This piece is intended to be the first instalment in a series that will be looking at how we might address issues plaquing our country, using the context of the looming 2019 general elections, as canvass to begin to set the agenda for National Rebirth and Social Transformation.
Let me begin with my conclusion, which we shall get back to later. Within the current state of our national jurisprudence, the current manner of political defections and decamping, which I have termed as political vagrancy and vagabondage, are both illegal and unconstitutional.
The season is upon us again, when as part of the frenzy associated with upcoming general elections, Nigeria’s Ruling [Political] Class embark on their seasonal political migrations from their previous roosting grounds to their desired nesting grounds.
These seasonal political migrations, it must be underlined is based on, and driven, only by self-serving interests, and motivated by greed, and the desire to preserve their ability and capacity to continue to have access to, and unrestrained leverage over our treasury and our common patrimony.
We must remind ourselves that these defections and decamping are not on account of our collective interests, but much more about the self-preservation of the individual politician[s] concerned.
What is the current context with respect to defections? Just as it was on the eve of the 2015 general elections, so it is now on the eve of the 2019 general elections. We are once again witnessing mass defections and cross-defections across the establishment political spectrum.
On the road to 2015, this mutually antagonistic cross defections took place against the backdrop of the unravelling of the national ruling class consensus, which found expression in the simultaneous implosion of the PDP and the cobbling together of the APC.
And on the road to 2019? This is taking place against the backdrop of the hollowing out of the now ruling APC, and the even more precipitous cobbling together of the inherently unstable coalition of discredited establishment forces called the CUPP.
For to be sure, the failure of the PDP that led to its ouster from power, and the unfolding failure of the APC that is engendering the clamour for a third force; are not just the failures of the Ruling class factions and fractions cohering around the PDP and the APC; But in fact these sequential and contiguous failures is the most glaring manifestation yet of the collective class failure of Nigeria’s ruling class.
But let us get back to the subject of political vagrancy, vagabondage, and nomadism. Our ruling class has not outgrown the infancy of the bourgeoisie at the dawn of capitalism. As capitalism was evolving and being ruptured through revolutionary processes from the womb of feudalism, its emergent ruling class was compelled accumulate capital in a primitive, that is unfettered and unregulated by law, way and manner.
Our ruling class is still trapped in this age of the infancy of the class, that of primitive accumulation. It is a situation in which the state becomes the instrument with which to dispossess the collective and transfer collective wealth into the hands of private individuals through the direct appropriation of socially generated wealth by private persons who control the instrument of the state.
The 1999 CFRN as amended was well aware of this primitive accumulation motif of the ruling class, hence the inclusion of Chapter Two of the constitution as constitutional framework for putting an end to the primitivism of the ruling class.
It is this inherent and congenital tendency towards primitive capital accumulation; manifesting as pervasive corruption nurtured by impunity; that is also the driving force behind the vagrant, vagabond and nomadic nature of the politics of this ruling class.
It is why they undertake these seasonal migrations, in search of where to feed and satisfy their greed.
So when you are rooting for this or that establishment politician; this or that establishment political party, as they defect from one party to another; the question to ask is: “Are they doing this in my interest?” “Are they doing this because of us or because of their insatiable thirst and hunger?”
Now we know they are not acting in our interest, we know they are acting only to safeguard their own interests, which is to remain politically relevant and continue to be positioned in a manner that enables them persistent access to, if not control over our treasury and collective wealth.
But under the current state of our jurisprudence and laws, is decamping from one party to another in the way and manner in which it is being done, legal, and constitutional? Is it desirable, and good for our democracy, for the process of democratic consolidation?
I will argue that this phenomena that I call “Political Vagrancy And Vagabondage”, in the way and manner that is presently unfolding, is neither legal, constitutional, nor desirable.
First, it is clear from extant legislation, that a defection can be perpetrated without penalty, only if there is a crisis in the party of the decampee, a crisis that must be such that it has paralysed the party and made it incapable of functioning.
Second, it is also very clear, that given this proviso, only a court can pronounce on the determination of the status of a party has having become paralysed and incapable of functioning.
In the current situation, as argued by Femi Falana (SAN), none of these two conditions exist with any of the major political parties in the country. None of the parties are currently paralysed by crisis of such magnitude that they have become unable to function as political parties. And neither are any cases in court seeking for courts to make such a determination.
To these extents therefore, I am in full agreement with the positions canvassed by the learned SAN, and my Elder.
But, even more importantly, I argue that political defections as are presently being done are unconstitutional.
By our constitution and existing laws, it is political parties that context elections, not individuals; and as the Supreme Court has determined in the case involving Rotimi Amaechi, where he was substituted as the candidate of the party; the mandate won in any election, is the mandate of the party, not the individual.
This decision of the Supreme Court, has the validity of a law, as are unchallenged court judgements. Furthermore, other cases have since been decided, which have led to courts ordering that the mandate of the party which has won the election be given to the rightful candidate of such party, as determined in the judgement of the various courts.
Now, for me, it seems, that the combined meaning and interpretation of the constitutional provisions where only parties contest in elections; and the Supreme Court ruling with respect to ownership of an electoral mandate by the party; it seems to me that in the face of all of these; since the mandate belongs to the party, once a politician, who holds the party mandate in trust decamps or defects, that individual ceases to have the trust of the party, and can no longer hold the mandate of the party he is defecting from in trust.
For all intents and purposes therefore, once a politician defects, he or she losses the seat and elective public office that he or she is holding. The seat thus become vacant, and new elections will have to be conducted to fill the vacancy and enable the electorates to once again freely give the mandate to the party of their choice.
Furthermore, if the mandate belongs to the party, and it is given by the electorates in an election, it stands to reason, that the law cannot expect that an individual can take the decision to transfer the mandate given by the electorates in an election to a party, from one party to another party, without a recourse to the electorate who gave the mandate in the first instance.
It seems to me that the state of our jurisprudence is already very clear on this, and that at best what we require is a judicial pronouncement to state it as a matter of fact.
I know a number of us think we required legislative and constitutional amendment to cement this fact. I do not believe that every obstacle requires a new law. For the ancient Greeks are wont to say, “The more corrupt a society, the more numerous their laws”.
-Gaskia is convener, Take Back Nigeria Movement (TBN); member, Sustainable National Party (SNP); and a 2019 presidential aspirant.