By Richardson Ogwezzy
Right from the existence of Nigeria as a country, we have witnessed successive administrations from the colonial, democratic one at independence, military and finally back to our present democratic government. All these administrations have not yielded the desired result for Nigerians. In the midst of one administration, Nigerians always hope for a better succeeding administration but to no avail. The rebirth of democratic system of government, which is believed to be the best type of government in our contemporary times, has been yielding little or no dividends to Nigerians. This better-than-others belief in democracy is because it is a system of government whereby the citizens have the right to vote for candidates of their choice and subsequently evaluate the political office holders using the party ideologies which are foundational to manifestoes and campaign promises; ostensibly the factors that determine voting and electoral victory. The political trend that Nigeria is currently witnessing in the name of defections is becoming a threat to this cherished democracy. This is because political office holders such as governors defecting to other parties have inadvertently become victims of mixed ideology.
In an ideal political setting, what the citizens or voters in a country consider before accepting and voting candidates into power is the party ideology culminating in manifestoes and campaign promises. These are the basic criteria that underpin the support the electorate gives to a candidate. The ideologies are to the voters, what cutlass is to the farmer, bible to the pastor, measuring tape to the tailor, hammer to the carpenter, chalk to the teacher, pen to the student etc.
Ideally, every party has an ideology or ideologies that would be slightly or significantly different from those of another political party or other political parties. The party ideologies encapsulating the manifestoes and campaign promises become the basis for the assessment of the performance of a political party as presented during electioneering campaign period by many States in Nigeria. But in reality now, when a party wins, that is the end of those cherished determining factors of appraisal of governance. Just a few governors abide by their promises, albeit disjointedly and inarticulately. The masses have equally lost faith in these promises and have simply resorted to praying for political office holders to bring the basics of good governance to the people, irrespective of the consistency with their party ideologies. Incessant cases of political office holders’ defections in Nigeria have given birth to what I refer to as mixed party ideologies, a phenomenon which has raised apprehension among Nigerians as a result of the possible problems it could further create in addition to the existing ones it is already generating. If States that have been governed by the same party since 1999 could not bring the desired good governance, how can political office holders defecting from one party to the other provide the needed results? Defection brings one to another party with different ideology; it is like putting a new wine in an old bottle. If I may ask, in United States of America, how many elected office holders defect from Republican Party to Democratic Party? Or in Great Britain, how many cases of defections are recorded from the two major parties: Conservatives Party to Labour Party or vice versa? They remain in their respective parties because they have their own different ideologies. On the contrary, in Nigeria due to ulterior motives, greed and the desire to circumvent probe, political office holders defect with impunity at the detriment of the masses and party unity and stability. And it is very disturbing that many visionless followers bluntly succumb to the evil tide of the leaders.
Mixed party ideology is the incongruent combination of ideas and programmes by political office holders (the president, governors, Local Government Area chairmen etc) when they defect from their original parties to another, thereby giving room to conflation in the formulation and implementation of policies. In the midst of the confused and convoluted scenario, the average political office holder decides to do whatever pleases him since there is no articulated ideological programme to be executed. In Nigeria, mixed political party ideologies are currently obtainable in some States of the federation. But observation has shown that many State governors’ attitude towards defections are unpredictable. The citizens are aware that defections are politicians’ rights in a democratic setting. But Nigerians are worried over the crisis, indiscipline, irresponsibility and unwarranted changes injected into the political space as a result of these unguided and unregulated defections.
The greatest progenitors of these mixed party ideologies are the governors because of the human, physical and fiscal institutions (as it were) which they have in their control. This phenomenon promoted essentially by a few politicians have been viewed by other politicians, political analysts, citizens, electorates and observers as a quick avenue to destroying our democratic experience. This is because, among other consequences, such action has given imaginary and false strengths to political parties without structure and grassroot acceptance in the affected areas and States of the defectors. It is like a house built on a shaky foundation. In a normal political setting, when one wins in an election, he begins to govern in line with the party ideology. But in the case of defected governors, there will be clash of political interests and the reconfiguration of already existing structures and political offices prior to the defection top the agenda of the government instead of governance. For instance, changes in the Speakership of the House of Assembly, the executives of the new Party defected to, Commissioners; Board members etc would be made in order to take hold of the structure and institutions in the new party. At this point, many that worked assiduously to keep the hitherto opposition party afloat may be sidelined. Apart from the problems of sharing and balancing of appointments, such phenomenon will bring greater disunity within the opposition party turned ruling party. In a simple and practical illustration of the ills of mixed party ideology, a political party like the PDP may have as its ideology free education from the primary to university levels. When a governorship candidate wins, he may decide to defect to the APC. But let assume the APC’s ideology is free education from only the primary to the secondary levels. In such a situation, what ideology will such a governor implement with respect to free education? In Nigeria, the governor that defects will prefer free education for the primary and secondary schools only, forgetting that the people voted for him based on the ideology of free education at all levels. These are issues common to defection of political office holders in Nigeria.
Again in Nigeria, experience has shown that those States that have reasonable degree of good governance are those that maintained one party leadership since 1999 till date. When we compare the state of development, one will observe that those States that have been under the governance of one party leadership from 1999 till date have higher pace of development. For instance, States like Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Cross Rivers etc enjoy good network of roads, standard flyovers and many other infrastructural developments. But many States in the federation that have been under different political parties from time to time by defecting governors have greater issues of political wrangling, unnecessary delay in making political appointments and imposition of candidates for appointments. Such entire scenario will create an atmosphere of tension, disunity, suspicion, instability and ineffectiveness in governance.
As the 2023 General Elections draw nearer, there is the rumour of more political office holders’ defections, from members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in few States of the federation who have perhaps the unfounded belief that federal might will be at the advantage of the APC in 2023 General Elections. However, other PDP members opined that they would not jettison the confidence reposed in them by the electorates but are rather very hopeful that they will take over the country come 2023 because the party’s records from 1999 to 2015 both at the federal and State governments levels on good governance have not been matched by the ruling party that took over governance at the central and in some other States of the federation in 2015.
My final take on the issue of defection, most especially on the case of the serving governors, is that there should be legislation against the action because it is largely based on selfish and ulterior motives which are detrimental to our democracy and the expectations of the citizens of the country.
Richardson Ogwezzy is a teacher and a PG research student of Delta State University, Abraka. Nigeria