I have watched with amusement the hollow rituals of “comic tragedy” or tragicomedy, which the defection of politicians from one political party to another typifies. The polity has witnessed, in recent times, movements by some politicians who were, doubtless, respected leaders of their people up until their sudden volte-face and gravitation to other political parties, characteristically for obvious reasons.
Anytime I see them on television or read about them in the print media announcing, with glee, their decision to jump ship because they have suddenly realised how bad their original party has been and how disciplined and forward-looking their newfound party is, they cut a pathetic picture to the sight and create a sardonic impression in the mind.
What they, perhaps, know but which they do not give a heck about is that they do not enjoy the respect of well-meaning Nigerians, including, most of the times, their followers, especially those of them who can hold their own without the usual compromising handouts from “the lords of the manors.” This dimension reinforces the age-long subjugating notion of stomach infrastructure, which has, only recently, been so elegantly described and tagged in the aftermath of the 2014 Ekiti governorship election that swept Ayodele Fayose into power.
Nevertheless, political leaders’ movements have characteristically thrown up the loyalty question. As supposed leaders, they have failed the critical test of loyalty by wavering in their commitment to the party on which platform they have been voted into elective offices. Rather than consistently and persistently inspire confidence in their followers, they have disconcerted them, dealing a strong blow to their pristine sense of conservative attachment to the party.
It thus becomes crystal clear that the followership that has remained unwavering in its support is, indeed, the nucleus of the tribe of enthusiastic and enchanted party faithful, not the opportunistic political elites who, always wanting to be politically correct, lack the discipline to promote and embrace any well-defined ideological standpoint, which the followership can relate with or approximate under their tutelage. Like a reed, they are tossed about by the winds of political considerations and correctness.
Whenever a political leader decides to defect, he is always propelled by selfish interest. He is either battling for survival or groveling for relevance, hence the instinct and wisdom to strategically reposition. He rationalises his decision and couches his action in elegant dictions- that is, if he is gifted with the oratorical power. Sans the power of oration, he deploys the allurement of lucre, thus taking advantage of the followers’ poverty to further degrade their sensibilities.
But then, the people are wont to see through the chicanery of political leadership in a background that is traditionally conservative; which brings me to the conquistador’s temperament that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is exhibiting in the southeast zone, apparently in defiance of the affection the people have had for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999. The zone is a traditional PDP enclave. It may, therefore, be pretty difficult to suddenly shear the people of the sentimental affection they have for the party.
Even in Imo state where there is an APC government in place, the PDP’s presence is pervasive and the structure on ground is, arguably, formidable. The party’s potential to dislodge the APC has always been there. But for the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, which saw the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, defeat President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP’s whirlwind would have swept Governor Rochas Okorocha of the APC out of office and, thus, truncated his second term bid.
The bandwagon effects of Buhari’s victory, in addition to the deployment of necessary stratagems, ensured that Okorocha survived the onslaught by the PDP candidate, Emeka Ihedioha. That tension-soaked electoral contestation, perhaps, explains the strategic move by Okorocha and the APC to begin the process of dismantling the PDP stronghold in the southeast from Owerri, with the recent conclave during which some political juggernauts and business moguls, who were hitherto associated with the PDP, defected to the APC. It is needless to mention here the dramatis personae at the Owerri circus. They are all facts of recent history.
The Owerri outing represents, in the main, Rochas’s bragging rights and APC’s gambit to appropriate the southeast zone, reposition it and guide it on a trajectory that is northward ahead of the 2019 general elections. Whereas, movements of some PDP leaders to the APC in the northern part do not have the potential to upset any conventional arrangement due to the localization and reduction of presidential power politics within the context of northern ownership, such movements, against the backdrop of Rochas-APC initiative, become tendentious for the same reason that underscores southern Nigeria’s quest for the big prize.
The inter-party movements, sans ideological footings and justifications, continue to stimulate fears and create tension in the polity, especially now that the political map is being tinkered with and redrawn ahead of 2019. There are gainers and there are losers in quantitative terms. But the greatest beneficiary of the on-going circus of defections has been the governing APC and this is understandable. There has been a change of baton and the party has become the new power base. Not anymore the PDP. That is the way the cookie crumbles.
For the PDP leaders, especially those holding elective offices, that have already jumped ship, such act of abandoning the party on whose platform they won election, has only exposed their weak points as spineless politicians whose god is, perhaps, their bellies. They really do not care about what the rest of us think of them. For them, the end justifies the means, which is surviving the intriguing world of cloak-and- dagger politics. Therefore, they attach little importance to the leadership-followership system that underpins interactions in the context of political party administration on the basis of essential ideologies.
Whereas, they are supposed to provide unwavering leadership, they have become the exact opposite of that assumption. They have deliberately failed the test of faithfulness to their parties and what they stand for. The followers, on the other hand, are left to relate with the culture of leadership infidelity that cumulatively leads to atrophy of the party spirit.
To be sure, defection is not a new reality. It has been on, for the sake of this treatise, and restrictively speaking, since the advent of this Fourth Republic. The PDP had once benefitted from it. It is not malapropos that it is losing to it. What goes round comes round. Since none of the parties can lay claim to any guiding ideology, they may be somewhat excused, but the individual politicians are inexcusable. To define their individuality, they should dare to be different by standing for something so that they do not fall for everything.
A few of them have remained unwavering in their commitment to their political platforms since 1999, not changing parties even in defeat as has now been typified by the PDP. But what rankles, as its former Board of Trustees chair, Chief Tony Anenih, recently confessed, is that those who have defected to the APC were those who benefitted so much from the PDP.
They have acted smart, so it seems, by using and dumping the party in dishonest circus and manifest political duplicity; but, then, they have created an impression of themselves in the minds of their new landlords who will deal with them wisely, considering the fact that they are rangers in quest for insular political return. This is, indeed, unconscionable and sad.