Column Opinion

Nigeria’s Seasonal Political ‘Migration’

By Zainab Suleiman Okino

The February 2023 general election is almost here. It is that season of the year when politicians move freely from one party to another. In any case it has already been established that there are no ideologies in Nigerian politics and our politicians too have no principles.

Like the seasonal migration birds in search of better environments to thrive, the Nigerian politician is at it again, jumping from one party to another, decamping or cross-carpeting in search of better opportunities, greener pastures or wherever food is ready. And like locusts, they can move en-masse to a new place and devour the harvests similar to those Libyan locusts that had destroyed crops in farmlands in Nigeria in the past. 

In order to achieve their inordinate ambitions, politicians can create chaos in an ordinarily peaceful environment in order to profit from it, just as they can be peacemakers, not because of their love for scriptural admonition that says “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the kingdom of God”, but for the purpose of gaining from it too. Such are the shades and colours of politics in Nigeria, yet the “searchers” are the first to castigate their previous political parties. Even those who gain handsomely, becoming governors or senators, have no scruples condemning and abandoning the ship that gave them a ride to power. 

In this show of ignominy, none of them (the political class) is immune. Not even the presidential candidate of the main opposition party who since 2007 has moved from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) back to PDP; PDP to All Progressives Congress (APC) and back to PDP. Like Atiku, former governor of Kano state, Ibrahim Shekarau started out as a member of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) back to PDP; he left PDP for APC, from APC to ANPP and now back to PDP, thereby completing a route of being in three political parties in three months. The annoying thing is the way we celebrate the underdog, only for the so-called underdog to join the mainstream. We celebrated Shekarau in 2003 as an affront to the PDP, just as we celebrated the five PDP governors that merged with ACN to form the nucleus of the now ruling APC.

It is very easy for vociferous Peter Obi supporters referred to as “Obidients”, to call others names and make Obi look like the best candidate to have walked the political firmament. They fail to acknowledge that Obi is not different from any other Nigerian politician-appealing to the sentiments of ethnicity, region and religion. He has also moved from APGA to PDP and became VP presidential candidate, until recently when he moved to the Labour Party when he realised, he was not going to be picked as a VP candidate to Atiku. So, Obi like others, is a seasonal political migrant.

And not to discount governors Dave Umahi and Ben Ayade. They were elected as governors under the platform of PDP in 2015 and won their second term election under their original party, PDP. However, because they probably had bigger ambitions, which they felt could only be realised in the ruling APC, they soon decamped to the APC. Well, Dave Umahi did contest as a presidential aspirant and lost to a more formidable Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. Today, the duo condemns PDP and tells people not to touch it with a long pole. The woman leader of the APC, Beta Edu was a commissioner under Ben Ayade in their PDP days. These days, when she talks about the ideals APC and its standard bearer Asiwaju Tinubu stand for and PDP’s ugly side, you’d think of her as a founding member of the party (APC).

The APC, has to a large extent, escaped this internal implosion and scrutiny.

What is interesting about all these characters is their lack of it. They are the first to castigate their old party and the first to partake in the victory of the next one. The concept of stomach infrastructure should not only apply to followers or the electorate who collect peanuts and crumbs in support of certain leaders. It is worse with political leaders who have been everything from governor to minister to senator, but won’t just let go or give others a chance.

In this category are people like Rabiu Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of ANPP and Shekarau. Seeing that he would not be able to realise his ambition of becoming the candidate of the PDP, Kwankwaso, with some of his supporters and disgruntled elements of APC and PDP formed his own NNPP and became its sole candidate. That’s how self-serving our politics has become. 

Bad as it is, supporters and followers share in the greater blame. The fact that they cannot decipher, but follow sheepishly should tell you how gargantuan our challenge is. And until we have discerning voting populace, our situation is not likely to change.

As stated earlier, politicians can create chaos and death in order to benefit from it. Look at what is happening in Imo state, where cases of unknown gunmen have been normalised. They kill and maim, and they are never apprehended. Last Monday, gunmen again invaded the INEC office in Owerri and torched the building. Three people were killed in the process. The commission’s offices in Ebonyi, Osun and Ogun states were similarly attacked in the last one month. Well, for as long as arrests are not made and prosecution and enforcement of law are not being carried out, so shall this crime continue.

Again, early in the week, came the news that the PDP office in Gombe state was razed. Coming shortly after some of their political gladiators had migrated from one party to the other, the ensuing show of violence did not come as a surprise. A typical example of creating chaos in order to take advantage of it. Such chaos and conflict endanger political parties, which conversely engender fresh ‘migration’ by politicians. With this kind of unfair arrangement embraced by the political class, how do we institutionalize an enduring multi-party democracy that makes party supremacy paramount? For the Nigerian politicians, tomorrow never comes.

Zainab Suleiman Okino is a syndicated columnist. She chairs Blueprint Newspaper Editorial Board. She can be reached via zainabokino@gmail.com

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