Democracy in Nigeria and the culture of defection | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Agenda, Opinion

Democracy in Nigeria and the culture of defection

Posted: Apr 15, 2015 at 12:24 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 Magnus Ugwubujor, a member of the editorial board, Independent Newspapers, takes a look at what motivates the indiscriminate defections by politicians and maintains that Nigeria’s democracy may not be fully developed until our political elite change their perceptions on why they should vie for elective offices…

Defection is now a common word in our political lexicon so much so that it is now a norm in the way the political elite in Nigeria carry on the business of politicking. Indeed, the level of defections recorded recently before and mostly after Mohammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the just concluded Presidential election is startling and almost makes a caricature of our democracy.  It is like a rat race to see politicians falling on top of themselves scrambling to pitch their tents in the party of the moment, the APC and I cannot but feel pity for our nascent democracy. In fact, I am disappointed at the level of inconsistency and instability that drives our political elite.

In the past week, the APC has received key members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members including deputy governors of Jigawa, Ahmad Mahmud;  Ondo State’s Alli Olanusi and Niger, Ahmed Musa Ibeto. In fact, the APC in Rivers State is reportedly planning to receive over 10,000 member of the PDP who have indicated interest to dump their party. There are reports of the preponderance of other defections so numerous to mention especially from the PDP and other parties to the APC as these politicians are already forming allies with the President-elect and his party the APC. It is surprising that suddenly some of these characters have transformed themselves into his friends. This is nothing short of sycophancy. I only hope that Buhari would see beyond mere interest in his party and begin to gleam through the real motive for this mass defection and the attendant rallying around him by these political gladiators. If he does not get cautious, I am afraid he may probably be misled.

It is true that it is constitutional that everyone has the freedom to choose which political party to belong but the rate and ease as well as the circumstances under which it happens in this country leaves a moral and integrity question on the politicians involved. I cannot agree any less with the governor of Niger State Babangida Aliyu, who has pledged that come rain come shine, he would never dump PDP for any other party. He said, “I would rather resign from politics than defect. Those defecting from PDP, based on the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, lack principles of integrity and morality, they are, indeed, stomach politicians.” Aliyu’s submission is apt. The senate president has also made such declaration. There is no doubt that these politicians do not have the interest of the nation at heart. They do not have passion for service, they are definitely not patriotic. They are political jobbers and opportunists who primary objective is to take undue advantage of every situation to sustain their selfish political ambitions.

Yes, politicians have reduced political parties in Nigeria to mere platforms rather than the real political parties they ought to be, shaped by a set of political beliefs and ideologies that are sacrosanct; and whose membership is driven by a firm belief in those ideologies. Unfortunately, most of our politicians demonstrate a total lack of ideological leaning on the political parties which they belong to.  One may not be mistaken to say that most decampees, especially those of them who defected recently after the presidential election are obviously driven by an ulterior intent to use the parties as political platforms to achieve politically relevance. This development has kept me wondering why somebody will defect to another party just because his party lost election.  When it is no longer favourable for them or when their parties do not promise enough political contracts, they dump it for another party they feel is viable to remain politically relevant.  Some commentators have described this approach as pocket or stomach politics. It is indeed a sham. For such politicians, rather than see elective offices as opportunity for sacrifice and service to ones country, they see it an avenue to amass wealth. No wonder they will go to any length to manipulate the electoral process.

To this end, it is regrettable that the problem with the democratic process in Nigeria, in my view, is not just on the development of our electoral process, but also on the development of the attitude of the political elite. And without mincing words, I think the later is the most critical in the entrenchment of a more robust democratic framework in the country.  Unarguably, in other developed democracies such as the United States of America, the game of politics is shaped by the principles of integrity, morality and ideology.  One can never find politicians frivolously and indiscriminately decamping just because the party lost elections and feels that the other party is now a better platform.

It is indeed a shame. In fact, it is obvious that we have a long way to go. There has to be a lot of attitudinal change with our political elite. Right from the way electioneering campaigns should be carried out. Recall that the 2015 electioneering campaigns were marred with hate speeches and what have you rather than focusing on the issues. In philosophy, this is known as the fallacy of argumentum ad homine (attacking the person rather than the issue).

Interestingly, President Goodluck Jonathan’s attitude towards the outcome of the last Presidential election was unprecedented. He immediately called and congratulated Gen. Mohammadu Buhari.  Of course the President’s show of maturity and statesmanship apparently averted an impending national crisis. The president has since openly declared that his “political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”  This attitude has set a new pedestal in the way politics should be carried out in the country.

Ultimately, there is no doubt that there have been a lot of improvement in our electoral process; and I am optimistic that this improvement will be sustained in every facet of our democracy.