The sack on Monday, of 20 lawmakers from Cross River State, by an Abuja court presided over by Mr Justice Taiwo Taiwo was to be expected, especially after a similar judgement had been given against lawmakers in Ebonyi State who also jumped from the PDP to the APC.
The legislators that were sacked and ordered to vacate their seat immediately by the court were those in the state house of assembly as well as their counterparts in the House of Representatives. The trial judge, in ordering their sack, ruled that they were wrong to have eloped from the PDP under which ticket they won the election.
Their defection from the PDP came around and from June last year. That was about a month after the governor, Prof Ben Ayade had defected to the APC a month earlier.
Ironically, the sacked legislators had defended Ayade after he defected and then on their own, decided to follow him to the APC, not because there was crisis in the PDP, but because they saw the governor as their leader, benefactor and paymaster.
For example, Mr Legor Idagbo, the legislator that used to represent the Bekwarra/Obudu/Obanliku Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, in defending the action of the governor and apparently justifying his decision to join him in the APC had said that “our governor(Ayade) has done well, he is our illustrious son of the north, let us stand by him and support him.”
Speaker of the state house of assembly, Mr Eteng William reasoned along that line too, when the governor defected. It was not long after, that he also defected. And he left the PDP with virtually all members of the Assembly, except seven that chose to stay on in the PDP.
This is what he said to a journalist who interviewed him at that time: “Before the governor took the decision, he consulted widely and the majority of the people told him that he needed to move to the APC. While in PDP, the governor was not respected and given the honour he deserved by the hierarchy of the PDP as the leader of the party in the state. So, there was a need for him to move. The governor has also stated clearly that he needed to align the state with the happenings in the centre for the interest of the state.
“Cross River is known for always playing politics with the centre. Since 1999, former governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke all played politics from the centre. Ayade is the only governor from the state who has played opposition for six years now and he feels it is time to align with the centre for the benefit of the state.”
Since the judgement was given, many have hailed the court for the decision to reprimand the politicians for what has now become a norm-jumping from one political party to the other, regardless of what the law says. However, those that have been affected by the judgement are either quiet or are talking with their lawyers on the way forward.
Clearly, the legislators will appeal the judgement. Of course it is their right to do so. But we believe that the right and proper thing for them to do is to obey the court order and vacate their seat. That, to us, is the path of honour. As lawmakers, we urge them to obey the order, especially as it was given with some sense of immediacy. That is what the law says, at least.
If the highest court in the land rules in their favour in the months to come, they can return to their seats. But for now, let the law be obeyed.