Democracy and the Nigerian contradictions

I know it for a fact that the Nigerian political terrain is so dysfunctional to an extent that the practitioners lack every modicum of ethical discipline and are indeed persons lacking in ideology.
The typical Nigerian politician has over time demonstrated a negative trait that is lower than the ethical codes that are religiously followed by persons of easy virtue who practices their trade in the red light districts or brothels to put it in clearer context.
But the Nigerian politicians are so lacking in discipline that they are so disloyal to their political parties.
A prostitute can maintain some modicum of loyalty and consistency to the client who foots her bills but the typical Nigerian politicians go for the highest bidder even when they have pocketed the payments made to them by the rival political parties.
A good example is how some persons are paid by agents of the central government to undermine cohesion and unity of the main opposition People’s Democratic party.
These internal squabbles sponsored allegedly by All Progressives Congress within the People’s Democratic Party is not new.
For 16 years that the People’s Democratic party ruled at the center it also sponsored internal schisms within the folds of some strong opposing political parties such as Alliance for Democracy and the then All People’s party which has metamorphosed to the current All Progressives Congress.
For a Nigeria politician, the political party system is an irritant or a convenient companion that only matters when there’s the need for winning by all means the juicy political offices that there are.
The political party is just a means to an end and not an end in itself.
The political party in our politically uncultured and uncouth clime is simply a vehicle that delivers electoral victory to the individual who is devoid of any longstanding ideological standing. Nothing more, nothing less. Politicians even crack jokes by saying that in politics nothing is permanent except interest.
There are a number of factors that have brought about this substantial decline in respect for ideology by Nigerian politicians and especially the specie that are seekers of political offices.
The lack of a profound democratic history in the country brought about by the incessant military interventions in the past has remained a major drawback to the building of formidable historical foundation for party politics in Nigeria.
In the Western democracies political parties have centuries of histories behind them but in Nigeria as we write the political parties are not more them two decades old.
Indeed the current All Progressives Congress is a baby political party that coalesced into a political platform from varying smaller political organs controlled by some godfathers such as Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressives change and the minutest faction of the Imo state chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance who were railroaded into the coalition by Mr. Rochas Okorocha.
But more importantly, the near absence of institutional frameworks for regulating how political parties are funded and/or how campaigns are funded has adversely weakened political parties that are not in the mainstream especially at the center.
Parties which produce political office holders extract some forms of levies and mandatory contributions from their members in elected offices. This means that political parties without political office holders are just like political orphans.
Apart from the painful factor of the incessant military interventions in the past that weakened democracy in Nigeria, there is also the much more disturbing issue of how the military Generals who midwifed the transition programmes succeeded in picking certain political parties as those that should be allocated electoral victories at the polls especially in 1999.
Not long ago, the former military leader General Ibrahim Badamosi Bababgida (rtd) was quoted as saying that the military class that handed over power to the civilians in 1999 had preferential likeness for the People Democratic Party (PDP) to an extent that there was a military wing.
This therefore goes to show that the foundation for the formation of political parties in Nigeria has always been shaky.
Whatever is built on shaky foundation has fundamental problem of identity crisis. But it has not always been this way.
In the first and second Republics political parties competed as equals. Although party formation followed some Ethno-Regional lines, those olden days political parties still exhibited certain ideological leanings even as the prominent leaders of those parties have what they consider as their agenda for their constituents.
In the first and second republic, political parties were largely formed by ethic champions and the pattern of election results especially in the first republic clearly showed that the voters simply voted for political parties formed by some of their respected tribal leaders who have their trust and confidence to deliver infrastructural and human resources development to their people.
During the first republic such political parties like the Northern people’s Congress started by the northern politician known as sir Ahmadu Bello was dominant in the North.
In the Western region, the Chief Obafemi Awolowo led Action party gained prominent place. Dr, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s political party- the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon won the majority in the former Eastern states. Azikiwe’s party initially made some major gains in Lagos.
But the first Republic political parties basically fought for the independence of Nigeria even as some of the earliest politicians were known for some ideological vocations.
Sir Herbert Macaulay was said to be a striking grassroots’ politician.
Sir. Herbert Macaulay was known as a champion and defender of native rights and liberties.
On his part, his follower Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Party worked tirelessly to industrialize the eastern region and also embarked upon agricultural revolution.
In the then western region, Sir Obafemi Awolowo was known for the provision of free education. In the Northern region Sir. Ahmadu Bello actively worked to ensure that his region gains the upper hands in such areas as demographics and it was even rumoured that the British colonialists connived with the North to allocate fake census figures to that region.
But the major contradiction that weakened political party historical growth remains the military takeover of governments from elected representatives.
It seems that political parties started witnessing the worst decline in terms of ethics and morality since the transition to civil rule in 1999.
The 1999 constitution was also written in such a hurry by some persons selected by the military Generals so much so that the process of formation of political parties only emphasizes geographical presence but nothing is said about ideology.
The nearest mention of ideology is when the relevant section on political party stated that the constitutional norms written by the parties must comply with chapter two of the constitution which are the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.
Section 224 of the Constitution only mentioned in passing that: “the programme as well as the aims and objects of a political party shall conform with the provisions of chapter 2 of the constitution “.
In effect what this means is that there are no distinction in ideological beliefs of the legally recognised political parties in Nigeria.
There is also no strong provision in the constitution to check the frequent cross carpeting from the political parties that are not in control of federal or state powers.
For instance, section 222 of the constitution provides that: “No association by whatever name called shall function as a party, unless – (a) The names and addresses of its national officers are registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission; (b) The membership of the association is open to every citizen of Nigeria irrespective of his place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or ethnic grouping.
Other qualifications are that; (c) A copy of its constitution is registered in the principal office of the Independent National Electoral Commission in such form as may be prescribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission; (d) Any alteration in its registered constitution is also registered in the principal office of the Independent National Electoral Commission within thirty days of the making of such alteration (e) The name of the association, its symbol or logo does not contain any ethnic or religious connotation or give the appearance that the activities of the association are confined to a part only of the geographical area of Nigeria; and (f) The headquarters of the association is situated in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
Apart from the lack of ideological basis for formation of political parties, the Nigerian constitution even allowed for political prostitution in the sense that elected office holders for instance in the parliament can move out of the political parties that sponsored them to their respective offices to the other political party provided there is a crisis of leadership in their original political parties.
This means that all that any party in power at the center can do to maintain majority in the senate or House of Representatives is to instigate leadership crisis in the main opposition party to ignite a flood gate of defections.
We have witnessed massive defections of legislators elected under the PDP platform to the ruling APC following protracted leadership crisis foisted on the PDP by elements within the Presidency controlled by the APC.
Currently, politicians in Nigeria have indeed unleashed the dragon of defections from the former ruling people’s Democratic Party to the current ruling party at the center-APC.
The gale of defections have also affected such smaller parties like the labour party and APGA which have only few elected members in the national assembly.
Labour party has just lost its only senator to the APC.
The wind of defections from PDP to APC is also said to be generated by the fear of persecution by the federal government’s controlled Economic and Financial Crimes commission headed by the acting Chairman Alhaji Ibrahim Magu who has twice been rejected by Senate at confirmation hearings.
Most past office holders under the former PDP have since started their ‘missionary’ journey into APC to get immunity from the harassment of EFCC. EFCC has since two years now focused exclusively on how the PDP funded its Presidential campaign in 2015 but the campaign fund of APC is not being investigated. So this naked investigative biasness has sparked a gale of defections from PDP to APC.
Few days back the immediate past governor of Ebonyi, Chief Martin Elechi, who was recently reportedly quizzed by the EFCC defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC) from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Elechi, a two time governor of Ebony, registered for the APC at his country home in Echialike, Ikwo Local Government Area, in front of national party leaders.
Elechi rendered what can be termed as tales by moonlight on why he has decided to jumpship from PDP to APC.
His words: “I knew Buhari 49 years ago when I started the movement for the creation of Ebonyi as he intervened during my arrest with nine other comrades, by officers of the defunct Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO)”.
“I was interrogated while standing for nine hours and he as the Brigade Major in Abakaliki at that time, ordered our release”.
As if that wasn’t enough, a prominent member of PDP in Cross RIVERS state and a former presidential aide, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, defected from Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), citing lonliness in the PDP and her passion for service.
These statements by Mrs. Florence Ita Giwa which is so crude tells you that political parties exists on quicksand in Nigeria.
There has to be a deliberate attempt to maintain multiparty democracy and discourage persons of weak ethical standards from bastardising our political parties through their selfish defections such as we are witnessing in Nigeria.
Professor John Keane in his classical book titled;”The life and death of Democracy ” quoted the Indian scholar Rajni Kothari as stating that ‘democracy is good because it nurtures forms of development that are mindful of justice”.
But the opposite is the case in Nigeria whereby politicians think only about how to manipulate the electoral system to remain in power for as long as possible.

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Christian Voice