Beware of Defections! - by Adewale Kupoluyi

The outcome of the just concluded presidential and National Assembly polls is a reflection of the yearning by the people for a change in governance. It is a manifestation of a collective desire to have different faces with ideas at the helm of affairs. 

The people’s verdict is simply a pointer to the fact that they are tired of the way things are being run in their dear country that is bogged down by decaying public infrastructure, erratic power supply, insecurity and severe unemployment. The emergence of the All Progressives Congress as a viable opposition party afforded the electorate a promising platform to find an alternative to the ruling party. This optimism eventually paid off with the APC now becoming the ruling party while the Peoples Democratic Party turns to the opposition. If care is not taken, this victory may not be sustained and well managed as long as the APC continues to give room for all manner of politicians to defect into the party in droves.

While politics should be played with decorum, decency and discipline, politicians of similar inclination and ideology would naturally be expected to come together under the same umbrella in a bid to strengthen democracy. But where defections are simply carried out for the sake of partnering the winning party so as to become relevant at all costs, it should be discouraged. It is curious and disturbing to know that within the last two weeks, quite a number of politicians, mainly from the PDP have defected to the APC. Some of the questions bothering my mind are: At what point did both political parties become ideological Siamese twins? When was the zeal or passion to move the nation forward under the same political umbrella and manifesto become a mutual aspiration? Which party then becomes the opposition when the APC decides to turn into a protégée of the PDP? Or, are we not going to have a viable opposition party this time round? What then becomes the fate of many committed members that had stayed with the APC over the years despite all odds and persecutions that the party had faced from the same ruling party? Who puts the excesses of the executive under control? Which party effectively prevents bad legislation from being passed in the parliament?

Defection or cross carpeting is not a new thing in the nation’s political history but the way and manner in which people defect from one political party to another suggest that integrity, conscience, morality, principle and discipline no longer play a role in partisan politics in Nigeria. We recall that in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), a member of Senate or the House of Representatives, is liable to vacate his seat under Section 68 (1) (g), when as “a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which the House was elected. Provided that his membership of the later political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored”. Unfortunately, the constitution is silent on the fate of the Executive at both the federal and state levels. The President, the Vice-President, governors and deputy governors, including all other political appointees, are excluded from the rule established under sections 68 and 109 of the constitution.

In tune with the tenets of democracy, the importance of a virile opposition party in curbing the excesses of the ruling party in providing good governance cannot be over-stated. It not only keeps the ruling party to its toes, it serves as the watchdog by bringing out the best in public administration through objective and sincere criticisms and through “checks and balances” mechanism. The present practice is totally different from what was obtainable during the First Republic when leaders like the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo ­— the founding fathers of the nation — were guided by ideologies with which they were able to lay solid foundations for the development of their regions. Today, defection has become part of the character of the present political process, not just a pastime of politicians by tampering with the existing party structures to satisfy defectors, it has also become a trademark of virtually all the political parties.