Democracy, Defection And Matters Arising

By Naomi Sharang and Cecilia Ijuo

Political analysts note that defection — moving from one political party to another or cross-carpeting — has constituted a major challenge to the practice of internal democracy among political parties.

To them, carpet-crossing by politicians, dated back to the First Republic era, appears to have become an attribute of party politics in the country.

Analysts note further that then, many members of the defunct National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) led by the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe defected to the defunct Action Group (AG) of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

They, however, observe that politicians cross-carpet for some political interests that they think can be addressed by joining another party that has the perceived power to secure such interests.

Presently, cross-carpeting is still in practice among politicians as some senators in the National Assembly recently left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Sen. Nelson Effiong, Sen. Joshua Dariye, Sen. Andy Uba, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, Sen. Yele Omogunwa and the former President of the Senate, Sen. Ken Nnamani left the PDP for the APC recently.

Pundits have been asking what implications the practice will have on the country’s democracy and what the purpose for cross-carpeting is.

In apparent reaction to this, Effiong, representing Akwa Ibom South, said he defected to the APC to enable him to pursue his political career.

“I was elected into the Senate on the platform of PDP but over the past one year, this great party has disintegrated,’’ he said.

He said “because of the crisis in the party which appeared to be intractable, I have decided that no reasonable politician will allow his people to be drifted without a direction.

“So, I resigned from the PDP and moved to the party that is bringing peace and direction to this country.’’

Similarly, Omogunwa, representing Ondo South formally declared that he defected to APC to achieve his aspiration in politics.

Labour Party Sen. Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central, also defected to the ruling party bringing the number of APC senators to 66 out of 109 senators in the Senate.

In a letter to the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, Omo-Agege said he left Labour Party because of the crisis rocking the party.

“The president, my decision to leave the Labour Party for APC is supported by the leaders and constituents of my senatorial district.

“This is considering the division within the national leadership of the party; therefore, may I kindly inform all here of this formal decision in this plenary session.

“While I assure you of my highest esteem, be further assured of my total commitment to the legislative agenda of this 8th National Assembly under your leadership and support for the APC government,’’ he said.

With Omo-Agege’s defection, APC now has 66 senators in the Senate, 42 for PDP and none for Labour Party.

Anambra Central Senatorial District seat is vacant as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has yet to conduct by-election to get a replacement for Sen. Uche Ekwunife.

But at the inception of the 8th National Assembly, the APC had 60 senators, while PDP had 49 senators.

Whatever reasons given for defection notwithstanding, Sen. Obinna Ogba (PDP-Ebonyi) said politicians who defected to other parties had no confidence in themselves.

“Such politicians did not have confidence in themselves to win elections; they feel they cannot win elections on their own without government; that is why they are running to the party in power.

“Some of us who are grassroots politicians and closer to our people do not care on the platform of which party we run,’’ he said.

According to him, it is not enough to plan to run election but there is need to also plan on the areas one will impact on the society.

“These defectors have won elections; the power is in their hands, yet they do not know how to use it; they do not know how to manage it.

“It goes a long way to show the electorate the calibre of people they should elect; they should be able to elect somebody who is credible, who is steadfast and who has character,’’ he said.

He said defection was unhealthy for Nigeria’s democracy, observing that the PDP was using all legal means to see how it could retrieve positions earlier won under the platform of the party by defectors.

But the Chairman, Senate Caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Godswill Akpabio said the recent defection of some PDP senators to APC did not affect the strength of the party in the Senate.

“The claim that PDP representation in the Senate is threatened is unfounded; I don’t see any defection happening, I only see interest playing out.

“PDP in the Senate is still very strong and very robust. We started with 49 Senators and we are still well over 40, we are still going to get more.

“So, how can you say defection of two or three senators who have interest outside the chambers will affect the unity and strength of the caucus?’’ he asked.

He urged Nigerians to be educated on politicking, adding that local circumstances rather than wrangling in the party was responsible for the defection.

“So, anything that has to do with the strength of the PDP dwindling is propaganda,’’ he said.

Akpabio assured PDP supporters across the nation that the party was still vibrant, insisting that leadership tussle did not in any way diminish the strength of the party across the country.

“As a caucus, we believe strongly in peace and we believe in the unity of PDP so that Nigeria can have a robust democracy.

“We believe that without the PDP being strong and united, Nigeria may slide into a one party state and democracy may be in peril,’’ he said.

He stressed the need for the stakeholders in PDP to spearhead a major political turnaround that would bring lasting peace to the party.

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