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How to effect internal democracy within ruling parties

By John Amoda
THE  importance of this issue will now be apparent as in retrospect we appreciate the fact of one party rule in Africa’s first two decades of independence. Similar conditions produce the supplanting of these one-party rule systems by military rule.

The same political dynamics explained the description of the change from one-party rule to multi-party rule or from military rule to civilian rule as democracy. These issues were so clustered because of the misnaming of sovereignty parties as election parties. These parties were so misnamed because they were the structures that took part in the change of order elections from the colonial to the post-colonial.

These transitional elections were diplomatic agreements between the governments of the colony and national parties canvassing for independence of the colonies from the empire of which they were provinces. Independence of provinces of empire could be achieved either through wars waged for that purpose as in the case of the American war of independence, or as in the case of the independence of Algeria from France through the war of independence.

Independence on the other hand could be negotiated between the imperial government and the nationalist parties as was the case in most of the British colonies beginning with India (1947) and Egypt (1954) and inclusive of the Gold Coast (1957) and Nigeria (1960).

Africa Books Limited published in one of their series an enclypedia of personalities associated with the emergence of Africa from colonial status under the title Makers of Modern Africa, Profiles in History. Of Abbas Ferhat (1899-1985) the following is written:

“Algerian nationalist, pharmacist and writer, historic leader (one of the nine) of the Algerian war of independence in the mid-1950s who became the first president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Algeria, established in Cairo on 19 September 1958”. It is apparent that Ferhat Abbas and his compatriots did not enter into politics to be elected.

They organised a party to wrest control and ownership of the Algerian society, a province of France from the hands of the French Government. Their interest in the decolonisation of Algeria made them nationalists.

We will quote more extensively on the information on Nigeria’s Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa 1912-1966.
“Nigerian politician, the first Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was born in 1912 in the small town of Tafawa Balewa in what is now Bauchi State in the North-East of Nigeria. After receiving his elementary education at Bauchi.

Provisional School, he went to Katsina Higher College in 1928. He qualified as a teacher in 1933 and went to teach at Bauchi Middle School. In 1945 he won a scholarship to Britain where he spent a year at the Institute of Education of the University of London, and on his return was appointed education officer for Bauchi Province. He quickly became involved in the politics of Nigeria’s Northern Region. In Bauchi he joined the Bauchi Discussion Circle, which soon became a forum for voicing African aspirations.

Constitutional development in Nigeria brought the need for indigenous legislators and he soon became a member of the first Northern House of Assembly, from which he was elected to the Nigerian Legislative Council in Lagos in 1946.

After further constitutional changes in 1952, he became the Minister of Works, one of the first groups of central government ministers. In 1954 he was appointed Minister of Transport; in this capacity he was responsible for the building of the new government Coastal Agency and for creating the Inland Waterways Department. As  a parliamentary leader of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the biggest party in the Federal Parliament, he was appointed on  September 2, 1957 the first Prime Minister of Nigeria.

He formed a national government, consisting of six ministers from the National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns (NCNC), four from the NPC, two from the Action Group, and one from the Kamerun National Congress (KNC). He strongly believed that the three major political parties should work together in close cooperation on all matters of policy and planning if Nigeria were to achieve independence.

After the 1959 independence elections, Abubakar became on October 1, 1960, the first Prime Minister of independent Nigeria and was knighted by the British Queen. After the stormy Federal election of 1964, he was re-appointed Prime Minister, a post which he retained until his assassination on January 15, 1966. In Nigeria’s turbulent and complex politics, Sir Abubakar remained a cool figure preoccupied with the problem of holding together the country’s over 250 ethnic groups.

In September 1957, in his first parliamentary speech as Prime Minister, he characteristically declared:
“Today unity is our greatest concern and it is the duty of every one of us to work to strengthen it. Bitterness due to political differences will carry Nigeria nowhere and I appeal to all political leaders throughout the country to try to control their extremists. Nigeria is large enough to accommodate us all in spite of political differences”.

Alhaji Balewa’s history portrays the British process of disengagement from colonial Nigeria to effect constitutional transfer of power and authority over Nigeria to the colonial Nigerian parliament parties. But the British evolutionary constitutional disengagement cannot hide from view what was been effected- a tutelage in political rulership.


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