MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
(ATLANTIC EDITORIAL ON SUNDAY)
The trending news of Senator Ifeanyi Uba’s defection from the Young People”s Party (YPP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) can predictably be seen as the first of such cross carpeting that would likely occur in this 10th National Assembly.
AtlanticNewsonline strongly holds this belief because from the body language of some of the lawmakers particularly those elected on the platform of Labour Party (LP), it is just a matter of time before more defections are announced on the floor of the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
Constitutionally speaking, cross carpeting is a serious issue that ought to concern both the legislators as a body and the judiciary as a watch dog against constitutional breaches. Regrettably, Nigeria is currently enmeshed in different kinds of constitutional breaches even from the judiciary itself. Herein, lies our dilemma as a country.
Senator Ifeanyi Uba who was initially elected into the Senate under the platform of YPP and got re-elected on the auspice of the same party in the February 25, 2023 elections has given “insurmountable disagreements within YPP” as one of his reasons of defecting to APC.
If we may ask, at what point did the disagreements within the party become insurmountable within the last four months of Uba’s re-election into the Senate by the same YPP? If Uba is a genuine Democrat who believes in the party that has done him well by providing him the platform to actualise his senatorial ambition, would he not have thought it wise to use his exalted position to surmount all those disagreements he called “insurmountable” instead of switching to another party?
AtlanticNewsonline considers his defection as a clear violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. We completely align with the recent position of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in condemning the defection. We also join the CNPP is telling the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio to declare Senator Ifeanyi Uba’s seat vacant because he has violated provisions of the Constitution.
We 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. We 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 in the past.
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 AtlanticNewsonline 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.
We need 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.
The challenge before the Senate President Akpabio now, is to do the needful by declaring Uba’s senatorial seat vacant so that his Anambra South Senatorial District can get a replacement. Akpabio must show himself as a Nigerian who has come to the Senate to make a progressive difference. He must free himself from the general perception that the Senate under his leadership is a RUBBER STAMP one.
He must make Nigerians to believe that Ifeanyi Uba’s defection to APC has nothing to do with the multi-billion naira corruption allegations against him and his company Capital Oil being invested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).