Commentary: Defection – Challenges Facing Nigerian Political Parties

There is no doubt that in recent years, Nigeria is facing a great political challenge following the spate of defections, decamping and cross-carpeting among political gladiators. It feels very much like Déjà vu. It is disheartening that the country is reeling from gale of defections that might threaten its democratic system.

Political parties are important institutions for developing policies and platforms and providing critical oversight and accountability of government action. Through their elected representatives, political parties implement policies that reflect the ideology of the party. However, it is regrettable that this is not the case in Nigeria. Moving from one political party to another, and even much later, back to the same party, is common and seen as a way of gaining an advantage over other political parties. But it is not!

This is partly because some political parties in Nigeria, tend to lack ideologies. Political parties are driven by personalities as opposed to ideologies. For example, in the United States, political parties are defined by their platforms or manifestoes. So, if a Republican candidate comes knocking at your door, you have a sense of where he or she stands on the current critical issues. That is, unfortunately, not the case in Nigeria.

Emerging political alliances are based mostly on personalities and agreements among political leaders, and do not necessarily reflect differences in policy preference or ideology. Most politicians in Nigeria lack principles or conviction politics. There are opportunistic political maneuverings for the November 6 governorship election and the 2023 general elections.

Remarkably, the Constitution recognizes the importance of a robust party system; hence it accords primacy to political parties in the electoral system, and frowns at frivolous defections. And the Supreme Court has tried to safeguard the party system. But widespread political opportunism makes the constitutional and judicial constraints ineffectual.

Ahead of the elections, the fickleness and fluidity of party affiliations in Nigeria is shamefully been exposed again as politicians shop around for the party that offers them the best chance of actualizing their personal ambitions, rather than general good and benefit of the masses, even when the political parties are intact without rancor. That is, of course, disingenuous.

However, many Nigerian politicians must be taught that party-switching is mainly driven by ideological differences. If, for instance, a party changed from having liberal values to showing strong conservative leanings, a politician may defect because his values are no longer aligned with those of the party. Defections should therefore be driven by ideological differences or political wrangling, not self-interested calculations.

Political parties should not be reduced to political vehicles that politicians use interchangeably to gain power. If you cannot achieve your ambitions in one party or if you are lured with money or position, try the other, is a dangerous political phenomenon. That, of course, is what happens when you have personality-based, rather than value-based, politics. When a party stands for something and people join it because of what it stands for, they won’t dump it simply because they don’t get what they personally want.

Truth, however, is, some political parties in Nigeria are not only intellectually shallow and bereft of ideology, but they are also personalized. They are much like the medieval era “parties”, which were made up of cliques and factions, grouped around particular noblemen, the equivalents of today’s godfathers.

This is however different in APGA. The All Progressives Grand Alliance is made up of progressives, whose common interest is the welfare of the masses. This ideology was handed down to the party by our leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ezigbo Gburugburu, who urged the party faithful to be their brother’s keeper, Onye Aghana Nwanne ya.

 APGA was built on a system that it is based on having strong, value-driven members that offer alternative visions, and thus give citizens real choice. It is such contestability that enhances democratic development. Hence, since APGA took over the mantle of leadership in Anambra, there has been remarkable difference here and there.

Through its welfarist ideology, APGA has consistently paid salaries and pensions as and when due; lifted agriculture from its hitherto dungeon; giving Anambra an International Cargo and Passenger Airport, International Conference Centre, given Anambra an oil status, developed stadia, built flyovers, enhanced education and healthcare facilities, equipped schools, constructed roads and bridges, given succor to the disable community, enhanced the beauty of the state through street lights and other road infrastructure among many others.

All APGA members are therefore urged to toe the part of peace as enunciated by the late Archbishop A. K. Obiefuna. We are tested and trusted. Do not be lured by the vagaries of cash and positions. If APGA cannot take you there, no other party can!


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