By Enyim Enyim
THERE is no gain saying the fact that the crisis in most political parties today is their inability to practice internal democracy in the real sense of the word. And parties that have failed to practice internal democracy have had to pay highly for it.
The peoples Democratic Party, PDP which claims to be the largest political party in Africa for instance, has been enmeshed in leadership crisis resulting from imposition of state, local government and ward executives.
At various elections, candidates were merely selected and imposed on members of the party which in some cases had earned it losses of some political seats in some states especially in the South East geo-political zone of the country.
In the 2003 general election, there was a protest vote against the PDP. The All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA candidate Mr. Peter Obi emerged the winner of the governorship election. In the 2007 governorship election, the former President, and leader of the PDP imposed Dr. Andy Uba on the members of the Anambra State PDP.
Similarly, candidates who contested various elective positions to the National and State Assembly were selected without undergoing the due process of producing a political Party candidate for an election.
Again, in the February 6, 2010 governorship election in Anambra, the PDP national leadership then led by Chief Vincent Ogbulafor imposed the former Central Bank Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo on the members of the party.
Undoubtedly, the development angered majority of the stake holders of the PDP who vowed that they will not fold their hands and allow Soludo emerge as the governor of the state. As if the aggrieved party Chieftains made good their threat, Soludo lost to the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Obi.
Today, the PDP in Anambra is still facing crisis of leadership which has resulted to the emergence of factions within the party despite the attempt by the national leadership of the party led by Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo to set up a state care taker committee to pilot its affairs till afresh congress would be conducted.
Worst still, many PDP members including legislators in the state House of Assembly and the National Assembly have defected to the APGA ahead of the 2011 general election.
Senator Joy Emodi who recently dumped the PDP for APGA had while declaring for the party said she took the decision because she was tired of war without end in the PDP. She further said that she suffered intrigues and marginalization in the PDP; adding that her entry into the party was because APGA was the heart beat of Ndigbo.
Yes. APGA is getting a boost ahead of the 2011 poll but how honest and sincere is the Chief Victor Umeh led national leadership going to allow internal democracy which he has been touting at different fora play itself out in the real sense of the word.
Is APGA prepared to learn from the mistakes of the PDP that had in some cases caused it, its electoral fortunes? Are candidates for various elective positions going to be imposed on members of the party? Or, will the party conduct a free and fair primaries?
Or is it going to be business as usual?
Going by Umeh’s recent statement at the Onitsha North stadium while accepting Senator Joy Emodi into APGA fold on Monday August 30 the party may not be heading towards internal democracy which it is preaching to its political faithful.
Showering encomiums on Senator Emodi before the large crowd that had converged to witness the declaration ceremony graced by Governor Obi, Umeh told his audience that there was no aspirant for the Senator that was more qualified than Emodi in Anambra North Senatorial zone.
He went further to dare any aspirant within the zone who felt that he or she was better than Emodi to come out and contest the primaries against her.
“The Senate is not where people go for apprenticeship. It is a place where people from all walks of life will sit and you present your matter. If you can not, then you are not a good representative. We are proud of Senators like Senator Joy Emodi.
He added, “Senator Emodi, I tell you that you will not regret your entry into APGA in spite of pressures on you to remain in the PDP”.
As if the national chairman realized the implication of his statement, he said, “well I am not saying that anybody who wants to contest can not do so but we want credible characters for the 2011 general election” .
Political observers believe that Umeh’s statement was capable of scaring would be aspirants from the party particularly those from Anambra North Senatorial zone. They are of the opinion that the national chairman should encourage and in fact allow internal democracy to take place if APGA must sweep the political positions in the South East come 2011.
To them, the implication of the statement is that the ticket for Anambra North Senatorial zone had already been given to Emodi.
Perhaps, another policy statement so to speak made by Umeh on that occasion was that the party will not give ticket to any candidate who would not be able to foot the bills of his election and, importantly litigation fees incase his or her opponent heads for the court after the election.
“We shall sweep the poll in 2011by putting in people of credible character. We are desperate to have 80 percent victory by having quality candidates. What is important is victory.
We want people who will go there and bring something for our people, people who will use their constituency funds for democracy dividend for our people. We will not give ticket to people who when they win election and they are dragged to court will abandon their mandate because they do not have the money to continue with the case”.
Some party members who spoke to Vanguard condemned Umeh’s statement on the ground that he was being high handed and playing god with his position.
When Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP who contested the February 6 governorship election in Anambra under the umbrella of the Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA joined APGA in Anaocha local government, Umeh also literally gave her the party ticket when he declared that Ekwunife was the candidate to beat in the area.
This statement by the APGA national chairman, according to political pundits showed that the chances of other aspirants who may want to contest the position with Ekwunife in Anambra Central Senatorial zone under the party had been foreclosed.
Governor Obi, the leader of the party in State also towed the line of Umeh when he welcomed a PDP member of the State House of Assembly, Chief Ben Nwawulu into the APGA fold in Ogbaru local government.
Addressing a large crowd at Ogbaru during his thank you tour, the governor told the APGA faithfuls that his government has been supporting Nwawulu and would again support his election into the state House of Assembly come January 29, 2011. one wonders how an APGA government has been supporting a PDP legislator before he joined the party (APGA).
The assurance given to Nwawulu by no other than the governor of the state and leader of the party clearly suggests that he had been given the party ticket for the election and he can as well go home and sleep because other aspirants from APGA in Ogbaru would dare challenge him in the primaries if at all the party will conduct any.
If APGA national and the state leadership are honest and sincere in their gospel of internal democracy they should insist on and in fact, embrace true fair and transparent primaries for all the aspirants who have indicated interest to contest various positions in the 2011 election. There should be no sacred cow. The aspirants must be given a level playing ground in the spirit of true democracy.
Importantly, the party should not scare away qualified and credible aspirants simply because they do not have millions and billions of naira to throw about during the election.
Money politics must be de-emphasized else the party could be inviting political God fathers who would be ready to sponsor candidates and dictate the pace for them if they win their elections.
The public statement made by Umeh that APGA ticket is not for the poor has no doubt discouraged many suitable, credible and qualified aspirants in the party. The national chairman must act fast to rescind the statement otherwise, APGA may not in the end actualize its dream to sweep the poll come 2011 because some aggrieved party chieftains may work against the party during the election.
The APGA leadership should learn a very big lesson from the PDP, ANPP and other political parties that lost a great deal because they jettisoned internal democracy and did their thing their own way. A stitch in time saves nine.