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Political Party, Defection And The Law

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Nigeria has had a chequered political history of defection of party members from their party to another right from the pre – colonial administration.

Defection has characterised the political landscape of Nigeria. It is usually normal in politics to defect to another political party. Is the trend healthy for the political development of Nigeria? Does it portend stability for a political party? Does the law regulating political parties activities allow such defection?  What actually is the position of the law on the subject matter? These questions are begging for answer.

But the trend of political defection of politicians from one party to another is quite alarming right from when Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999 to now. This is unlike during the famous early morning defection of Convention of Nigeria citizens (NCNC) elected members to the Action Group on the floor of the Western Nigeria House of Assembly in 1951.

Political party defectors are usually regarded as political prostitutes without political principle, morality, conscience and lacking in political ideology to champion the cause of leadership for the well being of the society and political development of the country.

Barrister Jas Awanen adduce reason(s) for cross carpeting or defection of politicians, saying the trend result from personality clash, power tussles, divergent views on the operations of a political party’s philosophy, crisis or division within a given political party, disagreement on party’s position on an issue, realisation of one’s personal political ambition and party leaders reneging on agreed issues of the political party probably on power sharing formula.

During the first Republic, the former Premier of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, Chief Ladoke Akintola left the then Action Group in a crisis rooted more in personality clash and personal principles of the need for him to move the Yoruba race into the Nigeria’s mainstream politics.

Even within the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe political fold the great political philosopher, Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe defected from the NCNC to form his political party, the Democratic Party of Nigeria in the 50s based on disagreement with the party leaders.

Records also have it that in the old Ondo State during the Second Republic, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, the then deputy governor of United Party of Nigeria (UPN) government of Chief Michael Ajasin defected to join the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and became its gubernatorial candidate.

However, from 1999 to date many politicians at the local government, state and federal levels had consistently defected from one political party to the other. Some did so abandoning the parties on whose platform they were elected, while others after losing elections found it the best option for them to cross carpet to another political party.

According to Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Tami Abbiye-Suku, defection portends danger for the political system.

Politicians should exercise patience and show maturity in the way they play politics,” he said, adding that defection to a ruling party may lead to one party system which is not healthy for the political development of the nation”.

In another breath Abbiye-Suku said “there is great need for political parties to have ideologies, programme, policies which will serve as a compass to their members and discourage them from defecting to another party”.

Meanwhile, some past and serving senators, Governors, House of Representatives members, State legislators, council chairmen and councilors have abandoned their elected political party platform for another on the excuse of factional crisis or division within their political party.

In the senate, Dr Wahab Dosunmu, Senator Adeseye Ogunlere and Senator Musulius Obanikoro all elected on the platform of Alliance of Democracy (AD) Lagos State defected to join the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Chief Arthur Nzeribe (Imo), Senator John Nwanunu (Abia) Dr Usman Kadir (Kogi) the trio defected from the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP) to join the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Besides Senator Satti Gogwin, Action Congress (Plateau) defected to join the ruling party (PDP), while Senator Iyiola Omisore former deputy governor of Osun State on the platform of Alliance for Democracy defected to join the PDP and became elected senator of the party.

In Abia State, Comrade Uche Chukwuemerijie elected on the ruling Peoples Democratic Party platform defected to the pregressive People Alliance (PPA). Chief Sergeant Awuse former chairman Board of  Directors, federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) defected from the ruling party to become the Gubernatorial candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP)  Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa former Governor of Sokoto State on the platform of All Peoples Party (APP) left to form the DPP and became its presidential candidate in 2007 general election even as Chief Orji Kalu left the ruling People  Democratic Party to form the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and became its presidential candidate.

Recently a third term senator Patrick Osakwe representing Delta North defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Accord Party. Not long enough, the elected senator also abandoned AP and defected to the Peoples Democratic Party again alleging division within the party.

But the National Legal Adviser of the Accord Party, Barrister Sikiru Oke said, Senator Osakwe by his action disregarded the party’s constitution and laid down procedure and rules of doing things in an organised society.

The senator was accused of instigating, sponsoring crisis within party as justification for his despicable act.

The incumbent Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was once the SSG of Ondo State government and former minister under the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. He defected to the labour part, at the turn up of events became the State Governor.

The governor of Imo State, chief Ikedi Ohakim who contested the primaries of PDP and got only three votes. Later he defected to the Progressive Peoples Alliance and became its gubernatorial candidate. He was eventually  elected the governor but after defected from PPA back to PDP. Even the governor of Bauchi State and former minister defected from PDP to ANPP to be elected governor of Bauchi only to move back to PDP.

Abbiye-Suku explained that the trend shows the despicable chameleon character of Nigeria politicians and struggle for political relevance without any conscience and political ideologies as a driving force while they are in politics”.

He called on Nigeria’s politicians to show some level of principle rather than ambition. However, what is the position of the law on defection  Zamfara State, the defection of the state governor, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi and his deputy Mukhtar Anka from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was challenged in court by the leadership of the ANPP.

But in a landmark judgement delivered by the Federal High Court, Gusau Division presided over by Justice Adamu Bello, the suit was dismissed on the ground that the action of the governor and his deputy was not illegal going by the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

Section 177 of the 1999 constitution clearly states that a person shall only be qualified for election into the office of the governor of the state if he is a member of a political party and sponsored by a political party. The same 1999 constitution did not state that such a person cannot leave that party after achieving electoral victory.  This is only in respect of an elected governor.

In the decided case of Abubakar Atiku VAGF the supreme court held that a person sponsored by a political party to power could leave the same party to another without breaching any section of the constitution.

But in respect of elected senator, House of Representative members and state legislators the 1999 constitution specifically in section 68(1)(g) and (2) and 109ig) (2) only makes provisions for the tenure of members of the legislature and not that of the executive.

The provisions clearly state that a state or federal lawmakers must vacate his or her seat after defecting to another political party, member of the Senate or House of Representative shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was reviously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or faction by one of which he was previously sponsored”.

This provision has been explored by elected legislators to defect from their political party to another. Even it is evident that the constitution stipulated that one can leave a political party on the ground of factional crisis within a given political party.

However, one manifestation of the history of defection on the Nigeria’s political landscape is that a preponderance of those who defect do so in favour of the ruling political party in power either at the centre or state level.

This situation portends great danger for sustainable democracy and if left unchecked could move the nation towards a drift of one political party system without any viable opposition to act as check  on the ruling political party.

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Wike In A Nutshell At 52

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Don’t just count your years, make your years count”. The immortal admonition of George Meredith appears to have been taken to heart by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike whose life clearly tells of a man who determined very early to make a remarkable difference in the social, political, economic and administrative circumstance of his environment.
Born December 13, 1967 to Rev and Mrs Nlemanya Wike of Rumuepirikom in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike holds degrees in law from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Nkpolu, Port Harcourt now Rivers State University and Political and Administrative Studies from the University of Port Harcourt, Choba.
After a brief private practice, Chief Wike’s illustrious political career kicked off on a high when he was elected Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council at the advent of Nigeria’s present democratic journey in 1999. That tenure ended in 2002. He was re-elected into the same office in 2004 for another three-year tenure.
While in office as local government chairman, Chief Wike was elected Deputy President and later President of the Association of Local governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and also represented Africa on the executive committee of the Commonwealth Local Government’s Forum. He was voted the best performing local government chairman and played pioneering roles in national security and primary healthcare in the country.
From October 26, 2007 and May 28, 2011, Chief Wike served as Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt with Rt Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as governor. However, on July 14, 2011, he moved up to the national stage when he was appointed Minister of State for Education by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Consequent upon a federal cabinet re-organisation, Chief Wike transformed into Nigeria’s Supervising Minister of Education on September 12, 2013. On the saddle, he introduced for reaching reforms in the basic as well as the tertiary education sub-sectors.
Under his watch, the federal government of Nigeria established four new federal polytechnics, with one sited in Bonny, Rivers State. It is also on record that he facilitated the immovative N1.3trillion intervention fund revive public universities in Nigeria. To this end, no fewer than 51 federal and state owned polytechnics had life lives in infrastructural development while colleges of education had micro-teaching laboratories constructed for them.
For his efforts, the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper named him the Best Performing Minister of the Federation in 2011 while the African Network Campaign on Education for AU (ANCEFA) awarded him the Policy Champion Award for Africa in appreciation his roles in the creation of quality access to education for Nigerian children.
According to Richele Goodrich “You were born and with you endless possibilities, very few ever to be realised. It’s okay. Life was never about what you could do, but what you would do.” Preparatory to the general election in 2015, Chief Wike resigned his ministerial appointment in 2014 and joined the race for the Rivers State gubernatorial contest. Of course, he won the election and was subsequently sworn in as the 6th democratically elected governor of Rivers State on May 29, 2015.
That mandate was renewed in 2019 consequent upon a superlative performance that saw his detractors as well as admirers labeling him Nigeria’s “Mr Projects”.
As chief executive officer of Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has garnered a surplus number of awards, recognitions and conferment’s in celebration of his excellent service delivery credentials in outstanding administration, focused and visionary leadership and an uncommon display of political acumen from within and outside the shores of the country.
The latest of his recognitions and endowments is the “Dike Oha I” of Ikwerre Land” conferred on him by the entire chiefs and people of Ikwerre ethnic nationality on Saturday, December 7, 2019 in Port Harcourt.
“To me, a birthday means celebrating the presence of an individual in our lives”, so says Meeena Bajaj and this is true of not just the immediate family of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike who turns 53 today but also for Nigerians in general and Rivers people especially who have had the benefits of his mida’s touch.

 

By: Opaka Dokubo

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Omo-Agege Initiates Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill

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Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege on Monday said, he had introduced a bill for comprehensive amendment of the Electoral Act No. 6 of 2010.
Omo-Agege said this at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room Stakeholders Forum on Elections, organised by the coalition of more than 70 civil societies in Abuja.
He said the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Abubakar Kyari of Borno North Senatorial District, was now making its way to public hearing, having scaled Second Reading with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate.
“It is a decisive response to a plethora of our Supreme Court’s decision inviting the National Assembly to make sensible amendments to the Electoral Act.
“And I believe it is responsible for us to take the apex court’s constructive guidance on issues that fundamentally affect our democracy.
“This apart, Section 153 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, specifically and expressly empowers INEC to “issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effects to the provisions of this Act and for its administration thereof.
“The pervasive non-compliance with the Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals, would carry clear consequences for people who think violating electoral due process is a rewarding exercise.
“The proposed Bill to amend the Electoral Act would focus on resolving issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.’’
Omo-Agege said that the bill would also mandate INEC to publish the Voters’ Register for public scrutiny at every Registration Area and on its website, at least seven days before a general election.
According to him, it also mandates INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that loses its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement.
He said the bill would grant agents of political parties the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of election, define over-voting to include situations where “total votes cast also exceed total number of accredited voters’’.
According to the lawmaker, it also provides greater clarity and transparency in the process of reaching the final announcement of election results, starting with sorting of ballots, counting of votes among others.
Omo-Agege said the bill would mandate INEC to record and keep relevant detailed information of results sheets, ballot papers and other sensitive electoral materials used in an election, with clear consequences for violation.
He said the bill also provided sanctions for giving false information on registration of a political party, and that failure by INEC and others to comply with any provision of the Act carried clear and adequate sanctions.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who was represented by Mr Festus Okoye, Chairman Information and Voter Education, said the Commission was committed to electoral reforms that would strengthen the power and value of the vote.
Yakubu said the Commission would work assiduously with critical stakeholders in the electoral process in providing clarity, removing ambiguities, plugging existing lacuna in laws and constitutionally implementing those aspects of the law that guaranteed the credibility of elections.
“The Commission will definitely send its proposals to the National Assembly to clearly state aspects of the existing Law it supports, aspects that need further retooling, and new proposals that will strengthen the electoral process and the regulatory functions of the Commission.’’
Mr Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was committed to tackling electoral fraud and violence through the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission.
Malami who was represented by Ms Juliet Ibekaku, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Ethics and Justice, said the government was already working with the 9th National Assembly with a view to ensuring an early passage of amendments to the Electoral Act and the Election Offences Commission Bill into law.
Earlier, Mr Clement Nwankwo, Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said the objective of the event was to discuss the current state of the electoral environment in the country.
Nwankwo said it also aimed to make recommendations and suggestions that would improve the political and electoral process in Nigeria.
“We believe INEC has the responsibility to be a key driver of the much needed change in the electoral sector,’’ he added.

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‘We Are Confident Jonathan Won’t  Defect To  APC’

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Monday said it was confident that former President Goodluck Jonathan will not dump the party for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), no matter the amount of pressures piled on him to do so.
Speaking with newsmen  a member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), who spoke on condition of anonymity said while they were aware of the scheming by the APC to lure the former President into its fold, it was confident that Jonathan will never leave the PDP.
He said the former president took the decision to support Lyon based on “personal reasons owing to the disagreement he had with Governor Dickson and not because of his interest in joining the APC”.
“ Yes, we have heard about it too. But we are not sleeping over it at all. We know former President Jonathan as a very loyal party man and one of the pillars of our great party. We are confident he will not join the APC no matter how they try to convince him.
“ I don’t want to go into details but from what we witnessed in the Bayelsa election, the people are not happy with the candidate anointed by Governor Dickson who was the candidate of the PDP. If that is the decision of Bayelsans, then I think the former president who  is a tested democrat will align with that decision, irrespective of where the candidate the people wants comes from”.
Also speaking with our correspondent on whether the PDP has taken any action against Jonathan over his role in the party’s loss during the Bayelsa governorship election, the party’s National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan,said he was not aware if any letter was written by the party to the former President.
Ologbondiyan, who said there is no case concerning Jonathan at the national level said as a member of the Bayelsa state chapter of the party, if the former president had committed any wrongdoing, it was the state chapter of the party that will bring the report to the national level for action.
That, according to him nothing has not been done as at Monday.
“ I will have to ask the National Secretary  if  that was done because I am not the one that will write the letter.  We are concerned about the loss of our party.
“Right now, there is no issue before us concerning the former President. The PDP is procedural. We work with procedures.  If there were issues  in a particular state, the state chapter will have to bring the issue before the national body before  any action can be taken. That is the procedure”  he said.

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