As the gale of defections, especially among Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) members in National and State Assemblies continued unabated ahead of 2019 general elections, Nigerians have expressed concerns over the development and its timing, especially as it is gradually becoming a norm in the country’s political space.
Even though defection is not new in Nigerian politics, its rate and motive is quite alarming and disturbing this time around. It is gradually taking a toll on ideological and principled politics, which is the hallmark of party politics in a democracy across the globe.
Many have questioned the rationale and legality of the action, especially as it happens whenever general elections are coming closer. While many Nigerians have lambasted politicians for defecting from one party to another, others say there is nothing wrong with the action, provided it is within the ambit of the law. But the question is, is defection from one party to another by members of National and State Assemblies right and legal at all times, considering the provisions of Section 68 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which states the condition that warrants the seat of a lawmaker to be declared vacant.
Specifically, section 68 subsection 1(g) of the constitution stipulates that a member of the Senate or that of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat if his election to any of the two chambers was sponsored by a political party and he or she later chooses to become a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected, provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.
With this, some expected that the rate of defections among National Assembly members would reduce drastically. But the reverse is the case as the practice has reached its peak recently and there is no sign that the end is near, especially as political parties will soon commence their primaries.
It Is Self-Serving, Says Teacher
From Michael Egbejule, Benin City and Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
A RESOURCE person at the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ), Benin City Study Centre, Mr. Peter Iyeke has described the gale of defections as self-serving by greedy politicians, who lack principle and patriotism.Iyeke, who emphasised that the defections is for selfish reason said: “what we are witnessing today in Nigerian politics is alien in the world of politics.”He said the action is alarming, discouraging and of no value to Nigerians and inimical for the nation’s democracy.
“What we are seeing today is not done in the interest of democracy. It is not in the name of democracy because, if you carefully follow the trend of political parties formations globally and how they have been going, you will discover that there are some political parties in some countries that have existed for almost a hundred years.“For instance, the African National Congress (ANC) has lasted for 100 years. And in some other countries, political parties have existed for over a hundred years. Sadly, for Nigeria, what we have in the first, second and third republic is nothing to write home about as we are not moving forward in our democracy,” Iyeke said.He, however, appealed to politicians to be consistent and committed to the ideal of their political parties rather than moving from one political party to another for selfish reasons.
Iyeke said defections to a new party and tomorrow’s return to a former party by Nigerian politicians is simply because of their personal interests and gains.Speaking about the defections in Owerri, Imo State Capital, an elder statesman Agbakwuru Hezekiah and a businessman, Vitalis Diala, condemned the action. Hezekiah warned against bad image defection gives to the defectors and the negative image outside the country.His words: “It is a behaviour with dual directions. It could be on one’s (defector) personal and general interest.
“In terms of general interest, the present governance pattern in the country appears not favour the masses. The defectors didn’t do so in the interest of the masses. If it were for the people’s interest, they would have embraced their parties’ ideology.“Where it is regrettable is that politicians speak with two sides of their mouth. It is highly regrettable that top politicians cannot provide dividend of democracy we are clamouring for.”
The business man maintained that in the past, politicians played better politics, stressing: “In a democratic setting, what people are after is dividend of democracy. Long before now, we had been managing democratic results, but now we have been having negative results. Nigerians are having negative results which looks like when Israelites were in captivity in Egypt.”Hezekiah insisted that Nigerians deserve better deal from the politicians as “they are waiting patiently for the day Nigeria will have the right leaders.”
In his opinion, Diala said that while defection is not healthy for democratic rule, it will not make any change in party politics, rather only the individual change will occur. “Defection is not good for democracy. It will not make any change in the political party. It is individual that will make a change. If you are in the PDP and APC, what matters is contribution towards development of Nigeria, not party. Defecting from one party to the other does not make a change. Many people know that APC is not doing well. Defecting politicians should have remained in their parties and correct the mistakes than defecting.”
On the impact on the voting public, Diala differed a little, urging the electorate to cast their votes for them despite the inadequacies: “Since they have defected, let them remain on their seats. There is no difference. Vote for them. They should be voted back. They are making Nigerian democracy healthy. Their defections are making us know how their parties are working. More people can defect if they want. Let them make sure as they are defecting, they should not carry their old life style.”
‘I Will Vote For Defectors In 2019 Because They Commit No Crime’
From John Akubo, Lokoja
WHILE some believe that the defectors are right saying that there is no strong constitutional provision that stands against their action, others believe it was borne out of their selfish interests not that of their constituents as many claimed.On whether they should retain their seats and positions after defection, some said the recent crises in the APC might have stimulated the defection in the first place. Others said there was no clear cut law to define whether they should vacate their seats or not especially as the defection is happening from APC to PDP and vice verse as well as to other smaller parties.
On whether they would vote for the defectors while some said they would vote for them, others said they can not put their votes in a leaking basket as such politicians without ideology cannot be trusted. A resident of Lokoja, Mike Abu, said defection is normal in politics especially in the Nigerian clime, where politics is not defined by ideology. “I consider the recent defections by politicians as a healthy development in view of the fact that those dumping one party for another as the case may be are doing so because their aspirations and that of their constituents are not being met by their former parties.
“So for me, it is normal if it will enable the people to have a government that would be concerned about their welfare. It would make political parties to be conscious of the promises they made during campaigns.”He said another advantage is that it will help to entrench internal democracy as it would engender respect for internal democracy because those who left the PDP for the APC see themselves as progressives that have been sidelined.
Looking at party politics, economic wellbeing of the people in general, Abu said the situation in the country at the moment is worse than what was in place in 2015 when the returnees left the PDP for the APC. He indicated that their decision to return is a welcome development. Abu observed that though their defection may not be far from their personal interests in the current move if it is something that will give the common man a new lease of life and improve their well being, it is good.
“It gives me hope that they may change the political equation that can eventually change the government that has been wobbling and multiplying poverty in the land.” On whether he would cast his vote for any of the defectors come 2019 election, he said he would vote for the them. On whether they should retain their seats and positions he said they have not erred because the division in their parties has justified their action so they should retain their seats and positions.
A voter, Joel Tope, observed that the defections betray the level of political socialisation in the country.“Politicians have exposed themselves showing the underbelly of their lack of political ideology.“It implies that their cross carpeting from one party to another is as a result of the fact that they do not have clear cut political philosophy which explains why they are in one party today and tomorrow they are gone.” He explained that if one should juxtapose the development with happenings in other climes the difference would be clear.
“A clear example is the Bush family in the United States of America from where we copied our democracy. They have generational records of being members of the Republican Party in the US, yet not one of them had defected to the Democrat.“This is not to say that our democracy is not evolving, but it is too slow. Our politics is money-driven, so, it is expensive.”Tope will not vote for politicians jumping from one party to another, saying such defection “is not backed by ideology but financial consideration. I am wary of them. I cannot put my vote in such leaking basket.”He however believes defectors should retain their seats and positions, more so constitutional provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended did not categorically state anywhere that they cannot retain their seats.
Another resident of Lokoja, Usman Seidu said he fully supports the decision of the defectors to dump their party giving example of the APC. He said most of those that worked for the party have been sidelined after committing their resources and energy to give it victory.He said those who hijacked the party were not members during its formation. He recalled when the wife of the President referred to them as the hyenas and the jackals, saying that she saw everything like a philosopher.
“I see no reason why they should not cross carpet when the party does not recognize or reward their contributions. They invested to build APC and today they have no say in the party. It is better for then to join the party where they would be given recognition.” He said he would vote for defectors, saying no law debars them from retaining their positions or seats, adding that it is clear that the APC is in deep crises, hence those that defected are in tune with the constitutional provisions.
‘Defectors Are Like Prostitutes, Who Jump From One Bed To Another For Money’
From Isa AbdulsalamiAhovi, Jos
THE gale of defections by Nigerian politicians has been described by some voters as unnecessary and self-serving. They say that such politicians are only concerned about their own personal ambitions without taking the interests of the teeming electorate into consideration.They say that in as much as they are not in support of the move, they also vow not to vote for such politicians. According to Mr. Shedrack Mbanafor, an electrician, the defection is self-centred because the affected politicians want only their personal interests to be protected. He said the politicians don’t care about them whenever they are taking any decision, forgetting that they were voted into power by the people. Mbanafor said he saw the defecting politicians as harlots who jump from one place to another always, looking for favourable atmosphere.
He said that if the defectors were ready to repent and do good things, he would vote for them, adding, however, that he was disappointed in them for changing political parties like slippers.To George Alfred, a Petrol marketer, leaving one party to another does not start today. It started during the period of Action Group and the NCNC in 1959.“But this time around that I am very much politically conscious, the defectors have already known the attitude of the electorate and that is why they are doing what they want, knowing that they are at the receiving end.
“That is why people like Saraki, Dogara, some governors and others are trying to change because of our inability to speak to the media. They have capitalised on this weakness to deceive Nigerians for too long. During the 2019 elections, the electorate will divide along party lines. They have already tested both the water and the blood and they know which one is thicker and that is where the majority of them will go,” Alfred said.
“They tested PDP, they tested APC and believe that it better to become PDP members than to go back to APC. That is why the so-called big men are defecting. We voted them into power and now that they have defected, we are not going to vote for them come 2019 because we want the young generation, the young blood to come on stage this time around. We want a young blood to become the President of the country.
“You see somebody who has been in PDP for so many years now moves to APC. It does not really matter. But what we are saying is that our government is not doing much for the downtrodden. Bad roads all over the place. Unemployed youths everywhere. I am not supporting defection at all. Today, you are in PDP, tomorrow you are in APC and like that. It is just the same thing,” he added.
According to Alfred, “defection or no defection does not matter. What we need is good governance. It is not defection that we need. Whether he will vote for the defectors, he said it all depends. “If you bring someone like the President who is already old now, I will not vote for him whether he is APC or PDP. We don’t want old people like 70 years, 75 years or 80 years. There is no sense in that. Let a young man takes over.”On his part, a trader in second hand clothing in Jos, Mr. Isaac Ishaya said that defection in Nigeria did not start with the current dispensation, but became pronounced in 2003 when people defected from the opposition parties to the ruling party (PDP).
Ishaya explained that it became more pronounced in 2014 and had continued till date. He observed that the politicians do not see their positions as those that should benefit the people they represent because they don’t carry the electorate along.He pointed out that an elected representative should be able to go to his constituencies, hold town hall meetings to discuss with the people and agree on what he wants to do.
“But that is not done nowadays. They took decisions alone against that of the electorate. That is why they defect without consulting their constituents.“They do not have political ideologies and they do not respect party manifestoes. They just see the party as a platform but not as a vehicle that carries both the electorate and their representatives to their destination. They will impoverish the electorate by using their constituency allowances to enrich themselves, only to return when the period of the re-election is close and throw peanuts on the faces of the electorate in order to win their votes,” Ishaya added.
Again, he said he saw the defection as very genuine. “In most cases, there is no internal democracy in the party. What you see being played out is impunity and godfatherism. So, if you don’t join them, you lose out. So, the electorate could agree with them because they believe that they may influence projects to come to their constituencies they are going to “They see politics as a career progression and not an office to serve the people, but always to be served,” he stressed.On the effect of defection, Ishaya said that the electorate should not have absolute confidence in politicians. He pointed out that the defection is going to affect the ruling party because “I don’t see the ruling party putting its house in order before the elections.”