the whole synonyms it is known with, not few political observers prefer to refer it to be political nomadism.

It is expedient in this context to say that all the ignoble beguiling names that synonymized political defection are not in the true sense of the word derogatory but for the primary purpose of bringing the retrogressive nature of that phenomenon in the political prospect of Nigeria to the perspective of clarity, or rather being understood.

There is no denying the fact that as the drumbeat to 2013 presidential election is resoundingly reaching its crescendo that not few politicians want to preempt beingcaught napping, hence the gale of defection across parties, particularly between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

As been witnessed, party defections have increasinglybecome a major trend in Nigerian multiparty politics; not only peculiar to political elites at the national and statelevels and in the parties’ leadership but even at the grassroots level by local party members. A common explanation of this phenomenon points at the inconsistency of partisan loyalties and ideologies.

Without doubt, there are insinuation been made by virtually everyone that what has kept party defection going among the politicians is nothing but politics of the stomach. According to “Wikipedia”, a popular online encyclopedia, “It refers, in particular, to the relationship between patrimonialism, clientelism, corruption, and power. According to Lynn M. Thomas of the University of Washington: "The politics of the belly points to the propensity of politicians to hoard and greedily consume resources in things and people”.

To further make clarification on this degenerating brand of politics, it is expedient to make reference to the scripture in 2 Kings Chapter 7 verse 3 that says, “Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’, the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” Interpretatively put in this context, it is like political prostitutes usually declare among themselves thus: “Let’s defect, if they accept us, we live, if they reject us, we die. The foregoing, no doubt, inspired the title of this piece. It is a brand of politics that is driven by hunger and desperacy.

The foregoing scripture, which invariably inspired the title of this piece, is about four Samaritan lepers who were considered to be outcasts and were asked to live in the outskirts of the village, in the peripheral of the mainstream life. The lepers argued: whichever way we go we will die. Relating the scripture to political defection or rather cross-carpeting in partisan politics, the fact that if a politician remain in a party where he is not sure of winning an election in any political position he would have wished to contest for, or favored with juicy political appointment, there is the tendency for him or her to desperately defect to the party he might have perceived to be popular enough to give him the opportunity of winning in an election or gaining an appointment. Notably, not making such move may for a long time throughout the political dispensation put him or her in a state of hunger and political limbo.Seen from this perspective, the element of “Do-or-die” politics that is inherent in party defection becomes glaring.

Analyzed from the backdrop of the situation that compelled the four Lepers to riskily migrate from Samaria to Syrian Army Camp, it can be said in this context that the party which a politician ori ginally belongs to is Samaria while the party he chose to defect to is Syrian Army Camp. Against the foregoing backdrop, it suffices to say that the inspiration to cast the headline of this piece, becomes understandably apt in this literary context. So, whether it is because they are now mendicants, or because of joblessness or the mere thought and even the frightfulness of being in the political wilderness, the next political dispensation would reveal as there is every tendency that they would respectively still cross carpet to their former parties.

For Nigerian politicians that are in the habit of cross carpeting or better still prostituting from one political party to the other merely for what they would get out from political office, it is advisory enough to tell them in this context that politics is about elections and leadership is about the next generation. Politics is about action; leadership is about vision. And like Moses in the holy bible, a leader does not excite crowds. His speech can even be limited. Instead, a leader directs crowds, with speech or without it. That is why he is called a leader. Again, if any politician need to cross carpet to another, he should ensure it is done without compromising his servicethat is expected to be selfless to the society he choses to serve.

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Articles by Isaac Asabor