Senator Uche Ekwunife

Nigerian politicians are widely known for such incessant defections. This brings home the question of whether Nigerian politicians actually hold, close to their heart, party ideologies. The way Nigerian politicians defect from one party to another speaks volume of how party politics has been ridiculed in Nigeria. Today, we see members of a democratic or labour party preaching the ideals of a progressive party.

On January 8, 2016, Senator Uche Ekwunife officially announced on both her Twitter and Facebook pages her defection to the ruling party All Progressives Party (APC). In the post titled “Why I Joined the APC”, published on her official blog, Mrs Ekwunife stated the reason she’s defected to APC. The reason was centred on the unpreparedness of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to conduct state congresses and primaries in which the party’s candidate for the forthcoming rerun election for the Anambra Central Senatorial seat would be produced.

In the blog, Mrs Ekwunife was quoted as saying: “Even after these minor setbacks, I advised PDP to conduct primaries in other to produce a candidate who will fly the party’s flag in the oncoming repeat election, but since then, nothing meaningful has been done as they are busy creating more confusion in the party. A confusion which will lead the party nowhere.”

In December 2015, the Court of Appeal in Enugu, presided over by Justice Datijo Yahaya, had nullified the election that produced Mrs Ekwunife as the Senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District. The decision of the presiding judge, Justice Datijo Yahaya, was on the ground that the election did not meet the requirement of the Electoral Act, particularly regarding her nomination in the PDP’s primaries. The court had also ordered a fresh election within 90 days.

The outcome of the March 28, 2015 National Assembly elections chagrined many Anambrarians. Prior to the elections, all the political calculi and permutations revealed that Anambrarians were massively in support of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the former president, to run for a second term. But while showing their solidarity to the former president, Anambrarians were mindful of the call of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, to support all the candidates of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) at the National Assembly elections. During the political campaigns, Governor Willie Obiano loudly made clear the position of APGA in relation to the support for Goodluck Jonathan.

It puzzled many people how PDP, a party that has been an underdog since 1999 in the state, could muscle such an influence and popularity to win all the seats in the National Assembly elections, while APGA, a ruling party, collapsed politically in such an aberrant way that it could not win even in the homestead of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano and the party’s former national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.

As the analyses during and after the elections showed, although the majority of Anambrarians revealed loudly the sound of their support for the APGA candidates vying for seats at the National Assembly by voting largely for them, it appeared that the support of the Anambra electorate on which APGA candidates prided were snatched by some PDP-led group, who were allegedly executing the scripts that were handed down from Aso Rock.

While some reports have described the National Assembly elections in Anambra as electoral fraud, other reports have shown that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lent a helping hand to the alleged electoral fraud. It puzzled many people how PDP, a party that has been an underdog since 1999 in the state, could muscle such an influence and popularity to win all the seats in the National Assembly elections, while APGA, a ruling party, collapsed politically in such an aberrant way that it could not win even in the homestead of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano and the party’s former national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.

From all indications, it was obvious that APGA sowed the seed of its waterloo in the 2015 National Assembly elections in Anambra State. The way the party bandied its support for Goodluck Jonathan was worrisome. From the party’s position, the co-option of the former president was inviolable. Undoubtedly, that position provided the fertile ground on which PDP foot soldiers in the state executed their takeover plans, even more in a brazen way.

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Mrs Ekwunife appears to have a knack with changing political parties, hence her political tendencies tend to reflect her desperation to hold political office. Thus, it will be hard not to see those tendencies as political prostitution.

However, since INEC announced the Anambra National Assembly results, the candidate for the Anambra Central Senatorial District under APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, never let up in the legal battle challenging the validity of the election result upon which INEC declared Mrs Ekwunife the winner of the poll. Although, his commendable doggedness led to the nullification of the election and call for a rerun, however, he is now faced with an intensified battle with his rival, Mrs Ekwunife, who is hell-bent on defeating him. The defection of Mrs Ekwunife to the ruling party, APC, mirrors that determination to defeat Chief Victor Umeh.

With the events that are unfolding in Anambra State as the election rerun approaches, there are critical issues that need to be examined closely, particularly within the context of Nigeria’s growing democracy.

First, Mrs Ekwunife appears to have a knack with changing political parties, hence her political tendencies tend to reflect her desperation to hold political office. Thus, it will be hard not to see those tendencies as political prostitution. Nigerian politicians are widely known for such incessant defections. This brings home the question of whether Nigerian politicians actually hold, close to their heart, party ideologies. The way Nigerian politicians defect from one party to another speaks volume of how party politics has been ridiculed in Nigeria. Today, we see members of a democratic or labour party preaching the ideals of a progressive party.

…it will be interesting to see how the same people of Anambra state who had denounced APC on ethnic grounds will vote massively in favour of such a party.

Second, the ruling party, APC, prides on its widely propagated mantra – change. Nigerians voted for APC with the expectation that things would be done differently from the way PDP used to do things. Since APC took over power at the centre on May 29, 2015, the expectations of Nigerians about the party have increased. No doubt, Mrs Ekwunife may have been accepted into the party, but it is still unclear whether she will be given the party’s senatorial ticket in the forthcoming rerun election. Therefore, this is somewhat a litmus test for APC as a party that preaches change to show that its ideals are really different from that of PDP that we know. If Mrs Ekwunife is eventually granted the APC’s senatorial ticket to contest in the rerun election, it will be very hard for Nigerians and even the world to believe that a progressive party has emerged in Nigeria.

Finally, in the 2015 general elections, the majority of Anambrarians denounced APC as a political party to identify with. In fact, APC was dubbed an Hausa party that propagates nothing, but a northern agenda. Thus, convincing the Anambra electorates to vote for APC was a hard sell. The negative perception of the Anambra electorate about APC was evidenced in the results of the general elections in which APC failed woefully. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the same people of Anambra state who had denounced APC on ethnic grounds will vote massively in favour of such a party.

To conclude, Nigeria’s democracy is still growing; hence it is our collective responsibility to build the kind of democracy we wish to have in Nigeria. As Chip Bell said, “Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom,” I believe that discussing these issues will help to strengthen our democracy. The change which the APC preaches must be reflected in all spheres of the party’s activities, both at the national and state levels.

Chukwuma Okonkwo is @Chuma_47.