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At the root of defections

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Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.

Amid the gale of defections shaking the political landscape, some commentators and even armchair critics say that those defecting are doing it out of selfish interest.

They say those are politicians who have no electoral value but still need them if it is possible.

Some say these are opportunists whose only interest is to seize every opportunity to feather their nests and when they fail, they look for the exit door.

All manner of flippant allegations are being said against the migratory birds. And most of the accusations come from the losing political party, the aggrieved party.

In the run up to the 2015 elections, it was the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that faced the heat when there was mass movement from the party to the coalition that became the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The then “biggest party in Africa” as they claimed, was virtually stripped naked in public as critical stakeholders abandoned the party.

The consequences were clear at the end of the elections. The “almighty” PDP, the incumbent and most powerful, lost the presidency to its own chagrin.

What was left of the party after the devastating blows was humbled. And truth to its own motto that power belongs to the people; the party had no choice than to succumb to peoples’ will at the polls.

But this time around, the APC is facing the music. At a time the party thought it was in control, things began to fall apart with the mass defection of its critical stakeholders across board.

It is like the bug that infected the PDP has caught up with the APC. The expectation is that the party ought to be in crisis remediation mode to see what could be salvaged as the PDP tried to do at the peak of its own affliction.

But the party’s new national Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, rather than seek a viable way out, is firing left, right and centre from all cylinders against the defectors from the APC as if this is the first time such is happening.

Experience shows that no amount of haranguing, threats and intimidation would stop politicians who have made up their minds to pursue a different agenda. Rather than being placated, such attacks would only worsen the situation.

If there are people who know how to muddy the waters when they no longer want to drink from it, it is politicians. That is why Oshiomhole and his APC should be more circumspect in the way they handle this matter.

Since defection is not new in Nigeria’s political experience, in medical practice, a known disease ought to have a cure, which those afflicted by the disease could apply.

Wisdom therefore demands that Oshiomhole should seek to apply the same remedies to APC’s affliction. It may or may not cure the disease.

If it does, fine, but if it doesn’t, then APC should accept its fate and still expect the best to happen to the party either now or in the future depending on how the party lives with the post defection trauma.

After all, the table could still turn around tomorrow in APC’s favour. All that is needed is unrelenting thinking deal with unfolding issues. Over and above all this is the question as to why the defections?

What makes politicians move from a party in power to the opposition? What could be done to curb the growing trend? Defections in the First Republic were more of ethnic leaning but not the same today.

Beyond the usual reason given for political defections, which borders on selfish interest, there are more underlying and deep-seated reasons why politicians defect.

I don’t so much buy the selfish interest allegation because the interest of any individual is subsumed under the interest of the larger society. A simple illustration will make this clearer.

Imagine a politician whose selfish interest is to amass wealth and he succeeded in doing that.

He acquires a large estate; builds exotic mansion with an array of exotic cars and what have you.

Every good thing needed in life is found inside his high-fenced estate. There are giant generators that provide light uninterruptedly. Water is running everywhere in this palatial habitation.

As a matter of fact, nothing is lacking inside the enclave, which virtually is a splendid and impressive “prison yard.”

While the politician is within his palatial home, he feels secured.

But outside, he is surrounded by poor people living in shanties, lacking water, electricity, good roads, etc.

Besides the prevailing hunger and unemployment outside, there is insecurity. Bandits, gunmen, kidnappers, robbers, cultists, ritualists and hoodlums roam all around seeking to devour him.

Consequently, the “successful” politician is unsafe. He is not free walking on the street without facing the risk of attack.

The question then is which is a better interest to protect? Is it the public interest or personal interest that is far removed from the interest of the people?

Truth is that there is no personal interest that is totally removed from the public interest.

The best interest is that that takes care of the people’s welfare.

It is the community interest, the people’s interest that guarantees personal interest.

Having said that, the reason why politicians defect from one party to the other is bad governance.

There is hardly any right-thinking Nigerian who is happy with the state of affairs in the country. Bad governance has ruined the country.

Fifty-eight years of independence have not had any positive impact on Nigerians. The poverty that reeked in 1960 has worsened.

What some call achievements that Nigerian has recorded in different sectors is a tip of the iceberg.

Masked under the façade are huge disappointments and failures. If the polity is working and the people are happy, there will be no need for defection.

The new political dispensation that began in 1999 that Nigerians thought would usher a new glimmer of hope has been mess up.

For 16 years, the PDP abandoned development and peoples’ welfare to pursue greed, avarice and power-drunkenness. In-fighting was the order of the day.

Corruption multiplied. The huge infrastructure deficit, typified in lack of electricity and bad roads, among others, worsened. There is no respite.

That forced politicians to abandon the ruling PDP at a crucial moment to a coalition that gave birth to the APC.

The APC came on the mantra of change and anti-corruption, which Nigerians embraced wholeheartedly.

Three years into the administration, the situation appears even worse. The country has gone through recession.

Unemployment, mass poverty and despair ravage the populace. Cost of living is unbearable.

Above all, the insecurity that set in under the PDP has taken a dangerous dimension with the daily massacre of innocent Nigerians by armed herdsmen. What is the way out?

Other than the orchestrated selfish interest allegation, I see those defecting as patriots who are seeking a better platform to address our collective problems. The people should be the focus.

Nigeria is on a march to freedom, not from colonisation but from internally imposed burden and hardship. These politicians could equally decide to stay put and enjoy the king’s meat. But they chose to take a plunge.

The same way defections gave us the APC that we all welcomed, we should pause and wait as the defections, once again, unfold. Who knows what the outcome will be?

Rather than criticise what we don’t understand, we should pray that the best should come out of it in our overall interest of Nigeria.


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