LAST week, I commenced a discussion on the unfortunate spate of political exodus amongst Nigerian politicians
who jettison political ideologies and defect across political parties for sordid reasons such as greed, selfinterest and opportunism. I also discussed the importance of political ideology and how it has shaped history, using Adolf Hitler’s story in proper perspective; and in addition, how political ideology plays a significant role in contemporary times, particularly in developed economies of the world whose political belief systems embodies their ethical ideas, values, opinions and principles. In this edition, I will elaborate more on the origin of defection in Nigeria and its effects on the Nigerian political space.
The evolution of cross-carpeting in Nigeria
One of the more-permanent features of politics in Nigeria is the incidence of cross-carpeting. It has been defined as a defection or party-switching which occurs when every elected party representative within a legislative structure such as a parliament, embraces a different political or policy perspective that is incompatible with that of the party he or she represents. While several reasons have been attributed to crosscarpeting amongst Nigerian politicians, some of the notable ones includes escaping political oppression and persecution, inability to secure a party ticket and the need to relaunch a political agenda on a different platform.
Cross-carpeting is not a new development in the Nigerian political space and indeed, it has been a prominent feature of Nigerian politics even prior to independence. In 1951, the Yoruba members of the National Council for Nigerian and the Cameroon (NCNC) were lobbied to cross over to the Action Group (AG) to stop Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo man, from becoming the premier of Western Region; thereby heralding the massive crossover to the Action Group. Following the 1951 elections, Azikiwe was to be the Premier of Western Nigeria as the leader of the NCNC. The leader of the opposition party, Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was to be the leader of the opposition in the Regional House of Assembly. The NCNC had won 42 seats out of 80. However, Awolowo persuaded the Yorubas who were elected on the platform of NCNC to join the AG and within 24 hours, 20 of them had cross-carpeted to AG. This move denied Azikiwe the premiership of the Western region, in favour of Awolowo.
Between 1960 and 1966, during the First Republic, Chief Ladoke Akintola left the then Action Group based on personality clash between him and Awolowo. Likewise, Azikiwe of the NCNC and Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe fell apart, which led to Mbadiwe’s formation of the Democratic Party of Nigerian Citizens (DPNC), which sought a working relationship with the AG at the Federal Elections in 1959. In the Second Republic – between 1979 to 1983 – some members of the Unity Party of Nigeria (the repackaged offshoot of the Action Group) reconsidered their loyalty to Awolowo. This led to the exit of some politicians, prominent among whom was Chief Akin Omoboriowo, the Ondo state gubernatorial candidate,from the Unity Party of Nigeria to the National Party of Nigeria, the leading political party of that era. In the same manner, AlhajiAbubakarRimi, who was elected under the ticket of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), later decamped to the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), on which platform he sought re-election in 1983. In 1999, Chief Evan Enwerem, having lost the gubernatorial primaries in the All Peoples Party (APP) in Imo State decamped and joined the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) on whose ticket he won a senatorial seat. His cross carpeting was rewarded as he was elected the Senate President. In Plateau State, Alhaji Alhassan Shaibu decamped from the APP and joined the PDP in 1999; as a result, he became a leading member of the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC).
Nigeria’s former Vice President, AtikuAbubakar, being one of the founding members of the PDP, defected to the Action Congress (AC) after a running battle with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo .In 2007, Atiku contested the presidential elections on the platform of AC but lost to the late President UmaruYar’Adua. A few months later, Atiku went back to the PDP.
The lack of honour and morality in Nigerian politics
As I had noted, defection amongst politicians is hardly a function of ideological differences, but primarily as a means towards securing political advantage. Therefore, a politician who is unable to obtain the ticket of his party for a particular election will immediately defect to another opposing party even if he had already been elected to public office on the platform of his original party.In such situations it would even not matter if the manifesto of his new party is diametrically opposed to that of his former party. However, I find it rather strange that a political office holder who has attained public office through the votes of the electorate on the strength of the manifesto of his party will defect to another party with a totally different manifesto and yet carry on as if there is nothing dishonourable about his conduct. I believe that honour should play an important role in any human endeavour and particularly in politics.
In more recent times, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, decamped to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, having been unable to secure the gubernatorial ticket for his re-election on the platform of the All Peoples’ Congress. Likewise, Ondo State Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, being elected on the platform of the APC, defected to the Peoples’ Democratic Party to attempt to seek gubernatorial ticket. When he could not secure the ticket, he again defected to Zenith Labour Party where he has now secured the gubernatorial ticket for the oncoming Ondo State elections. A Nigerian writer, Olukotun, once noted that the recent spate of defections by some Nigerian
politicians from one party to another is a shameful phenomenon that graphically retells the odious rat race, ideological vacuity, and mundane craving that typify Nigerian Political life.
The foreign situation
In sharp distinction with the lack of morality inherent in the Nigerian political scene, in other parts of the world, morality and decorum are principal tenets which political office holders or appointees hold sway.A few years back, a prominent public figure in France, Dominic Strauss-Kahn who was also the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was accused of rape by a maid in a hotel in the United States of America. Despite his claim of innocence, this accusation was enough to cost him any chance of being elected to the office of President of France, a position to which prior to the said accusation he was a leading candidate. More importantly, he did not even bother to offer himself up for election. In Nigeria I am certain that he would have still proceeded to contest the election as, after all, morality is of little or no importance here. A further example is offered by the 2011 resignation of the then Prime Minister of Japan. In 2011, Naoto Kan announced his resignation following public outcry that he had failed to show leadership after the devastating earthquake of 11th March 2011 and the ensuing nuclear crisis. In an address to the nation, MrKan stated as follows:
“Under the severe circumstances, I feel I’ve done everything that I had to do. Now I would like to see you choose someone respectable as a new Prime Minister.” In further statements, MrKan apologized to the nation for the fact that the natural disasters had occurred during his tenure as Prime Minister. I doubt if Nigerian politicians will ever show the same kind of honour displayed by Mr Kan.
To be continued
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON, LL.D, FCIArb, FNSE, FNIALS.
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