EDITORIAL: Defection Waves & The 2023 Reality Check

EDITORIAL: Defection Waves & The 2023 Reality Check
  • . . .the decision before Nigerians is a pre-emptive one; one that will prevent the next #EndSARS protest rather than necessitate it.

The phenomenon of political defection is by no means new in Nigeria’s increasingly dramatic political arena. Since the advent of civilian rule in the country, it has become par for the course to find Nigerian politicians jump ship and pitch their tents elsewhere, sometimes in even territories that once stood an opposition of “irreconcilable contradistinctions.”

Prior to the 2019 general elections, Nigeria’s political space witnessed perhaps the most boisterous wave of defections in history. Political bigwigs from the major leagues, the People’s Democratic Party and the All Progressives (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) decussated each other on the highway of their individual political aspirations. A return to the PDP by a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar represented the seismic shift during this particular season of political anomy.

As seismic a shift this was, Nigerians were not particularly fazed since no dispensation of its political leaders ever held themselves to the highest standards. It was a normal thing to be expected. Nigerians had already resigned to the reality that the political class, bereft of character nor resolve, were merely opportunistic strumpets who could be easily swayed by the currents of the day provided the expected political clout at the end of this tap-dance was guaranteed.

Two years on, and the narrative has maintained a straight trajectory. One of ten news reports will characteristically border on a political defection by this lawmaker or that commissioner; and, despite Nigerians’ natural disposition of not being surprised at this brazen display of shamelessness, certain defections in recent memory have further questioned the very last piece of mettle one may have thought was left in the political class.

In December 2020, Governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. Dave Umahi sent shockwaves to the entire spectrum of Nigeria’s Southeast after he announced his defection to the All Progressives Congress, citing “injustice” meted out to the South-east by the PDP as the ostensible reason behind the decision to dump the People’s Democratic Party.

Mr Umahi further said he had decided to become the “sacrificial lamb” that would be crucified for the interest and good of the South-east as a zone.

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Five months later, after several years of warming the fence with procrastination, Governor Ben Ayade finally took the plunge and decamped from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). According to him, his defection was borne out of the desire to support President Muhammadu Buhari to steer the country aright and also align Cross River State with the centre. His Zamfara counterpart, Mohammed Bello Matawalle, who employed similar tactics, was rather reticent on his own putative reason for cross-carpeting.

On Thursday, September 16, 2021, social media was abuzz once again following the defection of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode to the All Progressives Congress. The former PDP stalwart, despite his political inactivity in recent years had found a way to keep his name afloat with his frequent social media tirades and political commentaries, most of which were scathing attacks at the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The buzz surrounding the announcement of FFK’s defection was, aptly put “palpably understandable.” After hurling endless rants and vitriols and even preferring death rather than join the APC, Nigerians were taken aback with the news a man who was fundamentally opposed to the ideologies and persuasions of the ruling party had joined a rival organisation.

The former PDP chieftain, infamous for uncouth verbal bullying when caught in the crosshairs of public or media opprobrium, in classic style resorted what he knows how to do best, firing scathing shots at all those who dared to question his obvious political opportunism, including insulting a Channels TV reporter for asking him an innocuous question.

But Fani-Kayode as an individual is not Nigeria’s problem. He is however, a spoke in a vicious wheel that once again served a sharp reality to Nigerians who have been left without a choice but to inure themselves to an acute hardship engendered by an inept government that has floundered and flunked fundamentally in all aspects of governance; and with a new consciousness calling for better governance in recent memory, the recent waves of political defection should serve just the right inkling to Nigerians vis-a-vis the crucial decision that lies before them come 2023.

In October 2020, Nigeria’s social fabric experienced its first epochal revolution in a generation. Nigerians, worn out to frazzle by the unspeakable horrors of police brutality, came together; Muslims, Christians, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw, Urhobo, Itsekiri, in protest of the brutality and extra-judicial proclivities of the defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS). Nigerians had come to the maturity and realisation that they would no longer accept this brutality as the law of their lives. It was a fight which did not come without casualties, but culminated in a moral victory for the masses and demonstrated what we could accomplish as a people if we stand together united.

But SARS, with all its transgressions against the Nigerian populace, was merely a parasite emblematic of a larger menace; being bad governance. Hence, the protest, in many respects was a metaphor representing not only the rogue police unit but the entire machinery of governance that has plunged the country light years behind human civilisation.

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It would be useful to recall that FFK, during the #EndSARS protest had taken sides with the masses, excoriating the government at every turn for gross human rights violations during the protest. Of course, now that he no longer stands in the congregation but the podium, the caged bird will sing with a fearful thrill, but will no longer have perfidious politicians like FFK to fan the flames of its music.

In the end, the decision before Nigerians is a pre-emptive one; one that will prevent the next #EndSARS protest rather than necessitate it. If 2023 has to be a turning point, then Nigerians will need to rally against a common enemy by refusing to take the crucial decision on the pangs of hunger and then revert to demand their birthright, just like Esau of old.

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