*It’s an impediment to free and fair elections
By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Political parties in Nigeria are perceived to be guilty of ‘Selectocracy’ which now determines the emergence of parties’ candidates for elective positions. Across the parties, allegations of imposition of candidates for 2011 general elections are rife. Money bags are also accused in many cases of creating political dynasties within political parties and this became apparent after the primary elections.
Although political parties have submitted list of candidates for the elections to Independent electoral Commission, INEC, primaries of some political parties at various levels of elective offices were rejected by INEC giving room for re-run primaries.
Internal democracy within political parties is required if free and transparent elections are expected in April elections but where parties derail, the situation could rub off on the elections proper.
Dr Frederick Fasehun, founder of Oodua Peoples Congress , OPC, in a reaction recently expressed dismay that Nigerians are being subjected to be ruled by those who owe them no allegiance whatsoever because of the prejudiced, unfair, and undemocratic process by which they emerged .
“How does a servant serve well when he has not been mandated to serve and how do you expect peace from a situation of social injustice? The abuse of the wish of the majority by party leaders is caused by the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to resolutely stamp its feet on the nation’s political landscape as a non-partisan regulator it is supposed to be. Consequently, the obvious trend in the nation’s politics is that of supremacy of godfathers rather than the wish of the people. “True democracy cannot be the nation’s lot as INEC in its present state is just a ‘toothless’ dog that can only bark but not bite and is already laying the foundation for a new era of rigging through its ongoing systematic official disenfranchisement.
“This goes to show that Nigeria’s problem is not the militants, but the politicians who find it difficult to provide good leadership and social justice. Or what is corruption if we don’t count godfatherism, selectocracy, and rigging as its attributes? Is institutionalization of political dynasties a feature of democracy?”
Fasehun however advised that INEC should find a way to sanction all political parties that have compromised internal democracy and produced unpopular candidates, advising the electoral commission to “open a department for Direct Public Complaints, where aspirants robbed of their candidacy can file an appeal and reclaim their due mandate.”
He also proposed that any political party that has, at least, ten percent of its primary elections disputed should be sanctioned , advocating further, a statutory provision that will compel political parties to reserve at least one third of their total candidates for women.
For Hon. Dino Melaye, a member of the House of Representatives and the leader of the legislative caucus group, known as ‘the Progressives’, whose group suffered suspension for an unbecoming behaviour during plenary, imposition has brought about decampments of politicians from their original parties to others. Melaye who recently decamped to All Nigeria Peoples Party,ANPP, accused PDP of being the worst culprit on imposition of candidates.
“The implication of imposition is taking its toll on internal democracy of parties. There is a lot of protest votes and decampments to other parties. PDP is the worst culprit. Other political parties are not left out though.”
Mealaye admitted that his recent decampment from ANPP is borne out of protest and expressed hope of returning to the House after the elections. He had earlier alleged that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole worked with some members of the PDP in Kogi State where he(Melaye ) comes from to frustrate his return to the House of Representatives.
“But I have returned to ANPP where I used to be the Director General of Abubakar Audu Campaign Organisation who was elected governor on the platform of ANPP in 1999 . The ANPP structure is still on ground in Kogi State and I will win the elections”.
Chief Chekwas Okorie, a factional national Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, attributed the problem of imposition of candidates by parties to Nigeria’s evolving democracy.
“Democracy is evolving gradually. What we are having now s an improvement on what we used to have. People who felt short-changed have decamped to other parties. Those who decamped are those who have confidence in their constituencies and are popular with their people to the extent that no matter what platform they contest on, they will win. It is always good for a politician to widen his democratic stake so as to avoid friction . It is only those who think they can realise their aspiration on only one platform that are having problems. This includes those relying on incumbency factor or the powers that be to facilitate their elections. But others who are popular with the people moved on to other platforms to reap the benefit of a widened political space.”
Former military administrator of Lagos state, Mohammed Buba Marwa who recently decamped from PDP to Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, to register his protest on the outcome of primaries in his native Adamawa agrees that imposition of candidates is internal to parties and urged political parties to build democracy internally.
“These issues are internal to the parties and it is against democratic norms to impose candidates. Really, I believe that parties should try to build democracy internally.”
Long before now, the Arewa Consultative Forum wrote a memo to the Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms requesting that the national assembly and the political parties enshrine internal democracy. Arewa scribe, Anthony Sanni believes it was that memo that necessitated the recommendation for the amendment of the Electoral Act.
“We have earlier written a memo to Uwais and the national assembly to enshrine internal democracy in the parties. That was one of the things that led to the amendment of Electoral Act. The parties need to address this issue because it rubs off on the wider society. If for example, an armed robber gets the party nomination because he threw money around, free and fair election would not correct the fact that an armed robber has been voted in. He assumes office and clears the treasury because that is his trade: robbery. So, the end to political corruption does not start with free and fair election, it starts with nomination of best candidates within the parties and unless the political parties do something about that, free and fair elections cannot correct that.”
Summarising the situation, Abubakar Dan Musa, Third Republic Deputy Senate President opines that the democracy being practised in Nigeria does not have a future.
“There is no internal democracy. People talking about internal democracy are just saying it for saying sake but they don’t mean it. The parties really have to be very careful within themselves because they are the ones that will sow the seed for what will happen during the general elections.Look at the evil wind blowing across the Middle East. The world has become a global village. What affects one country can spill into another and that is what the political parties have failed to realise. We cannot achieve democracy through elections when there is no internal democracy within the parties. which choose who they like to represent them in total disregard of the fact that it is the best amongst equals that should emerge during a congress or a primary”
Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa also agrees that the political parties bears a large chunk of blame for the corruption in the electoral process.
“Political parties practice anti-democracy because they don’t practice internal democracy. All political parties must practice internal democracy. All aspirants should be allowed to prove their mettle in a congress but we have a situation where money bags hijack party primaries and create problems in the system. That has been the bane of political parties in Nigeria”
Agunwa Anaekwe, third Republic Speaker of the House of Representatives blames the parties for contributing to the problem in democracy.
“Really, it’s a terrible thing and it’s happening across the parties, not only the PDP. Even a party as new as CPC has the same problem, even in ACN and others. But it is to be expected when there is a serious competition like elections and candidates are expected to emerge.
This problem is serious here in Anambra State and I think we should find a way to enshrine democracy in the parties rather than giving it to the highest bidder as is believed by Nigerians.”