Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cross Carpeting and Nigeria's Mercantile Politics

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) apparatchiks are masters of political chicanery. When Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, PDP Chairman said the party will rule Nigeria for 60 years, many political observers thought it was a joke. In less than a year after making the statement, the party has shown that it meant business. PDP by fair or foul means had won virtually every court ordered re-run elections at whatever level except the senatorial re-run in Plateau State between Senator Gogwin Satti formerly of Action Congress and Ibrahim Mantu of PDP. There had been six gubernatorial re-run elections in Kogi, Sokoto, Bayelsa, Cross River, Adamawa and Ekiti States; PDP ‘won’all. The party lost Edo and Ondo States gubernatorial seats to AC and Labour Party respectively through judicial verdict. In order to make up for the loss, the Party decided to poach from the rank of other political parties. The poaching which was cloaked in the apparel of reconciliation has yielded bountiful reward for the party. In the last one year or thereabout, three governors and many of their supporters had so far dumped the parties that brought them to power for PDP. They are Governors Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara State, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State who decamped to PDP on July 25, 2009.
Cross carpeting portends a grave danger to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. It is a negative political culture which should not be encouraged. There are currently 54 registered political parties in Nigeria even though 50 of them participated in the controversial 2007 general elections. Of the fifty, only five of the parties viz. PDP, ANPP, AC, PPA and Labour Party won at least a gubernatorial seat; that is if we discounted APGA gubernatorial seat in Anambra where the court has pronounced that the seat was not vacant in 2007. Out of the 36 gubernatorial seats, by PDP’s poaching machination, it now controls 29 states having reduced ANPP’s initial five gubernatorial seat to three and PPA’s two to one after the defection of Ohakim. PDP’s cross carpeting business can be likened to two Biblical stories: King David and Uriah over Bathsheba where David with many wifes decided to take Uriah’s only wife. It is also akin to King Ahab’s coveting of Naboth’s vineyard when he already has more than enough.
What PDP has done to ANPP and PPA is tantamount to backstabbing or betrayal. How can a well-meaning and a democratic party be poaching from other parties with which it has formed Government of National Unity? Unfortunately, due to selfish interest of these other political parties, instead of pulling out of the GNU, they are just blowing hot air and issuing empty threat. It is a good thing that ANPP has dragged Zamfara Governor to court, however, this should have been preceeded by coming out of the unholy alliance with PDP at least for symbolic reason.
Senator Gogwin Satti who recently defected from AC to PDP had said that there is no morality in politics. True! Afterall, John F. Kennedy had said that in politics there is no permanent friends or enemy but permanent interest. However, Nigeria’s multi-party system will continue to be stifled as long as the ruling party continues to send moles to other political parties to destabilise them in order to give justification for their selfish act of political decamping. Also if the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Governor Rotimi Amaechi versus INEC and PDP is anything to go by, when people vote at elections in Nigeria, they are voting for the party and not the individual candidate. That was why Governor Amaechi who was not PDP candidate in the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial election in Rivers State was able to vicariously benefit from the election because the votes were for PDP and not its candidates. The import of that on the issue of political decamping is that the mandate given by the people to a party cannot be transfered by the candidate to another party. At best the party who won at the poll should be allowed to nominate another candidate to fill the seat of the decampee or at worse the post should be declared vacant and a by-election conducted. In as much as past and present decampees are allowed to keep their mandate, many more of such will continue to happen.
Morally speaking, it is most disheartening and unfortunate that the same President who sent an electoral reform bill seeking to prohibit cross carpeting to the National Assembly is also the one going to personally welcome political prostitutes to his party. This does not show that the president believe his own electoral reform initiatives. What President Yar’Adua is overtly or covertly encouraging is one of Mahatma Ghandi’s seven deadly sins which is politics without principles.
Abraham Lincoln in a speech to Illinois Legislature in 1837 said “Politicians are a set of men who have interests aside from the interest of the people and who; to say the most of them are taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men”. This exactly is what all these decampee politicians have shown: personal aggrandisement, dishonesty and lack of political principle. All these alignments and re-alignments are geared towards the 2011 elections. Whither peoples interest?