Some of the tenets of democracy as handed down to humanity by the Athenians, and modernised and made popular by Abraham Lincoln include the rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of association as well as freedom of association.
There must be press freedom just as the judiciary must be independent and unfettered. The tenets of democracy also demand that the right to dissent and effective opposition must be guaranteed.
It is against the backdrop of freedom of association and right to dissent that one finds the news of the alleged police harassment of Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, deputy governor of Zamfara State, very disturbing.
The offence of Gusau is that he refused to join Matawalle, the Zamfara governor in defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ostensibly as a result of the unprincipled and ideology-bereft politics being played in Nigeria and Africa, Matawalle defected to the APC last week and expected that as a loyal subordinate, Gusau must cross-carpet with him.
Standing on principle and demonstrating utmost loyalty to his party, under whose platform, he contested as running mate to Matawalle, Gusau stoically opted to remain with the PDP.
If the story of Gusau’s alleged harassment by men of the Nigeria Police is true, then it is most unfortunate as it portends grave danger for Nigeria’s nascent democracy and it must be resisted by all well-meaning people.
Some months before Matawalle’s undemocratic drama, the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade also crossed over to the APC.
Ayade expected all his appointees to defect to the APC with him and all those who had the temerity not to cross with him were summarily fired.
While it lasted, a mild drama played out in Calabar. Ayade announced.the sacking of an appointee only to re-appoint him less than 24 hours later after the governor’s attention was drawn to the fact that the appointee in question had actually crossed to the APC with the governor and should not have been sacked in the first place.
All the lilly-livered appointees crawled back with their tails in-between their legs to show proof that they had crossed too and we’re given their jobs back.
Even though it is wrong, the Ayade case can be excused, because he appointed them and has the power to hire and fire.
The same cannot be said about the situation in Zamfara State. Gusau is not an appointee of Governor Matawalle so he should not be stampeded into crossing over to the APC against his will.
The 1999 Constitution guarantees Gusau’s right to belong to any political party of his choice and Matawalle must not coerce him into joining any other party.
The PDP should stand solidly behind Gusau and fight Matawalle on this. All well-meaning Nigerians must rise to condemn Matawalle, if indeed the alleged harassment of Gusau is true. In addition, the Police Force should be prevailed upon not to allow its officers to be used by politicians to achieve their selfish desires.
The harassment of Gusau and any future similar case, must be resisted by well-meaning Nigerians.
Some other high profile PDP to APC defections include member of Board of Trustees, Senator Grace Jackson Brent and Senator Godswill Akpabio.
From Kwara State alone, Oyedepo Iyiola Akogun, PDP chairman, Kwara State; Isa Bio Ibrahim, former minister for transport; Senator Mohammed; Senator Simon Ajibola, 2015 PDP Governorship candidate.