Nigeria: Party Switching – Loyalty in Shreds

September 14, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

EPA photo

 

By

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

 

 

Nigeria more than ever before has been hit by a gale of political party defections. Even the most experienced political pundits have been caught slightly off-balance; buttons of political parties, like a sleeveless shirt, are being done or undone at will; supporters are being whipped, like tree branches in the wind, from one political party to another; and newspaper headlines are lurching back and forth all in an attempt to hew a befitting visage for the forthcoming 2019 general elections.

 

Political party defection or what one academic, called ‘political nomadism” (politics without principle) is not something new in Nigeria’s political scenario. It had been practiced since the First Republic in 1951, when about twenty out of forty-two of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) lawmakers defected to the Action Congress (AC) – the decision that was seen by many as an attempt to topple a perceived Igbo dominance then, going by the assertion that the defectors were mainly Yoruba and the purpose was to forcefully turn the pendulum of politics against the late Nnamdi Azikiwe from becoming the premier of the western region.

 

What seemed like a wind of change sneaked to the Second Republic. Having recorded victory and setting some political parties in disarray, it crept into the Third Republic. In 1979, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, the former governor of Kano State, won the State governorship election on the platform of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), decamping to the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in 1982 – a decision that probably botched his second term bid in 1983.

 

With all these in mind, political party defection had never looked as terrifying as it does today. The two leading political parties: All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been disfigured. Erstwhile party members have either left or new faces have arrived at both camps. It may not be a capital sin if one chooses to say: self-aggrandizement, like a table tennis bat, tossing politicians back and forth on the sloppy table of Nigeria’s democracy. Everything is in a perpetual game of sway.

 

Although one can fault the claim that political party switching is aided by politicians’ views to align with changing political circumstances in the country, or to avoid political suffocation, threats or a ditch dug by their political opponents, many politicians seem to be singing the same song of ‘lack of internal democracy” or injustice meted out against them by their fellow, probably more powerful, party members as the main reason for their switching to other political parties.

 

Even though efforts are being made to place the political parties on the right track, have lack of internal democracy and effective functioning of political parties not been the major challenges democracy is facing in Africa? Hardly will someone find an absolute intra-party democracy in action in almost all the major political parties.

 

There is no denying the fact that there have been a few cases of party switching on the part of the world therefrom the leaf of democracy was borrowed. For example, party switching in the United States of America, from where the presidential system was borrowed, is not as disturbing as it is obtainable in Nigeria. In fact, very few partisan public figures in Nigeria can attain the unblemished political reputation of the former United States Senator, John McCain.

 

If we were to view the major political actors and their power tussles in this country’s polity through the binoculars of theory of a post-colonial state, we cannot help viewing some of the actors’ sway, if not all of them, as a class struggle for selfish end. For instance, recent defections made by some political heavyweights in the country is an indication that no antagonist group will, self-destructively, consume itself in a futile struggle over control of the mantle of leadership of a political party the group has renounced, but unfortunately passing judgment on who has crossed the red line in this political vendetta or who has not is not the subject matter of this piece; apprising the reader of negative implications it may bring is the topic.

 

To be frank, even that slim margin that draws a divide between the two major political parties: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) has been blurred by the dust raised by the gale of these incessant party defections. The tight border that demarcates one party from the other has been replaced with a porous border that makes penetration an easy task.

 

However, if political parties have the role of bringing people together to assume the control of government affairs of a state that are classified into political institutions; and in return political institutions exert a strong influence on the economy of a nation as they can enhance or mar it, the current democratic dispensation is, consciously or otherwise, lessening the political institutions by rendering the political parties impotent.

 

But an important gap that is left unfilled by even the most pedantic political pundits is what these shameless party defections will amount to in the future, considering the heavy-footed horse the country is riding on at the moment and the bottle-neck called the 2019 general elections it must pass through.

 

Many people seem unperturbed by how long-time friendships, kindred and associations are being done apart by party switching hinged on self-interest. Age old political marriages, metaphorically, are breaking down, friends have metamorphosed into foes and foes are converting into friends. One cannot tell who has a sincerity of purpose and who is employing the “doctrine of necessity” to save his face. Only one thing is bright and lively: “the end justifies the means”.

 

In reality it looks normal; one can even argue it is nothing but a “war of attrition” to weaken one’s political opponents or at best render them incapacitated; but beneath this ignoble surface is a heinous political indoctrination that spews out beyond the corridor of power and recesses of political institutions into the channels of lifestyle of, especially, most Nigerian youth. They will definitely borrow the idea and apply it in future; they will shake off loyalty and trust and replace them with self-serving motives.

 

So unusual that the most topical issue today is party switching. Newspapers are sold like hot cakes; and you see a gathering after gathering straining their ears to listen to formal declarations by one political giant or another; and there comes the final cheering “all hail Mr. Decamper”.

 

Covertly, what the scenario is teaching the younger generation is to be a faithful friend or partner, a strenuous effort or a long walk to attending success. One needs a decoy, subterfuge or trick to dupe and maneuver his way; and to take an honorable path by being a loyal member of an organization, party or society one belongs to is literally to becloud one’s star or lead oneself to doom. And it is apparent there is no incentive for being loyal.

 

Managers, bosses or leaders will use their subordinates, deceptively, as stepping-tones to attend their desired destinations; and, probably, apprentices, employees or followers will develop tricky ways to ensure their superiors’ downfall so as to hit a target, however good their masters treat them.

 

If things continue the way they are, loyalty and trust will soon be things of the past, as if never said or employed before, and treachery, distrust will take their places, as the current political dispensation is effortlessly forging the way.

 

Ultimately, these cases of party defections will show the world that, perhaps, we are  not serious and infidelity is our trademark. Do you think serious investors will be attracted to come to our country to invest their hard-earned fortune if we are not trustworthy, loyal and honest to our fellow countrymen?

 

 

 

 

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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