By Timi Coleman FHNR
The alarming rate of party hopping by politicians is becoming ridiculous, embarrassing, mockery and threat to Democratic sustenance and stability in Nigeria. Personally, I’m pensive to news of defection whether to APC or PDP or to any other political party because they defect base on selfish interest and not on the basis of ideological disagreement, recycling politicians with the same paranoia tendencies of self; family; community; and tribe ideology.
Prissy historical assessment of party hopping in Nigeria has only infested melanoma development, crisis, uproar, greed, discombobulation, division, selfishness, destruction, killings and the overall stagnation of our nascent democracy. For example, the killing of former Justice Minister,
Bola Ige after he indicated his interest to resign his
position in PDP-led government and return to help his
party, Alliance for Democracy (AD) for the 2003
elections, the killing of PDP South-South leader, Harry
Marshall after he cross-carpeted to All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP), the killing of former Deputy Speaker,
Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly after he defected
etc. are all clear instances that party switching in Nigeria is not rooted on ideological democratic principles.
Even the law stipulating the legality of defection for me, is not pellucid enough for interpretation. Section 177 of the 1999 constitution clearly states that a person shall only be qualified for election into the office of the governor of the state if he is a member of a political party and sponsored by a political party. The same 1999 constitution did not state that such a person cannot leave that party after achieving electoral victory. In the decided case of Abubakar Atiku VAGF the supreme court held that a person sponsored by a political party to power could leave the same party to another without breaching any section of the constitution.
But in respect of elected senator, House of Representative members and state legislators the 1999 constitution specifically in section 68(1)(g) and (2) and 109ig) (2) clearly states that a state or federal lawmakers must vacate his or her seat after defecting to another political party, member of the Senate or House of Representative shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a 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 reviously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or faction by one of which he was previously sponsored.
From the above constitutional provisions, it allows legislators to Cross carpet political parties in the name of “division” which is ambiguous in interpretation. Somebody can defect base on minor disagreement and claim that the party was divided. Section 68 and 109 of 1998 constitution have not empowered any agency to determine when a political party is divided or fictionalized and this has reduced those constitutional provisions to a fallacy and ambiguity.
1) Amend sections of Nigeria constitution to regulate the alarming rate of baseless, selfish defection of politicians.
2) Social orientation and political education directed towards inculcation of new values and norms in the political system.
3) No elected officer shall leave his or her political party whose election is sponsored by the party before the expiration of service.
4) Nobody shall return to his or her erstwhile party for whatsoever reason.
5) politicians can defect two years before every election year.
6) defection shall not be more than thrice in a lifetime.
This provision has been explored by elected legislators to defect from their political party to another. Even it is evident that the constitution stipulated that one can leave a political party on the ground of factional crisis within a given political party.
However, one manifestation of the history of defection on the Nigeria’s political landscape is that a preponderance of those who defect do so in favour of the ruling political party in power either at the centre or state level.
This situation portends great danger for sustainable democracy and if left unchecked could move the nation towards a drift of one political party system without any viable opposition to act as check on the ruling political party.