In 2023, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect those to represent them for another four years. For the electorate, three years is a long time but for the politicians, three years is almost here. In preparation for the elections of 2023, many politicians are deploying savage tools as if it is war.
There is nothing wrong with preparing for elections. But everything is wrong with dishonest preparations. One of such dishonest practices is the spate of interparty defections. The average Nigerian politician has no sense of shame or honour.
How is it possible for people to return to their vomit in such a shameless manner? Why is it so easy for politicians to spew profanities against a political party only to defect to that same party the next day? What ideologies do Nigerian political parties and politicians enunciate beyond personal gain? Why is the electorate so docile, unwilling or unable to hold politicians to account?
Defection is a legitimate political practice across the world. While some people call it cross-carpeting, others call it decamping. In many countries of the world, defection is motivated by divergences in principles and ideologies. People move from one political party to another for a worthy cause.
Usually, this kind of movement is ideologically informed because the political parties are also ideologically grounded. In the US, a Democrat or a Republican knows what they stand for. Some Republicans had in the past defected to the Democratic Party and vice versa. On such occasions, fundamental political issues as party policies affecting children and women, immigration, tax, health, education, and housing necessitated such movement.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria. When a politician in Nigeria declares that he is a member of a political party, it hardly conveys any positive ideology. The parties are Special Purpose Vehicles to ride into power. In 59 years, Nigeria has had 184 political parties. In 2019 alone there were 91 parties.
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In Nigeria’s political history, defections have never been so rampant and trivialised as it has become since the return to civil rule in 1999. The typical Nigerian politician has impaired every rule of decency associated with defection as a legitimate political exercise. A politician belongs to one party in the morning and by the evening of the same day, he is a member of another political party.
The way Nigerian politicians defect from one party to another is condemnable. It shows a glaring lack of political commitment or respect for the electorate. When politicians decamp from one party to another in Nigeria, they do so for selfish gains. It is either because they want to evade the law or they simply want to win elections with the security apparatuses of the state firmly in their control.
The electorate is the last thing on their minds. Politicians are shamelessly defecting to the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in a manner that leaves much to be desired. There is no single politician in Nigeria now who has defected to the APC on the grounds of ideological differences or policies of their party. The current charade in Edo State is a case in point.
Recently, ex-speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara defected to APC from PDP. According to him, he defected to APC because he wants to remain consistent in his principles of fighting for good governance in Bauchi State. Also, PDP former chairman Barnabas Gemade defected from SDP to APC. If the recent declaration by a governor that many PDP governors are planning to defect to APC is true, then Nigeria is faced with a major moral crisis.
The implications of these random political defections in our country are enormous. The defections show a lack of commitment on the part of the politicians, it gradually erodes our political institutions, exposing their lack of culture and ideology.
Despite the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 as amended, politicians have continued to indulge in defection with impunity, straddling the entire political landscape like nomads without personal honour or integrity.
Section 68 (f) of the 1999 Constitution states clearly that a “member of Senate of House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected”.
Politicians have exploited the lacuna provided by the provision of division within the party to further their selfish interests. Perhaps, an Anti-Defection Law should be put in place stipulating severe consequences for political defectors. India has an Anti-Defection Law which states clearly the sanctions against politicians who roam from one party to another. Section 68 (f) of the Constitution should be reframed. Sanctions should range from heavy fines, disqualification from elections and outright suspension from the political process.
If there are no concrete laws in Nigeria to check the frequent rate of defections in Nigerian politics, our country will ultimately become a one-party state because every politician would want to belong to the ruling party. Our democracy must be protected by checkmating the spate of political defections in our country.