A case of chronic political infidelity | Dailytrust

A case of chronic political infidelity

It is customary at least, and it is expected, that as election season approaches, politicians will find themselves suddenly stricken by a strange disorder. It has not been given a name yet, or at least, experts have not agreed on what to call it but for the sake of convenience, we shall call it chronic political infidelity.

During this season, it is to be expected and is by no means unusual to see politicians, singularly or in droves, leaving one party in favour of another. Often they betray the party on whose tickets they have been elected, and in some instances are still holding political offices on behalf of. Other times, aspirants who lost out in one party primary scurry to the next available one to snap up tickets to contest elections and then just as quickly, ditch the party that gave them the chance to return or move to another party, often the one that holds, to paraphrase the Hausa adage, the knife and sirloin in Abuja.

Some of these manifestations of chronic political infidelity are without drama. Others rival Nollywood movies for shouting and bickering, proverb slinging and wonky video effects.

The latest in this instalment of drama is from Zamfara, where Governor Bello Matawalle is apparently contemplating defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, which presides over the national cake in Abuja.

While many consider this a political hara-kiri because it would bring into question the validity of Matawalle’s position as governor, even voiding it, since the election that brought him to the office was technically won by the APC. Matawalle only emerged governor on account of the court ruling that the APC did not conduct proper primaries and can therefore not be considered to have participated in the elections. The mandate was therefore awarded to the party he represented then, the PDP, during the elections.

But it is clear the governor thinks otherwise, or, might not have considered this at all. As many politicians have discovered, especially those being hounded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or some other vexed government agency, aligning with the party at the centre gives them some elbow room.

Matawalle may not have the EFCC on his trails but he has the scourge of banditry attached to his name and his state. There have been snide remarks from some politicians suggesting that some governors are in bed with bandits. No names were mentioned but fingers seemed to point at the Zamfara governor, who had to come out publicly to swear by the Qur’an that he had nothing to do with those rascals.

Zamfara is in the eye of the storm. Recently it became one of the first states with no airport to be declared a no-fly zone. Its illegal mines are believed to be patronised by arms smugglers and bandits are known to roam its wilds. If erstwhile Governor Abdulaziz Yari is accused of doing virtually nothing about the situation while in charge, Matawalle’s initial zeal seemed to have petered out over the years.

It is logical for the governor to think that perhaps if he defects to the APC, he might enjoy some favours for his state: more federal presence, a more sympathetic, listening ear every time he has to run to the villa to lament about yet another raid in his state. That is if truly his state is what he is thinking about in this equation. If however, he is thinking of himself, hoping to position himself better for the fallout of the 2023 elections, as most politicians would do, then that is something else to consider.

Changing sides, as our politicians are wont to do, has not always paid off. Take the example of Ephialtes for instance in the famous battle between the Ancient Greek City-States and the Achaemenid Empire at Thermopylae in 480 BC. The sheer number of the invading forces and the riches of the Persians convinced Ephialtes, a Spartan, that they would certainly overrun his compatriots. Like a Nigerian politician, he changed sides, joined up with the invaders and showed them a rear pass, which they used to defeat the Greeks. They won that battle but Ehialtes’ hopes for reward from the invaders were quashed when they lost the subsequent war. For his betrayal, the Greeks would place a reward on Ehialtes’ head and when he was killed 10 years later for an unrelated incident, the Greeks rewarded his killer anyway. They hated him to that extent. Until today, the name Ephialtes in Greek is associated with nightmares and things most unpleasant.

But for every Ephialtes in Nigerian politics, there is always the opposite. Some have climbed the ladder of power by monkeying between political parties. They might have succeeded but in the end, none of such people has made a significant dent in the sands of time.

Matawalle’s gamble might just pay off. Or he might just be the Ephialtes of the 2023 elections, especially considering the almighty scramble that is likely to occur in the ruling APC ahead of those elections, unless the party gets its thinking right.

Ex-governor Yari has been in the news recently, talking about how Matawalle’s possible defection could invalidate his claim to the governorship of the state. Of course, Yari is bitter. That ruling scuttled his plans to install his handpicked successor.

But Yari might be right. Just as he might be wrong. These are issues for the law to interpret and the law, as they say, is an ass.

The gale of seasonal defections and this plague of political infidelity have shaped the Nigerian political terrain, made the impossible possible, even made Buhari’s defeat of Jonathan happen in 2015. It might even make Matawalle happen at some level just as it might ruin him. It is a gamble he must weigh.

What is certain is that these seasonal defections are unlikely to stop in the next few years. Beyond the positioning for power, what it implies is the desperation of the politicians to throw their followers under the bus to gain an inch up the ladder of power. What that shows is that for most politicians, the electorate count for nothing other than cannon fodder for their aspirations.

For now, the Nigerian electorate can only dream of a future where there would be politics of ideas and integrity; where a politician would rather die on his truth than cross the carpet to gain some political leverage.

Someday, not today, obviously, the political terrain in this country will come to a level of stability where politicians don’t have to run across the arena with the fervency and grace of a headless chicken, from pillar to post, seeking elective offices at the expense of loyalty and trust.

Someday, there would be a cure for this chronic political infidelity afflicting these politicians. Or at least, they will realise there is a cure for it already. It is called loyalty, principles and people-centred politics. Someday, they will realise this. But all things considered, today is not that day.

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