Party Defection As A Moral Question By Nasiru Suwaid
When I first heard of the verdict, my first instinctive reaction was assume that probably, it was an April fools prank which came too early but I had to check my digital calendar, that was perpetually stationed by my side and what I discovered was that at the time I got the news, we had not reached the month of highly outlandish but false claims, made to full the legs of anyone gullible enough to be fooled, although, it would be most appropriate to assert we were on its eve. Besides even at that, the news or the breaking news was almost everywhere, as nearly every news outlet was carrying the judgement of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja. In a suit instituted by the People’s Democratic Party, where it sought for the defendant’s to be stripped of the right to effect a leadership change, most confusingly, the judicial action is also against those whom it sought to protect, thus, even though the leadership was also joined in the suit as co-defendants, yet the pleaded appeal was for the court to stop any movement towards any action that deprives them of their leadership position in the National Assembly.
It was the court’s holding that from the 12th to the 53rd defendant, they cannot vote to remove the leadership of the House of Representatives, the judge further pontificated, by saying that the defected legislators have no business being in the national parliament, since they have left the party that brought them into office and should have resigned honorable. It is said, for any statement to have effect, the person making it must have weighted its implication, and most importantly, where it to be by a judge while delivering a judgement, it must have been spoken within the context of the matter in issue and where it is to be pronounced as a judicial verdict, rather than a mere obita dicta, it must be stated with declaratory clarity, in the form of express orders which are issued to pronounce the position of things. In the instance case, the judge merely expressed disappointment that it is immoral for the defection of an elected politician, without such individuals losing their seats but he did not declare their seats vacant.
The fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 had recognized the legality of defection in most elected seats, by the loud silence of its non prohibition in the substantive provisions of the supreme law and even in the case of elected representatives, where it seemingly looked as if defection was barred, it did recognize defection as per Sections 68(1)g and 109(1)g of the epochal national document. The constitution indeed accepts the legal right to defect, insofar as a division had occurred within the political party and not merely in a rebellious group gaining ascendancy as the legally legitimate leadership but in the fact that a structured faction had sought to and effected a breakaway, in which case a division had occurred, even if it did not receive the blessing of majority of membership or even the judicial recognition of the court of law. The mere ‘act’ the creation of a faction and the eventual action of a breakaway from the original group, signifies a reality that no judicial judgement could out law, because, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian 1999 as the supreme guide is very clear about the Fundamental Human Right to Freedom of Association.
One of the most dishonest and need I say ignorant statement ever made, regarding the right of a defection is to confer immorality to it, because, to accept that is to ascribe immorality to our collective ground norm, as the Nigerian constitution, which is a compendium document containing our ethos, values, morals, etiquette and the general understanding of what it entails to be a Nigerian, has recognized defection of an elected politician to another party by the express silence in not outlawing it, most significantly, without requiring the need to resign from the elected seat. Besides, what has made it for a House of Representatives member or a Senator, having smaller territorial constituency to that of the governor or president, to be forced to resign, when constitutionally, either by the weight of powers, functions, responsibilities and relevance, the dual executive offices could be said to be more important than their legislative peers. It is most noteworthy to ponder, if the question is all about morality or the immorality of a defection, why did the constitution not require a division or fractionalization of a political party, for a defection to be legal in executive political offices and demanded of it for legislatives offices.
After discountenancing morality as the sole reason for the barring of political party defection of some elected office holders, it is most right to explore the reason why defection without the need for a division was only outlawed in some particular offices and not others or more specifically, why is was only allowed in the people’s parliament where a division had happened. The most rationally explanation is when it is observed from the purview of the historical perspective and the cross carpeting that occurred in the regional assembly of the Western Region of Nigeria, an event that nearly generated a national crisis and sewed a seed of distrust among the diverse citizens of a newly independent nation. Also is the fact that political differences are more evident in the parliament, usually and by convention, representatives seat, vote and relate by party identification, thus changes in party loyalty tends to be more glaringly evident.
Nasiru writes from nasirusuwaid @gmail.com
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