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Gale Of Defections And The Fate Of Opposition


MARKDefection from one political party to another has been part and parcel of politics in the country since Independence. But since the return of democratic rule in the country in 1999, there has been gale of defection among politicians, especially they or their parties lose or win elections.

In 1999 the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) emerged the ruling party in the country having won the presidential election, and have majority members in the National Assembly.

The opposition parties namely the All Peoples Party (APP) and Alliance For Democracy (AD) have their strongholds in Northeast, North Central and Southwest geo-political zones. While APP has nine governors, AD has six governors.

Before the 2003 general elections, some of the opposition politicians namely Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, national chairman of the APP, Alhaji Mahmud Waziri, Late Olusola Saraki, and others have defected to the PDP. Also some public office holders elected on opposition party’s platform have defected to the PDP.

That was the beginning of the problem of viable opposition in the country’s polity. After the 2007 general elections, the opposition party nearly went into extinction.

It was only few states in the Southwest, and the North that were in the opposition, other states were under the control of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.

It was on this basis that the national leadership of the PDP under Chief Vincent Ogbulafor once boasted that they would rule the country for 60 years. A remark which drew strong criticisms from Nigerians and the opposition parties.

Ahmadu-Adamu-MuAzuBut the PDP continued to have a field day. Even the few opposition governors like Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State were more PDP than President Jonathan. Opposition was at a time in disarray.

Ahead of 2011 general elections, attempts by the opposition parties to form a merger failed to sail through, thereby giving PDP chance to emerge victorious at the polls. Ahead of this year’s general elections, the opposition parties namely ACN, CPC, ANPP and a faction of APGA for the first time in the history of the country’s politics formed a strong merger that gave birth to the leading opposition party called All Progressives Congress (APC).

Not many Nigerians especially the members of the PDP saw the APC as a threat to the PDP’s dominance of the political landscape for 16 years.

At the peak of the merger, some Chieftains of the APC such former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekerau, his Sokoto and Borno counterparts, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff defected to the PDP, accusing some APC leaders of overbearing influence.

In the same vein, five PDP governors also defected to the APC at the peak of the intra party crisis that rocked the party under Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led national leadership of the party.

Just few days after the PDP lost the presidential election to the APC, there has been mass defection of politicians from the PDP to APC. The trend is on alarming rate and if it continues unabated, it means that before the May 29 inauguration of the in-coming government, there will be no opposition in the country.

From the Southwest to the North, it is hurricane defection of politicians to the APC. It is only in South-south and Southeast that such moves has not been witnessed openly.

Already defected to the APC from PDP are former national legal adviser PDP, Mr. Olusola Oke, former governor of Edo State, Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor, former minister of Justice Mike Aondoakaa, Prof. Tony Ijobor (SAN) Major General Lawrence Onoja (rtd) and others.

The list is endless and has continued to increase by the day. Many Nigerians have expressed concern over the gale of defection by politicians from the PDP to the APC, stressing that the development may mark the end of viable opposition politics in Nigeria.

There is no doubt that the beauty of democracy is vibrant opposition, but it appears that such will be lacking in the country’s political space if the trend of defection continues. Others have argued that APC should be getting ready for implosion in the party with the number and calibre of politicians that are jumping into the party from the PDP following Buhari’s victory in the just concluded presidential poll.

Many political observers are of the opinion that the mass defection that has hit PDP since the Presidential and national assembly election will definitely affect the party’s fortunes in today’s poll across the country.

Even though 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 can not leave that party after achieving electoral victory.  This is only in respect of an elected governor.

OyegunIn the decided case of Abubakar Atiku V AGF 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) only makes provisions for the tenure of members of the legislature and not that of the executive.

The provisions clearly state 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 previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or faction by one of which he was previously sponsored”.

But even at this, many lawmakers who have defected before now have not been made to vacate their seats in accordance with the provision of law either by the court or the security agents.

In the face of the mass defection, it seems there is still light at the end of the tunnel as some PDP chieftains have vowed to remain in the party and sink with it.

Speaking on the development Wednesday, the Senate President, David Mark, said he would not defect to the All Progressives Congress, APC, in order to return as Senate President.

He said he would rather remain a member of the Peoples Democratic Party to restructure the party in readiness for the 2019 general elections. Mr. Mark spoke during a mass held at St. Mulumba Catholic Chaplaincy, Apo, Abuja, to mark his 67th birthday anniversary.

He said, “Before I go and sit down I have heard by way of rumour to start with in social media that I am decamping to APC. Social media is awash with that. If I will be the last man standing I will remain in PDP. “The rumour is just an unnecessary fabrication and I even heard that one of the papers yesterday had it as headline.

The media men must please make sure they investigate cases before they begin to publish it. “Nobody has spoken to me from APC. I have no reasons whatsoever to leave PDP, no reasons. I have risen to where I am on the platform of PDP.

PDP has a manifesto and I believe in it.” Mark described those who are leaving the PDP since the victory of the APC in the presidential election as “fair weather friends of PDP”.

“Those who are leaving PDP now are fair weather friends of PDP. So they have gone (and) they have no problem. When PDP bounces back in few years in the next couple of elections or next election they will come back again to PDP. So they will move.

OkeThose ones are not really the issues. “So, the point I want to make is that I remain in PDP and I will try to restructure PDP, bring it back again. This is democracy, there will be a winner and there will be a loser and the loser must accept it and the winner must accept it.

It is not anything new for us. “Nigerians have spoken and we in PDP have accepted it. That is the will of God and that is the will of Nigerians and so there is no need for anybody to speculate any more doomsday stories,” he stressed.

The Senate President said all over the world all political parties are entrenched through their manifestoes and they talk to the people.

Also in the same vein, the Governor of Niger State, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, has described politicians defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressive Congress as people who are suffering from poverty of integrity, morality and principle.

Mr. Aliyu who was receiving guests at his office Wednesday in Minna, the Niger State capital, said electorates should not be deterred by defections from the PDP, adding that those who should worry are members of the APC that will soon have problems of political profiteers in their hands. “I will rather resign from politics instead of defecting from the PDP.

Those defecting from PDP based on the outcome of the presidential and National Assembly election lack principles of integrity and morality, they are indeed stomach politicians.” “For principles of integrity, morality, we have chosen to remain in PDP.

I heard people insinuating that I have dumped my party candidate for the APC candidate. It is a lie, I will never do such a thing.” But for former governor of Anambra State and APC Senator representing Anambra Central, Dr. Chris Ngige, it is not easy playing opposition politics in Nigeria, in view of the domineering attitude by those in government.

Speaking after Buhari’s victory, Ngige said he played opposition politics for 10 years and, therefore, knew how the shoe pinched. He said: “I must thank all those who remained steadfast in APC because playing opposition can be frustrating and tempting. ‘’Though I was receiving overtures from the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, I rejected them because the principles on which we formed that party were jettisoned and bastardised.

“At the amalgamation of some political parties to form APC, I decided to run for governor but many notable politicians told me that though I am a good candidate, it was better for me not to run because I must never be allowed to win as the forces against me were numerous “However, I insisted on running because God had told me that APC would form the next Federal Government.

Though I did not win the governorship, I was consistently telling our people that APC was the best bet for Igbo in Nigerian politics. “But many Igbo people, who are benefiting from Federal Government contracts, decided to sacrifice the future of their children and children’s children.

I know many of these Igbo contractors cannot play opposition politics and their next move may be to move into APC. “Let me assure consistent members of APC that we are going to screen those who may wish to join us in APC.

While our doors will remain open to welcome new members, we will only admit those who are good, as we will not make it an all comers’ affair.” With this assertion by Ngige, those who are jumping into the APC need to have a rethink, but the question is would they do so. Time will tell.

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