Posted by News Express | 29 June 2016 | 2,435 times
In his (magna carta) most respected work entitled The Substance of Politics, one of the world’s finest minds in the field of political science, A Appadorai, stated: “The political party is a more or less organised group of citizens who act together as a political unit, have distinctive aims and opinions on the leading political questions and controversy in the state and who, by staying together as a political unit, seek to obtain control of the government.”
Appodorai, in the work considered one of the few reference books in tertiary institutions, added: “A political party is based on two fundamentals of human nature: men differ in their opinions, and are gregarious, they try to achieve by combination what they cannot achieve individually.
"Religious and communal loyalties, and the attachment to a dynasty or leader, also help parties to develop. Party enthusiasm is maintained by such elements of human nature as sympathy, imitation, competition and pugnacity. Parties fulfill certain necessary functions so necessary, indeed, that many competent thinkers consider them essential to the working of representative government.”
Such is the sublime importance of a political party that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, section 221, affirmed: “No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election, or contribution to funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.”
Specifically, during the first lap of the democratic dispensation between 1999 to late 2002, Nigeria experimented with three political parties, namely: the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigeria Peoples Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
But in deference to popular demand and in compliance with judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), gave recognition to 27 other political parties, thus bringing the total to a record 30 political parties, which catapulted Nigeria to the enviable height of one of the world’s fastest-growing democracies;, at least, on the pages of newspapers.
In 2016, Nigeria cumulatively has nearly 50 registered political parties. But, only the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party are in the real sense functional. APC controls the central government and dominates the National Assembly. The PDP is dangerously too close to be regarded as a formidable opposition force, because it controls the crude oil rich states and has a good chunk of representation in both chambers of the National Assembly. The APC’s national chairman, Chief John Oyegun, was reportedly bemoaning APC’s loss of these key oil-rich states.
In Nigeria, apart from the central role political parties play, which basically follows no ideological bent, the main focus of these political structures called political parties is the struggle to undermine each other's electoral fortunes in a very sinister way. In developed societies like the USA and UK, or even such places like Australia, Canada and Germany, political parties in control of central layers of authority are not permitted by law to use the instrumentality of power to whittle down the strength of other political parties that currently don't control the powerful layers of governance at the centre. In Nigeria, the party that controls the Presidency misuses the highly compromised police and anti-graft agencies to witch-hunt political opponents. Before the new generation political parties were accredited by the electoral commission, a judicial battle was waged - championed by the irrepressible Lagos-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gani Oyeshola Fawehinmi (now late) - which was finally resolved in the new political parties’ favour by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. First, the legal warfare was centred on the proper interpretation of Section 222 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, relating to formation of political parties.
The plethora of political associations that sought registration as political parties then were angered by what they saw as extra-constitutional requirements mounted on their ways by the Independent National Electoral Commission, which was why they proceeded to the nation’s apex court to seek judicial redress.
At the end of the litigation - which lasted a record time due to the commitment of the then Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais-led bench - the extra-constitutional requirements to gain registration as political parties such as the payment of N100,000.00 registration fees and compulsory presence in more than two third of the 36 states of the federation were dismantled. After what seemed like a political Pyrrhic victory of registration, the new generation political parties were then faced with the daunting task of winning acceptance of the electorate, who over the years had imbibed the unfortunate tendency of staying with the ruling political parties.
Shortly before the widely disputed April 12 and 19 2003 General Elections, two of the 30 registered political parties stood out among the bunch, as those that could give the ruling Peoples Democratic Party a run for their money. The newly- repackaged All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), formerly known as All Peoples Party (Bola Ige of blessed memory, when he dumped it to embrace AD called it Abacha Peoples Party) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The All Nigeria Peoples Party gained more respect and followership across the country, when the erstwhile ‘War-against-indiscipline’ Head of State, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), became its presidential candidate even as All Progressive Grand Alliance led by Chief Chekwas Okorie got the late Chukwuemeka-Odumegwu Ojukwu (Ezeigbo Gburugburu) to join the fray as its presidential standard-bearer.
Faced by the bad prospect that these two political parties can cause the ruling PDP, which prides itself then as the largest party in Africa (just as how Nigeria Television Authority is the largest television network in Africa), stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party waged one of the bitterest, but well-organised and expensive nationwide membership and campaign drives. Subterranean plots were also hatched and executed by powerful persons in government to fundamentally whittle down the popularity of the two other parties, especially the Alliance for Democracy that held sway in the South-west. Indeed, AD was so popular in the South-west then that it was even named Afenifere. One of the major political heavyweights netted in then by the Peoples Democratic Party was Alliance for Democracy’s domain in the South-west following a pact signed between the then Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Abdulkadir-led faction of the party, which gave Peoples Democratic Party a landslide victory in the April General Elections.
It was generally suspected that Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Abdulkadir was supplanted by the ruling party to undermine the Alliance For Democracy and prepare the ground for PDP to fortify its presence in the South-west, to ease the job of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo to win a second term. The assassination of the then serving Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige (SAN), of the Alliance for Democracy also created considerable discord in the AD’s hierarchy.
And to show its appreciation for undermining his party on the election, the Peoples Democratic Party had shortly after rewarded Alhaji Ahmed Adamu Abdulkadir of AD with a high-profile presidential appointment as Special Adviser to the President on Manufacturing and Private Sector. Alliance for Democracy which was yet to recover from both the shock of the monumental political earthquake that swept it away from the South-west and the seemingly intractable squabbles within their rank couldn’t rally any support base to recapture their South-west zone of domination in the 2007 elections. As at then, between erstwhile Osun State Governor Bisi Akande and Chief Michael Koleosho, it was not clear who the INEC recognised as interim national chairman, following the near-disgraceful exit of Alhaji Abdulkadir. INEC was also a willing tool in the destruction of political opposition parties.
The result of the general elections also shocked the All Nigeria Peoples Party and the All Progressive Grand Alliance, which was why they waged legal battles at both the Presidential Election Tribunal and the nation’s apex court.
Piqued by the emergence of Chief Obasanjo as the declared winner of the April 19 poll by INEC, the APGA, apart from challenging it at the courts, had also continued to fashion out and re-define its role and strategies as an opposition political party with stronghold in the South-east. However, intra-party squabble was also planted within the ranks of APGA, leading to the emergence of its former treasurer, Victor Umeh, to stage a coup to assume the mantle of national chairmanship of the party from the founder, Chief Okorie.
Fast forward to March 2015, when PDP surrendered central political power to an opposition APC (after a bitterly-fought election), which sponsored the current President Muhammadu Buhari to office, the PDP is now facing similar treacherous political battles allegedly sponsored by the ruling party in order to whittle down its national influence and make it vulnerable towards the 2019 political battles that would represent the general elections. PDP is now going through what some persons call Law of Karma (law of natural reciprocity). This is because of the saboteur's yeoman's job it did to other opposition parties for the 16 years that PDP held office at the centre. For example, Alhaji Modu Sheriff, a controversial former governor of Borno State - who became interim chairman of PDP when Uche Secondus, the acting chairman, was sacked by a court of law to make way for a candidate from the North-east zone to occupy the office - is generally seen as a mole from the APC which he left shortly before last year's general election.
A national convention called recently in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to elect national officials, was scuttled by series of court cases suspected to have been sponsored by the powers-that-be at the centre, as one of the ways of creating instability and disunity in the PDP. Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, a two-term governor of Kaduna State and a two-term senator, who was made interim chairman for three months from the ill-fated Port Harcourt convention couldn't resume, because Sheriff is also laying claim to the chairmanship. Sheriff had previously stepped down 24 hours before the postponed national convention in Rivers State to enable him run for the national chairmanship position. The question now is: How come, after he stepped down before the national convention was postponed midway into it, then he is being allowed by both INEC and police to parade himself as the chairman?
Sadly, thugs from both claimants have also invaded the party’s Wadata Plaza National Secretariat, and the police were also reported to have stormed the secretariat to seal it off on the orders of the erstwhile Inspector-General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase. My take is: the INEC must clearly speak out to say who the authentic leader is. Constitutionally, the interim leadership of erstwhile governor Makarfi is the legally-permissible national hierarchy, given that the strategic organs of the party have all endorsed them. Alhaji Sheriff must be restrained from further seeking to destabilise the opposition party. The courts should also not allow itself to become the ground on which sinister plots to undermine political oppositions are actualised by politicians who lack basic discipline and ideological loyalties.
Lastly, the APC has nothing to gain if it continues to plant moles into the PDP, to destroy the only visible political opposition in Nigeria. The implication of having a one-party state in Nigeria is that anarchy could be let loose, and a revolution could be sparked off: something similar to Tunisia's experience, and no one could tell what Nigeria could get into. Let APC allow other parties be: the sky is wide enough to contain all birds. The more political parties, the merrier for democracy.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via email@example.com
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