By Samuel Abiona
Prostitution has been referred to as the oldest profession in humanity, dating back to the Biblical era. Prostitution is a word that has been defined differently in the dictionaries. One thing, however, is common to the definitions – there is a gain, a reward, or compensation for the act. This reward is usually personal. The “prostitute” gets rewarded for the act. And often times, such rewards are said to be “unworthy”.
“Unworthy” has many synonyms, but in this case, I am referencing “dishonorable, degrading or shameful.” Analogously, the act in itself is derogatory on the part of the person performing it – the prostitute.
Wiktionary, a multilingual, web-based project to create a free content dictionary of all words in all languages, captures it all. It defines prostitution as “debasement for unworthy profits or motives”, and the American Heritage® dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, says: “The act or an instance of offering or devoting one’s talent to an unworthy use or cause.”
Inherent in this second definition is the power of freewill. Granted, there are those forced into prostitution. In the real sense of the word, those who are being used for all manners of such acts are not prostitutes but humans trafficked for financial gains. Often times, the benefits or rewards go to their sponsors. This is condemnable in all ramifications. And I share this denunciation.
Going further, to better get a grasp of our discussion, debasement is defined by both dictionaries mentioned above as “the act of debasing”. In defining debase, the two dictionaries agree: “To lower in character, quality, or value”. Putting these two definitions together therefore, prostitution can be defined as “the lowering of one’s quality, value or character for unworthy profits or motives, or causes”.
Furthermore, noteworthy is the fact that a prostitute doesn’t have to leave the house to commit the act. The client can come over. If married, a prostitute doesn’t have to quit the relationship or leave the partner to engage in the act of prostitution. However, a partner can decide to send a prostitute packing if the act is discovered or becomes unbearable.
Relatedly, a partner can condone and pamper a prostitute and even enjoy the proceeds of such prostitution together. They may even share such proceeds with friends and family members, some of whom may be aware of the trade but look away; or they are too impoverished in themselves to do anything about it.
In the same vein, a prostitute may quit a relationship altogether and/or move out of the house to dwell entirely with the partner that is being serviced. Sometimes, a prostitute may move out of the house and lurk around, close the house of clients, and sometimes far away. A prostitute may visibly or furtively engage in the act of prostitution. And a prostitute is everybody’s property.
For this piece, I am not referring to prostitution in sexual sense. Of this, there have been debates worldwide as to how best to give a name to the “oldest profession” in human history; how unsurpassed to style those who engage in such acts of sexual gratification – male or female – for monetary gains or other forms of compensations. No. I am not insinuating this. I am discussing “political prostitution”, with all analogous characteristics of the prostitute in the sensual world.
From the foregoing therefore, I define political prostitution as a debasing act performed by a card-carrying member of a political party or a partisan public figure by overtly or covertly fraternizing with another political party, with the intent of getting unworthy personal gratifications, to the detriment of the political party and/or the people that the person performing the act is well-known or originally identifies with.
Unarguably, political defections cannot be abolished in a true democratic setting. And this is not limited to Nigeria or developing country context. Thus, political prostitution must be distinguished from genuine and well-conceived intentions of politicians, card-carrying party members or partisan-public figure to switch alliance by decamping from one political party to another.
In such scenarios, their unaffected intentions are not selfish and are not based one’s expectations of personal gains. Even if in the short-term, the gains may appear personal, ultimately, the larger interest of the people prevail.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude then, that political defections may be genuine. And sometimes political defections may not be. Also, all political prostitution are political defections. Nonetheless, not all political defections are political prostitution.
Political Prostitution in Nigeria
Political defections are not new in Nigeria. However, while the past cannot be said to be totally free of political prostitution, the scope and frequency of its occurrence is more contemporaneous.
In 1951 for example, several members of the defunct National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC), led by the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, decamped to the Action Group (AG). The purpose was to deny Zik the majority needed to form government in the then Western Region and allow Action Group, led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to have the majority to form the government in the Region. This was a decade even before Nigeria’s Independence in 1960.
Similarly, and in that same First Republic, Chief Ladoke Akintola, left the then Action Group, to form United Nigeria Democratic Party (UNDP), and then later joined forces with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). The reason he gave was that he wanted to mainstream the Yoruba race out of regional politics to national politics, even though personal differences have been cited by different authorities as the core and unvoiced reason for his actions.
Likewise, subsequent Republics were not spared from defections. For instance, in Ondo State during the Second Republic, Akin Omoboriowo, the then Deputy Governor to Michael Adekunle Ajasin, defected to join National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to become its Gubernatorial candidate. What happened thereafter is still fresh in the memory of many indigenes of the State.
Peter Mbah, in “Party Defection and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria, 1999-2009” published in the Afro-Asian Journal of Social Sciences in 2011, said that political party defection has become an increasingly permanent feature in the Nigerian Democratic experience, thus constituting one of the major challenges confronting Nigeria Democracy.
Unfortunately, in recent times, quest for relevance, economic gains, fear of prosecution, personal gratifications and compensations in all forms, and not ideological differences, often dictate party defections in Nigeria. And indeed, it is becoming an ‘increasingly permanent feature in the Nigerian Democratic experience’.
Pains of Political Prostitution in Nigeria
Imagine the prostitute described above. The prostitute is out for gainful pleasure, without any serious longterm commitment. If none is available, the prostitute moves on. The sensual-world prostitute is much akin to the political prostitute – in influence and consequences.
It must be emphasised that party stability is needed for democratic consolidation. Political prostitution threatens internal cohesion of the party, derail party manifestoes and creates fifth columnist from within the party. All these, threaten democratic consolidation.
For instance, political prostitution can make a candidate to work against the realization of party campaign promises in other to favour the “client” of the prostitute – the other political party enjoying the company of the prostitute.
In the Nigerian context, this is even worse. Party members defect on the slightest excuse, creating needless distractions for the government, especially if the defectors are from the ruling party, either at the Federal, State or local government.
To worsen the situation, political party structures are not clearly separated from the State. Owing to the fact that moneybags control the people due to unacceptable level of poverty, the “government” somehow technically gets unfocused on governance and gets involved in politicking – controlling every happening within the political party from the Unit to Ward to LGA to Constituency to Senatorial district to State to Zonal and then Federal levels. This is out fear that they may lose grip and to institutionalize control and prevent political prostitution – or at least monitor it.
Even worse, political prostitution stinks when done to evade prosecution for acts of wrongdoing. Such may be in cases of corruption or other criminal prosecutions. In that case, the State, by shielding such “political prostitutes”, unwittingly and tacitly promotes and sustains political prostitution. In all, it is the system that suffers, and the masses worse hit for it.
Also, when party accepts political prostitutes just because they want to win elections at all cost, our democratic values are destroyed, and this is a great threat to Nigeria’s democracy – a democracy ‘under construction’.
Political prostitution has the potential to, and most times do, corrupt other sectors of the economy. It could encourage corruption and lack of accountability across all sectors, as the people are already aware that once they become political prostitutes, their woes are over. Examples of this are not farfetched. As you read this piece, what sectors are you? And how has political prostitution impacted directly or indirectly on the sector? Please spend one minute to ponder over this.
Additionally, political prostitution threatens the security and sovereignty of our country. A political prostitute is self-centered and thinks more of what next without due consideration for the future. A political prostitute, who had been within the ruling government, may divulge sensitive information, even to ‘national enemies’, if at that time it feels good to help realize the gains of prostitution. The consequences of such actions are best imagined!
Equally, to the political prostitutes, they are just tools for satisfaction in time of need. Soon they will be discarded. Sadly, this too has its danger for the overall wellness of democratic institutions. It builds a vicious cycle, with one step serving as the catalyst for another, and robs the nation of her most cherished values and morals.
This is what I mean. If a political prostitute is used and discarded, soon the political prostitute may seek alliance with close supporters to weaken the party or structure that discarded the political prostitute. And when carried out at the flimsiest of excuses, values people used to cherish may fade away due to the acceptability of political prostitution as a ‘normal process’ of evolvement in our cultural and moral heritage.
Be that as it may, there is no good reason why a partisan public figure should be held down to a political party just because he or she doesn’t want to be called a political prostitute. This is all the more so when differences in ideology and values may not allow the individual to best represent the people. Genuine defections can help candidates to stand out. It can also help to pull like minds together for greater good of the society.
Besides, it can keep the government of the day on her toes for better governance and improved wellbeing. Unpretentious switch in alliance can help to push the cause of a group, or section of the society for better tomorrow.
There is no disaffirming that political prostitution is a dangerous incursion into Nigeria’s polity and it is not good for our nascent democracy. While this write-up is not about recommendations to curb political prostitution, it is necessary to state that stiffer measures be devoted to limiting the trend. Political parties must not adopt the ‘let’s share the proceeds syndrome’, usually displayed by some friends or families as aforementioned, and pamper political prostitutes.
Relevant sections of the Nigeria constitution and Acts must be underwired to cover loopholes exploited by politicians to decamp at the slightest provocation. Otherwise, the opportunity cost of allowing political prostitution to fester further in our society will be immeasurable!
Samuel Abiona is a Public Health Practitioner. He writes in from firstname.lastname@example.org