Uncommon Defector in Common Defection – By Edo Ukpong
NIGERIA – We all complain (mostly justifiably) about the failings of the political class in working purposefully together to provide dividends of good governance to a disenchanted citizenry. Whereas they have failed woefully in the discharge of their primary responsibility, they have kept us tuned in to an overdose of constant drama of varied plots, themes and actors. In fact, even a common undertaking like a road trip from Abuja to Lokoja, is dramatized by a detour featuring a senator clambering up an iroko tree and only climbing down after eleven hours, only to turn back rather than complete the journey. The drama is also not short on irony or perhaps hypocrisy. The common sense senator, well dressed in immaculate white at 6 am (despite going for battle) and who has stridently accused the President of oppressive tendencies, was on record directing foreign embassies to revoke visas, close businesses and undertake all manner of oppressive actions against his newly declared enemies and all without any process. I shudder to imagine such a senator as a governor talk less of Commander in Chief of our dear Federal Republic of Nigeria!
The present genre of drama is the defections saga. Politicians leaving one party to another ought not to be surprising or monumental because the parties are but mere platforms for the attainment of personal ambitions. Whether or not the ambitions include service to the people is another issue but there is nothing inherently wrong in ambition and hence nothing inherently wrong in the common act of defections (legal issues aside). What I found interesting in the drama is a whole Senate President’s defection, being uncommonly overshadowed by the defection of a common minority leader, Senator Akpabio who has become the lead star in the defections drama.
Drama aside, Nigerians who love our dear country should be happy with the chaos that the defections will cause the major parties. Defections are really infections! Typically, when a body is infected, it weakens from disease and only gets better when the good cells in the body overcome the diseased/bad cells. Upon recovery, the owner of the body enjoys good health and functions optimally. The political parties are like bodies whilst, the owner can be said to be, we the people! Here is what I mean and let us take the Senate for example. Hitherto, that body operated as a joint enterprise, bound together by the common articulation and protection of self-interests and assured only by institutional cohesion. That is why that body, dealt swiftly albeit undemocratically by suspending any member, who threatened its united front. The defection saga has evidently melted away the glue that held the body together. With senators polarised and openly accusing each other of all manner of infractions, the centre can no longer hold. From research in the field of criminology, evidence abounds that the conspirators turning against each other solve most crimes. We the people should therefore be happy because in the event that the cohesiveness of the senate was really a conspiracy against the overall interests of the Nigerian people, breaking that conspiracy should give fillip to much needed remediation.
The way our politicians carry on, sometimes shows a clear loss of perspective. We are slowly redefining right and wrong and dangerously blurring the lines between good and bad. I believe the Vice President when he says that the struggle among the political class in our society is that between good and bad. I also believe that the defections saga will help define the struggle. Here is why I so believe. I listened to the daily morning program on Channels TV just after Senator Akpabio defected to the APC. My senior colleague and a man of admirable intellect, Mr Assam Assam, SAN was a guest on the program to speak on the defection. What struck me was his revelation that the EFCC were investigating former Governor Akpabio’s presumed looting of Akwa Ibom state, and that it was Governor Udom Emmanuel who scuttled the investigation process by amongst other actions instituting a court case to block the investigation! How crazy is that revelation! Therefore, we have a governor who puts an individual’s interest above that of the state he is privileged to govern. In line with a prediction I made in an article published shortly after the 2015 elections we should not be surprised. Senator Akpabio foisted Governor Udom Emmanuel on the people of Akwa Ibom through a rigged process that had no bearing to a democratic election. Therefore, as is to be expected, Governor Udom Emmanuel owes his loyalty to Senator Akpabio and not to the people of Akwa Ibom state who cannot be said to have elected him to office. Going back to my earlier postulation, but for the chaos occasioned by the infection saga, all these sordid stuff would have remained hidden! and the exciting aspect for us, the drama just started and we will even get to see behind the curtains! Of that you can be assured, it is the way things play out when the cookie crumbles.
In the case of my dear state, I am not a fan of Senator Akpabio and score his performance as a governor low on an aggregate of all indices of good governance. It is a thing of painful regret that Governor Udom Emmanuel scores even lower! The state is in need of serious and focused leadership to deliver dividends of democracy to its long-suffering people. The process of choosing our next governor must involve the people so that we the people are in a position to demand accountability from whomever we elect to serve us. If Senator Akpabio’s defection will infect the chances of the incumbent, so be it! After all, he appointed the governor and it is right that he disappoints him! Nelson Mandela posited that there is a difference between moral justice and political justice. A negative outcome for Governor Udom Emmanuel’s second term ambition but which reflects the will of we the people, will in my view be morally and politically justified.
In closing let me appeal most fervently to my fellow citizens to wake up and shape the outcome of the present atmosphere of trade and confusion for our common good. We must assert our authority over the politicians and now that they are in disarray is our best chance. Rather than get carried away with enjoying the drama, we must be focused on making our votes count by chasing away those whose ugly nakedness will be exposed.
The space created will be filled by politicians who will be forewarned, that we the people will henceforth dictate the plot and any actor not following our script will not have a role. We have missed previous opportunities, for example when President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku were dancing naked in the public square. We enjoyed the dance and failed to change the music. This time we must change the music so that the politicians dance to our own tune!
Legal Practitioner and Facilitator, Ibom Kiet Movement.