It is now one week, one defection in the House of Representatives. Hardly does a week pass now without one of the lawmakers, particularly those elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), crossing over to the ruling APC. In some weeks, you even have more than one lawmaker dumping the Umbrella for the Broom. At the last count, no fewer than 12 PDP lawmakers have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the floor of the House. And I am aware of another four, who have left the opposition party in their respective states, but are yet to muster the courage to announce it on the floor.
Each time, they defect, the lawmakers use a non-existent crisis in the opposition party as an alibi. The excuses for the defections, not withstanding, the truth is that the concerned are crossing over to the ruling party to safeguard their political career. It is about political survival.
Expectedly, such defections are usually characterised by drama with the PDP caucus protesting, and threatening to go to court to get the defecting member to vacate his seat in the parliament. But as Fela would say” all na shakara.”
It even appears that the PDP caucus is even tired of doing their “shakara”, during the defections. All the members of the party in the House do these days, when any of their members joins the ruling party is explain that there is no crisis in the opposition party. In the run-up to the 2019 general elections, Nigerians should expect to see more defections on the floor; not from the PDP, but also from the ruling party and other smaller parties. With release of the time table for the next general election by the electoral umpire, the political transfer season has kicked off in earnest. For football enthusiasts, the transfer season is a very exciting time. Once the transfer windows are opened, you see players criss-crossing from club to another.
In the process, clubs sometime lose their most valued players to their rivals. It is both a happy and agonising period for lovers of the round leather game. So it will be for political parties and political enthusiasts. I have nothing against lawmakers jumping from one political party to another; afterall, it is their democratic right. But the truth is that these lawmakers jumping about, do it with utter disdain for the electorates.
Often times, the lawmakers in justifying their action, lie that their constituents want them to defect, even when they have lost touch with their bases. My wish is that the constituents would take note of these lies against them and do the needful in 2019.
…Day ‘minority’ had their way
In this era of change, nothing is certain anymore. Something very unusual happened on the floor of the House of Representatives last week Tuesday. It is a common saying that in a democracy the minority would always have a say, while the majority would have its way. Also, it is not unusual for members of the opposition PDP caucus in the House of Representatives to stage a walk out from the parliament to protest any issue they feel strongly about. However, this order of things were reversed last week Tuesday at the Committee of the Whole, during the consideration of the committee report on a bill to further amend the 2010 Electoral Act. Everything was going smoothly, until Hon Kingsley Chinda, a PDP legislator from Rivers State, moved a motion proposing the inclusion of a new clause to section 25 of the principal act in the Electoral Act. The new clause stipulates that the National Assembly election would come first, followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly election; while the presidential election would come last.
This is against the existing order, where presidential election precedes other elections. In fact, a few weeks ago, the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) apparently keeping to tradition, announced the date for the 2019 polls; fixing the presidential/National Assembly elections first and governorship and state houses of assembly election last. After the motion was seconded, the Deputy Speaker, Hon Yussuf Lasun, who chaired the Committee of the Whole, subjected it to voice vote amidst protestation by the Chief Whip, Hon.Alhassan Doguwa. Shortly after the House okayed the change in the order of elections, the aggreived APC members walked out in anger, with Doguwa as the first to leave. He was followed by others.
While walking out, one of the APC legislators, Hon.Yusuf Bala told the deputy speaker”. You are making a PDP law.” As some of the APC lawmakers walked out, the PDP caucus sat back, alongside few other APC members to continue the exercise. Basking in the euphoria of their success, the opposition party lawmakers kept proposing one amendment after another. At the end of the day only 35 out of the 360 members of the Green Chamber amended the 2010 Electoral Act.
For the opposition party, which has been traumatised recently by the endless defection of its members to the ruling APC, it has something to celebrate in a long time. What happened on the floor of the House is instructive. From the outcome of the consideration of the report on the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act, it was clear that while the PDP lawmakers came for the sitting prepared, same cannot be said of their APC counterparts. It is indeed a very big lesson to both the individual lawmaker and the various caucuses in the House.
One lesson members of the House must learn from the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act, is that the Committee of the Whole where reports are considered is very crucial in the lawmaking. And that any lawmaker that absents himself from the consideration does so at his peril. Talking about the alteration of the order of elections in the country, there is no doubt that both lawmakers who protested against the new clause and those who championed it, acted out of selfish consideration. However, I strongly believe, it is a very good development for our democracy.
And like members of the political class would say when a contentious matter is resolved in their favour, it is also a “ victory for democracy”.
Ordinarily, in advanced democracies, there is nothing special about which elections comes first and which comes last. But not in Nigeria, where we play politics with everything.
Since the inception of the present democratic dispensation, every political party in power always wants the presidential election to come first so that it can be easy for it to win the other elections. Usually, when a particular political party wins the presidential election, they capitalise on the victory to blackmail the electorates into voting for their candidates in the other elections, so they can be part of government at the centre.
The new clause in the electoral act which provides for the presidential election to come last, would eliminate the bandwagon effect, which.obviously is not in the interest of the generality of the electorates.