Politics

Politics Without Ideology

By Kenneth Jude

 

If there were any vestiges of doubts that our politics is bereft of ideology, not to say philosophy, the recent fire brigade defections in Imo State laid such doubts to rest.

While it has become a seemingly entrenched tradition for politicians to switch parties at the snap of the finger in this clime, the ones witnessed in Eastern Heartland recently left a sour taste in the mouth given the swiftness with which those concerned cross carpeted to the APC.

Given what is obtainable in this part of the world, keen observers had predicted that many politicians would ordinarily defect following the earthshaking Supreme Court judgment that removed Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party as governor and handed over the keys to Douglas House to Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress.

One had expected legislators – again – given that we are in Nigeria – to jump ship by pitching tent with the new ruling party in the state at least after some months or thereabouts. But in a manner defying rhyme, sense or reason, few days after Uzodinma was sworn in as governor, the unprecedented defections followed suit like a torrential downpour.

On Tuesday January 21, Deputy Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Mr Okey Onyekanma, resigned. He also resigned as chairman of the House Committee on Rules. He has yet to move to the APC as was widely expected. His next plan is unknown according to those who should know. It was gathered that Onyekanma resigned because he knew that if he stayed on, he would still be removed as Deputy Speaker since his boss, the Speaker, had already concluded plans of defecting. Onyekanma’s refusal to move immediately to the APC, a close source said, is because of how his party, PDP, stood by him during his quest to become the Deputy Speaker. The battle to the seat was so intense that the house was divided into two camps. Yet with the unflagging support of his party, he emerged victorious. So, he feels he’ll betray his party if he joins the frenzied wave of defections. It remains to be seen how much his loyalty to the PDP will last especially given that most of his party members have defected to the APC.

But away from Okey Onyekanma’s seeming refusal to join the moving train, nine other members who belonged to different political parties of Action Alliance (AA), PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) defected to the APC same day.

The defectors were, Chyna Iwuanyanwu (Nwangele LGA, PDP); Innocent Egwim (Ideato North LGA, AA), Chidem Emelumba (Okigwe LGA, PDP); Obinna Okwara (Nkwerre LGA, AA) and Paul Emeziem Onuimo LGA, APGA).

Others are Ekene Nnodumele (Orsu LGA, APGA); Duru Johnson (Ideato South LGA, AA); SN Obiefule (Isu LGA, AA); Herculus Okoro (Ohaji-Egbema LGA, PDP).

So, just after a week of being declared governor, the APC which, until the Supreme Court ruling, had no single member in the House of Assembly, bolstered its ranks exponentially, thereby making it a classical case of one week wonder in Imo State.

Not a few people were startled by the defections considering the speed with which everything happened. So, barely nine months on the saddle as governor within which time everything revolved around and with him, Emeka Ihedioha, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, saw his party men, including perceived loyalists, desert him and the party within a twinkle of an eye.

At any rate, it shows the thin line between friends and foes, the sheer inelasticity of it and the perplexing lack of ideology that defines our politics here. So, it means that those who flew the flag of PDP, lifted it aloft at every fora with glee, hollered “PDPeeee” wherever they went only did so as long as their bread remained buttered. It shows they neither loved nor believed in the ethos and ideals of the PDP. Did I hear you ask if PDP has any ideals or ethos?

So, those who moved to the Supreme-Court-declared-ruling party in the state were only members of the PDP because the governor at the time was a member of the PDP hence they had no choice – whether they believed in the party’s ideology (if there’s any) or not. It’s a case of seeking safety and refuge where one can find it. The essence is to benefit from the big cake when it is shared and not giving a true representation driven by the desire to uplift the lives of the constituents who voted for them and make laws that positively addres their yearnings.

What we have are food is ready politicians who think not of what is beneficial to the generality of the people but their own pockets and survival. So, people join parties not because they are in love with the mission and vision of those parties, but because they are the party in power. When the beat changes, they swiftly, without shame, join the party that is in charge of the knife and yam.

As if the resignation of the Imo State Deputy Speaker and nine others who spirited themselves to the APC was not enough, Eddy Obinna, the lawmaker representing Aboh Mbaise – ex-governor Ihedioha’s home town – in a move that left political analysts befuddled, joined six other lawmakers, including the Speaker, Collins Chiji, in defecting to the APC.

In a session that lasted 15 minutes on January 21, Speaker Collins Chiji, formerly of the PDP, announced his defection and those of other six members to the ruling party in the state.

Those who switched to the APC include, Uche Ogbuagu (Ikeduru), Dominic Ezerioha (Oru West); Kanayo Onyemaechi (Owerri West); Kennedy Ibe (Obowo) Onyemaechi Njoku (Ihitte/Uboma); Eddy Obinna (Aboh Mbaise) and the Majority Leader, Chigozie Nwaneri, representing Oru East State Constituency.

The defections, including that of Uju Onwudiwe, formally of the Action Alliance (AA), who won the last rerun election in the state, brought to 22 the number of APC lawmakers in the 27-member House with the APC who hitherto had no member in the legislature, now has the clear majority in the space of two weeks of political gymnastics in Imo State.

Others yet to jump on the APC ship, it was learnt, are only biding their time, and will soon align in no distant time.


These hurried defections, it should be noted, came on the heels of the resignation of the state PDP chairman, Mr. Charles Ezekwem who, in a letter dated January 25, 2020, said he has abdicated his seat as the state’s PDP chairman.

He said his decision was based on the prevailing circumstances in his party. Though he didn’t explain what he meant by “circumstances” in his party”, analysts opine that he must have left to pitch tent with the All Progressives Congress.

According to Ezekwem: “Given the prevailing circumstances within my party, vis-a-vis my present standing as the state chairman of the PDP, and after due consultations with my family and with the approval of my supporters, I hereby tender my resignation as state chairman of PDP.

“I thank the teeming population of Imo State PDP who thoughtfully elected me as their state chairman.

“I sincerely regret the inconveniences the party faced. I thank the party for the support they gave me and the opportunity to serve in that capacity.”

While he has yet to announce his next line of action following his resignation as PDP chairman, whisperes from the state indicate that he is perfecting plans to join the ruling APC. A source who preferred not to be mentioned, said Ezekwem will join the APC at the appropriate time.

The defection of members of the PDP to the APC in such a short time has baffled commentators and keen watchers of the nation’s political space. To many, the defections are shameful and portray the average Nigerian politician as only being desperate for power hence pays no heed to the ideological core of political parties, but only where he can be guaranteed of victory and good space to participate in the sharing of the so-called national cake.

PDP slams defected lawmakers

 


Incensed by the action of its lawmakers, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has threatened to go to court to ensure that lawmakers who left the party for APC are made to lose their seats.

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said the defectors risked their seats because there was no premise upon which they left as there was no faction or crisis in the PDP.

The party described such action as unpatriotic and an unpardonable betrayal of the people of their respective constituencies who chose and identified with the ideal and visions of the PDP as the platform for their representation at the state assembly.

The party added that the defectors showed lack of character, failure of leadership capacity in moments of challenges and absence of faith to stand with the people in their most trying moment.

According to him, “We will challenge it in court . We have a right under the 1999 Constitution to ensure that the oath of office sworn into by these lawmakers in the Imo State House of Assembly is respected and that is what we are working on. That is what we are demanding. They should follow what the law said.

“We are reiterating our call on INEC to begin the process of the election into those constituencies in Imo State that those lawmakers have defected. There is no division in the PDP in Imo State to give the defected lawmakers constitutional leeway. Our party is united in Imo State and we are unassailable. If they defect, their seats are automatically vacant.

“All we are asking is for them to respect the law. It is for INEC to perform its responsibility. Where they fail to do , we will do the needful. You know what the law said . We will challenge it.”

What the law says about defection

According to Section 68 (1) of the 1999 Constitution:
“A member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – (g) 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; provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”

But opposing views have also pointed to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Atiku versus the Federal Government, in which the former VP challenged the powers of the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to remove him from office.

In that case, the apex court had pronounced that a sitting VP could be in any political party different from that of his principal, a decision that infuriated the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who warned that the court was setting a very dangerous precedent.

Whatever arguments may be advanced by the lawmakers as reasons for their defections, one thing that is certain is that there was no crisis in the PDP in Imo State that warranted their defection at the time they did. Other than what many have described as defections propelled by selfish desires, fingers remain crossed on what will become their fate if the leadership of the party decides to pursue the case in court.

While the gale of defections in Imo State has continued to dominate political discourse within and outside the state, the question some political pundits are asking is: what if the Supreme Court reviews their ruling and it favours Emeka Ihedioha, will the lawmakers do a somersault and return to the PDP? Only time and tide will decide it all.

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