By most accounts, the defection of political heavyweights from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, shortly after the March 28 presidential election, was somewhat dramatic and unexpected.
The mass exodus of the politicians from the ruling party to the APC was as a result of the defeat of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan by retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Analysts, however, argue that the action has once again raised certain questions about the morality of Nigerian politicians, saying that the politicians are flexible and without any guiding principle of ideology.
The list of defections appears endless and it includes even the foundation members of the PDP, a party that has ruled the country for 16 uninterrupted years.
Chief Olusola Oke, a chieftain of PDP in Ondo State and former Legal Adviser of the party, tried to explain the rationale behind the mass defection of PDP members to the APC after the March 28 presidential election.
Oke, who also defected to APC after the polls, said that the wind of change blowing in the country led him and his supporters to defect to the APC.
He said that his determination to join the APC was borne out of his determination to contribute his quota to the wind of change blowing across the country.
Oke, however, emphasised that he did not defect to the APC because President Jonathan lost his re-election bid, adding that his action was informed by his interest in the development of Ondo State.
“I have passionately resisted being part of this change, I resisted to the wind of change that was blowing until it almost blew me out. Now, I have surrendered, I can resist no more.
“I have come over not because PDP lost the election but I have come over because the wind of change blowing across Nigeria must also blow over Ondo State.
“We have come to add value. We are not here to change anything but to add value to APC,” he added.
Mr. Chibudom Nwuche, a former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives and a founding member of the PDP, also gave reasons why he quit the party.
He stated inter alia in a letter he addressed to the PDP chairman:
“I had watched with dismay the party’s descent into cabalism and god-fatherism, as certain individuals became practical owners of the party’s structures and ensured that many persons with capacity and integrity had no opportunity to serve and remained shut out of governance.”
Nwuche said that his decision to quit the party was made a long time ago, adding that it was, however, delayed in order to allow the conclusion of the presidential election.
In spite of the reasons adduced for the defections, Prof Jonah Onuoha of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, attributed the “prostitution” of Nigerian politicians to the absence of strong political party ideologies that made politicians to impulsively defect to a winning party.
Onuoha, who is the Head of the Department of Political Science at UNN, said that since the parties lacked ideologies, their members were materialistic, shortsighted and could easily defect to other parties whenever their parties failed to win elections, especially at the centre.
“It is unfortunate that politicians in the country are materialistic, short-sighted and they do not know how to build an ideology that will strengthen the party and make it stand the test of time.
“Some politicians from PDP after the outcome of the March 28 presidential poll are defecting to APC, not necessarily because they liked APC, but because they want to get one appointment or the other.
“As a political scientist, I know both PDP and APC lacked strong political party ideology that can sustain members whenever the party loses an election,” he said.
He said that political party terrain of the country had been built on a one-party system, noting that since 1999, PDP had been dominating, adding, “Now that APC is taking over, the party will, perhaps, dominate the system for 10 years or more.”
“In countries where democracy has gained ground, parties have strong ideologies that help party members to remain steadfast even when the party loses election.
“I know Nigeria’s democracy will one day get to that point when members will have faith in a party because of the ideology of the party,” he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Yakubu Ibrahim, a social commentator, stressed that most Nigerian politicians could not survive without government contracts.
He said that since the Nigerian economy was largely based on oil, the beneficiaries of oil contracts must necessarily align themselves to the government in power at the federal level.
Ibrahim also noted that Nigerian political parties did not have distinct ideologies, adding that the situation had somewhat compelled politicians to “just go wherever it is happening”.
However, Prof. Yemi Akinseye, a legal practitioner, warned the leadership of the APC to be wary of the gale of defections to the party, urging it to be cautious in admitting defectors to the party.
Akinseye, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a fellow of Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, made the call recently in Abuja when he addressed newsmen.
He said that the spate of defections to the party was getting worrisome.
According to him, for the APC to protect its ideals and reputation, it should thoroughly scrutinise those it is admitting into its fold.
He said that Nigerians, who voted massively for the APC, would be unhappy if the party failed to deliver on its promises as a result of distractions from defectors.
Akinseye reiterated that the mass defection into APC was not in the interest of democracy in the country.
“We need a strong opposition. If after four years, Nigerians are not happy with the incoming administration, they can opt for another political party,” he said.
He, nonetheless, called on the leadership of the PDP to reorganise the party to form a formidable opposition.
Akinseye underscored the wisdom in developing the culture of two dominant political parties in Nigeria, saying that it would give the electorate ready alternatives, while aiding efforts to stabilise the country’s democracy in a pragmatic way.
Interestingly, Senate President David Mark, one of the emerging casualties of APC’s victory as he will not retain his seat as Senate President, said that he was not contemplating a defection to APC.
Mark, who spoke recently in Abuja at his 67th birthday celebration, also re-affirmed his unshakable loyalty to the PDP.
“I have no reason to jump ship. I will not leave the PDP. I will be the last man standing for the PDP; the party gave me the platform to be where I am today.
“I will stay in the PDP to contribute my quota to the rebuilding and restructuring of the party,” he added.
He said that in a democracy, it was normal for winners to emerge, while losers were expected to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise.
“We, in the PDP have accepted the result in good faith.
“Those drifting to the APC now are fair-weather friends of the PDP; they are seeking new green areas. When the PDP bounces back, they will seek another return to the PDP.
“I believe in the PDP manifesto. I will work hard to bring the party back on track. What is important now is that we have established democracy in Nigeria,” Mark said.
Echoing similar viewpoints, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu also said that he would not defect to the APC in order to retain his position.
Ekweremadu, who spoke to his supporters in Enugu after the outcome of the presidential election, said that he would remain in PDP to rebuild the party.
“I can assure you that on PDP I stand. Count Sen. Ike Ekweremadu out of any defection to the opposition,” he said.
Chief Olisa Metuh, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, said that those, who deserted the party shortly after the party lost the presidential election, were “political gold diggers”.
“It is the view of the party that only lazy people, those who are not committed and dedicated, will decamp one week after losing an election.
“We do not want political gold diggers, they can go to any other party; we need strong and dedicated members that will rebuild our party and win the presidential election.
“The PDP is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that it returns to power in the next four years to save the nation’s democracy and re-channel our vision of a greater Nigeria.” Metuh stressed.
Chief John Oyegun, APC National Chairman, is also worried about the gale of defections to the party, especially by prominent members of the PDP.
Oyegun, who spoke to newsmen recently in Benin, advised those defecting to the APC to rather form a formidable opposition so as to enrich the country’s democracy.
“Many opposition party members have defected to APC just because they lost out; that is not good for the country’s political development.
“One would have advised that opposition members should stay where they are and form a formidable opposition party,” he said.
On his own part, the president-elect, Buhari, told APC members that they had nothing to fear as a result of the gale of defections.
He said that the PDP chieftains would have very little influence in the APC government, assuring APC members that the party had the capacity to manage the growing number of defectors.
Buhari said that the PDP bigwigs would be wise enough not to jostle for positions in the incoming government.
“I hope the people that are defecting will accept the fact that they are joining the people who succeeded.
“So, I don’t think they will just come and say they want to be ministers simply because they were ministers before,” he said.
In spite of the claims by defectors, the real reasons behind the defection are quite obvious. In line with the popular axiom, “success indeed has many friends; no one likes to be associated with failure.”
However, judging from enlightened opinion, the defectors ought to have a rethink, return to their original parties and stimulate the transformation of the parties into strong opposition forces. NAN

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