Fictions of Factions

The word “faction” has probably never had greater prominence, in Nigerian political history, than now. Its meaning, its existence and/or non-existence will be key factors in the impending political crinkum-crankum of 2014-15. APC’s current momentum, given added by impetus by the defection of all manner of PDP politicians into its fold, can be brought to a grinding halt if the courts uphold the PDP’s contention that defecting legislators should be stripped of their political office.

I have already suggested here, that the legislators’ seats ought to be safe. The premise of my argument was that the law permits defecting lawmakers to retain their seats if their original party is factionalised. There is a supporting judgement of the Supreme Court that states that the Electoral Commission’s refusal to register the faction will not lead to the removal from office of the defecting lawmaker.

However, the PDP insists that there is a subsisting judgement that says that there are no factions in the PDP. I dispute this, for the reasons stated hereafter, and ask anyone with a certified copy of that court ruling to please share it with us. The reasons that I do not believe that it was the dictum of the court that “there are no factions in the PDP” are as follows:

  1. The court’s ruling was not reported in any newspaper to be about whether a faction existed or not – it was about who the lawful leaders of the Party are/were. ThisDay reports that it was the splinter group that went to court to restrain Bamanga Tukur and the rest of his executive committee to stop parading themselves as the PDP executive. A further report, of a subsequent suit (as the initial one was struck out) can be found here; and
  2. It is customary for judges provide the rationale behind their decisions. Their decisions would be arbitrary, otherwise. Thus, if a court rules that there are no factions in a party, it must state the test or criteria it adopted or created in reaching this determination. No such criteria have been relied upon by the PDP members seeking to rely on the alleged judicial pronouncement that “there are no factions in the PDP”.

One must then ask when can it safely be said that factions exist within a political party? The question is important, as many commentators cite a precedent from last year where a state lawmaker that defected from Labour Party, in Ondo State, lost his seat.  The court upheld the contention that the lawmaker did not prove a division (or faction) within the Labour Party. It is also relevant that in reaching its decision, the court relied on the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Amaechi v. INEC (2008), that –

“…if it is only a party that canvasses for votes, it follows that it is a party that wins an election. A good or bad candidate may enhance or diminish the prospect of his party in winning, but at the end of the day it is the party that wins or loses an election.”

You may recall that this was the [curious] decision in which a person who did not participate in the gubernatorial elections (after being replaced on the ballot by his party) was declared the winner of the election and ordered to be installed as Governor, as it should have been him on the ballot and “at the end of the day, it is the party that wins or loses an election”.

We should probably note, first of all, that the constitution is superior to even judgements of the Supreme Court and, as such, the first consideration of any court should be whether or not a division exists within the party. Given the events that have taken place from the PDPs special convention until now, I think it is hard to suggest the party is united. A walkout was staged, a parallel executive was elected, the splinter party sought to operationalize a secretariat but was prevented from doing so with state apparatus (police and SSS), the splinter party sought registration at INEC which was declined, both the splinter party and the main party sought orders of court recognising them as the de jure party leaders, etc.

I am acutely aware that it is possible for future defectors to abuse the law, if all that is required to establish a faction (for the purpose of retaining an electoral seat) is staging a walkout and attempting to seize the party’s apparatus. However, this is more the reason why a mere declaration of the absence of factions is useless if we cannot tell, by the same ruling, when one exists. It should certainly not be that any group of individuals (no matter how small their number or insignificant their political clout) can claim “faction”, defect and retain their seats. However, with 6 governors, 1 former vice-president, a list of senators and representatives  (and even state and municipal legislators) that keeps growing, I would strongly suggest that denying the existence of a factionalisation of the PDP would be a fiction. What we need from the judiciary right now (and I’m not sure not only the SANs that will earn the JUMBO fees next year welcome the coming litigation) is further clarity on what constitutes a division within a political party.

The APC-nPDP “Merger”: 5 Things

Although it’s a bit of a misnomer, as the “New PDP” neither ever acquired a distinct corporate personality nor was recognised as an actual political party, but a “merger” with the All Progressives Congress (APC) was announced today. As the news spread on Twitter, a hitherto latent pragmatism also spread with it.  Suspicions about the leanings and probity credentials of the APC leaders gave way to acceptance that Nigeria isn’t yet ripe enough to be led by a party of saints. There was palpable excitement at the notion that a party that didn’t exist a year ago now has 18 governors (and numerous federal legislators) in its fold. What are the implications of this merger, though? Here are a few naïve thoughts from my de-tribalised, de-politicised, de-everythinged mind

1. An Epic Clash Awaits in 2014/15

Forget for a second, if you will, about the potential presidential candidates. Lick your chomps instead at the prospect of the mother of all muscle-flexing between Federal and State might. Incumbents typically do not lose elections in Africa. In Nigeria, the ruling PDP’s candidate has won every presidential election since our then (and still?) nascent democracy was born in 1999. The PDP has wielded control over the fabled “machinery” of elections since then. However, it was overwhelmingly the largest party in the past and its majority has now been halved. Federal Machinery is no more than an agglutination of Municipal Machineries. With Municipal (i.e. State) Machinery no longer aligned with Federal purpose the outcome may remain unknown for now, but it is sure that the jostling will be the busiest, rowdiest, most legendary election campaign (and spending, let’s be honest) that us 45’s and under have ever seen.

2. Shine Ya Eye

My twitter bio has been updated, to indicate my availability to provide electioneering services that cater to the vanities of elite Nigeria. I am not a ballot-stuffer and I have never brandished a weapon against a fellow human in all my life. To be honest, I want nothing to do with that side of our peculiar electoral process. However, I can do and coordinate the fancy stuff that we, the electoral minority, like. After all, a credible campaign consists of serving the illiterate masses empty platitudes and attempting to beguile the elite with concrete policy. If the epic spending predicted in point 1 above proves true, then there is going to be a big “mahkate” for consultants. Get your consultancy on.

3. Jagabanism is Next to Progressivenessism

Slate the Jagaban Borgu all you like but dismiss him at your own peril. This dismissiveness I speak of is not just in the context of the opposition parties (as the political calculations suggest a South-Westerner is unlikely to be a popular presidential candidate for another 20 years or so) but even with the APC aficionados. Sure, he is building a family dynasty, with the good lady senator senating and the Iyaloja General doing whatever it is Iyalojas do, but perhaps the Tinubus will be the Kennedys or the Bushes of Yorubaland – with due apologies to FFK. With the opinion most people express about him online, I think, given his astute succession planning in Lagos State, it is either he gets an unduly bad rap or Governor Fashola simply is not the saint we imagine him to be. Lagos has progressed unquestionably under their watch however, so it is clear that the man knows a thing or two about developmental spending.

4. Dry Bones Will Live Again

It was said recently, citing sources from within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, that the reason for its poor record of enforcement recently was  a lack of funds. No money to chase stealers of money; the sad irony.  We can rest assured, however, that this hitherto missing money or a good Executive substitute for it will be delivered to the EFCC and they will begin to pursue their statutory mandate with renewed vigour and unprecedented fervour. That the scope of their sights is set on members of the burgeoning APC will be a minor footnote in the quest to kick corruption out of government. Never mind the fact that the N255m armoured car scandal refuses to go away, even with the feeble Wag-The-Dog tactics of an attack on an empty ministerial car by unknown gunmen. But I digress.

5. Plus Ca Change…

Asari Dokubo and co will no doubt, in the wake of the moves to unseat their “Jesus Christ on earth”, remind us that it is Niger Delta oil that is running through all our veins and that removing the incumbent president would be akin to ripping each of our hearts out of our bodies. It will be of no consequence, should this president be removed by a popular vote. It is “their turn”. Then, as elections draw closer, and the president begins to lie down before men of God for prayers, religion will also join tribalism as an honoured guest at the electoral feast. General Buhari, did not lie prostrate before the archbishop of Canterbury during his recent visit, so GEJ is well ahead in the picture polls. Pictures from the Jerusalem walkabout will resurface and Buhari will have to defend why he contracted the Mossad to abduct Umaru Dikko. Allegedly. Then the president will reduce the barriers for accessing the Nollywood World Bank Fund. So those ones will come out and act and sing for him again. Then North will be awash with “Sai Buhari” posters. Then the polity will be unbelievably heated up, in spite of the tepid warnings from the presidency…