It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself – (Eleanor Roosevelt)
It is often easier to fight for your principles than to live up to the (Adlai Stevenson)
These two quotes ran in my mind in the afternoon of Tuesday, 24 July, as I watched members of the House of Representatives address a press conference to condemn the action of their colleagues who defected to the PDP and ADC.
I did not envy the House Leader,Femi Gbajabiamila, who against every sense of decency led such a delegation and proved to the entire world that the Nigerian government is peopled with an array of unprincipled opportunists.
I shook my head in pity and discomfort, as I listened to Gbaja speak on the legality of the defection, quoting section 68 of the Constitution.
The House Leader said: “Therefore, we would be encouraging the party to take the necessary steps not because we are against our members, but because we can further entrench democracy.
“When people elect you on a particular platform, that seat does not belong to you but to your constituency.
“It is important that this position is stated clearly and that we put it to rest; every four years people are looking for survival and that is very unfortunate.”
One may be tempted to argue that in this situation, Gbaja does not have a choice than to play his role as the House Leader and a loyal party man. But on the contrary, the same man was the Minority Leader and received his many colleagues who defected from the then ruling PDP to the then newly registered APC in 2013.
At the time, the Gbajabiamila sacrificed his conscience as an officer in the temple of justice, for party loyalty. The lawyer in him became docile and he didn’t remember the true position of section 68 of the constitution.
Gbaja should also be reminded that about six of his colleagues who were elected on the platform of the PDP, including Tony Nwoye from Anambra, Edward Pwajok from Plateau, Hassan Saleh from Benue and Adamu Kamale from Adamawa, Zaphaniah Jisalo from FCT and Ahmed-Tijani Damisa from Kogi, defected to his camp and he received them.
Now that the pendulum swung the other way, the 4th term member, who never canvassed the position of section 68 as Minority Leader, suddenly remembered his law books.
In the July 14 edition of this column, I predicted the exact replica of what transpired in 2013. I as well noted that the creation of rAPC was to establish legal basis for the long awaited defectors to explore.
If Gbajabiamila remembers that what goes around comes around, he and his co-travellers would probably have punctured Speaker Dogara’s arguments when Jisalo and Ahmed defected in October 2017.
Dogara, in response the minority Whip, Yakubu Barde, who raised the same argument, opined that the constitution did not specifically define what constitutes division in a political party, and as such, the judiciary should be allowed to interpret the section.
According to Dogara, “Division in the political is not defined by the constitution, the constitution does not state whether it should be at the national, state or local government level. So we should allow the judiciary to do their job.”
I make bold to say that since Gbajabiamila, having armed himself with the Supreme Court Judgment in the case of Ifedayo Abegunde Vs Ondo State House of Assembly and Others, did not canvass this argument against Dogara’s position as stated above, he lacks the moral justification to do so when his party loses 37 members the same day.
This is not to mean that I agree with the Speakers’ view on this matter, rather, I expected a level of consistency in our national discourse, as the action and inaction of every public officer forms a precedence in our democratic development.
While Dogara’s view sounded like a deliberate ploy to circumvent the truth on the altar of politics, I still appreciate the fact that he has been consistent and true to his position, irrespective of the persons or political party involved.
Nevertheless, I still disagree with the Speaker on the intention of the lawmakers in this context.
I maintain the position that since the state, local government or ward chapter of a political party does not sponsor candidates for a political party, division within any other organ of the party should not by law suffice as division within the party. This is even so when the constitution of the party defines how such internal wrangling should be handled.
History is being made in our democratic practice by the day; unfortunately, those who should record their names on the good side of history are busy sacrificing the truth in the name of politics. Politics without Principle!
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