This development is unhealthy because it is detrimental to competitive politics which is the hallmark and foundation of democracy and good governance
The rate of defections that have trailed the outcome of the Presidential Election held on March 28 which the erstwhile ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost raises the vexed question of a one-party state.
Since the announcement of the results of the election, there has been an exodus of PDP members, including key personalities like former governors, members of the National and state assemblies as well as key officials of the party in virtually all the three tiers of government in the country, into the All Progressives Congress (APC) the winner. The spate of tribunal reversals is also a source of danger.
This development is unhealthy because it is detrimental to competitive politics which is the hallmark and foundation of democracy and good governance. Since 1999 when the country returned to democratic system of government after many years of military dictatorship, the country has had one very dominant political party, that is, the PDP. The party was the political destination for most politicians who wanted to succeed in politics. Every election saw it gaining more members desirous to use its vast support base to achieve their political ambitions.
The party became incurably complacent. In the process, it became so large and amorphous that an implosion which it eventually suffered a few months to the 2015 election became inevitable. The implosion led to the resignation of key members of the party which included several of its governors in one fell swoop.
Unfortunately, the APC, the latest political bride in the country, appears to be heading in that same direction. It is now the destination of choice for those who want to be part of booties that its recent victory in the presidential election will eventually bring unto the table for sharing.
The race to take a vantage seat at that table has become very fierce and alarming and we fear that it is bound to dash the hope and desire of Nigerians for a strong opposition party in the country.
Unless the trend is checked the PDP will become so decimated and weak to the extent that it will not even be in the best of position to play the role of an effective opposition party. That is the reason for our worry. This unfortunate exodus of PDP members into the APC is also a huge indictment on our politicians as people without principles.
The spate and timing of the mass defections only suggest that the only thing that matters to our politicians is access to the proverbial national cake through political patronage which, in our clime, is reserved for active and prominent party members. In this race, commitment to party philosophy and principles and all the other things that the party stands for take the back seat.
Yet we believe that it is unfair to insist that the blame for this trend be borne by the politicians alone. Part of the blame is traceable to the political template we have adopted which makes our elections a ‘winner-takes-all’ game and renders the losers and their political parties not only untouchable but eternally denied. In a country where politics is the full-time job of most politicians, losing an election can be a very big source of desperation and frustration.
The PDP loss, in particular, is bound to translate into huge job losses because of its sheer size and spread. Those jumping ship are obviously scared by the unfortunate and unexpected swing in the fortunes of the party and their potentially telling effect on their socio-economic lives. These fears are not misplaced.
The defections are also not unexpected. What is surprising, however, is that they are becoming almost an exodus. While we believe that the PDP should take urgent and pragmatic steps to re-assure its members that there is a future after its electoral losses, there is also the need for another examination of our political system that places limitless opportunities in the hands of the winning political party and its members and leaves nothing at all to the losing party and its members.
This huge vault of hopelessness that electoral losses leave between the winner and the loser is the reason for the desperation that fuels the malpractices that often characterise our elections and their outcomes. It is also the reason for post election crises that threaten national security and result in losses of innocent lives and destruction to property.
To achieve this change in the system, we suggest that political participation should be made largely a part-time engagement. Apart from the offices of the President of the country, the vice president, state governors and their deputies, all other elective and appointive offices should be held on part-time basis.
These, for emphasis, should include membership of the national and state assemblies, ministerial appointments and membership of the federal and state executive councils.
Remuneration and other forms of compensation for those who hold such offices should also be reviewed in line with their new part-time status. We are aware that this is already part of the report of the National Conference before the government. The new federal administration should make the implementation of this aspect of the report a priority.