DEFECTION: MATTERS ARISING
Defection is the withdrawal of membership loyalty, allegiance and continued support for a party by one or more of its members. It is the situation when politicians quit the political party to which they belong and joins another party of their choice. Defection results, when a politician feels aggrieved by his party or that the ideology of the party is being compromised. Recently, the defection of some state governors from their party has made Nigerians to raise eye brows on
the issue thereby requesting the resignation of the affected politicians from the offices they occupy. The defection rate has cut across all political parties but when a party is mostly affected, the parties tend to call for the heads of affected politicians. In view of this, there is need for an explanation of the legality, technicality and realities surrounding defection from one part to another.
It is the fundamental right of every citizen of a country to enjoy freedom of association, meaning that every Nigerian is entitled to freely associate or join a group or refuse to join any group or political party. In like manner, there is the freedom to dissociate or defect from one party and either stay away from participating in politics or join another party. Therefore on the platform of legality, defection is very right as a fundamental right of every Nigerian.
When a public office holder, such as Lawmaker or Governor or even Mr. President who was elected on the platform of a political party defects to another political party, the same principle applies but with particular emphasis on the mandate being held in trust for the people. This is because it was given in trust for Nigerian by Nigerians for the benefit of Nigerians. The paramount issue that should be addressed is the fact that the ‘mandate’ belongs to the people not the political party. Political parties are just platforms or an organized group through which politicians can make their intentions known in aspiring to political positions. Not all Nigerians belong to one political party or the other but all Nigerians have the right to vote and be voted for. There are situations where we have independent candidates, those who aspire to elective public offices, yet without being members of any political party. In democracy, the people’s mandate is the legally expressed wishes of the people, deciding whom they want as their leader in elective representative capacities.
Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. So going back to issue of defection by a highly placed public office holder, the technicality is that the fate of such a political office holder, who represents a section of the society lies with the people, not the political party he ditched. The votes by the political party can never be enough to elect any public office holder. The vote which becomes the mandate is the power and voice of the people to form a government for the people securing their interest in good governance. There have been issues relating to making legislations on defection from one party to the other, in my opinion, such legislations on defection must be democratic enough not to deprive politicians of their freedom right to association. In the event of an elected public officer defecting to another party, the essential thing is to go to a referendum asking the people, owners of the mandate to decide if their representative should continue with the representation or they withdraw it and pass it to someone else, but not essentially someone from the party where the defector just left.
The mandate is the aggregate of votes of all Nigerians, irrespective of party affiliation, religion or political belief. There are instance where the electorate are never interested in politics or any political party, yet they are conscious of the need to exercise franchise, their power to determine who rules over them. In the case of an elected office holder who holds another derivative office where he belongs to such as the House of Representatives or the Senate, the community has the right to determine if they want such office to retain his title or not. Taking for instance the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, who was first elected to the House by his people from his state – his constituency determines if they still want him to represent them at the House. After this, those who made him Speaker from among other house members own the right to determine if he retains the title of speaker or not.
If his people exercise their right of recall, he will automatically lose the seat as Speaker and membership of the house. There seems to be a lot of ignorance and arrogance on the part of our political parties who claim they own the mandate being held by the elected office holder and lot of sentiments are at play over such
issues because they do not understand the legality, technicality and responsibility attached to defection. The same goes for the behavior of politicians placing party rules ahead of the constitution of the country.
There had been instances when politicians boast that any state in the federation that didn’t support the federal government would not benefit from the federal government’s largesse. Such statements, credited to whoever made them are undemocratic; lacking the understanding of what democracy is all about and an expression of ignorance of the rule of law and equity in an egalitarian society.
The party is just a platform to bring an aspirant, who becomes qualified by first being a citizen of Nigeria, into a public post after being duly elected; so getting to public office bestows on such, the mandate of majority of Nigerians, to lead them. By votes count analysis, it is possible to know how many votes came from one state, one region or a local government but a matured politician or rather a democrat, whose interest is to build the nation will seek to win more people to his side by being fair and equitable to all and being equitable in the administration of governance.
Many people criticize the recent defection by Hon Aminu Tambuwal from PDP to APC while the beneficiaries of his action, APC are defending him. In the same vein, the Presidency is fighting tooth-and-nail, coupled with the overzealousness of the police authorities – especially the statement credited to the Inspector-General that Tambuwal should no longer be addressed as speaker of the house. We need to state clearly that neither the Presidency nor the police have the right to deal with an arm of government the way they have been doing in the case of the House of Representatives because it is only possible and even condemnable in a dictatorship. The matter has neither been dealt with by the house itself nor by the upper house, whose role is advisory and complementary.
In view of the recent action of the police at the House of Representatives chambers, a good number of the people insinuate that the PDP has turned the Police into the military arm of the party warning of dare consequences. It is believed that equity and fairness are vital tools that entrenches democracy into the hearts of so that at times of challenges the weak minded would not yearn for a military take over that is no longer fashionable in global administration. However, it must be known that when there is chaos and unabated insurgent activities coupled with rascality in politics claiming lives and properties, the military have no option than to wade in to restore normalcy. Long live Nigeria, Long Live the People of Nigeria.