August 8, 2021

Politics and Elections in Nigeria: What has changed?

By Tonnie Iredia

With several reports in the last two months of crisis rocking virtually all political parties in Nigeria, it is now certain that the country does not have any real political party. It is a development that should be a cause for worry because all the nation’s woes are premised on our bogus political system. Optimists who have continued to hope that there would be a change soon should either give up that hope or be fair enough to tell us what has changed.

From the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) we have a generous background information on how and where party members are up in arms with themselves. According to media reports, crisis generated by the ward congresses of the party took a volatile stance in many places especially Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Osun states. It is probably unnecessary to spend useful energy enumerating the recurring issue of rancorous party activities because, it has always been so. In which case, what can we say has changed in our polity?

Nothing has changed as the undoing of every political party in Nigeria is usually located within party congresses and conventions especially the segment on party primaries.  What triggers the discontent is always the failure of the political parties to be fair to all their members by creating a level playing field for events. The leaders always have a hidden agenda whenever an event is scheduled. 

They either change the rules midway or decline to forward the name of the winning aspirant during primaries. This is because our political parties lack internal democracy. The immediate implication of this is that our bogus constitution, might not be our greatest challenge because if those who run political parties cannot adhere to the general standards of democratic practices, we can hardly get it right even with a perfect constitution. The complaints of APC members now are not different from how the party fared under Adams Oshiomhole. Many party officials said he was a dictator who never energized other party organs to function.

The tension within the APC is probably louder than what is happening elsewhere but if the current moves by some party leaders to remove Uche Secondus, Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP, are sustained, the pressure will probably be more disastrous. Indeed, the main opposition party has of recent been wobbling. First, she lost in quick succession three state governors of Ebonyi, Cross River and Zamfara with APC promising that more are coming.

But what has knocked the party off her feet in the last few days is a festering attempt to remove Secondus before activities that would determine the fate of 2023 begin in earnest. Already, no less than six of the party’s national officers have resigned as part of a design to force the chairman out of office. The disillusioned officers are singing the same tune of abandonment. Nothing is new about that though, because PDP is notorious for rubbishing its chairmen. As many as they have been from inception, not a single one has ever left office in peace

It would be misleading to dwell on the two mega parties and thus impute that the malaise in our party system has to do with large size. Such a story line is inaccurate because the problem is not the exclusive preserve of the big parties. The smaller ones are often more irritating. The drama that has been playing in the All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA over the forthcoming Anambra Governorship election confirms this.

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The confusion caused by the party as to who is the appropriate aspirant and the genuine executive committee of the party may not end even after the election. The same is true of the other parties whether big or small. A few years back, that was how great personalities such as Jerry Gana, Donald Duke, Tunde Adeniran, Yemi Farounbi etc. that formed the Social Democratic Party SDP fizzled out over intra-party squabbles thereby depriving us of the services of such experienced political actors. However, we need to accept the truth that our political parties of old took the same pattern confirming that nothing has changed in our body politics.

The above background markedly shows that nothing has changed in our elections too. One incontrovertible fact which validates this viewpoint is that most of our politicians do not believe in free and fair elections notwithstanding that some of them are acclaimed apostles of the popular slogan – one man one vote. If the truth must be told, the behaviour of a typical Nigerian politician represents a double-faced person who does the opposite of his supposed cherished catchphrases.

In any case it would have been hard for people who are comfortable with rigging internal party contests concerning only their members to play by the rules in general elections. To start with, none of our political parties has an accurate membership register; not because they are usually overwhelmed by large crowds seeking to register but because they deliberately create confusion to give room for manipulation.

The fake figures which they generate from bogus membership registers are later put into multifarious use. During the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan, for example his party loyalists seeking to impress him organized rallies across the nation where persons who allegedly signed location registers urging Jonathan to seek reelection were more in number than the figure in the INEC voters’ register.

Similarly, on the eve of the 2019 Presidential elections, APC leaders had assembled 175 million people to vote for President Buhari. This was reportedly made up of 60 million APC women and Youths,40 million from the Buhari Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group, 20 million from Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria as some others too numerous to list here. But then, the INEC register which was to enable such admirers to fulfil their pledges had 84 million registered voters

During the Second Republic (1979-1983), there were governors who used their state-owned media organs to announce their own reelection before the then Federal Electoral Commission FEDEC0 finished counting the votes of the same election. That pattern is what the politicians of today have imbibed with special reference to local government elections which they control.

In every such election in Nigeria the ruling party in the state usually ‘sweeps’ all the positions contested and quite often record millions of votes in locations where voting did not take place. As a matter of fact, some State ‘Independent’ Electoral Commissions carry out collation of election results in the master bedrooms in Government Houses although collation centres are formally designated to hold at local government council secretariats.

Considering that these arrangements are incompatible with current electronic voting system across the globe it would have been “the mother of all laws” if our current legislators had allowed the provision on electronic transmission of election results in the latest electoral act to stand. It would have been suicidal.

As a result, even if anyone chooses to mock our legislators for supporting the stone-age method, it would have no effect on them because their collaborators in the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary cannot help them if results are transmitted electronically. Luckily, they have technical support from the National Communications Commissions NCC that Nigeria is not ready for what is in vogue in other African societies. How then can politics and elections change in Nigeria?

Vanguard News Nigeria