By Chioma Gabriel, Editor Special Features
It is often said that the route in politics is littered with broken relationships and strange bedfellows. This is playing itself out in Nigeria currently. With 2019 drawing closer, defections from one political party to the other has hit the political class. Nigerian politicians are moving camps, divorcing and marrying new political suitors and erecting new shades to ply their political trade.
Avalanche of individual politicians have recently decamped from one party to the other. There have also been pockets of mass defections, the most astounding, being the mass defection of members of the national assembly from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Such defections indeed would shake the foundation of any political party. There were also the defection of Benue Governor Ortom from the APC to the PDP and most recently, the defection of the senate president, Bukola Saraki from the APC to the PDP.
The PDP has also experienced its own losses through defections. Last Wednesday, the political juggernaut of Akwa-Ibom State, Goodwill Akpabio defected from the PDP to the APC.
Akpabio’s defection has turned him from a sinner to a saint. He was a Commissioner for eight years; an executive governor for eight years and has been a senator for three years. He achieved these feats under the PDP. But when he joined the APC Wednesday, he said he had come to liberate Akwa Ibom youths from years of PDP suffering.
Many reasons have been proffered for Akpabio’s defection. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, has been on the trail of Akpabio. In fact, it has shot two pointed arrows at the former governor which many said bruised his psyche and he had to make a quick decision on the way out of his predicament. To him, it became a question of ‘if defection is wrong, I don’t want to be right.’ So, he did the needful.
Saraki’s defection also has its precedents. There was no love lost between the senate which he is presiding over and the executive from the onset. It has been a ‘Tom and Jerry’ relationship.
When the APC senators first defected, all President Buhari could say was that he wished them well.
In a tweet, the president said, “None of the defecting federal lawmakers has any specific grievances against me or the government I lead; neither do I harbour any ill-feeling towards any of them. I fully respect their freedom to choose what party to associate with.”
It is not the first time defections are heating up the Nigerian polity. With 2019 fast approaching, it is normal for politicians to re-position themselves in a way that things will favour them. It happened in 2015 with mass defections from the ruling PDP to the APC. Now, the shift has reversed. In 2015, several PDP heavyweights had pulled out of the party to form a faction which they called the New PDP (nPDP). They would all later use the division as an excuse for their defection into the then newly formed APC. The movement was instrumental to APC winning the general election few months later. Today, it was first Reformed APC and now, mass defections as it happened in 2015.
In politics as it is often said, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. The line that separates one politician from the other is so thin that some politicians have practically traversed all political parties in a bid to satisfy their burning interests. By moving from one political party to the other, they make new friends with whom they share the same interests at the moment.
But moving from one political party to the other has its consequences. One of the effects is the loss of faith in the political process in the country. There appears to be political darkness and lawlessness everywhere.
In all these, the masses are at the receiving end.
When defections and their impact are not well handled, they could create a ripple effect. For instance, after the mass invasion of lawmakers to PDP recently, the Department of State Services, DSS, laid a siege to the national assembly complex. The first reaction of the APC over the invasion was that it was a legislative matter, an affair of the national assembly. The party has since reversed its position severally. The first statement issued by APC read:”Our attention has been drawn to mischievous attempts in some partisan quarters to link Tuesday’s developments in the national assembly to the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
“While the party is monitoring the developments in the national assembly like every other concerned Nigerian and stakeholder, there is absolutely no basis for all the false allegations and attempt to blame the APC national chairman for the development there. It is strictly a legislative matter.”
The same day as condemnations rocked the DSS effrontery, APC issued another statement reversing its earlier position and condemning the invasion. This time, the party urged a harmonious relationship with executive.
Part of the statement issued read: “ Our party condemns in strongest terms, today’s unfortunate invasion of the National Assembly by security forces. Our party wholly dissociates itself from any act of brigandage and affront on the sacred symbols of our budding democracy. Our party remains a law abiding political organisation and advises every constituent part to abide by the tenets of our constitution and our democracy.
“Whilst our contention with the leadership of the national assembly as currently constituted is a matter of public record, we still believe that the legislature as an independent arm of government must be allowed free reign for vibrant ideas and values amongst its members within the context of their constitutional mandate and for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
“We call for a more harmonious working relationship between the various arms of government in the general interest of the country”.
Then the next day, after the invasion, APC issued yet another statement. This time it linked the president of the senate, Bukola Saraki to the invasion.
Yekini Nabena, acting National Publicity Secretary of the party in a statement said, “our investigations have now uncovered the sinister plot hatched by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki to foment violence in the legislative chamber all in a bid to stop his impeachment. We are now aware that the timely intervention of the security operatives forestalled the planned violence which could have led to possible deaths, injuries and destruction of property in the national assembly on Tuesday.
“Why did the Senate President mobilise thugs to the national assembly who almost lynched Hon. E.J. Agbonayinma, the only APC federal lawmaker present but for the timely intervention of security operatives? Why did the Senate President reconvene the National Assembly? Ostensibly as a pre-emptive move to frustrate federal lawmakers’ move to impeach him?
Is it not curious that only Peoples Democratic Party PDP federal lawmakers were present in their numbers-some as early as 7am, while the majority APC federal lawmakers were elsewhere holding a caucus meeting on the state of the nation?
“As espoused in our earlier statement, whilst our contention with the leadership of the national assembly as currently constituted is a matter of public record, we still believe that the legislature as an independent arm of government must be allowed free reign for vibrant contestation of ideas and values amongst its members within the context of their constitutional mandate and for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
“Finally, we reiterate our call for the Senate President to resign from the position immediately as he no longer has the moral and legitimate ground to occupy that position as a member of the minority PDP. Going by the popular axiom, ‘the majority will have their way, but the minority will have their say”, the party added.
But it was a different ball game when former governor Goodwill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State defected to APC from PDP. His defection was backed with a federal might. While the defection event was still on, the bank accounts of Akwa Ibom State government was alleged to be frozen.
When Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State defected from the APC to the PDP, his defection was seen as a betrayal by the APC which said the Benue State governor gave the impression that everything was alright until his defection.
Governor Ortom reason for defecting from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party was because “the APC was no longer properly positioned to address the yearnings of Benue people.”
But the APC said the defection was “somewhat surprising” because concerted efforts were made to keep Mr Ortom in APC fold.
Bolaji Abdullahi, the then national publicity secretary of the party who issued the statement over Ortom’s defection said: “The party recalls efforts made by the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to address some of the grievances raised by the Benue State Governor pertaining to the local politics in Benue State. The governor had left the meeting saying he was satisfied with the assurances given by party leaders. We are still working on giving effect to the resolutions from the meeting. Therefore, we are somewhat surprised by Governor Ortom’s decision.
“The party reiterates its earlier position that it respects the rights of every citizen to chose their political affiliation but expresses hope that those who have left the Party will rescind their decisions.
“Even with this development, we don’t think it is too late for reconciliation. We have to continue to talk. As long as people keep their minds open and have the courage to put the real issues on the table, reconciliation is still possible,” Abdullahi said.
Sadly for the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi soon defected to the PDP too, citing insubordination by his inferiors.
Politicians are perceived to always be after their selfish interests. They don’t have the interest of the common man at heart. This has been given as a reason for the gale of defections. A performance poet, Dike Chukwumerije, in a Facebook post said none of the defections was in protest of the many things that are going wrong in the present administration.
According to him, “Nobody decamped for Leah Sharibu. Nobody decamped for Anka or Rabbah or the blood that flowed in Gwer East. Nobody decamped for the illegal detention of Zakzaky, for the illegal retention of Dasuki, for the outright disappearance of Kanu. Nobody decamped for the jobs that have still not been created, or the power that can still not be distributed. Nobody decamped for the brothers we lost to hospitals we cannot depend on, for the mothers we lost in labour to derelict wards and empty medicine cupboards.
Nobody decamped for the unpaid pensioner and the soldier stuck on permanent rotation in Gwoza, for the teachers who work for months without pay and the litigant that cannot afford the cost of Justice. Nobody decamped for the children who beg to clean our windshields… See? Nobody decamped for them,” Chukwumerije wrote.
A businessman, Alhaji Ibrahim Abidoye said the politicians “are fighting for their pockets and only God will deliver us from their hands. It is obvious that they want to satisfy themselves. It is not in the interest of Nigerians. From what we are seeing, it is obvious that the politicians are in business. They are shameless people. They are not fighting for us, no plan for Nigerians and that is why they fight their way to the top.
“Many of them want to get the presidential ticket and that is why they are cross-carpeting but we won’t vote for such people. Never! We will vote for the people who will take care of the masses.”
For Adeyinka Hezekiah, “the defections are for selfish reasons but if you ask them, they’ will say it is for the benefit of the masses. They are just playing games. They are migrating like rats running from one room to another and keep saying they are working for us. If you needed to trust anyone, trust yourself first. They defect just for the sake of power. They should think well and work for the benefit of the masses.”
In his reaction, Mr. Ugbenu Monday, Business Consultant said “Nigeria’s democracy is a merry go round show. I thought All Progressives Congress ,APC, should know this. Just three years ago, they celebrated and benefited from the defections, now they are crying foul because this same political gladiators have decided to return to their base. APC should stop being mischievous and malicious and concentrate on how to win the confidence of their supporters. This is one bad thing about humans. Because their party is losing, they are crying.”
In a similar vein, a former Lagos Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav lambasted defecting Nigerian politicians for lacking political ideology. He said they were in politics to sustain themselves.
Tsav said that those defecting lack any political ideology as they were in politics to sustain themselves.
“The current defections and counter defections of our politicians from one political party to another sadly confirm that our politicians are deeply corrupt and without ideology.
“Most of them are in politics to sustain themselves with stolen money but not to serve the electorate. How can we grow and develop as a nation? Unfortunately the youths whose future is being wantonly destroyed are in jubilation over this. God help Nigeria.” he said.
Reaction to the gale of defections, fifteen presidential aspirants who called themselves the new breed of politicians flayed the trend, describing it as an attempt by political establishment to neutralise the change Nigerians desire in 2019.
The presidential aspirants which included former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Deputy Governor, Dr. Kingsley Moghalu; leadership expert cum motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye; Saharareporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore; real estate mogul turned philanthropist, Dr. Elishama Ideh; businessman and economist, Tope Fasua, among others in a communiqué, put the problems of the country on those they said ran the country between 1960 and now.
“We are very clear in our minds and share the collective conviction that our present woes are a result of collective failure of leadership by those who have been in the leadership of our country for decades and the establishment that has institutionalised support in their self-interest.”
Dogs eating their own vomits
In his reaction, Emmanuel Okotie-Eboh, son of First Republic politician and Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh told a national daily, “I have said it severally, the problem of this great country, Nigeria, is not APC or PDP; it is the problem of lack of political ideology and integrity by the current crop of politicians.
That is the big difference from the days of the First Republic, NPN, UPN and others. It is a shame that people now see political parties as a vehicle to their selfish gains. Yesterday, it was the PDP members that were jumping into APC in droves.
Today, it is the same party that they are leaving and returning to the PDP that they jumped from on the eve of the 2015 elections. They castigated the PDP, insulted the leaders that are now receiving them all because of their quest for power. This is very shameful, considering that our children are seeing all these things on television and they are reading about it in the papers. This is no longer politics; this is opportunism and a few people taking the Nigerian nation and the larger percentage of the people for a ride.
“What we are seeing now is, if you don’t get what you want today, you jump to another party. The defectors have been there from the beginning; most of them were with Goodluck Jonathan and now they have gone back to the same PDP they derided and castigated. They are dogs eating their own vomits. If they have any modicum of shame, they would know that this is shameful.
“Sadly, Nigerians are gullible; the villains of yesterday are today’s saints. We must know that the president cannot solve all the problems in three years. The people who cannot get what they want from the present dispensation are deceiving Nigerians.’’
But the main problem with defection is that the defector takes along with him the office he occupies by virtue of belonging to his former party. In another clime, the appropriate thing would be for decampees to resign from the offices they occupy before joining another political party. Hence , when a major political office holder decamps from his party to the the other, it becomes a huge issue which ends up affecting the entire polity. The consequences could sometime threaten democracy.