MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
I may not be wrong to assume that a good number of Nigerian politicians who have sought or are seeking elective offices particularly in this Fourth Republic lack the scruples of ideal change agents a developing country like Nigeria needs in the corridors of power. I crave to live with such assumption in the face of the obvious impunity with which Sections 68 (g) and 109(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) have been treated.
Section 68 (g) clearly states that “a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.”
Similarly, Section 109 (g) states that “a member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.”
Interestingly, these Sections of the Constitution have been there since 1999 when the Constitution became operational at the dawn of this Fourth Republic, yet our politicians and even the judiciary that ought to interpret these constitutional provisions have carried on as if there are no such provisions to check the excesses of unscrupulous politicians who get elected into one legislative house or the other but suddenly defect or cross carpet to another party with no constitutionally reasonable cause.
The Constitution aptly stipulates that any elected member of the National Assembly or State House of Assembly who defects from the party on which platform he or she was elected to another party, automatically loses his or her seat.
The question here is: how many National Assembly or State Assembly members who defected from one political party to the other since 1999 till date have lost their seats? The answer is none. Cases abound of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members at the National Assembly and States Assembly who decamped from the party to All Progressive Congress (APC) and vice versa at one time or the other as convenient to them irrespective of breaching the aforementioned sections of the constitution.
Matters became worse between 2015 to 2023 when the APC leadership particularly (at some point) under the Chairmanship of former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole shamelessly encouraged corrupt PDP politicians especially governors to decamp to APC so that their “sins” of corrupt enrichment would be forgiven.
It was exactly so without recourse to the provisions of the Constitution. People like the current Senate President, Godswill Akpabio leveraged on such impunity to defect from PDP under which he ruled Akwa Ibom States for eight years to APC so as to evade prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) over corruption charges against him.
It was such irresponsible politics of defection that characterised the Eight and Nineth Assembly such that someone could be a PDP legislator in the morning and suddenly become an APC lawmaker in the evening of same day.
Many Nigerian politicians have over the years allowed their stomach to dictate where they pitch their tent at any particular time. Their actions are never inspired by any known plausible ideology. We have many of them and they know themselves. Their brazen display of unguided tendencies towards defecting from one political party to the other, became ignobly noticed as their sojourn within PDP and APC over the years clearly reveals.
Same goes for many other politicians whose conduct clearly reveals an underlining deficiency or emptiness in political ideology. Political science scholars would largely agree with me that Nigeria’s political system is bereft of any known universal ideology.
The two main political parties (PDP and APC) which have been in governance in the past two decades can at best be described as parties which ‘ideologies’ are majorly hinged on primitive accumulation. Many members of the two parties holding elective positions or appointment at one time or the other, have shown evidence of being in a race to outsmart themselves in primitive accumulation.
One needs to emphasize the fact that the only available ideology from the two parties is the ideology of how to corruptly enrich themselves, their families and supporters. Very many members of the two parties cannot in all sincerity stand to advance any progressive ideology that lacks any element of graft.
Any doubting Thomas of this assertion can carefully visit EFCC and ask for files of former governors, senators and ministers etc whose cases have been reported there. Such cases would have become open books if not for the weakness of our public institutions (like the same EFCC itself, judiciary etc) which became weak and dysfunctional, courtesy of Nigerian politicians in the corridors of power.
A typical example is the recent revelation by Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa who represented Bauchi North in the 9th Senate on how he prevailed on his wife Zainab Bulkachuwa while she was serving as President, Court of Appeal to give favorable judgement to his colleagues in the Senate who had cases in her Court, irrespective of whether or not they deserved such judicial favour. Such revelation has helped us to understand more, the regime of impunity and corruption in our public institutions particularly the judiciary.
This is one of the reasons it has become quite convenient for political decampees to move to wherever power shifts to, irrespective of whether they are doing the right or wrong thing because judiciary is weak to checkmate those who abuse the law.
Such tendency is already manifesting in the current dispensation. It is about to play out in the House of Representatives where a newly inaugurated member of the Labour Party has taken time to commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and even went extra steps to call on his party’s Presidential Candidate Peter Obi to withdraw his case from the Presidential Election Tribunal.
If I may ask, what moral justification does the House of Reps member elected on the platform of Labour Party have to ask his Presidential candidate whose mandate is believably stolen, to withdraw his case, if such a Labour Party representative is not clearing the way for his eventual defection to APC because the party is already in power.
Time has come for political parties particularly Labour Party to tighten its belt very well to ensure that any of its elected members either at the National Assembly or State Assembly who cross carpets to any other party must lose his sit. The party must strengthen its legal department and engage the services of vibrant constitutional lawyers who would readily drag any such decampee to court and ensure he loses his seat.
Members of other political parties in the National Assembly or State Assemblies with tendency to unreasonably decamp to any other party should stand the risk of losing their seats also.
The judiciary must free itself from the ignoble position those holding executive and legislative powers have subjected it to, over the years. Judges should be able to interpret the Constitution without fear or favour and be ready at all times to uphold the sanctity of the judiciary which is the last hope Nigeria has.
Judges should not become rubber stamp in the hands of law makers and members of the executive because of the gratification they expect to get from those who want to pervert justice from corridors of power.
Let the judges know that their negative actions or inactions would count against them and their families for any breach they knowingly endorse in the temple of justice.