By Patrick Dele Cole
POLITICAL instability is endemic in Nigeria today. I am submitting some points that may assuage the situation. I believe all should return to the original party on whose ticket they were elected. If however, an elected official have crossed to another party, he should contest an election. But who should initiate this? I believe this should be the responsiblity of the Independent National Eelectoral Commission, INEC,!
Cut off date should be May 2015. For this to succeed all the provisions with regard to split in party should be repealed. It was used as an excuse to obviate constitutional provisions. INEC should recognise the original party members whose names it has in its books. If a member wishes to leave that party or faction – he must be deemed to have resigned. This step would introduce much needed discipline in party.
Funding of party should principally be by members’ subscriptions. At the ward level, the election should be conducted by party members on known dates and sites in one morning or one evening. It should be on the same day throughout Nigeria.
Local government elections should follow similar procedures: the contestants should be known and identified and must be party members.
All efforts should be made to discourage outside influences.
If a party breaks up, INEC should falicitate conciliatory forum, and decide which faction is strongest through an objective appraisal: it would then recognise that faction of the party.
At the National Level, party’s disposition as at May 2015 should be starting point. That is the official list. Anyone who has left his or her original party should be ready for election: if he has not left his original party, then he remains a member. Same should apply to State Assemblies and to Governors. The simple principle is that you cannot leave the party under whose umbrella you won an election and remain a member of the assembly. Maybe APC members would probably see this as against them because several PDP members have crossed over to the APC. But this is short sighted and selfish because it is these unprincipled movements which heat up the polity.
When everything returns to status quo ante, bye elections may follow. People joined parties because they presumably believed in the philosophy and principle of that party: they did not join so that the party conveys them to assemblies only for them to seek other parties at their own will.
It has been argued that the parties have no principle or ideology or philosophy. So why did anyone join? The party is not a shirt you put on when it suits you and you throw away whenever you like. If the party is not strong, is not developed then democracy would strive, would be congenitally weak and consequently make the nation equally congenitally unstable. Unless the parties are stable, its membership equally stable, it would not develop ethos, a history and a culture. Without that, there would be no democracy.
Far more important is that a steady strong party could develop to be an antidote to corruption by building up institutions within it; strong and pliable institutions would take on any contingencies. We have some “politicians” who have joined all the political parties – they are not politicians but political jobbers and prostitutes.
A stable political party can easily carry President Buhari’s message of corruption to all levels of the party. That message is lost to most cadres and levels of the party today. Many watch the President struggle with the problem of imposing his will on corrupt people who had been helpful to him on his way to the Presidency.
The chopping and changing of parties is responsible for the excessive political litigation, volatility which have exposed the underbelly of the judiciary to corruption. Nigeria does not understand the seriousness of having a judiciary that is corrupt. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. If we lose confidence in the judiciary, it will take more than 20-30 years to rebuild that confidence.
Ban all constituency projects. Our experience has been that it is just another avenue for members of State and National Assembly to feather their already over robust nests. A radical review of the oversight functions of the assemblies is called for; not what we see today as oversight function which is now no more than members looking into the coffers of ministries and parastatals for selfish and personal gains. Ban Governors from seeking other elective offices and even ministerial appointments especially in view of their over generous retirement benefits to which a sharp knife should now be applied.
Put bluntly, corruption can never be eradicated in a system such as practiced in Nigeria. It is trite to say that it is impossible to practice politics without money. In Nigeria people go into politics not to serve but to enrich themselves. Once you declare an interest in politics you begin to spend money; to the local chiefs, to the local apparatchiks, to the women and men supporters, to everybody even as you try to get award nomination. From there it is a steady stream of spending till you achieve the post of your choice: your helpers, supporters, even opponents all stand with open hands to receive money. You give because you believe that if you win you will get the money back. This is the mentality that has to be changed. That change will have to be led by the President and National Party Executive members, who must seek to recruit the most capable, not the richest who have bought their support.
The party nomination itself is a heavy drain on the pocket of aspirants. They beg, borrow, and do all sorts of things to get this money. The “campaign” is another exercise in philandering and indulgence in conspicuous expenditure over a long period. Aspirants are known to buy cars, motor cycles, houses, etc. for supporters and party leaders.
The party conventions – this is not an exercise for the faint hearted or those whose wheels are not well oiled. Every single party activity is a spending point, and this is endless; with requests pouring in friends and foes alike.
Then, when one has secured the nomination, more spending is called for in campaigns until the Election Day. As the day approaches another set of hands are stretched out for more money. Those who put up posters, town criers, musicians juke box, Djs, vehicles, etc. This is on the side of the contestants of party A.
Then enters INEC, when a new flood gate of spending opens up. All levels of officials are budgeted for , including security officials, Police, Army, Navy, and Airforce plus a plethora of collating officers, registration officers, confirmation officers, all branches of the security from DSS To NSA, traffic officers etc.
Meanwhile the contestant is responsible for feeding countless mouths that are not tired of eating. Added to this, the candidate is told that he has to protect his votes while checking that his opponent is not stuffing the ballot boxes with ballot papers obtained from INEC officials.
After the results are announced, a new set of blood suckers descend on the contestants – the lawyers who contest every little point in the election. But the problems are not insoluble. They can and will be solved by the people who practice these evils – the politicians.