Gradually, Nigerian politicians are introducing a brand new political system that had probably never existed before and does not currently exist anywhere in the world. It is important to note that, there are two ways to creativity; one, you can create something from the scratch and two; you can modify and re-modify something that is existing, until it becomes entirely different from its former self.
There is little or no doubt that Nigerian politicians have continued to engage in practices that tend to shape and re-shape democracy into an entirely new political system and consequently creating great difficulties in trying to find a name for it. Can we call it the Nigerian brand of democracy or can we simply call it Nigeriancracy?
Our current political system is neither democratic nor dictatorial. It is probably in-between or a marriage between the two. At the moment, it looks like our politicians are not ready for democracy and they don’t want dictatorship by the military so that’s why they have settled for political dictatorship.
In Nigerian politics of today, the most influential and authoritative position is that of ‘party leader’, whether at the national or state level. The party leader is superior to the party chairman, party executives, party elders, party trustees and even party constitution, and yet the position does not require any democratic election to attain. All you need to become a party leader is to try at all cost to be a president, state governor or may be a minister. In some parties, a good and impressive financial status or being an ex-public office holder will suffice. If you are a party leader, you can do and undo in the party at will, with little or no resistance.
Before the 2003 general elections, this position of party leader was officially non-existent. It was formally introduced into this Fourth Republic by former President Olusegun Obasanjo after he secured a second term in office.
In 2003, Chief Obasanjo learnt a bitter lesson from the powerful PDP governors who were alleged to have nearly cost him his second term bid. As a very good student of politics, Obasanjo learnt from that encounter with the PDP governors.. Soon after securing his second term in office, he began the process of controlling national party structures. After succeeding, he declared himself PDP national leader.
At the beginning, it wasn’t clear who had the final say on party matters, between the PDP National leader and the PDP National Chairman as it was like a situation where two national chairmen are operating under the same party. As events unfold, it was clear that in the PDP, the partly leader is supreme to everyone and everything in the party. This phenomenon rapidly spread to all
PDP states with state governors using the new opportunity to legitimize their undemocratic control over their various state machineries including the state chairmen. From then, other opposition parties began to operate under the same system where state governors are regarded not as members but as people above the party and its constitution. Up till now, it is not clear whether PDP has amended its constitution to accommodate the position and assign it with specific constitutional functions, but the position outlived Obasanjo as President Jonathan is actively the PDP national party leader.
This idea of a party leader in Nigerian politics is disgusting and overbearing as much as it is undemocratic and unneeded. The position though apparently exists in other democracies, but certainly not in the Nigerian domineering style and hardly do you find it existing side by side with the position of National Chairman. Furthermore, the position is being subjected to democratic processes in other countries like South Africa and Britain, both in its formations and operations. This is unlike in Nigeria where someone proclaims himself party leader just by virtue of being a president, governor or minister. In China for example, a party leader may be politically stronger than the president.
This issue of party leader is not peculiar to PDP. The newly formed All Progressives Congress went as far as incorporating the position into its laws from the onset thereby undemocratically proclaiming state governors as state party leaders with almost unlimited powers. This was a party many Nigerians expected to behave differently from the much-abhorred ruling PDP. At the moment, APC has given powers to state party leaders to single-handedly appoint interim party executives which is not only autocratic but a betrayal of justice and fairness and democratic principles.
Similar instances can be seen everywhere in most opposition parties apart from these two frontline parties. Some months back, the National Chairman of Labour Party declared former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel as Ogun party leader. The LP Chairman is somebody whose position was recently enmeshed in crisis over his alleged refusal to step down after his tenure has since expired, but he is still hanging on to unilaterally appoint people as party leaders.
What is the rationale behind giving party leadership to the custodians of public funds if not premised on the expectation that they will use such funds to finance the party?
The extent to which officials in the executive arm of government at all levels are being hero-worshipped in this country is highly unfortunate and alarming to put it mildly. Let’s take the PDP for example, since when did they actually elect a National Chairman? The chairman is always appointed by the president or state governors who are party leaders. This has rendered the party impotent, with all the party executives directly answerable to the president, who ordinarily should be just an obedient member of that party. How do you expect fairness here?
It is now that we begin to understand why the self-acclaimed messiah party, the APC has been running from house to house in search of governors to decamp to the party so they can have enough custodians of public funds in their fold as party leaders.
This concept of party leaders must stop, elected public officers should run the government and become leaders of the state while elected party officials should run the party and become leaders of political movements and ideologies in their various wards and states. Failure to do this has done and still doing lot of damages to our nascent democracy. If someone under the guise of party leader can determine who gets what, how and when in a party, then what type of political system are we operating and building for the coming generation?
All the prominent political parties in Nigeria are not quite serious and ready for a proper democracy in my opinion. Unless the party stakeholders completely reform themselves , we may not be able to go too far in our democracy as our nation.
Amir Abdulazeez is the President of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI). He writes in from Chedi Quarters, Kano. He can be reached with firstname.lastname@example.org.
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