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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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Edo Guber Poll: Crisis Of Confidence Tears APC Apart

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A crisis of confidence is tearing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State apart as countdown to the governorship election in the state, slated for next year commences.
The Tide reports that bigwigs in the party are no longer seeing eye-to-eye, raising fears over the chances of the APC in the high-stakes governorship election, billed for August next year.
Speaking on the development in an interview with our correspondent in Benin yesterday, a chieftain of the APC, retired Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, raised the alarm over what he described as “heightened crisis and tension in the party’’.
He said that the APC in Edo had witnessed series of threats, brigandry and actions capable of destroying the fortunes of the party in the upcoming governorship election.
Airhiavbere cited situations, where according to him, APC leaders’ homes have been threatened by some interests in the state.
“We condemn these acts. They are unacceptable to genuine leaders of the APC in Edo State.
“We use this opportunity to also condemn the attack at the residence of our National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole by thugs.’’
Airhiavbere, who contested the governorship primaries in 2016 with the incumbent Edo governor, described as sad, the current political turmoil in the state’s chapter of the APC.
“The crisis originated from the fact that the trio of Gov. Obaseki, his deputy, Mr Philip Shaibu and the Secretary to Government, Mr Osarodion Ogie were sponsored into office by Oshiomhole.
“But today, the three men have vowed to dethrone Oshiomhole as the leader of the APC in Edo State.
“But let me state categorically that we will not allow them to embarrass Oshiomhole.
“He remains the leader of our party in Edo State just as Mr Lawrence Okah remains the authentic state secretary of the APC.
“Let me warn Obaseki that he met us in this game of politics and he should know that he has no monopoly of violence.
“We are only playing it cool because he has perfected plans to defect to the Action Alliance. So his intention is to destroy the APC in Edo State.
“But I don’t think we will fold our arms and allow him destroy this party.
“We will meet him fire for fire, energy for energy and word for word,” Airhiavbere said, alleging that the governor’s plan was “to cow everybody in his bid to get a second term ticket.’’
But reacting to Airhiavbere’s outburst on a looming crisis in the state, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Paul Ohonbamu, described Obaseki as a humane, civilized and refined personality, who hates thuggery, lawlessness and impunity.
“Because of this, there has been a shift from the old order, where people constituted themselves into informal entrepreneurs of violence, intimidating people and extorting monies from them.
“So the governor stopped them, starting with the community development associations and all others.
“So, because of the innovative measures, people who are now losers both in the political market and economic space are now annoyed.
“As for Obaseki, you know he does not believe in thuggery or that violence should be employed as a primary weapon of interaction.
“There is nobody who is a thug around him. He does not want it. They are not comfortable with him because he has turned the thing around.
“That old system of diminutive accumulation of forcing people or of dominating people by force, he said no; that can no longer be and many of them have been dealt with on that ground.’’
Ohonbamu said that the governor’s policies were geared at liberating the Edo people from the stronghold of illiterate thugs and violence-inclined people.

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PDP, Police Bicker Over Assassination Attempt On Dickson’s Aide

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The Senator Douye Diri Governorship Campaign Organisation (SDDGCO) and the Bayelsa State Police Command have disagreed over an alleged assassination attempt on the Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson on Youth Matters, Mr Boboleyefa Owoupele.
The Director of Media and Publicity of SDDGCO, Dr. Jonathan Obuebite said there was an attempt on the life of Owoupele but the police maintained that investigation did not point to that conclusion.
Obuebite in a statement while condemning the “curious release” of three suspected thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who were arrested in connection with the assassination attempt described the decision of the police to release three suspects as worrisome and shocking.
Obuebite said the Campaign Office commended the police for the prompt response to the crime noting however that the police commander in charge of the squad that arrested the three suspects released them only to promise that they would be produced on request.
He said that the police action was ominous, distressing and brazenly partisan and called on the Inspector General of Police and the Bayelsa State Commissioner to investigate the scandalous release of the three suspected assassins.
He urged the IGP and the commissioner to give priority to the defence of the police image and integrity as a foremost law enforcement agency in the society by ordering the re-arrest and prosecution of the suspects who have been released under most questionable circumstances.
The Campaign spokesman said that it was a sad commentary on security maintenance that the police had not prosecuted the killers of the Government House Photographer and a PDP Ward Leader in Oweikorogha, Mr. Taribi Seidougha.
He urged the Commissioner of Police to speak out on the curious release of attempted murder suspects barely 12 hours after their arrest.

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Rivers PDP Denies Sponsoring Anti-Amaechi Protest

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Rivers state chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has dismissed claims that it was supporting a planned protest against the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, saying it would benefit nothing from such exercise.
PDP State Publicity Secretary, Darlington Orji who made the denial while speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt on Monday was reacting to accusations by a group, the Initiative for Transparent Strategy and Good Leadership, which alleged that N300million was released to three Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) to carry out the said protest.
Recall that President General of the Initiative, Chizi Enyi, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who made the allegation in Port Harcourt, alleging that the protest would be staged in Abuja, the nation’s seat of power.
Enyi further alleged that the protest which will take place in the coming days was being sponsored by the Rivers State PDP in collaboration with the Senator Magnus Abe faction of the APC with the aim of expelling Amaechi from the APC.
But speaking to The Tide, Orji described the allegation as false and baseless, noting that the Wike led administration had no- plan to support a protest against the former Rivers State Governor.
The State PDP spokesman further said the PDP was desirous of a viable oppositions in Rivers, noting that the said group is being sponsored by Mr. Amaechi himself.
“That group is being sponsored by Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. PDP will lose nothing if APC comes together in Rivers State. We will even appreciate it more to put the government on check as a formidable opposition.
“Rivers State is PDP and PDP is Rivers State. PDP will have no interest or benefit nothing from putting people together, putting resources of about N300 million as being alleged together to go and sponsor protest against a man that has already lost touch with his political party and people of Rivers state.
“My advice to the public is for them to disregard such malicious rumour that is being sponsored by a group of individuals who are maybe seeking for relevance,” Orji stated.

 

Dennis Naku

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