VIEWPOINT: Political Office Holders Defections in Nigeria-Its Implications on Good Governance

By Richardson Ogwezzy

One of the major challenges facing citizens of almost all parts of the world is governance. By governance I mean the way a state or country is administered by its people (political office holders). The tone of any state or country depends on the extent of governance, it can be termed good or bad. This is because the success of every sector of a country’s economy hinges on governance.

Over the years, many countries of the world, most especially Nigeria have expressed dissatisfaction with the issue of governance. In Nigeria, for instance, many citizens feel that democratic experimentation has been characterised by corruption, poor infrastructural facilities, unemployment, insurgence, insecurity of life, marauding, banditry and increasing social vices. There are also issues of inadequate welfare packages for the citizens, government inability to provide good and affordable quality education to her citizens, inability of citizens to afford the necessities of life that results to cases of suicide and slavery. Government has also failed to adopt the principles of federal character in allocation of appointments and developmental projects. The worst of these issues is wanton defections of political office holders which amount to deviation of political party ideology with its detrimental implications on the citizens and the country.

Many researchers, opinion leaders, analysts have attributed the cause of bad governance in many parts of the world to one factor or another. But, in Nigeria it has been observed that political office holder’s defections and subsequent abandonment of party ideology, manifestoes and campaign promises are the major factors hindering good governance in Nigeria. Political office holder’s defection is a situation whereby an elected politician abandons his party for another. This has far-reaching implications as he has to abandon party ideology, manifestoes and campaign promises. This will certainly leave the electorates disappointed because it will now become difficult to continue with initial developmental programmes and projects.

In the Nigeria context, a political office holder defector is any elected politician that switches loyalty to another party. It is equally regarded as a traitor to the former party. A more polite way of describing political office holder defection is carpet-crossing, floor-crossing, swapping and party hopping. It is synonymous to a person joining his enemy camp. In our local context, it is called political *Akuna*(harlot).

Political office holder defection is subject to common interpretation in Nigeria politics. The word defector whichever one looks at it, does not sound positive in our democratic experience. Defector is seen as a traitor in the sense that he betrays the confidence and trust reposed on him by the electorates.

Before defection, they always embark on horse trading with the intended party at the expense of the original party. Some of the main reasons why many political office holders defect are: when they sense balkanisation (division) and crisis in the party; when they are becoming politically irrelevant or getting expired; failed to provide purposeful representation or failed in an election; when they seek for political coverage to avoid probe; when they seek for fresh political appointments and so on.

Party defection is more pronounced in countries where party leaders do not have firm control of the party. That is, where leaders party are unable to carry their electorates along. In most cases, when the politician has given robust campaign promises but when voted into office could not deliver, defection becomes an ultimate option to renege on campaign promises. But, in Nigeria many of the defectors are the political office holders who are the game players and initiators of party ideology, manifestoes and campaign promises. Defection often create problems for the losing party and suspicion and disaffection in the intended party while creating a mixture of excitement, suspicion and disaffection.

Conservation has shown that all the reasons for defection is partly due to selfish interest and greed. That is why some political office holders defect from Peoples” Democratic Party (PDP) to  All Peoples” Congress(APC) and when their objectives are not achieved they run back and vice versa.  This wanton defection has caused setbacks to governance in Nigeria. You can imagine a governor having been elected on account of good campaign promises only to defect to another party with defiance at the slightest provocation. What political ideology will he adopt?  Is it the former or latter or mixed ideologies? This is just like putting a new wine in an old bottle. Political defectors have forgotten that party ideology is an integral part of democratic process. It is a vital aspect of politics. And politics and ideology are indivisible. Any political office holder that defects will be bereft of political ideology which is responsible for bad governance in the Nigeria as a polity.

In a kind of flashback, in last general election in Delta State, some highly placed politicians defected from PDP to APC,  even some principal founders of PDP in the state. But many of these defectors found out that all was not rosy in the new party, it was even better to go back to the former party, make it more viable, a party worthy of emulation and work as usual than a party that seem alien to them.  Like I did say, if you build a house and the house is collapsing you repair or renovate rather than abandoning it.

I can vividly recall that in 2011 general election in Delta State, Democratic Peoples” Party,(DPP)  came in to Delta State. Many PDP members and other parties defected to DPP.  People supported them because they anticipated change in the system. About 30℅ of House of Assembly seats were won by DPP. But, do you know what happened? Within a twinkle of an eye they defected to the mother party PDP. Many of the people that supported them were thrown off balance. And so we have to commend the leadership of PDP in Delta State, who have been resolute, focused and determined to keep the party moving inspite of forces within and outside the state fighting to see the collapse of the party. Again, while other states are battling with the exigencies of the defection. Delta State PDP has been busy welcoming back those who defected at one time or other. For now, there is no sign of PDP elected office holders defecting to other parties. That is a mark of unity and stability within the party. If all political parties in Nigeria can have firm control of the management of the activities of the party, keep on to their good campaign promises, which eventually naturally translates into good governance we will have a better country. There will be no need of defections that has placed the country in chaotic, unstable, disadvantaged and unpredictable political situation.

Recently in Edo State, the incumbent APC Governor swapped to PDP while the PDP gubernatorial decamped to APC.  Do you think all party supporters of APC or PDP will agree to swap likewise? The answer is emphatic NO. This is because there has been rivalry between both party members of which some of them could not work freely with the defecting gubernatorial endorsed by the party.  Such swapping has made many political appointees to loose their seats(positions) and some that have been working tirelessly for the party will be adversely affected by the defections. In some states in Nigeria where key political office holders defected to rival party, it was obviously observed that some members of the party equally abandoned the party for others on the ground that they cannot work with such defectors.

The characteristics of defectors after horse trading are many.  They pump huge sums of money into the system to gain recognition and relevance. When given appointments in the future they strive to recover all they invested into the system. By so doing, misappropriation sets in and drags us back into the vicious cycle of corruption. They also tend to topple every member of the new party and always impose their ideology of the former on the new. But, that is not always easy, because what ensues is a mixture of conflict of ideologies. This is one source of crisis rocking Nigeria democratic experience.

Due to the fact that more defectors are coming from PDP and other parties to APC because they intend to contest for Presidential position or get federal appointments APC government should not use that as an excuse to look at the flagrant and wanton defections currently going on in the country with levity, because politicians involved do not have the electorates at heart. They are appointment hackers, traitors, betrayers and never meant good for Nigerians. They will eventually destroy APC and defect again if their selfish objectives are not achieved.

No one is oblivious of the fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that all citizens have freedom of association and party members can abandon his party for others if there is division or crisis. Considering the provision that stipulates, that the defector will vacate his official position. I am of the opinion that the provision should be reviewed to check frivolous party defections because of many cases of abuse which has been negatively affecting the country.

Every effort should be made by all and sundry to ensure that party defection is reduced to the barest minimum, because when a politician destroys his party and runs to another there is no guarantee that he will participate in building  a new one when his selfish interest is jeopardized.

It will be advisable for the National Assembly to enact a law refraining every political office holder in Nigeria from defecting while in office. In addition, it should also be stipulated in party Constitution.

Political parties all over the country should be more proactive in adopting innovative measures, policies and programmes that will hinder division, rancour, calumny, acrimony and frustration in the parties. For instance, PDP leadership in Delta State has adopted “Leaders Picking Suitable Candidates Approach” as a means for nominating candidates for March 6, 2021 Local Government elections and it worked excellently well. The approach to a very high extent, reduced the rate of division, acrimony, rancour, factions, calumny and frustration within the party. The approach also saves cost because many Politicians did not have to waste money for buying nomination forms.

The electorates should be informed and enlightened on election matters. The electorates should look beyond the boundaries of religion and ethnicity.

Federal and State Government should ensure party members are made to attend seminars and workshops on effective ways of managing political parties.

The incessant defections of political office holders is a serious hindrance to good governance. Besides, one way or other, it makes electorates loose confidence in the system. That is why is a clarion call on government and all stakeholders to make up and address this cankerworm that is ravaging the unity of political parties and truncating the successful implementation of developmental programmes of government.

Richardson Ogwezzy writes from Emu Kingdom in Delta State

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