BUHARI’S GOSPEL OF FAIR PLAY

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Nduka Uzuakpundu writes that the president should be commended for urging aggrieved party members to pursue their rights in the courts 

In this season of defections, it may appear unusual that some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are leaving it for other parties. In Ogun and Kogi States, where a crisis has been brewing in the past three months, a number of APC lawmakers at the National Assembly have decamped to the Allied People’s Movement (APM), and the main opposition party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The other day, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had the onerous – if embarrassing – duty to announce, in the Green Chamber, that one Adekunle Kabir Akinlade from Ogun State had left the APC for the PDP.

On the same date – November 29, 2018 – a member of the House, Kabiru Ajana, from Kogi State, left the APC for the PDP, and Salisu Garba left for the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In Bauchi State, it was reported that four members of the State House of Assembly – alongside the Deputy Speaker, Abdulmumini Fanti had left the APC for the PRP. Of the four, one was a senatorial aspirant and another, a House of Representatives’ material.

The defectors in Bauchi State, for instance, led by an APC member representing Bauchi constituency, Abdullahi Shehu, said they pulled with them some 300,000 APC supporters to the PRP. Their reason was that they were cheated and denied ticket for the 2019 general election.

All this – and quite a handful more, as in Imo State, where Governor Rochas Okorocha’s bizarre and inordinate ambition to foist his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, on the people of the state, as his successor – have tended to question the tidiness of the activities by nomadic and less democratic politicians on the promising fortunes and orderly progress of democracy in the country’s Fourth Republic.

It’s been argued, by some commentators, that, while instances of alleged injustice, purported lack of internal democracy and unsubstantiated streaks of favouritism by some top policymakers of the APC may have fuelled the spate of defections, that, in itself, was not the right – if progressive – option for the aggrieved members of the APC.

But, the flip side of that deposition is that, in theoretical terms, they were adult members of the APC who fanned such obviously fissiparous tendencies, in exercise of their constitutional right of choice of a political party that appealed to them.

Still, such nomadic activities are not, in any way strange to politics in Nigeria, except that, taking place, with some frightening rapidity in some crucial states – Ogun, in the South-West geo-political zone, for instance – on the eve of the 2019 general election, such defectors may well be labelled – almost oppositely – as fifth columnists: a group of individuals, who are bent, for clearly selfish reasons, to eat, rather voraciously, by any means necessary, into the electoral blessings of the APC.

That much – and a lot more – could be said of such APC members, given that their hasty decisions to defect to other parties was informed by their selfish desires or misplaced perception of they being the naturally-anointed members of the party – and so deserving, implicitly, of the party’s ticket for whatever post they intend to contest in the 2019 general election.

It would be recalled that, in Imo State, for instance, the APC’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, pressed the cause of progressive democracy – to uproarious applause – when in the state’s primaries, he rooted against Okorocha’s intention to build a family dynasty. No real and truly transparent democracy, in the 21st century that is desirous of even and fair distribution of power and resources, and sustainable human development can make any good defence for Okorocha’s botched, undemocratic and selfish move.

But while complaints against the manner in which the Oshiomhole-led skippers of the APC conducted some of the state primaries raged, President Muhammadu Buhari overruled Oshiomhole, somewhat diplomatically. The aggrieved members of the APC – those of them who perceived the various state primaries as too flawed to have produced the results transmitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) regarding the winners – Buhari said, had the right to seek redress in the courts.

Buhari should be commended for insisting on due process, transparency, fair play and justice. One of the major criticisms against the parties – across the political terrain – has been the lack of internal democracy. Buhari’s intervention, in sympathy with the aggrieved members of the APC, had a touch of someone with a brimming sense of history: recall that it was for lack of internal democracy, amongst other flaws, that the PDP lost the 2014 election to the APC. It was for the attendant harsh reality of post-elections – of an uncomfortable spell in political Siberia, as it were – that some members of the PDP decamped to the APC.

A call for aggrieved party members to pursue their rights in the courts (especially where such members genuinely feel that they have explored all internal mechanisms for redress) should not create any concerns for the party, if its leadership is confident that it had done the right thing.

Put differently, as Buhari honestly desires unity and cohesion in the APC, his comment was a statesman-like demarche – more of ‘damage control’ – soon after INEC had frowned on the state primaries. It’s a well-calculated master stroke, to steel Buhari as an individual, who is unswerving in sinking the roots of the country’s democracy.

That same comment, this writer believes, was one consistent with Buhari’s informed personal intent to register the promise of “change” from the wrong – if criminal and self-destructive – acts for which the PDP was notorious. It was also a comment, further, that was in tune with the provisions of the constitution. As one commentator said recently, “No Section of the Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution gives power to the NWC of the APC to take away the constitutional right of Nigerians, who are members of the APC to approach any court to address their grievances.”

There are two clear messages from Buhari: the one to the APC’s NWC that a visible majority of its members being beneficiaries of due democratic and legal processes could do a lot less with intra-party high-handedness; the other, that there’s a pressing need for the members of the APC, who have defected to return to the family and explore a legal process to right the alleged injustice done to them.

Both the party leadership and aggrieved members of the APC would do well to heed Buhari’s fatherly advice.

Uzuakpundu, formerly of Daily Times, wrote from Lagos