24 August 2009

Nigeria: The Parties And Carpet-Crossing


Lagos — The spate of carpet crossing or defection to other parties that has been witnessed in the country in the past few years has become a source of concern to political observers mainly because of the way the benefiting People's Democratic Party (PDP) has handled the matter.

While the latest of such carpet-crossing took place in Imo State where the governor, Ikedi Ohakim, elected on the platform of the People's Progressive Alliance (PPA) has defected to the PDP, the most intriguing was the defection of the Bauchi State governor to the PDP. Mallam Isa Yuguda's defection from the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) on whose platform he had been elected, to the ruling PDP, has set off a chain of reactions in Bauchi state that leaves much to be desired. Interestingly Yuguda's carpet-crossing came shortly after he had married President Yar'Adua's daughter.

Political defections may not be ruled out in a democracy in so far as parties are unable to resolve political wrangling amicably. Yet the curious thing about the spate of defections that we have so far witnessed is that most, if not all of them, are to the benefit of the ruling PDP. It makes it tempting to think that the carpet-crossers are not motivated by irreconcilable ideological differences but instead by pecuniary and rather selfish political considerations. The lure of joining a ruling party with all the material benefits and political protection that go with it may have become irresistible. We may be wrong, but in all the defections so far reported, we are yet to hear any of the defecting politicians justify their action on grounds of ideology.

The danger in this tendency is that it bodes ill for virile opposition. What makes every democracy tick is the virility of the opposition-its ability to keep the ruling party on its toes. Where the opposition is weakened and indeed swallowed up by the ruling party, the likelihood of a one-party state may not be far-fetched. This in turn comes with all manner of dangers, including political intolerance and tyranny as appears to be happening in Bauchi state where Yuguda's deputy who had refused to defect with him to the PDP was hurriedly impeached.

Whatever may be the real reason for Mallam Mohammed Gadi's impeachment, Nigerians get the impression that all of that became an issue only because he would not join his boss in the PDP. Of course, the Bauchi legislators couldn't expect Nigerians to take them seriously. If they knew of the so-called impeachable offences by Gadi, what prevented them from acting much earlier than they did? Their hypocrisy and crass opportunism expose them to ridicule.

The action of the Bauchi legislators smacks of political intolerance and bigotry and poses a serious threat to the growth of multi-party democracy.

A slide into a one-party state may seem unlikely in a country like ours but then nothing must be taken for granted. If we are to get to a point where other parties merely exist in name, it is as good as being already in a one-party dispensation. The development in Bauchi state ought therefore to be of concern to all lovers of democracy. Politicians must weigh the consequences of their actions. While there may be reasons for defection occasionally, such a move must be well grounded. Those who defect merely for pecuniary reasons must be told that there is more to politics than materialism. The ruling PDP should also realise that the nation has nothing to gain by being turned into a one-party state. Let a million voices babble and let the people choose which voice to hear and which to ignore. That is the essence of democracy.

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