Redefining political party structures in Nigeria’s electoral system

By Niyi Bello and Bertram Nwannekanma   |   31 May 2017   |   4:05 am  

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

•New group proposes technocracy for the country
•Ahamba, Adegboruwa want activists to come forth

After an unbroken 18 years of civil rule, the longest democratic experience in Nigeria’s 57-year history as an independent nation, a lot is still required of the country’s political parties to function effectively as major platforms for actualizing representative governance.

During the earlier days of Nigeria’s politics, and as practiced in advanced democracies, political parties had ideological tags and unique manifestoes on which foundations of governments and policy directions were proposed and espoused for the electorate to have informed choices.

The importance of this ideological leaning to democratic progression was not lost even on the dictatorial regime of Ibrahim Babangida which, during its winding transition to civil rule in the aborted Third Republic, established a two-party system with each party on either the rightist or leftist side of the divide.

But the current political platforms, particularly the big ones, seem to have little regard for any ideological pretence and are only preoccupied with power acquisition and retention.

Analysts believe this is the main reason why there is high rate of defections across political platforms since there is really no marked difference between the groups, an undemocratic trait that has reduced the ability of the electorate to make alternative choices.

Apart from the lack of ideological directions, political parties in Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation are also hampered by lack of internal democracies that manifest under the control of godfathers who employ the use of money and hoodlums to impose their wishes on members.

In fact, rather than being facilitators of democratic norms as major platforms for the actualization of popular governance through the instrumentality of free elections, political groups in Nigeria have become a major headache to representative government.

They bestride the space by recycling the same kind of professional politicians and shutting the doors, by their operations, which have become highly monetized and violent, against a new set of informed and committed leadership that every nation requires at critical periods of development.

While making case for professionals who have recorded successes in their personal endeavours to be actively involved in the process of governance for the country to move forward from its current state, a group of young politicians have appealed to technocrats to join politics to contribute their quota to national development.

The group, in an encounter with The Guardian last weekend, said its desire is to invite young entrepreneurs and experts in various fields to join in the floating of a new political platform, the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) which it said has applied for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for registration as a political party.

Speaking on behalf of the group, its Interim National Coordinator, Dr. Jay Osi Samuels said the new platform would be a party of technocrats drawn from across the states of the federation.

Samuels, an Harvard-trained international health development expert and medical doctor also disclosed that the process of capturing not less than 10 million Nigerians from within and the Diaspora is already on in all the local councils across the country and some selected venues abroad.

He said the ultimate aim of the group is to entrench technocracy, a government run by experts and technocrats, in the country’s political space and put an end to the vice-grip of professional politicians on Nigeria’s polity.

His words: “Technocracy is a system of government that relies on decision-making of professionals, scientists and engineers to drive the process of governance. With Nigeria’s abundant human resources, we cannot have shortages of technocrats who are ready to lift the country up.”

According to Samuels, who said the ANN would have a shot at elective posts in the 2019 general elections, “the party is on the verge of registration by INEC as we have supplied all the information they required of us.

“Nigerians complain about virtually everything in their daily lives but nobody is ready to bell the cat. That is why we come out at this critical period to save the situation. If we don’t do this, our children and grandchildren will not forgive us for leaving for them, a country that doesn’t work.”

Stressing that Nigeria is too rich a country for its endowed citizenry to continue wallowing in abject poverty, Samuels said, “ANN wants to create a new space and opportunities to showcase a good leadership in Nigeria.

“In 2019, we want Nigerian to have a choice and make our party that credible choice. We want to do away with professional politicians and create a pool of professional to drive development process.”

While expressing optimism about the success of the venture, Samuels said, “About 70 percent of our population don’t participate in politics and they are our target. We are coming out with programmes to woo this important segment of our demography.”

According to him, the movement will be driven by the ideology of egalitarianism, true federalism, devolution of power and social justice to bring Nigeria, which growth he said “is being stunted by unconcerned but greedy politicians,” out of the woods.

He said the emerging political group has the likes of Akin Fatunbi, Ibrahim Kanti, Ndubuisi Uka, Richard Samuels, Pastor Ben Irabor and many other young technocrats and professionals from across the country as its driving force adding that, “when we started as a group, we had a longer vision beyond 2019 but recent events are pushing us to focus on the next election.”

He expressed dismay that “the same set of people that are ruining the country all along are still around,” adding, “we want to retire and replace the old politicians and the old order.”

Also calling for sanitation of the political space to rid Nigeria’s democracy of people who lack the knowledge of governance and democratic practices, two senior lawyers, Chief Mike Ahamba SAN and Ebun Olu Adegboruwa, have called for a shift towards voting in line with party manifestoes rather than parochial and mundane considerations.

The duo also tasked the media to educate voters ahead of elections so that they can critically examine the potentials of political parties and their flag bearers.

According to them, Nigeria’s political solution is not tied to parties’ affiliations and activists should rise up, speak for the people, organize, mobilize and take hold of Nigeria.

Ahamba who led the call, said the major problem is that political parties are now more of platforms for people rather than association of people of likes mind on a political direction.

According to him, “People now move up and down because people do not vote on parties manifestoes but on parochial and some times mundane considerations and their interests.”

Ahamba, a founding member of defunct Congress for Political Change (CPC) said the media has a lot to do by educating people ahead of elections so that they can look at the minds of persons seeking their votes through the words of their manifestoes.

He said “many genuine candidates that want to act in the interest of the people were stopped at the congress by people who want to enrich themselves.

“Consequently, many people have withdrawn because they can not muster that kind of money or are not prepared to spend it for that purpose, because it is difficult to guarantee the honest response from them that they will get their votes.

“In 1961, my father contested against the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) as an independent candidate and won by a landslide because people considered his pedigree and vote for him. If he were contesting today, he would have lost because consideration has shifted to opportunity to be near to the government in power at all times.

“Chike Obi contested against Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC candidate in Onitsha and won. The Dynamic Party on which he contested and NCNC were unequal but Chike Obi won because people voted for who he was not the party.”

Adegboruwa said it would be self-deception for anybody to delude himself that the solution to Nigeria’s problems is a change from All Progressive Congress (APC) to People Democratic Party (PDP).

According to him, “in a bye-election into the House of Representatives in Katsina State recently, it was reported that voters turned out to express their anger and frustration, with majority of voters condemning the APC, the ruling party in the state, which is the home state of the President. This is not the issue.

“That is grand delusion indeed, of changing just the garment but retaining the person. We have seen the worse of PDP in times past and we have now seen the best of APC. Both are not good enough for Nigeria, because politicians are the same, at least in Nigeria. It is all about self-interest, nothing more. The corruption of the APC government when it will be unearthed eventually will be historical.”

Adegboruwa stressed that the only difference in the APC is the active collusion of progressive lawyers, human rights and pro-democracy activists and labour leaders, not sparing the media.

He said, “in the past, especially under the military regimes and the renegade politicians (PDP in particular), activists stood tall as the conscience of the people, taking out the programmes of government that were considered anti people.

“In the present dispensation, our “comrades” lawyers, labour leaders and journalists have changed not only the lyrics but also the tune of all our familiar battle songs. Some even said that we should suspend the Constitution and the rule of law, in order to enthrone civilian dictatorship. We are now told that their counterparts in the military are now planning a coup. Thank God our eyes are now open.”

“Let us not be deceived to think that the solution to Nigeria is voting out APC. Yes, we must rid Nigeria of this current army of bandits parading themselves as progressives, but never again shall we fall into the terrible hands of the PDP.

“Let our comrades come back home. They have failed Nigeria, but they should come back home to where they rightly belong, on the side of the suffering masses of our people. It is bad enough to be a corrupt politician, but it is certainly worse to be a hypocrite, buried deep in the pit of a so-called progressive government, that has only grabbed power just for the sake of it.”



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