The one thing you cannot successfully accuse most Nigerian politicians of is having any shame. Sometimes, if you look well enough, you may find a politician with a milk of kindness in him or even a sliver of conscience that’s not yet seared. But God forbid you find one with shame. A politician (or human being) with shame is one who stands for something. He may make deals, compromise and form bridges but there are lines which he wouldn’t cross: hard to find.
That’s the context through which we need to look at the recent series of defections across the South of the country (especially the South East and South South). Every Nigerian is guaranteed the freedom of association, and so no law is broken by the ones who choose to hop indiscriminately from the umbrella to the broom or even the cock. But the shamelessness of it all is worth a second look.
Let’s look at it through the actions of four defectors who ‘ported’ recently.
First on the list is a man called Opunabo Inko-Tariah. He’s not the most popular politician around. He tried unsuccessfully to represent his constituency at the House of Representatives. However, when Nyesom Wike of the PDP became governor of Rivers State, one of his first appointments was to make Inko-Tariah his special Adviser on Media and Publicity.
As spokesman, Inko-Tariah performed his job in the typical gung-ho Nigerian fashion – hitting and shooting and firing and lambasting day after day. Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the APC were the major victims of his tongue-lashing.
Privately, he was not having the best of relationships with his boss as well. After the election petition tribunal nullified the election of Governor Wike, Inko-Tariah released a statement claiming that Amaechi and the APC were trying to steal Wike’s mandate through “the back door”. He warned the courts to be “careful” and said Rivers people will defend Wike’s mandate against “judicial and political coup-plotters”.
It was a scandalous statement. The APC called on Gov. Wike to sack Inko-Tariah for impugning the judiciary. Unfortunately for Inko-Tariah, he did not have the confidence of his boss. Governor Wike publicly criticised his spokesman for going that hard on the judiciary. A few days later, Inko-Tariah resigned (according to him) or was sacked (according to the government). He claimed that he was starved of funds needed to run his office, that the governor disrespected him, that his advice was not taken, that he fell in the bathroom and the governor didn’t care, and that his vehicle was shot at by alleged assassins and the governor could not be bothered. Last week, Inko-Tariah defected to the APC and declared loyalty to Amaechi.
Now, there’s no problem with Inko-Tariah resigning from the Wike government, but to join the APC and pledge loyalty to Amaechi, who he has called a thief, a tyrant, a fraudster, among other names, can only be because of the absence of shame.
Then let’s consider Aloysius Etuk, who represented Akwa Ibom North West in the senate from 2007 to 2015. There was nothing special or noteworthy about Etuk’s service in the upper house, not even when he headed the powerful Rules and Business committee where he was an utter disappointment. He was the senator who the then governor Godswill Akpabio publicly admitted to have rigged the election in his favour. In a video which went viral, Akpabio said: “I used my hand to strike out the name of the person who won before and I said it was important for me to give that region a senator in 2007 and I produced Senator Aloysius Etuk, that’s where he comes from.”
At that time the two men had a good relationship and belonged to the same party. In 2015 however, Akpabio needed another political office to occupy after serving two terms as governor so he displaced Etuk and took his place in the same way he “used his hand” to put him there. Etuk wailed and wailed and last week he defected to the APC singing a new tune of “change”.
Let’s not forget Jim Nwobodo, the 75-year old former governor of old Anambra State, former sports minister, former senator, and former presidential aspirant. He’s one of the so-called “elder statesmen” from the PDP who has admitted that he collected the #DasukiGate sum of N100m in order to back former President Goodluck Jonathan in the last election. Last week, he too defected to the APC.
“My defection to the APC,” he said, “is based on principle and for the good of my people.” The only principle Nwobodo knows is the principle of his belly.
“I want our people to be part of the Federal Government at the centre. I had a problem being an opposition governor. I am not coming into APC because I want anything,” the man said, without any sense of irony or shame. Just one year after collecting N100m in cash in his car boots at the home of former PDP national chairman, Adamu Muazu, he criticised the PDP as he chased the next pay day.
Finally, let’s not forget Uche Ekwunife. Her election as senator representing Anambra Central under the PDP was nullified last month by the Appeal Court and she’s preparing for the rerun which should come up In February or March. She also defected to the APC last week, and if she gets the APC ticket, she will set the record as the first person to represent two different parties for the same seat during one election cycle.
In her defection statement, she hit the judiciary for being “Father Christmas”, and said there was a gang-up between officials of the APGA led Anambra state government and leadership of the PDP. Like Nwobodo, she also mouthed the need for her people to get into the “mainstream” of Nigerian politics.
These four individuals weren’t the only ones to defect last week across the South. There was former Enugu senator Fidelis Okoro and former Akwa Ibom Rep, Eseme Eyiboh, among others. As stated earlier, no offence was committed by these ones for defecting but we need to ask questions about a system where the players have no scruples about shifting loyalty, or dumping one highly held principle for another at the drop of a hat. (Wo)men of straw who mount heavily divisive campaigns and then get into bed with each other shortly afterwards while the victims of their rhetoric and bitter politics sometimes never recover like the ones who died during Saturday’s violent governorship poll in Bayelsa. We really need to ask questions of this system.
…….By Stanley Azuakola
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