Chris Ojeikere is the Edo State Publicity Secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). In this interview, he talks about the gale of defections that hit the nation’s polity in recent times, conspiracy of the elite against the masses, money politics, among other political issues.
What does the gale of defections in the nation’s polity today portend for the nation’s democracy?
First of all, the question to ask is does it even portray that we have a democracy? Because we cannot define universal democracy in our own peculiar way. We can only adapt to the universal concept of democracy, according to our value system and cultural leanings. But what we have here now, we can’t have it in any other society. The shameless and unbridled mobility of politicians from one party to another does not in any form spell a semblance of democracy. However, for whatever it is worth, we still call the civil system of government in the country, democracy. So let us view it the way it is. I asked the question of a few friends not too long ago: if these itinerant people are the ones to bring about alternative governance in the system we want to change?’ Those who now claim to be leaving the ruling party by whatever name and giving us the impression that they are the ones we have been clamouring for, are they the ones to replace the ones we say we don’t want? Then God help us. These Old Wine cannot now claim to be our messiahs we crave for, because they have not been able to prove that the intention of their movement has to do with any form of national patriotism or altruism. They have been unable to convince us that, the people of Nigeria, their standard of living etc, are at the centre of their movement.That to change the narrative in Nigeria”s broken democracy and governance are the reason for their movement. They have not been able to convince us about those things. What we have found is politics of connivance, of greed, of selfishness. People flocking to where they believe can achieve inordinate personal ambitions. Mark you not ambition to position themselves for service and development, not to position themselves for changing the poor Nigeria narrative. So what it portends will be for me that we are about to degenerate further from what it has always been, politics of selfishness, and greed, of individuals players who think it must be according to their whims and caprices. They think they it must always be about them. And by the way, 2019 is an opportunity for Nigerians to let them know that we are now wise up. As we say in our local parlance ‘our mumu don do’.
If one is dissatisfied with his or her political party, who do you think such a person should do?
The test of maturity for leaders in any organisation, whether political parties or corporate administration etc, is the proof that such leaders have exhausted all internal mechanism of redress to resolve issues before moving on. But these people have not done that. I have listened to speeches made by some of them when they were defecting, they are ordinary speeches. There has not been any fundamental proof that there were rules and regulations irrevocably breached which formed the basis for their movement. They have not been able to convince anybody that they have been able to provide alternative framework for development, that the party they left have refused to implemen as reasons for leaving. Rather what we hear is, ‘some people have hijacked the party’, I have not been respected bla bla bla. As self claimed leaders they ought to have been able to sit down and deliberate on some of their policies and say there was fundamental deviation from our agreed policies, hence we are going to leave to form another platform to implement these breached policies. None of the defectors has said that. Rather, they return to where they left before. It’s all about self.
Do you think there is a way political parties can put stringent measures in place so that if a person is leaving the party , he also has to resign the position he attained through that party?
Yes, it may not even be only political parties that should be left to do that. All agencies that are involved in democracy including INEC, the civil society groups, the media, among others. The reason being that there is a constitutional provision that defends the defector. If there is a clear case of a rift in his party, it is then he has the grounds to switch parties. But that constitutional provision does not tell us whether such a person may retain the position occupied before making the switch. So, no political party can unilaterally amend the Constitution to achieve this. It has to be by collective inputs from all. This is why Saraki is staying put as Senate President, because he is relying on the constitutional provision and judicial pronouncements. That is certainly a Lacuna in the Constitution. But now again, I am disappointed at the instances they cite, when asked to step down. You hear that it was done in so and so year by xyz, so I can do same. I am at a loss when leaders so called refer to such mundane references to address such weighty matters. They ought to be citing sections of the Constitution, judicial predencences, best practices nationally and internationally etc. We should address the issue responsibly.
You talked about 2019 elections, do you think Nigeria has arrived at that point where voters will have the power to vote unwanted leaders out on principles visa-vis political ideology?
When you say whether we have arrived at that point, in the context you have asked the question, yes, we have, if Nigerian voters are allowed to vote and, if votes are allowed to count. Because with respect to awareness and consciousness of what is good or right, the Nigerian voter is conscious of his votes.
Are you saying this outside money politics and buying of votes by political leaders?
Yes. Our youths, whom the President unfortunately referred to as lazy, are not lazy in awareness. They are very conscious of what is right and what is wrong. The point is they think they have no stake in the system. More than 50% of registered voters dont vote during elections. Only a very tiny percentage does. That is a proof to you that they don’t believe their votes will count. There is never enough voters education. It is the responsibility of INEC and the political parties to create that awareness among voters of how important their votes are. It is my position that if we have an overwhelming number of people voting in an election, it is going to be very difficult to skew the system, because those people who voted will feel so angry and feel injustice has been done to their franchise that they will be out on the streets until something is done. But because you have a very tiny percentage of those who vote, it is so easy to manipulate those figures. So, in terms of a sense of justice they have it, but the elite who have always conspired against the people have so organised the system that they have made it difficult for the people to understand fully the processes they are participating in.
Sir, do you think there is any point of convergence for your party, Action Democratic Party (ADP) and the defectors?
If you followed the news when the PDP first announced the so called MoU of the nebulous coalition in Abuja, so many parties were listed including ADP, but the following day we went on air to dissociate ourselves vehemently from what one of our Honorables described as an ‘evil alliance’. First of all, it was rude and arrogant to list the party among political frauds. Second, we also think that the idea of the Third Force from which background ADP came argues that we needed new political actors and players on the scene, operating on new structures and paradigms. It was not our idea, when this party was being formed that it was going to serve as a room for people who have lost credibility to rush into because they have fat pockets . That was not the idea. So we are not going into any coalition with any such people. We are remaining here to build our party. We are not desperate. We want to ensure when they have started their fights, accusations and counter accusations, as is their inevitable characteristics, ADP will stand out and be seen as a political party that is ready to bring credible men on that will build for the now and future. So, there is no point of convergence.
You talked about elite conspiracy. I wonder how your party will tackle that conspiracy ?
Now, one thing we did was to come up with a second to none Manifesto and Constitutional. We believe there should be a level ground upon which every player should play fairly. A Constitution demands that we must adhere strictly to the provisions of it If you adhere strictly to the provision of your constitution, Nigerians will soon confirm that there is indeed a political party in existence in the true sense of the word. The masses will see the difference between a political party and those shambolic arrangements they call parties. Today the masses movement into ADP today, is already defeating the pervading elite conspiracy, because the masses own the processes here and they would ensure they operate the process according to rules. What feeds the conspiracy of the elite lawlessness, rules are not obeyed. They flagrantly disobey the Constitutions of their parties that they drew up by themselves. And we also the problem of selectivity within the party. For instance, why should a political party declare long before an election that they have just a sole candidate for the Presidency, the essence of democracy is defeated. I agree very well that you can have consensus choices, but there should be agreement by all relevant members. When two or three people come together and take decisions, others will cry out to say they were not part of it. Just as ADP cried out that we were not a part of the coalition.