Of Defectors and Corruption Trials of the Political Class, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

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Last week, ex-governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State decamped to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) after serving for eight years under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That is not the issue; he merely joined a long list of political prostitutes that our politicians are. What caught my attention was his bizarre statement, or is it advice (?), to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the party (PDP) that brought him to limelight should be deregistered. Praying that the fate that befell PDP never comes the way of APC, Chime said he was joining the latter “because a lot of people are looking up to me for direction. I never left the PDP, but the party left me. PDP is dead, so I have no explanation to the PDP. This is the time for INEC to deregister PDP as the electoral body has the constitutional power to do so”.

This is the most sycophantic, insensitive and ill-advised statement by any turn-coat politician I have seen in recent time. It is even more depressing that his former party, the PDP, also the only struggling opposition front, is so weakened by people like Chime, that it could not counter the ex-governor in the form of a rejoinder. Thankfully, if only Chime and his ilk would look around, they’d know that joining the APC would not save them from their misdemeanours, if any, while they served in office. And if Chime is in doubt, he should ask former governors, senators and other staunch backers of the APC – Bukola Saraki, Danjuma Goje, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Orji Uzor Kalu, Musliu Obanikoro and Ifeanyi Uba, all of who are facing the wrath of the law even after defecting or helping the party to power. This is a praise-worthy effort by this government to give fillip to its anti-graft war.

Unfortunately for the new entrants to the party, they are still stuck in the past when impunity reigned supreme. In that ugly past, alleged corrupt persons hid under the cover of belonging to the ruling party to avoid investigations into their illegally acquired wealth and were shielded from prosecution, thereby precipitating and sustaining illegalities and corruption in high places. That is why politicians had (and still have) no scruples decamping from one party to the other. No politician takes the issue of ideologies and party manifestoes to heart; they are meaningless, useless and of no value to them.

Again, in the past once under the cover of the umbrella, the symbol of the then ruling PDP, immunity from investigation was guaranteed, and once you fell out of favour in a rare attempt to challenge the party apparatchik, a good mix of threats, coercion and government attack dogs (EFCC, ICPC, police) were unleashed on you, such that you either fell in line or were booted out of the system. It was a strategy that was effectively used by the political class to get ahead of the rest of us, such that while the real thieves escaped justice, the hoi-polloi and the wretched of the earth who stole a goat, a cow or garri out of desperation got their hands amputated or were sent to jail.

By their pedigree, the political class…is one and the same; their character, orientation and the urge to cling to power by all means is legendary… The only antidote to their unconscionable inconsistency is for the government to be serious, unbiased and transparent in its application of the laws of the land.

Recent developments in the polity appear to be changing that narrative. Those who scampered to the ruling APC to escape prosecution from their times in the PDP era, and to cover their tracks, are having a tough time surviving in their new ‘abode’. This does not mean that the party in power does not protect its own; far from it, after all, the party’s elaborate campaign and rise to power was largely funded from the proceeds of crime and corruption. And those men are still within the corridors of power calling the shots.

However, when some people took this liberty to the ridiculous extent, they got their fingers burnt. In this category was Ifeanyi Uba who, along with former petroleum minister, Mrs Dizeani Allison Madueke, played a nasty role in the ‘kero direct’ policy scandal of the past administration, but later decamped to the APC to save his head. His company, Capital Oil and Gas Limited, was involved in the theft of petrol worth N11 billion, perhaps with the hope that he would escape, be protected by the government and find succour in his new party. He must have been disappointed when he was investigated by the DSS, arrested last week and might face prosecution by the APC government, his new family. Meanwhile, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso’s brother’s house was searched the other day, while Senator Danjuma Goje had his day with the police just weeks ago. Therefore there is sufficient evidence that it is not business as usual and defecting to the party in power might not shield corrupt leaders or those who abused power while in office.

By their pedigree, the political class, at least in Nigeria is one and the same; their character, orientation and the urge to cling to power by all means is legendary, whether they are in PDP, APC or any other party that may emerge tomorrow. The only antidote to their unconscionable inconsistency is for the government to be serious, unbiased and transparent in its application of the laws of the land.

The ruling party should no longer be a hiding place for crass defectors and other unscrupulous politicians who are running from their shadows of irresponsibility and gross misconduct.

zainabsule@yahoo.com, www.zainabokino.blogspot.com

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