Incessant defections by politicians bad for Nigeria’s democracy, says Okoko

Bayelsa PDP governorship aspirant, Keniebi Okoko

Bayelsa businessman and youngest governorship aspirant at the recent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary in the state, Keniebi Okoko, has kicked against politicians who defect from their parties after losing elections, insisting that the practice was bad for the country’s nascent democracy.

Okoko, who came third in a contest that had 21 other governorship hopefuls, argued that Nigerian politicians, as well as their followers, must begin to play value-based politics, maintaining that destroying a political platform because an aspirant lost an election is not in the best interest of the state. He was speaking against rumours of massive defection that will soon hit the two major political parties in the aftermath of the controversial primaries that left many governorship hopefuls and their supporters dissatisfied.

He called for politics with ethics, stressing that all actions that do not rub off positively in the interest of the people and beyond selfish politics must be discarded by Nigerian politicians who feel that if they don’t get a leadership position, then the occupant should be destroyed.

The PDP stalwart advised both party loyalists and other major stakeholders threatening to leave PDP because the primary did not favour a particular aspirant to have a rethink in the interest of the people and deepening of democracy. He also argued that some of the best democracies in the world were not built by politicians who remained steadfast in the same parties.

‘’The grass is not always greener on the other side,” he noted. “We must sit back and fix what is wrong with our party instead of running away from it. If you read the history of how the biggest democracies work, you will find out that focus and persistence will make a difference in the long run, not jumping ship anytime a decision doesn’t favour this or that candidate.”

Okoko noted that if elders who should be examples to young persons who are interested in politics would move around four parties in four months, then the hope of a value-based party system would be lost forever.

“Leaving a party and coming back to it and leaving it and coming back to it is not a good example for our youths. Is it okay to act that way? For me, I believe that when a situation is not going the way you expect it, we should come together and repair it and not abandon it. 

“Many people are not happy with a lot going on at the party, but do we abandon it just like that? Who then will correct it and make the needed difference? I’m saying this because I strongly believe that we all have a role to play in changing this country and our state. We can’t keep complaining and when the plain truth is said we get offended. We should be able to say the truth without hiding behind the guise of politics. 

“I believe that we have changed politics to just a game of zero values and integrity. I’m not in agreement with a lot of goings-on but we should stay to make the needed change.”

He urged politicians to borrow a leaf from former President Goodluck Jonathan, who willfully conceded an election to his opponent, President Muhammadu Buhari, maintaining that the consequences of not conceding the election when he did would have been disastrous.

He added: “It must not always be about ourselves and our vision. It cannot be. The country or this state cannot move forward if we continue that way. We must always look at the big picture.

“What if President Goodluck Jonathan had decided at that time that he was not going to concede after the election? Do you know how many souls would have been lost? Or if after that, he abandoned PDP for the APC? How would it look? By now Nigeria would be a one-party state.

“We must be able to do what is right for our people. When people tell me, ‘you are young in politics.’ I say ‘no, values don’t change.’ You are who you are. What you are expressing is what and who you are. The way my father brought me up is the way I am today. I am not going to betray my people because of my own selfish interest.”

Okoko said he had gone to congratulate his rival, Senator Douye Diri, candidate of PDP because he was convinced that it was in the best interest of the people of Bayelsa to do so.

“It’s the love for Bayelsa State that made me go and visit Douye Diri. The same urge to move my state forward has made me go and listen to governor Seriake Dickson and to support the party because I believe that collectively, we can make a change. Not one governor can change a state. We need a collective effort and if your governor is doing something that you don’t like, you don’t run away from the party; you confront him. 

“Today, if I’m with governor Dickson, I can tell him, ‘Your Excellency, this thing you are doing is wrong, sir. We should try and unify the party and not divide it.’ We need the kind of people who will tell them the truth, rather than lying to him because of personal ambition. We need to say the truth.”

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