By MICHAEL POPOOLA AJAYI
One thing you cannot take away from genuine democratic governance is party politics. In a democratic system of government, the place of political parties is sacrosanct; it forms the bedrock of the entire system. The organisational structure of the parties will eventually determine what the whole democratic system looks like. That is why it is usually argued that, political parties must be structured on certain principles, ideologies and ideals. Meanwhile, the obvious shortcomings of Nigeria’s 17 years of democratic rule have been constantly occasioned by the lack or dearth of enviable political party structures and systems. The challenge of internal democracy within the political parties has continuously been a disheartening issue in Nigeria’s democratic experience, and in most cases it has continued to be the reflections of the whole political system. From 1999 till date; the polity has witnessed widespread disharmony and rancour within the political parties, most especially in choosing the parties’ flag-bearers and substantial candidates at the polls. In most cases, these sprang from disagreements orchestrated by the imposition of candidates, godfatherism and impunity by the leadership. Such tendencies have entirely have contributed immensely to erasing internal democracy, rubbishing any known democratic ideals and offending the spirit of the party constitutions. The resultant effects of these are violence, killings, migration and cross-migrations of politicians from one party to another even to a ridiculous level. Over the years, these condemnable acts have continued to ostensibly rob the nation the beauty of democracy and the best of good governance. In many cases, while party primaries were done for formality’s sake, it is a different ball-game in some cases where the primaries would be entirely cancelled to give room for an ostensibly imposed consensus candidate. Meanwhile, genuine democracy and good governance can never thrive where there is no formidable party structure with enviable internal democracy and freedom of party members to freely choose their flag-bearers and representatives at the general poll. This forms the basic foundation of democratic values and best practices. In this regard, none of the nation’s sprawling political parties can be exonerated, both existing and defunct; it has always been a case of acrimony and dissatisfaction one way or the other, when selecting or electing their parties’ substantial candidates at respective general polls. Most processes of choosing the parties’ representatives at the polls have always been ugly tales that have made court rooms and judicial injunctions the perpetual determinant of people’s verdict. Interestingly, in all the political parties, today, the All Progressive Congress (APC) represents a dominant figure in Nigeria’s polity. As the nation’s ruling or governing party, it is occupying a vintage position in the nation’s political hierarchy and is therefore, entrusted with certain responsibilities that would not afford it to fall short of its ratings at any level. Some will call it “Leadership by example” or “Leading by example.” At present, it is in the public domain that, the Ondo State governorship election is coming up on 26 November this year; and the news going around is the anointing and adoption of a particular aspirant in APC’s forthcoming primaries by the frontline leader of the party, and that the party structure in the state is already being manipulated to ensure the emergence of the said candidate. It is important to remind the leadership of APC the place the party currently occupies in the nation’s political history and governance. As it is in APC, so is happening in PDP Ondo State, where the Governor and party leader is imposing his will on the party structure. One needs to remind the party’s leadership, that the transparency the party employed in choosing its Presidential Candidate at the last general elections is one of the reasons responsible for the party’s ultimate success at the general poll. It was obvious to all that the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari at the December 2015 presidential primaries in Lagos was devoid of any visible rancour and disagreement because the party delegates as well as the aspirants agreed and established that the primaries was clearly won and lost by respective participants. This is more evident in the unprecedented resolution, where none of the aspirants challenged the primaries’ results in any court of law. The glory and joy today is for the party and its leadership! More relevantly, the party leadership must not forget in a jiffy how it wilfully threw the popularity of one of its legacy parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) into the dustbin, four years ago in the same Ondo state, when it failed to utilise basic rudiments of internal democracy in choosing its flag-bearer at the governorship primaries. Likewise, it must be remembered that, about two years ago in neighbouring Ekiti State, the party lost its incumbency just because it failed to accommodate all interests via standard primaries, free of sentiments, imposition and impunity in choosing its flag-bearer at the governorship election. This examples show that, the party must be alive to the place of internal democracy in party politics. Gone are the days when a political party is ‘a-one-man’ show. Where someone will sit down in his room and unilaterally draw a list of those he wants and doesn’t want in public office. It is a universal standard, that political parties should not be a one–man affair or a family property. Today, if a party wants to have regular success at the polls and perpetually enjoin the confidence of the electorate during elections, such a party must also constantly respect the will of the electorate and abide by basic ethics and ideals of democratic governance. Coming down to the particular, therefore, members of the electorate in Ondo State are currently watching the APC, awaiting the process that will determine its flag-bearer in the forthcoming gubernatorial election to choose the next occupant of the Alagbaka House. Will party godfathers make it easy for them to queue behind the party on November 26?
Michael Popoola Ajayi
The President Centre for democracy and Socio-Economic Rights.
Dideolu Estate, Ogba Ikeja, Lagos