Defection as Political Cancer

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A s the dust raised by the 2015 general election is gradually settling down, it is essential to begin taking stock of certain issues and events that characterised the elections. Since the return of the country to democracy in 1999, no election has generated so much fretfulness and tension like the 2015 elections. Many soothsayers had forecast doomsday for Nigeria. Their prediction had pointed to the disintegration of the country from the expected crisis that will erupt as fallout from the presidential poll. The tension was heightened by the ethno-religious trump cards played by the political class to take advantage of the mindset of the populace to win votes.
The election has now come and gone and it has been adjudged from various quarters to be largely peaceful, even though it is skirmished by pockets of violence and bloodletting in some parts of the country. Winners have emerged in a new trend that is uncommon to our political climate, with losers conceding defeat (for the sake of our national integration) with laudable equanimity! For the first time since 1999, the opposition party has been able to unseat the ruling party and this election has, no doubt, marked a watershed in Nigeria.
However, one particular development thrown up by the election is the gale of defections across some political parties. Even though ?carpet crossing? is not a new or rare practice in Nigerian politics, the rate at which many notable politicians and their throng of followers are decamping from the hitherto ruling party to the newly elected party is alarming and therefore calls for concern. Some of the notable defectors include Ahmed Gulak, former Legal Adviser of the PDP and the party?s candidate in the Ondo State?s 2012 governorship election, Olusola Oke, Deputy Governor of Jigawa State, Ahmad Mahmud, Edo State PDP?s governorship candidate in the November 2012 governorship election, Maj.-Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (rtd.) just eight days after the presidential election.
This development is leading to the depletion of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which should now form the major opposition to the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the dearth of a viable and formidable opposition portends danger for our fledgling democracy. The notion of opposition as an integral feature of our political system must not be conceived to be merely dissenting; it is essential for the sound working of democracy. In every popular government, opposition is not only natural but when conducted on liberal principles, it is highly necessary and useful.
Unless there is a vigilant opposition constantly on the alert and ever watchful of government?s policies and actions, the ruling party would tend to get complacent and tardy or become arbitrary and autocratic. The constant presence of a formidable opposition is an obstacle to despotism. When there are well-informed critics ever ready to expose the wrongs committed by the government and to bring to light its acts of omission and commission, the ruling party can hardly afford to be negligent in the performance of its duty towards the country. The constant tug-of-war between the majority party and the opposition keeps the government on its toes and ensures good governance.
As a country, we should emulate some advanced democracies where the oppositions are galvanised into a formidable force that catalyze good and effective governance. The British Parliament is universally acknowledged as one of the best model for effective opposition in the world. Nearly all the government systems of world democracies including the U.S.A. and Australia are based on this system.
Another outstanding contribution of effective opposition is that it educates the people on political matters and assures active and intelligent participation in public affairs. Lindsay, the well-known American political analyst, says, ?The democratic problem is the control of the organization of power by the common man.? The citizens of a democratic country must be ?thinking men and women?, possessing independent opinions and capable of taking intelligent interest in public affairs. Without education, there can be no intelligent discussion and participation in the processes of governance. Education produces rational human beings, having the power of discriminate between good and bad?.
If we are desirous of strengthening our democracy in order to stimulate good governance that will bring about growth and development, we must begin to ensure the entrenchment of a viable opposition structure in our political arrangement. The time to start that is now!
The PDP may want to borrow a leaf from the APC on how its tenacity and resilience has been a huge factor in wrestling power away from the PDP after sixteen years.
The Nigerian political class must realise the transient nature of power and the most important thing to do is make the best use of it whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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