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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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INEC Fixes February 26 For Six By-Elections

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed the conduct of six outstanding constituencies’ by-elections in four States for February 26.
The commission announced this in a statement issued by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee Festus Okoye, on Friday evening in Abuja.
Mr Okoye said that the decision was taken at the INEC regular weekly meeting held on Thursday and an extra-ordinary meeting of Friday, where issues that led to the vacancies and the rescheduling of some of the elections, as well as the security situation in some of the states, were discussed.
He said that the decision followed the declaration of vacancies by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the speakers of some state Houses of Assembly.
The vacancies according to Mr Okoye are Akure North/Akure South Federal Constituency, Ondo State; Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency, Plateau and Pankshin South State Constituency, Plateau.
Others are Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Cross River; Akpabuyo State Constituency, Cross River and Ngor-Okpala State Constituency, Imo.
Mr Okoye said that the by-elections would hold on February 26 immediately after the FCT Area Council elections.
“This will enable the commission to clear most of the by-elections, focus on the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections and ongoing preparations for the 2023 general election,” Mr Okoye said.
The national commissioner said that some of the vacancies arose as a result of the death of the previous occupants; substantial disruption of the electoral process and fulfilment of constitutional and legal requirements in the electoral process.
He said that INEC had decided to combine the Ekiti East 1 State Constituency election with the governorship election in Ekiti, which would hold on June 18.
Mr Okoye also said that the commission was consulting with security agencies and the critical stakeholders relating to the vacancy in Shinkafi State Constituency of Zamfara.
He added that the Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly had not declared a vacancy in relation to Giwa State Constituency of Kaduna State.
Mr Okoye said that the official notification for the elections would be published on January 24.
“Political Parties shall conduct their primaries, including resolution of disputes arising from the primaries, between Jan. 26 and Feb. 5,” he said.
He added that the last day for submission of the list of nominated candidates is on February 9 at 6 p.m. and that must be done through the commission’s online nomination portal.
“Political parties shall submit the names of their polling agents for the election to the electoral officer of the local government on or before Feb. 12 and campaigns by political parties shall stop on Feb. 24.
“The access code for the nomination forms shall be available for collection from Feb. 5 at the commission’s headquarters,” he explained.
He advised parties to comply with INEC timelines and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in conducting transparent and valid direct or indirect primaries.
He warned that any party that presents a candidate who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in the constitution and the Electoral Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500,000.
Mr Okoye said that INEC at the meetings also reviewed its preparations for the area council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) holding on February 12.
He said that INEC was finalising all arrangements for the election.
He appealed to citizens who applied for fresh registration as well as transfers and replacement of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to immediately collect them and avoid a last-minute rush for those cards.
He said that PVC for all new registrants as well as requests for transfers and replacement of damaged cards had been printed and were available in all the six area councils of FCT for collection.

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Ex-Chief Judge Declares For Presidency

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A former Chief Judge of Anambra State, Professor Peter Nnanna Umeadi, has announced his intention to contest the office of President of Nigeria on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
Umeadi in his declaration speech pledged to administer Nigeria with firmness and fairness and reposition the country to the path of progress, harmony and prosperity.
He announced this in a  statement addressed to the National Chairman of APGA, Ozonkpu Victor Oye and issued on Friday.
The APGA chieftain also said that he would initiate genuine reconciliation across the length and breadth of the country, if elected the President.
He said, “the governing class, that is men and women who find themselves entrusted with the power to govern should learn to remove their personal interest from the picture.
“Governance should be seen for what it is, holding forth for the masses of Nigerian citizens, showing that the natural and human resources of our richly endowed country would be applied to and for the benefit of the greatest number of our citizens.
“I say that Nigeria could only be repositioned from within. We all need to roll up our sleeves and go to work in all facets of our national life and we should be able to reposition Nigeria in 4 years from 2023”.
He pledged to usher in patriotism, collective reconstruction of the nation’s economy, upliftment of all segments of the society, promoting probity, accountability and dedication in public and private lives.
Umeadi said having served under the government of former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi as Chief Judge for three years and same position under the incumbent Governor, Willie Obiano for five years, he has the capacity, sense of history, humility and self-effacement to reconcile and weld ethnic groups together.
He assured that his efforts would be geared towards a Nigeria where justice would reign for all citizens equally, irrespective of tribe or status.
“We should arrive for a sound education, affordable health care, food on the table, security of lives and property and people’s ability to achieve their life ambitions in a setting presenting a level playing field and predetermined standards.
“Nigeria requires change which only good leadership could provide. We need to change the way we think so we could change the way we do things. If I get the ticket of APGA then we stand a good chance to win the presidential election in 2023”, he added.

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PGF-DG Fumes Over APC National Convention

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Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), SalihuLukman, has again slammed the Governor. Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for making excuses as to why it cannot conduct its national convention as scheduled until certain conditions are met.
Citing media reports which alleged that the convention could be shifted to June, Lukman, in a statement, yesterday, picked holes in the CECPC’s statement that it would conduct the convention after addressing some critical issues.
He faulted claims that the CECPC was waiting for APC governors to decide on convention date, and lamented that failure to conduct the convention was hurting the party’s preparation for the 2023 general polls.
He said: “Shortly following the news of the alleged postponement, the Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe issued a statement of rebuttal, calling on the general public to ‘completely disregard fake news on the reported suspension of the planned National Convention’.
“The statement further informed the public that the CECPC ‘is already embarking on consultations with party stakeholders to prepare the ground for a rancour-free National Convention.’ Sadly, the statement, like previous ones from the CECPC didn’t announce any date and venue for the National Convention. Very disappointingly, the statement said ‘sub-committee on budgeting and other substructures will be set up in due course.’
“This is a slap on the faces of Nigerians and an insult on party members. How can a statement from ‘a focus-driven, process-oriented political party’, make such a scandalous statement allegedly assuring that a convention is scheduled to hold in February without indicating the date and venue for the convention? If subcommittees, whether for budget or anything are to be set up, to perhaps mobilise funds for the convention, why are they not set up with just about two weeks to the end of January?” he queried.
According to Lukman, it is now somehow difficult not to conclude that the CECPC is intentionally promoting speculations around the APC National Convention by claiming to embark on ‘consultations with party stakeholders to prepare the ground for a rancour-free National Convention.’
He recalled that on November 22, 2021, the Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) AbubakarAtikuBagudu led a delegation, which includes the CECPC Chairman, Mai Mala Buni, to President MuhammaduBuhari to finalise consultations on the date of the Convention. Immediately after the meeting with President Buhari, Bagudu announced the agreement reached with President Buhari to the effect that the Convention would hold in February 2022.
“With such an agreement, the responsibility of the CECPC is to go ahead and start organising the Convention. Almost two months after, the CECPC has not issued any notice of the Convention to anyone. Not even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which by the provision of the Electoral Act as amended is required to be given at least 21 days’ notice.
“It is very difficult not to conclude that both the Chairman and all members of the CECPC have no respect for President Buhari, which is responsible for why they are doing everything possible to sabotage decisions validly taken to hold the APC National Convention in February after consultation with the President.
“For whatever reasons, it would appear that the leadership of CECPC are enjoying all the public speculations maligning Governors and some other senior leaders of the party as working to stop the APC National Convention from holding in February 2022.
“This is most unfortunate. The truth must be told, the responsibility of organising the February 2022 APC National Convention rests squarely with the CECPC.
“At this point, it will be necessary to remind all members of the CECPC and by extension, all leaders of APC that part of the reasons that made it very necessary to dissolve the  AdamsOshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) was the disrespect for leaders and members of the party, especially by Oshiomhole, the former National Chairman of the party. It was on record that during the tenure of Oshiomhole as National Chairman, the recommendations of party leaders and members were hardly considered.
“The CECPC leadership has returned the party back to the mode of open disrespect for any recommendation given. It is even worse now given that the CECPC is ready to sacrifice the future of the party. Clearly, what is steering us in the face is that all the bad leadership record under Oshiomhole-led NWC is about to be met and outstripped by the present CECPC.
“However, the first challenge now is to ensure that the CECPC has no option but to organise the APC National Convention in February 2022 as decided based on all the consultations that have taken place. The CECPC must be told that all consultations about organising the Convention ended with the meeting with President Buhari on November 22, 2021, and therefore the CECPC leadership should stop lying to Nigerians and APC members.
“The CECPC should also stop claiming that it is waiting for the meeting of Progressive Governors before it takes all the necessary decisions to commence the process of organising the Convention. Such a claim is not only dishonest but also taking the support of Progressive Governors for granted, which is why Progressive Governors have been reduced to punching bags of all party members regarding all the challenges facing the party.
“Largely on account of delaying the implementation of decisions to organise the February APC National Convention, there is hardly any internal party preparation for the 2023 electoral contest beyond individual leaders declaring their personal aspirations for offices.
“Without any prejudice to the aspirations of leaders, it is important that the party is able to set some minimum standards for the 2023 campaigns so that individual aspirants can orient their internal party mobilisation around those minimum standards. APC must not make the mistake of orientating its internal party mobilisation for the emergence of candidates for 2023 elections, especially Presidential Candidate only based on personality contest”.

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