The Senate and funding of political parties
The Senate’s announcement the other day that there would be no more funding of political parties by the government of the day is actually the stuff of which restructuring is made. The purpose of a true multi-party system as envisaged years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that more political parties should be allowed to evolve as long as they satisfy the rules of engagement has not been well served and that Senate’s pronouncement is one way of returning to the path.
What Nigeria has witnessed so far is a covert commercialisation of political party registration as though they are trading companies limited by shares with a view to getting quick returns on investments. People therefore simply get political parties registered waiting for election time to collect subventions that they pocket as slush funds without organising for such elections. The party system is thus really one of the institutions Nigeria should restructure for operational efficiency and for common good. It is important to state that the current debacle was not so in the beginning when the post-independence, first and second republic politicians depended largely on revenues from membership and sale of membership cards which all those who belonged in the parties were not only proud of, they also did the utmost to safeguard.
So, it is gratifying to note that all the 45 registered political parties may now have to seek funding from members henceforth as the Senate has foreclosed re-introducing funding them from public treasury. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who spoke to the leaders of the political parties the other day said government has to abandon the practice of dishing out subventions for political parties because the process has been abused.
According to Ekweremadu, “Giving subvention to political parties was the case in the past, but we had to amend the constitution to remove that because it was thoroughly abused by some people. They register a political party and wait for election. Government gives them subvention; they put it in their pockets and make no efforts to win. To them, political parties are platforms for making cool money from the government.”
Rather than government funding, he then urged political parties to agitate for the introduction of proportional representation to widen political representation in the legislature, which would in turn help smaller political parties to thrive.
It should be noted that it is not for nothing that the 1999 constitution as amended provides for political parties as platforms for leaders to emerge in the country as there is still no provision for independent candidacy. And that is why the issue of political party organisation as vehicles for political or leadership recruitment for the country is critical to the survival of democracy.
There is no question that almost all the political parties in Nigeria are barren in terms of ideas as they have little or no ideological orientation that even good citizens, professionals and even academics can identify with. The current political parties including the ruling one are largely bereft of vision, manifestoes and innovative ideas that can attract good membership. Meanwhile, in this same country, there used to be great political parties which good people joined because of clarity in ideology and significant orientation for development of the country. But today, when access to data has been made easier for the purpose of development planning, Nigeria’s political parties have turned mercantilist and beggarly to the extent that only office seekers who themselves behave like prostitutes join and fund them.
The time has, therefore, come for all Nigerians, young professionals and other well-meaning citizens who are concerned about the state of the nation to organise political parties which they all fund from the outset for the sole purpose of implementing their well researched blueprint for rescuing Nigeria.
And when these parties develop in organisational and ideological capacity to rebuild a stunted nation, there can be connected efforts to assist them in developing more capacity for critical thinking and strategic planning as has been done in the developed democracies.
This also is the only way the apathy of many credible members of the society and the intelligentsia especially to political party membership will be cured.
The corrupting influence of big money can only be stemmed by active and financial membership of the parties by all citizens. To say the least, the current political party system is not working for the common good of Nigeria and must change.