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By Emmanuel Onwubiko on 03/09/2013

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In the foreword to my book titled Politics and litigation in contemporary Nigeria, complete volume, which was published in the year 2005, the then Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Akinlolu Olujimi, had stressed the importance of the judiciary in the resolution of emerging factional disputes in the political parties that exist in Nigeria. 

He had written thus: “It seems that, although political issues are outside the sphere of judicial intervention, the courts are invariably called upon to help resolve constitutional disputes, electoral squabbles and allied issues which could hardly be separated from politics. The ability of the courts to distance themselves from politics while determining weighty constitutional issues of far-reaching political implications appears to be the major determinant of the success of the courts as the upholder of the rule of law.”

Well stated, you may say. But our ever greedy politicians are ever ready to explore the legal loopholes inherent in the hurriedly and poorly written constitutions of their political parties. Using the machinations of some dare-devil lawyers who give no qualms to morality or ethics of their profession but their greed for money, these disgruntled political radicals [free radicals, to borrow from science] have abused the courts of law to frustrate the growth of these political parties as enduring institutions that are formed to stabilise Nigeria’s democracy.

Chief Olujimi, the eminently qualified professional who held the difficult federal cabinet office of federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice at a time the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s political party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was torn apart by factional infighting, may have derived the root of his aforementioned conclusion from Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).

Specifically, Section 6 of the Constitution provides as follows: “The judicial powers of the federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the federation.”

Nigeria being the largest black nation in the world has experienced democracy in the past 15 years. However, the political parties registered under the law by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have largely failed to imbibe/internalise and practise the constitutional principle of equity, social justice and fairness. They have thereby turned these political platforms into theatres of political wars among party members who are engaged in supremacy battles of who would enjoy political patronages and tickets to run for elective offices or gain political appointments.

The ruling political parties at both national and regional and state levels have therefore become so atomised into fractious cliques of plotters who are ever so willing to engage in the pastime of manipulations and scheming to outmaneuver other cliques to gain control of these political platforms. This they do in a bid to plant their stooges into strategic but juicy offices as ways of cornering the commonwealth of the people.

At the moment, the whirlwind of organised chaos tearing the various political parties apart has berthed in the PDP national secretariat. This crisis of confidence metamorphosed into bigger conflagration during the August 28, 2013 national mini-convention in Abuja when eight of the state governors produced by the party staged a phenomenal walk-out led by the one-time Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria produced under the party platform – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

The split in the national ruling party has led to the formation of another factional leadership now headed by a former national chairman of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje. Baraje was quick to give reasons for the decision of some of the high profile members to stage a walk-out and consequently organise a factional mini-national convention at which leaders were elected including the embattled former national secretary of the party, Brigadier-General Olagunsoye Oyinlola [rtd], who now becomes the factional national secretary even when the suit he instituted against his removal from office by loyalists of the national chairman of the faction loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan, is yet to be fully adjudicated in court.             

By and large, the new faction of PDP said dictatorship of the Bamanga Tukur-led national leadership was responsible for the split even as the 2015 presidential ambition of President Jonathan and the underground moves to amend the party constitution to produce the current President as the consensus presidential flag bearer in 2015 is being fingered as the remote cause of the emerging division. Earlier last month, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), a pressure group under PDP, gained registration by the electoral body to become a full blown political party in what is being speculated as a coup de grace by the loyalists of the former Vice President Alhaji Aiku Abubakar.

The serving governors who pulled out of the Jonathan/Tukur-led faction of PDP are Babangida Aliyu of Niger State; Aliyu Wamako of Sokoto state; Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State; Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State; Abdulfatal Ahmed of Kwara State; and, predictably, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, whose emergence as two-term chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum defeating the official candidate of the Presidency –

Jonah Jang of Plateau State – caused his unceremonial suspension from PDP.

The Rivers State Governor has of recent faced barrage of political attacks by elements loyal to President Jonathan who are uncomfortable with Amaechi’s rumoured vice presidential ambition in the 2015 election alongside a northern presidential candidate. President Jonathan’s loyalists, including Governor Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff and current federal Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, are of the opinion that should Governor Amaechi run for the office of Vice President, then the chances of the South/South-born President Jonathan in the 2015 polls may be endangered.

What then is the fundamental cause of this crisis of confidence in the national ruling party of Nigeria?

I am of the strong position that the absence of internal democracy is responsible for the many factional crises tearing the Peoples Democratic Party apart. PDP is a political platform of warlords and godfathers but other political parties are not free from this virus of anti-democratic tendencies.

Section 223 (1) of the constitution is very clear on why internal democratic principles are imperative in selecting members of the hierarchy of PDP and indeed all political parties.

“The constitution and rules of a political part shall (a) ‘Provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party’ and (b) ‘ensure that the members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party reflect the federal character of Nigeria’.”

But it is a notorious fact that most, if not all registered political parties, lack internal democracy in the election of the executive members of these parties and the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) charged with the supervisory power over these parties seems to have gone into operational slumber.  

Another anomaly that is responsible for the crisis of confidence among political parties is the practice whereby elected officials who hold political executive offices abuse these official privileges by diverting public funds to buy up loyalty among party members, thereby completely capturing the party structure at both the state and national levels and these overlords now decide who is to be presented as party flagbearers during elections.

Why should an elected president of the federation or state governors be recognised as party leaders in their zones of political influences even when the constitutions of these parties stipulate how the executive committees are to be constituted?

There must be a return of internal democratic mechanisms in these parties. Political office holders who rode on the back of these parties to emerge in their current influential and juicy offices must not be allowed to become the bosses of these parties because in the case of political office holders entitled to a second and final term in a particular office, if he/she is to gain control of the political parties, there is no possibility in this world that a free, fair and transparent primary could be conducted between him/her and other party members aspiring for same position.

Lastly, INEC must be up and doing and the National Assembly must make laws to effectively insulate the anti-graft bodies from the total control of the President who may use and manipulate these agencies for purposes of witch hunt of political opponents such as those of them that have ‘rebelled’ against the establishment.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 03/09/2013 3:48:17 PM


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