It is needless to say that defection has become a sort of ideology in Nigerian politics. Shortly before an election year, we are hit with the familiar drama that signifies a clear absence of vision among our politicians. We see them moving like cows from one grazing field to the other, in search of fodder for themselves and their families.
Selfishness is the main reason our politicians change parties. It is no longer selfless service to the nation. They are interested in where, when and how to feather their nests. It is all about how to increase the chances of remaining in a position of power, if possible, for life. Whoever has seen a former Nigerian Governor, Senate or any other gainfully employed in anything else and doing well? Most of the time, they are still scheming to regain office, one way or another, because nothing pays like political power in Nigeria.
It is avarice that has made our politics a deadly game of intrigue and deception. Our politicians want power at all cost. That is why defection is sought to keep one in power or close to it.
One year ago, it was politicians from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) jumping over to the All Progressives People’s Congress (APC). But the shoe is now on the other foot. Over 50 APC members are bouncing back to their former den just to increase their chances of being in power. The motivation is purely “self” – there is no vision, mission or principle and, of course, no ideology.
What is the difference between the APC and the PDP, one may ask? The difference between them can be said to be simply the difference between President Buhari and former President Jonathan. One is in power and one is out. There is no ideological difference between the two parties, as far as Nigeria’s politics is concerned.
Can you ask the same question about the United States President Donald Trump and his predecessor President Barrack Obama? Can anyone ask the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats? Back home in African, we all know what African National Congress (ANC) stands for compared to other political parties in South Africa. We all know how President Jacob Zuma was kicked out when he began to go against the party principles.
There seems to be something foundationally wrong with Nigerian parties. That is why our politicians can go to bed in PDP and wake up in the morning as APC members, and still be proud of themselves.
Political analysts have observed that lack of political ideology and vision in the formation of most political parties are responsible for the incessant cross-carpeting. They have identified the fact that the constitution is weak and unclear in the issue of defection. Our parties are built on individuals when they should be built on strong ideology and principles.
Political watchers have also suggested an amendment to the provisions of the law relating to recall of elected officials who abandon their party midstream into their term. This gives the electorates power to sign a petition for the vacation of the office of the defector on the grounds that the defecting politician can no longer enjoy their support.
It is because the constitution is vague on defection that politicians manipulate it. In strong democracies, political parties are like religion, politicians stick to their belief all through life. Even when people are forced by circumstances to vote out their own party, they do not abandon it. They stay and rebuild the party to its original greatness.
Unless our political parties and politicians are driven by visible, strong and convincing ideology, this window dressing and carpet crossing will continue.