Nigeria Today

January 12, 2014

Let’s allow Independent Candidates in 2015



By Tonnie Iredia

In democratic societies, political parties naturally evolve within a polity. Thus, when the government of President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) decreed for Nigeria, two political parties-the Nigerian Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), in 1989, many critics faulted the move. The critics condemned such a mechanical and rigid approach to politics without recourse to what influenced Babangida to so act. Rather than spending a few minutes to reflect on the Presidential broadcast of October 7, 1989 which adduced several reasons for the action of government, everyone suspected Maradona, as IBB is generally called, to have been up to some mischief.

The truth however was that even if IBB had a hidden agenda, none of the 13 political associations which sought to be registered as political parties would have made a good political party.  In the words of the Humphrey Nwosu led electoral body, the associations were not different from one another “either in their membership, size or spread or in their administrative organization or in their manifestoes”. Consequently, government had to establish 2 parties to which it expected the associations to fall into as some of them were reportedly a little to the left while others were a little to the right of the political divide. Babangida’s political engineering has since proven to be near perfect as the so called ‘democratic’ political parties which emerged after the government parties were jettisoned are back to the starting bloc.

Nigeria now has 2 main political parties-the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) that are not in any way different from each other. The PDP had a head start not because it was more popular but because the military preferred to hand power over to its candidate. As a result, it has been “winning” elections since then. But as Babangida had feared, the party to which he himself now belongs has had a deficient administrative organization and structure which makes it to malfunction, hence it always installs or seeks to turn its chairman whether at national or state level into a stooge. Where a chairman is a strong personality, he is eventually rubbished as has been done to each national chairman since the party’s inception. In other cases especially in the states, the chairman is tied to the apron string of the party member who eventually wins the governorship election. In Kaduna State for instance, the former party chairman is now the deputy governor

Impunity and irrationality are quite high in its activities. For example, in primary elections which it has powers to organize, it can, for no reason whatsoever, reverse the winner previously declared by it as it did to Senator Ifeanyi Araruame in the Imo State Governorship primaries of 2007. It can also ditch its candidate as it appears to have done in the Edo and Anambra governorship elections of 2012 and 2013 respectively thereby creating among its fold, a strong degree of animosity for which it has been losing many members to the opposition APC. On this score, many people are beginning to believe that the APC is the party to beat which in reality is a fallacy as there is no difference between it and the PDP. Indeed, my friend who used to lecture me quite often about how APC is for the progressives has since shut up following the many PDP defectors that have since integrated within a few minutes into the PDP.

Only last week, 27 of the 30 PDP members of the Sokoto State House of Assembly with a stroke of the pen moved over to the APC. To enumerate in this article the number of defections from the PDP to APC would take too much of valuable space. Suffice it to say that anyone is ready to move. According to the media, a former National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Barnabas Gemade, has threatened to defect to the APC if Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue State carries out his threat to unseat him from the Senate when Suswan’s tenure as governor expires in 2015. To confirm the oneness of the PDP and APC, it is pertinent to note that although Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State and Waziri Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives are still in the PDP, they are said to be among those penciled down by APC to be its presidential candidate in 2015.

It is in earnest becoming increasingly difficult to determine if APC is the less conservative of the two – a good example being the issue of internal democracy, where APC is of recent more distrustful of new ideas. According to reports whereas PDP has publicly declared, even if for the sake of announcement, that it would not impose any candidate ahead of the governorship election primaries in Ekiti State, APC on the other hand is alleged to have imposed its incumbent Governor Fayemi on its party members.

In summary, it is difficult to prefer any of the 2 leading parties to the other. A common characteristic of both of them for instance is their ability to win all the seats in a local government election in a state where they happen to be the ruling parties.  Sometimes, they win more than the number of available votes in several polling stations. Thus, if the PDP and APC are one and the same, it does not appear wise to support either of them; yet the Nigerian political system insists that a candidate must be sponsored for an election by a political party. This is where it behooves on civil society groups to unite and demand an amendment which would allow independent candidates to stand for elections in Nigeria. This would put a halt to convoluted party primaries and also arrest the ugly incidents of ‘godfatherism’. It would also discourage the trend of caucuses in the political parties that do not allow office holders to face service delivery. Indeed, freeing Nigeria from the clutches of political bigwigs would encourage voters to elect men and women of proven integrity who have a track record of service that can see to the development of our nation