Ohakim: the end of multi-party democracy

It was a sad day for multi-party democracy in Nigeria as Imo State governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, formally left the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) on Saturday and pitched his tent with the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). And as Ohakim joins the party, the PDP-controlled states would have risen to 29.

Speaking to welcome Ohakim into the PDP family, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua described the governor as “a treasure to PDP”, while the Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said “We are not just celebrating the re-entry of Governor Ohakim into the PDP, but we are celebrating integrity, honour, promises made and promises fulfilled”. Also speaking at the event, Ohakim said that no fewer than 600 members of 21 political parties in the state were decamping from their various parties and collapsing into the PDP.

Before Ohakim, three governors had crossed the carpet from their party to the ruling PDP: Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State, Governor Aliyu Shinkafi (Zamfara) and Governor Isa Yuguda of Jigawa.

All the said governors decamped along with most members of the National and State Assemblies from their states and the retinue of commissioners and other aides serving in their cabinets.

The movement of Ohakim, further depleted the rank of the existing opposition political parties in the country. Virtually all the governors in the opposition parties had been mentioned as scheming or being schemed to move over to the PDP.

When democracy returned in 1999, the opposition parties won in 15 of the 36 States. The Alliance for Democracy (AD) won in Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) (formerly All Peoples Party (APP)) triumphed in Kwara, Kogi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. The PDP had the rest: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Rivers and Taraba.

By 2003, the opposition parties lost seven States – Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo. They, however, gained Anambra State via a judicial decision. But the PDP also had Jigawa in its fold following the first cross-carpeting of the state Governor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki from the ANPP.

Helpless Nigerians watch aghast as the 1999 Constitution- the grundnorm of the country’s political system – is being desecrated.

The 1999 Constitution in Section 68(1)(g) and (2) (and 109(1)(g) and (2)) makes a tacit provision under ‘Tenure of seat of members’ for cross-carpeting of elected officials – however for only members of the National (and State Houses of) Assembly. It is silent on the issue as it relates to members of the Executive – principally the President, Deputy President, Governor and Deputy Governor.

Section 68(1) (109(1)) states that:

“A member of the Senate or House of Representatives (House of Assembly) shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if-

(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected:

Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”

So, for the legislature the Constitution is clear: in attempting to cross to another political party, he must prove that a division in his political party exists or a merger of that party with another or factions in the party. Even then, he cannot successfully cross-over to another political party until the presiding officer of the House – Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives or Speaker of House of Assembly, as the case may be – endorses the decamping.

Section 68(2) (109(2)) states that: “The President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall give effect to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, so however that the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives or a member shall first present evidence satisfactory to the House concerned that any of the provisions of that subsection has become applicable in respect of that members.”

Despite this clear provision, the last 10 years of return of democracy to Nigeria have witnessed several lawmakers decamping to other political parties, the majority going to the PDP. and the various Legislatures – National and State – readily admitted the cross-carpeters into their new parties with fanfare.

But never has the craving – or pressure, as it is widely alleged – by state governors to move from one political party to another been so intense – from the opposition political parties to the ruling PDP. And this points to one frightening reality: a movement towards a one-party state with PDP as the sole administrator of the country.

What should Nigerians do?

Ohakim is no longer qualified to continue to be the governor of Imo State. PPA was voted into office in Imo State and not Ohakim. The River State Governor’s case testifies to this. The present Governor of River State never campaigned for a day, and because PDP “won” in River State, the mandate was given to him after the Supreme Court disqualified the “winner” who was the PDP candidate in that election

Someone should go to Court. PPA should fight Ohakim and chase him out of the Owerri government house by using the laws and the courts of the land. We understand the leadership of PPA indicated that it is already fine tuning the legal processes to do a serious battle with the governor.

According to the National Chairman of PPA, Chief Clement Ebri: “We hasten to say with all emphasis at our command that PPA will never condone a situation whereby its platform will be used to attain a political post, only for the beneficiary to decamp and still cling to that position”.

This is the height of political prostitution!

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Owerii announced with fanfare that he extracted a promise from the former Progressive People’s Alliance Ohakim that he would return to the PDP before he was adopted by the ruling party at the expense of its own candidate in the build-up to the 2007 governorship polls.

The entire PDP structure in Imo State chose to back Ohakim, who was in the PPA, for the governorship seat of the state in 2007 after the party hierarchy, led by then president, Obasanjo flew into the state 48 hours to the election and announced that the PDP would not be partaking in the governorship election, which was a subtle way of disobeying the Supreme Court judgement which had recognised Chief Ifeanyi Araraume as the bonafide candidate of the party.

In other words, Ohakim won the governorship election in the state with a promise to defect to the PDP afterwards. The PDP chose decided to pick the governor with the promise that he would declare for the party after winning the election. “He was chosen because of the court action which the party went through during the party primaries.” Meaning, there was no valid election.

If this is the case the PDP has played a fast one on Imo State indigenes. The PPA was used to disobey a court order. It also means that Yar’adua knows a lot about the election riggings that took place, including the court judgement that took place in Rivers State that put Rotimi in power.

We ask, can we find even one politician of integrity in Nigeria? We ask because present at the Ohakim declaration were Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan and former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme. Others were Enugu State Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime; former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo; Kwara State Governor, Dr.Bukola Saraki; former national chairman of the PDP, Chief Solomon Lar, the national chairman of the party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor; former deputy national chairman, Chief Bode George, including all the PDP stalwarts.

The event was also graced by governors Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, and Theodore Orji of Abia State. Other prominent personalities, included senate President David Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, former Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former governors of old Pleateau State, Chief Solomon Lar and his counterpart former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo.

Also former national chairman of the party Chief Banabas Gemade, member of the BoT, Chief Emmannuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Bode George, Dr. Eziekel Izuogu, former Governor of Imo State, Chief Achike Udenwa, Chief Rochas Okorocha, senators, ministers and members of the House of Representatives were in attendance.

Do these people care for the future of Nigeria? Do they care for democracy at all? Must decency be sacrificed on the altar of ambition? Is there no end to political chicanery? Where is decency, where is integrity, where is patriotism?

As in the case of Governor Yuguda, Dr. Ohakim only took temporary shelter in the PPA when conditions in the PDP did not allow him to realise his political dream there prior to the 2007 elections. Having used the PPA mandate to realise his ambition, he is tracing his steps back to the PDP that denied him access to the plum position in the first place.

The Guardia notes: This is coming at a time the President Yar’Adua administration is preaching electoral reform – fallout from the 2007 elections the President admitted were fraught with fraud. Still, Yar’Adua is always too willing to lead in receiving the cross-carpeters into the PDP. So, what manner of electoral reform is he crusading?

What the President and the decamped governors are really saying is that the people’s votes don’t count. Of course, most of today’s so-called elected officials did not use the people’s votes to ride to power. What they did was to hide under the people’s mandate to manipulate the electoral process and rig themselves in.

But the moral question: Is it right for an aspirant to use one political platform to ascend to power only to dump that platform at the least opportunity for another party?

PDP Has Taken Nigeria Captive – Akande

Chief Bisi Akande, former governor of Osun State and the national chairman of the Action Congress (AC), is sad about the situation of things in Nigeria. So frustrated is he with the system that he believes that with the situation of things in the country, only the people could take their destiny in their hands. Amog other things, he also doubts the possibility of any credible election in the country with the refusal of the present leadership to allow for an electoral reform, which, he said, is the only guarantee for fairness in a democracy.

He speaks with Deputy Sunday Editor, TUNDE ABATAN, on other salient issues such as what General Muhammadu Buhari must do to remain relevant in party politics in the country. Excerpts…

With the gradual subversion of the nation’s core values, is it still possible to produce such leaders with such lofty ideals, given the rot in the country?

You may be right. Younger generations are asking why the governors are going to Harvard to learn how to govern. With that kind of posture, future generations of people may want to depart from what is happening now. What is happening now is you look for money to fund politics so that you can make more money. That was not the situation during the Awolowo period, and that is why we want to remove money politics from the political life of this country. The monetisation of politics started with (former military president, Ibrahim) Babangida. He introduced it in the first instance and then those who come into politics and found it like that since have introduced it into governance. But we want to have people who will come into politics to better the lot of the common man with governance.

How feasible is electoral reform in the country before the next general elections?

Electoral reform may never be possible forever in Nigeria, if the ordinary people remain docile. In the months ahead, starting from August, the Obafemi Awolowo Institute will begin a serious debate on electoral integrity. By the time these debates are collated and documented, it will not be difficult for anybody to have a benchmark against which to compare with whatever they are doing in governance, and no governor would need to go to Harvard anymore. They can stay near home to see how good governance can be established.

Do you see the National Assembly being able to amend the electoral law such that we can dispose of electoral cases, such as we had in 1979 during the Second Republic, before the swearing in of new leaders at various levels?

Nothing good can happen in this country unless Nigerians work or fight for it. As at today, Nigeria is in total captivity of the PDP. It is not because Nigerians wanted it so but because it was a design that no good thing will happen in Nigeria, and the beginning of bad governance is bad election. So, in 2003, bad election began to be introduced into the affairs of this country and it became totally perfected in 2007. From then on, PDP wanted to make sure that no election holds anywhere in Nigeria. But it is the duty of the people by themselves to fight for an electoral integrity, but the people themselves may not know it. That is why we want to continue to research into it and continue to research on the role of the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and we will continue to research to the role of the police and continue to suggest solutions to them and educate the public on what their roles are supposed to be. We will continue to tell the public what the role of the political parties are supposed to be, so as to improve on the integrity of the election system. But to say that electoral reform will be done before 2011 by a PDP government or a PDP National Assembly, it is impossible.

If electoral reform is impossible, is the 2011 election feasible?

I don’t know what will happen between now and 2011, but I know the Nigerian people are becoming very tired of the PDP. Whether they will allow themselves to remain in captivity or not is a matter for the future.

Given the penchant of the political class to cross from one party to another at every given time for sheer opportunism, do you see the clamour for electoral reform, especially on the recall of those who cross-carpet, scaling through in this country? Would the people not be afraid of taking part in future elections in this country, considering how long it will take to get justice?

You are very right. It is an abuse of the rule of law and due process. And it is one of the deceits of the Yar’Adua administration. Yar’Adua is talking about the rule of law and it is patently recorded in the Constitution of the country that once you are elected on the platform of one political party, you cannot cross to another party. It is to prevent crossing of the carpet. It is plainly written in the Constitution, but the PDP will never allow the Constitution to operate. They don’t believe in the rule of law, but they just use it part of the Seven-point Agenda of the Yar’Adua administration, such that by the time they continue to abuse the rule of law themselves, the generality of the people too will resort into abuse of the rule of law.

Recently, so many policemen were reportedly destroyed in Ibadan, by just people who were angry; call them armed robbers. In the South East, they abducted and killed policemen. It is because the PDP has established a situation whereby law is of no value to the government of Nigeria, and then the ordinary people are reacting. What ever name you call them; either militants or armed robbers, a revolution has started and it has started in a quiet form. But if you remain docile, PDP will continue to keep you in captivity, and forever no reform can be made.

In the past six months, some leaders across the country have been holding series of meetings with a view to forming what they regard as a mega party that could challenge the ruling PDP. Looking at the history of such alliances in the past, can it work?

There is nothing like mega party and it cannot happen. It cannot happen because it is clearly designed by the PDP government that there should be about 50 political parties in the country. Very recently, 23 of the parties voted confidence in Maurice Iwu because he distributes largesse to them every year without which each of them could lose its name. They call them political parties not because they can win anybody’s vote; they call them political parties not because they have ever won any election; they call them political parties not because they can win any local government seat or ward. There are 50 of them and they pay them equally every year; what they pay to PDP is what they would pay to AC every year in the wisdom of Iwu. So in a situation where 23 of the 50 political parties can come together one day and say they passed vote of confidence in Iwu, bringing all these parties together and calling them mega party is a waste of time because the purpose of each of the parties is not necessarily to win election, to have good governance or to better the lot of the common man. What happens is that two or three people would gather to be taking free money from INEC. So, those of them going to a meeting called mega party are merely playing on the intelligence of Nigerians who never care to find out what happened with these parties. The only thing we are doing in the Action Congress is to enlarge the scope of the party, to swallow the image of all the other parties. We have also done so far for ANPP. If you look at it very well, you will see that both the national chairman of the ANPP and many of the governors of the ANPP are now in PDP. This situation is like saying some people in the ANPP like Buhari do not have a political party because he was the presidential candidate of the ANPP. Buhari would not have been happy with what ANPP is doing. It is either he is not in ANPP or he has no party. So, such a person will be anxious to go to any meeting of any group to be called mega party, so that it will look as if he has a political party. We of the AC do not want to be seen in that light, but we want to expand the scope of our activity so that, before 2011, those who would have lost confidence in the ability and confidence of PDP, including majority of the members of the PDP, would be ready to vote for AC. If you call that mega party, I would say you are right.

Buhari is seen to be closely identified with your party of recent. Is there any hope of your coming together?

I don’t know about his being closely identified with us. All I know is that I met him sometime in April and I proposed to him that we should work together, and it was agreeable to him. I think some of his followers are discussing with our followers. It is because I see that the ANPP was not a good place for him, if he wants to realise any good thing in politics. I do not mean contesting for (the seat of the) President but he has numerous followers who would want to contest for many things, including becoming members of the House of Assembly, National Assembly and possibly presidency. Unless they have a political party, they would not be able to do it. He doesn’t have much chance in the ANPP, and he has no other party of his own. I don’t want him to get totally marooned; that is why I approached him. He seems to have a good idea about politics, but he doesn’t seem to know how to play it, hence I want us to work together so that we can play politics together.

Even with the failure to win the Ekiti re- run?

That denial has exposed the PDP to the outer world as a party of thieves. We use that mobilisation in Ekiti to let the whole world know that the PDP is a bad party and a party for the thieves.

With the way the re-run election in Ekiti and other states were conducted and the results, do you see any party in Nigeria getting victory in any re-run conducted by INEC?

Getting justice through the INEC is impossible. The one that is most disturbing is the use of the police against the people. As early as 5 a.m. on the day of the Ekiti re-run, PDP had started kidnapping our leadership in Ekiti like Agunbiade and others, to create panic in the mind of the followers. This was replicated in most places. Even when they were still prevented from resorting to violence by the people, the police was unable to make any arrest and to prosecute anybody. In such a situation, we feel that Nigeria does not have the kind of police that can manage credible election in Nigeria.

And what happens in 2011?

In 2011, the police would not be able to have as many as they took across to Ekiti, and the people would be able to match these people (election riggers), strength for strength, in an election of that nature.

In the last two months, Nigeria has been at war with one of its constituent parts, the Niger Delta. Would you say President Yar’Adua has managed the situation well, especially on the issue of granting amnesty to the militants?

The Presidency has demonstrated an unreasonable arrogance in the case of the Niger Delta with the war it started and which it can never win, amnesty or no amnesty. It is impossible to carry out the intention of the PDP which came out from the mouth of one of its members that Yar’Adua should kill off all the 20 million citizens in the Niger Delta, so that the remaining 120 million can safely steal their oil and make good with it. That is the kind of arrogance that will destroy PDP before too long, and that is where President Yar’Adua should learn to be very careful.

Are you saying, in effect, that the granting of amnesty could not achieve any desired effect, especially when the government has decided to pay them compensation?

When Yar’Adua fought to the end of his ability, he is trying to throw the carrot. Amnesty is part of such carrot (for militants) to cease fire and (government will) prepare to re-capture the Niger Delta. Nigeria will not win the war in the Niger Delta until they allow total resource control of their oil by the people of the Niger Delta.

But the issue of militancy is presumed to be assuming a new dimension with accusation that the militants are probably using resource control as a ploy to extort money or engage in brigandage.

Look, fighting is fighting. Biting, scratching and shooting of gun are part of fighting. The Niger Deltans are fighting for their own right with militancy and criminality. All words involve crime. The soldier who shot at an opponent in a war is a murderer; so the JTF, militants and the kidnappers are murderers, and they are all at war. But in this war, the Yar’Adua administration can never win.

Do you see President Yar’Adua getting a second term during the 2011 polls?

I have not seen him for the past one year now and I can’t conjecture as to what he will do in 2011. But Nigerians would not want the likes of Yar’Adua in 2011.

Can Nigerians have their way in future elections in view of the experience with the 2007 elections?

In a clean and clear election, Yar’Adua is as good as having gone out of power.