NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND THE ISSUE OF PARTY DEFECTION IN NIGERIA'S FOURTH REPUBLIC
In Nigeria's fourth republic, this study focused on the national legislature and the subject of party desertion. Politicians in Nigeria have continued to assert their fundamental right to freedom of association as a means of moving in and out of political groups at will,
a development that, while not unprecedented in the country's political system, is gradually assuming a frivolous status, raising concerns in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.
Provisions were made in the 2010 Electoral Act to prevent indiscriminate cross-carpeting from one political party to another, spelling out the conditions under which an elected officer can defect, but the inherent loopholes in the safeguards are still being exploited by politicians today.
The sixth National Assembly also attempted to end the heinous practise through constitutional amendment, but the specific clause that sought to deprive members of the National Assembly and House of Assembly of their seats on defection did not receive the required two-thirds support from the states.
A similar move was undertaken in 2012, when two members of the House of Representatives, Eddy Mbadiwe and Albet Sam-Tsokwa, Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, reintroduced the bill. However, it did not even reach the second reading on the floor.
Is this a positive trend for Nigeria's political development? Is it a sign of a political party's stability? Is such defection permitted under the statute that governs political parties? What is the law's official view on the subject? These issues demand for answers, and this study aims to supply them.
1.1 Background of The Study
Political parties are an essential component of the modern democratic heritage. This is due to the fact that without political parties, “democracy based on the liberal model of majority rule would be practically impossible.”
Edmund Burke established one of the most influential definitions of a political party, describing it as “a body of men united for promoting the national interest by their joint efforts on some particular principles in which they all agreed.”
In recognition of the important role that political parties play in the overall growth and welfare of a nation, as well as in the “construction of a stable and participatory political order” in democratic society, the Nigerian Constitution outright prohibits political activities and vote canvassing by any association other than a registered political party.
Nigerians had great expectations of the state system and politicians based on a multi-party democracy following the return to democracy on May 29, 1999, after 16 years of military dictatorship. Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has had 184 political parties and groups as of 2018.
Many critical issues have clouded the political atmosphere since the return in 1999, including the dominance of old and retired generals in politics, leadership instability in the National Assembly, poor performance by most politicians and the political system, increased electoral crises, and the use of money to manipulate state policies and national interests, among others.
Then there were intra-party conflicts, particularly within the then ruling party, the people's Democratic Party (PDP), over the struggle for access and consolidation of Nigerian state political and economic powers; the proliferation of the number of political parties from three in 1999 to 91 by the year 2019; and inter-party defections,
which could not be distinguished from the primary interest in acquiring and consolidating state political and economic powers. Although it was not the first time that politicians, particularly at the higher levels, defected from one party to another,
the Fourth Republic, particularly between 2006 and 2018, saw a spike in both intra-party fights and inter-party defections. At first, the scene was dominated by intra-party factions, most of which were associated with an unwillingness to obey internal democratic ideals, but this gave way to inter-party defections, usually from the opposition to the ruling party.
Different strokes for different persons has been the tsunami of defection from one party to another in the National Assembly. Members of the House of Representatives have been freely switching from one political party to another,
unrestrained by the leadership. This has become a common occurrence in the house since the five PDP governors defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) amid the height of the PDP's intra-party conflict.
Even so, five APC members defected to the PDP amid allegations by the APC leadership that they were induced with hard currency by the PDP leadership to do so, which the PDP has since dismissed, describing the APC as a party suffering diminishing returns.
The House leadership has formed a committee to investigate the accusation, but many are sceptical about the conclusion given recent developments. In the Senate, the defection of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and ten others from the PDP to the APC encountered a snag after the Senate leadership refused to read their letters on the grounds that the case was before the courts.
This was despite the defecting senators' claim in court that the issue is not one of defection, but of an attempt to declare their seats vacant.
The most recent development, on the other hand, comprises inter-party defections from and to both the government and opposition parties. It has spread beyond intra-party groups such as the new-PDP and reformed-APC,
with Nigerian politicians defecting from all parties to others. In Nigeria's fourth Republic, this study looked into the national assembly and the issue of party desertion.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Nigerian politics has been marked by intra and inter-party tensions, competition, violence, electoral malpractice, elite manipulation, and character and life assassinations since the early years of the First Republic.
Recently, Nigerian politicians have been entangled in more inter-party defections than at any other time in the country's history, raising the question of why such politicians desert from one party to the other.
There are growing fears that these lawmakers are not defecting for the sake of the Nigerian state or the electorate, but for other selfish reasons. Some of the recent defections in the National Assembly have been more like studio produced. The visible hands of patron-clientelism have held Nigerian politics hostage since independence (Ojo, 2016; Draper & Ramsay, 2008:256; Richard, 1987).
Despite the occasional labels of conservatives, progressives, liberals, socialists, and populists, key issues such as political ideologies and party manifestos have received little or no attention, at the expense of other roles that parties play such as interest aggregation and articulation (Agudiegwu, Moses Ogbonna, & Ezeani, 2015; Boafo-Arthur in Salih, 2003).
Over 184 political parties and associations established in Nigeria in the 58 years since independence have remained mere stooges for the attainment of power and the selfish interests of politicians, who have devised and used politics and parties as machines to ride and access state political and economic power and resources (Rodee, 1980).
Nigerian politicians now freely switch from one political party to the other in order to protect and/or consolidate their hold on the Nigerian state's political and economic power and riches. This brings with it a slew of negative consequences for democracy and party politics in the country.
This tendency of inter-party defections not only mocks the country's democratic development, but also undercuts Nigerian political orientation, culture, and socialisation. 2005 (Colomer)
1.3 Aim of The study
The study's aims are as follows:
Determine why Nigerian politicians defect from one political party to another Determine the impact of political party defections on Nigeria democracy
Making recommendations on how to prevent inter-party defections
To determine the impact of party defection on the national assembly
1.4 Research Questions
Why do Nigerian politicians leave one political party for another?
Are political party defections having an impact on Nigeria's democracy?
What are the recommended methods for preventing inter-party defections?
Is there any impact on the national assembly from party defection?
1.5 Significance of the research
Students, political parties, politicians, and policymakers will all benefit greatly from this research. The study will provide a detailed picture of Nigeria's fourth republic's national assembly and the issue of party desertion.
The study examines the impact of party defection on Nigerian democracy. The study will also be useful to other academics who are working on a similar problem.
1.5 scope of The study
The study's scope includes the national assembly and the subject of party desertion. The study will only look at APC and PDP.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researcher confronts various limits that limit the scope of the study, which are as follows:
The researcher's research material is insufficient, restricting the scope of the investigation.
The study's time span does not allow for broader coverage because the researcher must balance other academic pursuits and examinations with the investigation.
Inadequate funding tends to limit the researcher's efficiency in locating relevant materials, literature, or information, as well as in the data collection method (internet, questionnaire, and interview).
1.8 Definition of Terms
National Assembly: The Federal Republic of Nigeria's National Assembly is a bicameral legislature established under Section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. It is made up of a Senate of 109 members and a House of Representatives of 360 members.
Party defection: In politics, a defector is someone who abandons allegiance to one state in exchange for allegiance to another, in a way that the first state considers illegitimate.