Adamu Muhammad Hamid PhD
In less than six months now, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau has made two defections; first from APC to NNPP and then last week from NNPP to PDP. The Senator’s drift smacks of remembrance of what characterized Nigeria’s polity at each turn, months to general elections. For example, in 2013, five governors (of Adamawa, Kano, Kwara, River, and Sokoto), 37 representatives, and 11 senators decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to join the All Progressives Congress (APC), injecting more life to a newly created opposition party. Many of the same politicians became busy trying to move to PDP in the run-up to the 2019 elections. Fifteen senators, 37 representatives, and three state governors defected from the APC and to other political parties— PDP pulled up a majority of these disaffected politicians, according to the International Republican Institute. Moving from one political party to another is widespread and usually seen as a way of gaining an advantage over other political parties. This political practice is variously referred to as inter-party decamping, party-jumping, party-switching, floor-crossing, party-hopping, cross-carpeting, or canoe-jumping.
In organized political climes, the organ of individual political parties implements policies reflecting the deep-rooted ideology of the party through their representatives so elected. But in Nigeria, parties represent the interests of individuals.
The decamping of Senator Ibrahim Shekarau late last week may probably be a signpost signalling the symptom of the long-standing character of Nigerian politicians, now that campaign time for the 2023 election is about to open. Ideally, political parties are supposed to be platforms that represent divergent opinions on how to move society. Divergence of views is the definition of public opinion. In 2003, Senator Shekarau emerged into Kano state political landscape as an icon of principle. Public opinion direction against Senator Kwankawaso, then in his first tenure as governor, tilted towards Shekarau. In those times, Shekarau represented people’s aspirations and was seen as an ideologue. Even when in the 2000s Buhari consistently went to court to cry foul against the PDP whenever election results were declared in favour of the party, Shekarau was also consistent with the APP, and was seen in court in solidarity with Buhari. Remember, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the then vice president and one of the joint defendants in Buhari’s case, now PDP’s flag bearer is the very personage receiving Shekarau into the PDP. This is not minding the odds!
However, in recent times, the tables have turned; what we are witnessing is a completely changed man in Shekarau. One wonders, what happened over the years? I have one hypothesis! Wise men say, when a principled man joins Nigerian politics give him time, he will change ‘colours’. The results of Professor Umaru A. Pate’s investigation in 2009 support this assertion by revealing that the common perception among Nigerian politicians is there is no shame or morality in politics.
It is common sense if a politician drifts from one party to another the simple conclusion is that which is wrong is not with the parties but with the politician. Statesmanship dictates that a person should have steady nerves and broadmindedness to accommodate enough craps from fellow politicians and statesmen. Again, a politician who is a senator and was a governor for two consecutive terms should ideally be seen to be too big for small overtures, and should not capriciously mingle with their followers across different political parties monthly. Opinion stability is one of the attributes of fine politicians, according to public opinion experts. This does not however mean that a politician cannot have a divergent opinion from that of his party. In fact, being able to hold a different remarkable opinion from that of one’s own party is the hallmark of independent-minded politicians. Mc Cain, a Republican supported the ObamaCare America’s health insurance policy introduced by the former president Barrack Obama, a Democrat, against the shenanigans and tomfoolery of Donald Trump who opposed the policy soon after assuming office as US president!
It was observed that as the 2019 general election approached, Nigerian politicians became busy defecting from one political party to another, pitching tents with their parties and joining new political parties and creating new shades for political trade. This was because of fear of failure in the then-coming election, which was around the corner. That was a decisive moment for politicians when their fates in the election were to be decided by the electorate. However, most of the defectors were not defecting for the well-being of the electorates. None of them defected to the unpaid civil servants in the nation or in their respective states. They did not decamp for the government’s failure to provide citizens with the necessary social services, e.g., education, roads, health facilities, electricity, water supply, or employment among others. None of them decamped protesting billions of naira carted daily from government coffers by politicians or their cronies in government. Again, none of them defected because ASUU has been on strike for more than half a year now while the government turned deaf ears. No politician left the PDP before 2015, or the APC after 2015, due to the wanton insecurity which has ravaged the country as a result of ineptitude or stark incompetence of those in power across the major parties.
Towards the 2015 general election, out of the 29 governorship candidates of the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC), 18 had at one time or the other been members of PDP the ruling party, which lost the game in March 29, 2015, presidential election to the APC. During that time the candidates who defected are Abubakar Bagudu –Kebbi, Umar Ganduje – Kano, Dakuku Peterside – Rivers, Aisha Jummai Alhassan – Taraba, Aminu Masari –Katsina, Aminu Tambwal –Sokoto, Inuwa Yahaya –Gombe, Abubakar Badaru –Jigawa,Nasiru El-Rufai –Kaduna, Mohammad Abubakar –Bauchi, Abubakar Sani –Niger, Simeon Lalong – Plateau, Jibrilla Bindow –Adamawa, Okey Ezea – Enugu, Samuel Ortom – Benue, Rochas Okorocha – Imo, Julius Ucha – Ebonyi and Anyim Chinenye Nyerere – Abia. Some like Labaran Maku of Nasarawa and Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo defected from the party to become governorship flag bearers in All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party respectively after losing party primary elections in the PDP. The ludicrousness of these politicians is that all these aspirants of APC, then, had held positions like senators, House of Representative members, including Speaker, Ministers, Governors and other political appointments in the PDP government, but because of personal interests and selfishness, they were unable to continue in the party.
So why do Nigerian politicians recoil between political parties? Political parties in Nigeria, and in other parts of Africa, have a proclivity to lack ideologies and explicit messages that separate them from one another. Because of the country’s geographic, tribal, and religious divides, political parties are driven by personalities as opposed to ideologies. For instance, in the United States, political parties are defined by their platforms, or manifestos, as they are commonly called in Nigeria. Therefore, if a Republican candidate comes knocking at your door, you just know where he or she stands on any current critical issues. You could also predict their possible stand on any future issue; their pattern of thinking could literally be modelled.
The case is not like that in Nigeria. During a 2019 pre-election appraisal mission, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted, the delegation heard from various Nigerians who literally “expressed frustration with political parties, which are seen as personality-driven and lacking internal democracy. Emerging political alliances are based mostly on personalities and agreements among political leaders, and do not necessarily reflect differences in policy preference or ideology.”
When a politician jumps his party, he or she usually crosses over with thousands of individuals, including party officials that he or she is leaving, though in the recent defection of Shekarau, some of his followers openly declared in the media that they were not moving anywhere. While political parties are conduits to government and power all over the world, they are the only way to get into power and government in Nigeria. Though the recent electoral law recognizes independent candidature, in practice its success is synonymous to impossibility. At least so far no one has tried it.
Assorted motivations account for Nigerian politicians’ inter-party drifts. While majority of the reasons are flimsy and selfish, one of them is genuine. All the major political parties lack internal democratic principles. Recently at APC’s presidential primary, the newly elected party chairman announced the name of Senator President Ahmed Lawal as the party flag-bearer even before the delegates’ election took place. In Nigeria, acknowledgement of contenders for selection or nomination for primary elections rests on the power, influence, and financial capability of the candidate without any due deliberation of his/her integrity and capacity. These issues have contributed to numerous political crises within and outside the parties leading individuals to defect to other parties and/or form new parties of their choice because of disappointment with the party mode of operation and general voters’ indifference in the democratic system. It was stressed that unhealthy power contests and intra-party crises encouraged incessant defections of prominent members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 2013 and 2015 to the opposition party-the All Progressives Congress (APC). This was monumental! To them in Nigeria, most of the political parties have no strong party ideology, and this has led to ceaseless intra/inter-party conflicts, which eventually led to party jumping.
(To be continued next week)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect WikkiTimes’ editorial stance.