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One party state and the road to dictatorship

By Adisa Adeleye
THE apparent disintegration of the opposition parties in the country has engaged the attention of commentators in the media recently.  With the demise of that dogged fighter for the poor and the oppressed, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and the shameful movement of some governors from their parties (under which they were elected) into the ruling party, genuine fear is gripping the nation over the survival of democracy in Nigeria.

The beauty of Democracy is the smooth operation of the multi-party system which recognizes the existence of the ruling party and alterative ones.  The operational rule is that at the appointed time, election is held for the ruling party to give an account of its stewardship and the other parties to state their cases through their manifestos (statements of intent).

The voter is the judge, either by endorsing the ‘good’ works of the ruling party or reject its antics by voting for the other party, i.e. the opposition.

In theory, the voter is the arbiter in any periodic political contest and that principle has been enshrined in the political culture of the Western democracies.  In fact, economic development of developed countries has been based on democratic principles which had over a long period, ensured political stability.

Under the colonial era, Nigeria enjoyed a symbol of near free and fair elections with ruling parties and the opposition having equal opportunities (in theory) to appeal to the electorate.  This assertion does not excuse subtle intimidation of voters in some areas, but the mere fact of intimidation was a realization of the awesome power of the electorate to enthrone and dethrone rulers.

In the heydays of regional politics and formidable and charismatic leaders, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, opposition parties thrived inspite of obvious difficulties associated with religious and tribal differences.

As shown by the results of 1959 federal elections, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) with its iron hold on the Northern Region (134 seats) could not prevent NCNC/NEPU (8 seats) and AG/Allies (25 seats) from making inroads in the Region; the NCNC (under Zik) dared AG (under Awo) by winning 23 seats to AG’s 34 seats in the West while AG and allies (under Awo) dazzled the great Zik by winning 14 seats against NCNC’s 58 seats in the East.

The elections were conducted by the departing British officials to pave way for Nigerian Independence 1960.
Another interesting scenario was the federal elections of 1979 at the departure of the military government.

Inspite of the multiplicity of the parties, there appeared to be a clear playing field for all the contending parties – NPN (containing the remnants of NPC); UPN (of old Awoists); NPP (old NCNC of Zik); GNPP and PRP  (old NEPU of Aminu Kano).  NPN won (Senate – 36, 169 Reps); UPN (28 Senate, III Reps); PRP – (7 Senate, 49 Reps).

The results showed the wide-spread of the three major parties, NPN, UPN and NPP, and also the base strengths of GNPP and PRP in old Gongola and Kano.  There was a wide field for strong parties and small parties.

One glaring fact that emerged from the 1979 results was that no single party was strong enough to force its way through.

It was the NPN’s attempt to change that position and equation in the 1983 election through its rigged landslide that invited army occupation for 16 years.  If the previous elections of 1959 and 1979 were fair because they were conducted by the British and the military, the subsequent controversial elections of 1993 (conducted fairly by the military but annulled unfairly by the military), 1999, 2003 and 2007 showed clearly that Nigerian politicians have learnt little or nothing from the past colonial and military experiences.

The post-military era has thrown into the political arena three unequal combatants – PDP (backed by the military because one of them was a candidate), APP (remnants of old NPN) and AD (Awoists of UPN).  The 1999 election results showed PDP with (Senators 59, Reps 206); APP – (Senators 29, 74 Reps) and Ad AD – Senators 20, 68 Reps).

In the last 2007 election, PDP (Senators 87, Reps 263); ANPP – (Senators 14, 63 Reps)’ AC – (Senators 6, Reps 30); PPA – (Senators 1, Reps 3) and Labour (1 Rep).  Also, PDP has more than two-thirds of the ruling 36 governors.  The figures have changed with cross carpeting to the ruling party.

The real problem of the country is that like the greed of the present generation, the ruling party wants more either by carrot or crook.

The danger is that with the enormous power of the federal government in the distribution of offices and allowances that go with them, the juicy packages are alluring enough to capture the variety of politicians in the country whose main problems dwell on indiscipline, lack of loyalty and principle.  It is easy for a party leader searching for money, power and prestige to cross from one party to the other without any sense of shame or remorse.

Analysts are harping on electoral reforms as a welcome political culture.  Yes, reforms would ensure that individual vote counts.  How about political principles?  What are the distinguishing features of our political parties to attract analytical and cultured minds? Unless the political niceties are properly addressed and properly packaged for public consumption, it may be futile to be expecting a successful challenge to the ruling party.

By its organisation and wealth, the PDP as a party needs not rig to win a fair election.  However, with dilapidated infrastructures, unemployment, insecurity, political and economic uncertainties, that party’s recent electoral successes raise serious doubts.

But where are the opposition parties with alternative policies on Power, political and economic uncertainties?  Unless alternatives views are canvassed, it looks as if we are all on a slippery road to eternal serfdom and dictatorship.

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