The House of Representatives is considering making a president or governor lose their seat if they defect from the political party on whose platform they were elected to another.
Presently, the constitution only prescribes such for National Assembly and state House of Assembly members.
A member of the Peoples Democratic Party from Taraba State, Rimamnde Kwewum, has now sponsored a bill to extend the condition to the president, vice-president, governor and deputy governor.
Since the last general elections in 2019, governors who have changed parties include David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Ben Ayade of Cross River State, and recently Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State.
The bill, which is awaiting second reading by the House, seeks to amend sections 144(1) and 189(1) of the 1999 Constitution “to check incidents of defections, that is, cross-carpetings or abandoning the political party that sponsored a president, vice-president, governor or deputy governor, as the case may be, for another political party, in the absence of a merger of political parties, division or factions within the sponsoring political party.”
Kwewum, in the legislative brief on the bill, said, “Presently, only legislators in the national and state Houses of Assembly lose their seats if they defect to other political parties. The intention remains the need to improve and deepen democracy by strengthening the political parties.
“There is no doubting the fact that all through history, political parties have remained the strongest pillars of democracy. They provide choices for people by professing and working through some governing philosophies, and help to educate people on different patterns of developments being proposed by the different political parties.
“Often regarded by political parties which sponsored them as leaders, presidents and governors cannot abandon their political parties and retain the seat that they earned by the sponsoring political parties.
“There is, therefore, a need to ensure that political parties retain their hold on the states or governments that they have won. Fact is that under the present constitution, you cannot run for that office without the party.”
According to the lawmaker, people vote for parties and that is why party symbols are used on ballot parties.
“Winners of elections, by this logic, are simply agents of the political parties,” Kwewum argued.
He said it was important, therefore, that once an elected person, the president, vice-president, governor or deputy president abandons the position to which they were elected, “it means they no longer have confidence in the political party and do not share the same ideologies or principles.”
“Principled people ought not to be told to vacate such offices,” Kwewum added.