October 10, (THEWILL) – The outcry by members of the ruling All Progressives Congress nationwide against the admission of defectors to the party should serve as a hard lesson to its leadership.
For a party that commendably gained power barely a few months after it was formed, expanding its frontiers through a membership drive, as it did during a recently conducted membership revalidation and registration exercise, is to be expected. This move is as legitimate as it is political in an emerging democracy like Nigeria’s.
As agents of mobilisation, education and aggregation of the people’s views and interests for resolution at the centre of power, political parties are almost synonymous with membership or followership. This calls for a symbiotic relationship mediated through congresses, party primaries and an orderly membership drive.
Even so, it is important for political parties to have a clear, unambiguous mission and vision statement that inspires and captivates their members and abide by it in words and deeds. The by-product of maintaining this relationship is the multiplier effect it has in society. As societies are organised and run hierarchically, a disciplined party with competent and confident leadersship running its various organs inevitably bequeaths society with values, especially democratic ethos, that inspire patriotism and self-effort.
It is debatable, however, whether current Nigerian political parties meet these traditional criteria of political parties. A pointer to that submission is the ease with which members of rival parties move from one party to the other without any qualm. This is a reflection of the absence of any form of belief in even their mission and vision statements so elaborately painted in their party manifestoes and the unwillingness or inability to fulfill their campaign promises, however vague.
It got so bad that the House of Representatives has entertained a member’s proposal to amend the relevant section of the Constitution, whereby defectors would have to step down if they defect from the political party on whose platform they were elected, to another. The bill, sponsored by Rimande Kwewum from Taraba State, seeks to amend Sections 144 (1) and 189 (1) of the Constitution, “to check incidents of defections, that is, cross-carpeting or abandoning the political party that sponsored a President, Vice President, governor or deputy, as the case may be, from another political party, in the absence of a merger of political parties, divisions or factions within the sponsoring political party.”
This may sound harsh for proponents of fundamental human rights, but a cavalier attitude has no leadership or administrative capacity to lead or govern and should therefore be excused from the public space. If we are serious about building a democratic political culture, that is the way to go.
But will the party obey even if a learned judge decides? Up till now parties do not audit accounts and submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission as prescribed by the Constitution. Depending on whose party controls the National Assembly, its leadership will always welcome defectors into their fold, even when there is no conflict or crisis to instigate the defection.
That is the bane of modern Nigeria.
So when the APC embarked on a mission to woo members from the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there was no moral guide supporting their drive. Quantity rather than quality was in demand. The irony of the matter was even lost on its leadership.
Since he assumed office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has blamed the PDP for all the evils that have bedeviled this country, alluding to this sad past as the reason why his administration has not been able to speedily deliver on the change it promised Nigerians who voted massively for the APC. Yet for the past one year, the leadership of the party has targeted no other party members among the 18 political parties in the country except those of the opposition PDP.
Currently three governors, Dave Umahi, Ben Ayade and Bello Matawalle of Ebonyi, Cross River and Zamfara States, respectively, have defected from the PDP to the APC alongside four senators, 27 representatives and other party chieftains, with such media blitz that clearly show that a prized trophy had been won. What is even worse is that the head of that perceived baleful PDP administration, President Goodluck Jonathan, is now being wooed as a beautiful bride to change the sagging fortunes of the party that has inflicted insecurity, poverty and economic downturn on the country, a sad reversal of the very agenda it promised Nigerians.
The leaders of the APC ought to know that their failure to stick to the beautifully captured promises in their manifesto on restructuring, industrialisation, anti-corruption, security and economic development and growth, is the source of the woes Nigerians are harvesting with pain and sorrow on many fronts today. The party’s leadership should listen to its members who have called into question the recent defections to their fold.
The members have spoken for the rest of the country on how not to run a party with all its dynamic prospects for the progress, patriotism and development of the country, 61 years after independence.