The multi-party democracy practised in Nigeria today has no viable alternatives, writes Monday Philips Ekpe
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, is a very interesting man. A chunk of his political career is generally attributed to the benefaction of the Presidential Candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) in the last general election and a former two-term Governor of Kano State, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Kwankwaso who is arguably a more influential leader in Kano State practically moved Ganduje up the political ladder until the latter gained enough weight to become governor. And, then, the mentee began to make efforts to turn the tide. For some time now, the war between the mentor and his protegee has been in the open. The recent Supreme Court judgment that confirmed NNPP’s Abba Kabir Yusuf as governor at the expense of APC’s Nasiru Gawuna has somehow reinforced Kwankwaso’s superiority in the scheme of things.
Ganduje had worked assiduously towards ensuring victory for his party’s candidate in the hope of owning the momentum of the political dynamics of the state. That would have been a masterstroke indeed and it would also have conferred a higher status on him above his rival, at least for now. But the apex court’s ruling means that even leading the party in government at the centre has its own limits. For someone blessed with an agile imagination, Ganduje can be expected to pull strings at any time. And he tried to do so last week with a public appeal to Yusuf, Kwankwaso, another ex-Governor of the state, Senator Ibrahim Shakarau, and other opposition figures to join the party he heads and make Kano a one-party state.
The APC helmsman explained the benefits of his proposal thus: “We are calling on him (Yusuf) with a loud voice and have created an enabling environment for the governor of Kano State and his party to come and join the APC so that we make a solid and large followership. We are the highest populated state in the country; let us make use of our population to our benefit and create a large followership in Nigeria. The votes of Kano State are very critical for anyone that wants to become the president of the country. We should utilise that potential to decide who our president will be in the future. We work day and night to visualise Kano as a one-party state. If Kano is converted to a one-party state it means we can decide for Nigeria and its leadership. This will be in favour of the state and the party. Leave the NNPP, and come and join the APC. All the other parties should come and join the APC and make Kano a one-party state.” Ganduje also didn’t miss that opportunity to tell his audience that Kano stood to gain from federal government’s plans to run gas pipelines, railway and road networks from Abuja through Kaduna to Kano. The password would be to dump other parties and dissolve into APC. So much for ingenuity.
Not surprisingly, Ganduje’s critics went to town immediately but his aide on public enlightenment, Chief Oliver Okpala, promptly rose up in defence of his principal: “This is the first time the chairman of a ruling political party in the country has exhibited such maturity, taking such approach and calling for a united front. It is a call to avoid bitterness and rancour. It is a call for politicians to work together as Nigerians and to see each other as brothers and sisters. From his comment it is important that the intention of his call should not be misconstrued. It should be seen as what it is, an invitation from a mature politician without guile, aimed at building the much-needed synergy that Nigeria needs to surmount its multifaceted challenges.”
This attempt at clarifying Ganduje’s explicit call to abandon opposition and file a single line behind federal power makes a suggestion, albeit unwittingly, about the sort of democracy in operation in Nigeria today. Forming a “united front” against who, in whose interest and for what? Not to mention the manner of unity that exists within Ganduje’s APC. If states must be in the same party as the government domiciled in Aso Rock in order to access the goodies therein, then multiplicity which is a critical feature of any democracy worth the name will suffer. Who benefits from that type of arrangement, if not the lucky few? So, the real test of Okpala’s boss’ maturity is for him to patiently watch the political players in his home state engage the people in terms of the promises made and the ones kept or unkept. And for him to show that he believes the famed sophistication of Kano people and their ability to decide the fate of their leaders and platforms. Anything short of that would be tantamount to arrogance, usurpation, opportunism and predatory tendencies.
Those attributes are in abundance in Nigeria’s 21st Century politics, unfortunately. The overriding reason most Nigerians, especially those aspiring for offices, join political parties is that there are no other avenues to actualise their dreams. The constitution is unequivocal on this. If at all the parties have distinctive ideologies that drive the manifestoes and operations, they’re hardly known to the populace. Let alone expecting them to have any meaningful impact on the longsuffering citizenry. This hazy situation has now produced parties which, in truth, are vehicles, omnibuses and associations that merely convey their passengers to power hunting expeditions. This is the predominant picture of the nation’s current democratic experience, sadly.
It was from that mindset that Ganduje spoke at that Kano stakeholders’ summit. To be fair to him, he is not the first person of his stature to voice such imperial sentiments. Sixteen years ago, the then National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), late Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, boasted that his party would keep national power for 60 years. Unless drastic and sincere soul-searching takes place among our politicians, the country may have confined its glorious politicking to the past. This conclusion isn’t simplistic or merely nostalgic. Yes, previous dispensations did manifest their own structural and attitudinal impurities but the magnitude of the present popular discontent and disillusionment towards the political class is unprecedented.
Understandably so. There’s a visible drift from the politics of performance anchored on people’s interest to that of desperate self-aggrandisement. In this fouled environment, any wish to pull political gladiators under one roof is a move towards subversion. For us to surrender our political destiny to groups that constantly demonstrate thin regard for internal transparency and cohesion would be tragic.
To be clear, it isn’t that other parties are completely absent in most one-party countries. They are, however, apparently at the mercy of that one all-powerful party that is programmed to clinch a disproportionate number of positions at all tiers of government. The designers of the Nigerian constitution obviously considered the nation’s political journey and its complexities before arriving at the multi-party option. It’s bad that the various parties haven’t lived up to the core of their statutory roles. But taking the quickest route into the dictatorship of one or few lord(s) would be more disastrous.
Nigeria hasn’t come this far in its chequered political history to flirt with any system that stifles opposing views. A culture that involves only one strong or sole party which runs the government can be expected to churn out unilateral decisions that are, in many cases, detrimental to the freedoms and potential progress fought for by our heroes right from the precolonial times.
Dr Ekpe is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board