Caged by Entitlement Mentality

Adams Oshiomhole, APC National Chairman

Ojo Maduekwe writes that the main leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party have not shown good example at adherence to internal democracy within their parties and this can be associated with heating up the polity

Nigeria’s politics is still developing. Between the two main political parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – there is a lack of internal democracy guiding the conduct of members and functions. The crises that erupted following the recently conducted party primaries by both parties are proofs to this assertion.

By far the worst hit, the APC which Nigerians assumed on assumption was going to play a different kind of politics from the PDP is riddled by crises. The party rode to power on a change slogan, but has shown no capacity for change. Instead, the self-professed progressives have turned out a caricature of the old PDP.

There have been protests by APC members in some select states. Some governors under the party such as Ibikunle Amosun, Rochas Okorocha and Abdulaziz Yari of Ogun, Imo and Zamfara states respectively, are said to be behind the clamour for the sack or resignation of the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, whom they believe is to blame for the crisis currently engulfing the ruling party.

Although limited, the PDP has not been spared from crisis. Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River has accused the party for being “unfair” and without “conscience” for disqualifying his friend, Chris Agara, from the recently conducted Cross River Central senatorial primaries by the PDP in the state.

Speaking at a function, Ayade said: “I have spent more money than any other candidate in the state. A man came ready for election and you take out his name from the ballot paper.” This outburst – or revelation as some may call it – is instructive to understand what still obtains in both parties.

The crises bedeviling the APC and PDP can be attributed to a lack of internal democracy within both parties. As party financiers, state governors have become an institution by themselves. Influential governors in the APC and PDP, owing to the fact that they are the main financiers of their party, have developed a penchant for exerting undue influence on the party leadership.

Take for instance Ayade’s disclosure of spending more on the PDP. The governor – like APC’s Amosun, Okorocha and Yari – believe that since he is sole financier of the PDP in Cross River, the national leadership of the party owe him some concession when making decisions that affect his state.

It is this same aberration of state governors being financiers of their party that made PDP Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers to pressure his party leadership into organising their last convention in his state. There are insinuations that when the PDP was struggling to rebrand, it was Wike who took up its bills.

The irony of this is that the governors assume lordship over their state party structure by spending money belonging to the state coffers.

Back to the APC, this entitlement mentality can be linked to the foundation upon which Amosun, Okorocha and Yari are standing to demand that ‘Oshiomhole Must Go’ as party chairman. If forced to resign, Oshiomhole won’t be the first party chairman to come under the grinding axe of state governors.

His predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was accused by the national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu of leading the APC away from its founding principles and calling for his resignation, after getting the nod of the governors in the party to elongate his tenure, was eventually thrown under the bus.

Like Oyegun, Oshiomhole is a victim of the suffocating nature of party politics. When he set out to reform the APC and return power to “every member of the party” using the direct primary to elect party candidates, the APC chairman envisaged a fallout between him and key members in his party.

His first task was with getting APC appointees to adhere to party instructions. For example, his falling out with the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, over the latter’s refusal to inaugurate the board of an agency under his ministry, showed just how far he was willing to go in instilling party discipline.

Openly expressing displeasure with how President Muhammadu Buhari was handling the government, when he said “If the president condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party”, showed that Oshiomhole was unafraid of exerting his independence as party chairman, even if it meant incurring the wrath of the most powerful black president.

There are few examples of the penalty political party’s pay when they refuse to operate by the rules. One is the exodus of aggrieved members to other parties. Two, for some aggrieved members, they would rather remain in the party and plot the fall of those they perceive to have caused their grievance.

Following the last primaries conducted by the APC and PDP, both parties have seen a cross-defection of their members. For the APC, even before the primaries, there were a good number of its members in the position of parliamentarians and governors, whom being marginalised, defected to the PDP. The APC too has welcomed its own fair share of former PDP members.

Like earlier stated, when aggrieved politicians are not defecting, they are sometimes seen working against their party from within. An example is the case of PDP Senator Bassey Albert, representing the people of Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district, otherwise known as Uyo senatorial district.

After the 2015 senatorial election, Senator Albert was taken to the election tribunal by fellow PDP member, Mr. Bassey Etim. This story is a good example of why political parties must abide by their own rules and endeavor to be fair to all its members, or get entangled in self-inflicted crises.

Mr. Etim had won the December 2014 PDP primary election for his district, and had hoped to represent the party in the 2015 election. Senator Albert on the other hand participated in the PDP governorship primary. It is alleged that to pacify Albert to step down for his anointed candidate, then governor, now Senator Godswill Akpabio, took Mr. Etim’s slot and gave it to Albert.

From the tribunal, the case went to the federal high court where the presiding judge had asked Albert to vacate the seat for Etim. The case was appealed by Albert and the matter went to the Appeal Court, wherein the judgment delivered by the trial court was overturned and the senator retained his seat.

Like most humans, politicians appear not to learn from history, even one as recent as 2014. In Sokoto, a near crisis was averted by the PDP. Governor Aminu Tambuwal failed in his bid to clinch the PDP presidential ticket to former vice president Atiku Abubakar, but after some consensus, he was eventually given the PDP’s governorship ticket, even without participating in the primary.

When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released its candidate list for political parties and Tambuwal’s name was missing and in his place was Manir Dan’iya, political stakeholders in the state PDP went into another round of horse trading, the fallout of which was Tambuwal’s name being relisted by INEC to fly the PDP flag, with Dan’iya as his running mate.

The absence of internal democracy or the refusal to adhere to one can be associated with the heating up of the polity. As the two main leading political parties in the country, the APC and PDP have shown no good example.