Political parties should adhere to their internal rules and operations to strengthen the democratic process

With the conclusion of the ward, local government, and state congresses of both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), all is now set for the conventions to elect their National Working Committee (NWC) members and other national officers. But if there is anything leaders of both parties have demonstrated in recent weeks, it is their total disregard for internal democracy anchored on transparency and accountability. In many of the states, the congresses were marred by violence while many produced factional and parallel executives.

Ordinarily, by aggregating and representing the interests of their members, fielding credible people for public offices, and holding government to account when in opposition, political parties have a huge role to play in any emerging democracy. But since the democratic credentials of the principal promoters of political parties in Nigeria are thin, they have yet to demonstrate that they are driven by the core value of promoting the common good. For the past 22 years, impunity and arrogance have found expression within the leading political parties with unmanaged factions that at every election season produce rival war lords who clash openly and, in some instances, violently.

As we consistently argue on this page, political parties should be more of avenues for the contestation of ideas about how society should develop and thrive than a vehicle for seeking government offices. The challenge is that no political party in Nigeria, especially under the current dispensation which started in 1999, has articulated what it stands for in terms of ideas let alone canvass its platform to ordinary Nigerians. The situation is worse with fringe parties many of which come into existence only at election seasons and die off afterwards. Such parties are no better than business ventures being promoted by mercantile politicians who hawk them as platforms of convenience at every election season.

Meanwhile, to the extent that political parties remain the framework for democracies to recruit and organise the populace for power contests, when they exhibit incoherence in policy formulation and disorder at local levels, it is democracy that is endangered. That precisely is what is going on today within both the APC and the PDP, even though we must acknowledge that the latter has conducted itself better than the former in recent weeks. The PDP has even succeeded in reaching a consensus on the zoning of critical offices such that a former minister, Iyorchia Ayu, is well positioned to become the next national chairman.

However, both parties are bogged down by legal entanglements over lack of respect for their own constitutions. The PDP constitution says that ward executive cannot suspend a national officer. But Uche Secondus was upended at his ward and a tenure guaranteed to end on 9th December has technically been terminated by default with the embattled national chairman in court to scuttle the national convention slated for this weekend. Meanwhile, there are also many within the APC hierarchy who argue that the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on the Ondo State governorship election puts the party in a quandary over the legality of a sitting Governor (in Mai Mala Buni of Yobe) acting as the caretaker national chairman.

Political parties are not only the expression of pluralism within a given polity, but they are also a fundamental instrument for popular participation in governance. Their internal structure and operations are therefore expected to be democratic. Sadly, internal democracy is a mirage within the structure of political parties in Nigeria. The challenge now is that going by the mayhem and utter disorder that characterised the ward, local government and state congresses that will culminate in the national conventions of both the APC and PDP, we are likely to witness legal battles in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be drawn as we approach the 2023 general election.

When a party has no definable ideology, structure, or institutional memory as it is evident in both the PDP and APC, mechanisms for internal democracy will also be lacking. And when their members find themselves in government, accountability will mean nothing!

When a party has no definable ideology, structure, or institutional memory as it is evident in both the PDP and APC, mechanisms for internal democracy will also be lacking

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