From Umar Dankano Yola
Politics has been often been described as the game of musical chairs, where anything can go to any direction except personal interest that remains intact, in other word, it remains the permanent denominator.
It is a known fact that politicians all over the world change parties or platforms in order to achieve political goals and ambitions.
Again, it is argued that it is difficult, if not extremely difficult to describe any politician as a liberal democrat in the true sense of the word, especially in third world democracies like our own. The difficulty is perhaps due to the nature of politics and party structures we have; hence people only join politics and a particular party with the sole aim of ‘winning’ elections.
When people see election as a most win-thing, then the concept of opposition itself is undermined or eroded completely as the winner-takes-all syndrome would always come in handy.
From 1999 till date, the dominant political party in the country has been the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a contemporary of the All People’s Party (APP), which later metamorphosed into the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), which has since morphed into the so-called mega-party together to form the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Another party that was the contemporary of PDP include the Alliance for Democracy (AD), itself a fore-runner to the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), then later Action Congress (AC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now APC.
People and politicians have within this period oscillated forth and back within the ambience of these parties in search of political ‘satisfaction’ in form of electoral victory or the so-called dividends of democracy associated with election. Therefore, the questions to ask are do we really have liberal democrats and who is a liberal democrat?
Although, it’s often argued that most or if not all the political parties in Nigeria lack ideologies, hence it makes it difficult to define or even classify who a liberal democrat is. We often describe politicians either as progressives or conservatives, depending on which side of the political divide they belong to and not necessarily based on ideology or principle they share or believe in.
In the views of the American Constitution, Democrats are typically liberal; therefore, in present day US, Democrats are Liberal and Republicans are Conservative – but that is not the case with the rest of the world’s political stage.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, the Liberal Democrats are a social political party in the United Kingdom, supporting constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, environmentalism, human rights laws, banking reform and civil liberties. The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The two political parties had formed the electoral SDP-Liberal Alliance for eight years prior. The Liberals had been in existence for 129 years then and in power under leaders such as Gladstone, Asquith and Lloyd George.
The party observed thus:
“The liberal democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”
This brings us to the recent defection of Senator Ahmed Hassan Barata, senator representing Adamawa South Senatorial District in the National Assembly from the All Progressives Congress, APC back to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
It would be recalled that Barata, former PDP member defected or cross-carpeted to APC in February in the heat of the gale of defections of 11 senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives, which rocked the National Assembly.
Indeed, as one of the staunch allies of former governor, retired Admiral Murtala Hamman Yero Nyako, who along four other governors elected on the platform of the PDP, cross-carpeted to the APC, was followed by Barata, Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow and many other politicians in Adamawa including former vice president of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
However, following the impeachment of Nyako in July by the state House of Assembly, and bye-election fixed for October 11, 2014 by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Barata indicated his intention to vie for his party’s ticket in order to contest for the governorship.
He contested the APC governorship primaries in the state, but finished a distant fourth after it was alleged that Atiku reportedly withdrew his support for another lawmaker, Senator Bindow, who eventually emerged as the party’s candidate for the October governorship bye-election.
Perhaps as the fallout of the September 6, APC primaries, Barata had announced to his colleagues his decision to return back to PDP on the floor of the Senate on that Wednesday, but did not give any reason.
Although prior to that effect, the lawmaker has hinted that he was under immense pressure by PDP stakeholders from his state to return to the party where he rightly belongs; this much, was collaborated by Senate President David Mark, when he (Barata) tried to make some clarification announcing his decision.
Senator Mark called him to order and told him he has never left the PDP in the first place; hence there was nothing like coming back to it.
Now, the question is did Senator Ahmed Hassan Barata breaks any law by defecting to his original party?
Like the Senate President observed, and has maintained same stance during and after the heat of the defection which rocked the both chambers of the National Assembly – the status quo has been the same since the matter was already in the court.
Barata and others only breached the law when they first moved to the opposition as prescribed by the Electoral Act as amended and the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Of course, this was made clear at the time of the defection by Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, who gave a clue to what fate awaited senators itching to defect from the PDP to APC, said they automatically lose their seats once such decision was taken by the individual.
Enang, who made the submission, cited Section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution which stipulates that any lawmaker who defects from his original party to another must vacate his seat unless his defection results from division in the party.
Similarly, Justice Elvis Chukwu of an Abuja High Court had ruled on October 18, 2013 that there was no division in PDP, emphasised that if the intending defectors opt to violate the constitution by their proposed move, they should be prepared to face the music.
“The defecting members of the National Assembly elected on the PDP platform have to vacate their seats. Doing so is mandatory if the relevant sections of the constitution are anything to go by,” he said.
Although Tanimu Albert Sam-Tsokwa, House of Representatives Chairman, Rules and Business, cited sections 68 (1) (g); 109 (1) (g); 135 and 180 of the 1999 Constitution to buttress his claim, emphasised that “the constitution subtly endorses cross-carpeting or defections.”