In the African political setting, power is so intoxicating and profitable that once a person gets elected into office, he or she sees nothing good in the opposition or dissenting voices. Here, power is seen not as an opportunity to serve the larger society but the office is seen as personal estate of the incumbent. Dissenting voices are silenced, opponents accused of treason, jailed and sometimes killed.
From the 1950s when independence from colonial rule was achieved, the pattern has remained the same. No elected President or Prime Minister affords the luxury of being criticised.
They all want to be adored and worshipped. The exception were Botswana and Mauritius.
This dangerous trend of the 1950s and 1960s is still with us in the 21st century except that more countries now claim to be democratic and are no longer under military dictatorship but is the behaviour of the modern day Presidents and other elected officers different from the past leaders? A cursory look at the past reveals that most of the prominent politicians who fought for independence either ended up in jail, were killed or went into exile because of threats to their lives.
In Burundi, Rwanda, Cameroun, Sudan, Egypt, Chad, Uganda and even here in Nigeria, opposition politicians are often branded as thiefs, harassed, their businesses wrecked and bank accounts frozen.
Just recently, the spokesman of the All Peoples Congress (APC) in Nigeria described some prominent members of the main opposition party; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as enemies of the country. Is the ruling party now a law enforcement agency with the mandate of curbing crime in the society? Are opposition politicians now armed robbers and insurgents that they will be branded as enemies of the country?
Prior to the defection of the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Rabiu Kwankwaso back to the PDP, and others, they were not corrupt, not armed robbers and not enemies of Nigeria and were even described as patriotic Nigerians by the same APC.
Why is the chant now different?
If for about 60 years of independence, this warped way of thinking is still prevalent from even those who claim to be better educated than the politicians of the past, what is our future?
Can we boastfully claim that our politics has improved or better than the past? I think the answer is no, especially in Nigeria. In the Second Republic, under Shehu Shagari, no politician was chased into exile, arrested on flimsy excuse or killed.
The then members of the main opposition parties; the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigeria’s Peoples Party (NPP) and the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP) were not in anyway arrested nor harassed with the secret police or soldiers.
The political parties had the freedom to campaign as their members were not chased into exile or threatened. The maturity exhibited by the founding fathers of Nigeria in their quest for political power should be an example to our modern day gladiators who in their haste to occupy various offices have made politics a dangerous game.
What we need are good ideas on how to move the country forward.
Politics is all about providing a better leadership skill, every contender to an office believes that he or she has a better way of doing things, ditto, the political party. In 2015, the APC claimed to have a better idea of moving Nigeria forward and this resulted in the party’s victory at the polls. At that time, nobody was branded an enemy of the state. So, if this time around, opposition parties feel that the ruling party has failed in their mandate, then, there is no need for the name-calling and threats. This is 2019, let the electorate decide the fate of each party.
The average Nigerian is not interested in name- calling but better governance and the provision of basic amenities like good roads, power, water and job creation. We should not allow the dictatorial touts within us to blind our eyes to everyday problems which are holding us back as a nation.
We should have people who can think beyond today and its short-term benefits as a result of being in power and eating from the proceeds of crude oil. The quest for power from opposition politicians is never a threat and will never be a hindrance to the country’s growth.
In African countries where their democratic culture has really improved, no one hears the archaic chant of our enemies any longer.
In any democratic country where opposition figures are harassed, the negative impact is always reflected on the economy as serious investors will hardly put their funds into such country.
From 2015 till date, the politicians who have been harassed include the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his running mate, Peter Obi, former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Senate President Bukola Saraki, his deputy, Ekweremadu, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan and virtually almost all the aides who served under his administration. The list does not include politicians only but also social critics and journalists. With the elections in less than six weeks away from now, we should pray that this cycle of intolerance for dissent and divergent political views and arrests of opponents is not allowed to be part of our political culture.
We are supposed to have moved beyond this level of despotic tendencies. The voices of reason should no longer keep silent as the forces of coercion hold the nation to ransom, that the social critics and organised labour play their part in Nigeria, we want a situation where every individual is a stakeholder in the quest for a better Nigeria. Political parties should stop seeing their opponents as enemies or criminals as they cannot be sure that once they are in power at the federal or state level, they will be there forever. Power is always transient.
2019 is here, let the PVCs speak for us and not threats and intimidation.
Let us nurture our democratic culture so that it can be compared to that of Ghana, Mauritius, Botswana, Benin Republic or even Liberia. These countries have so far overtaken Nigeria in terms of holding free and fair elections. We cannot claim to be the giant of Africa when on a daily basis, hate speech and arrests of political opponents are still rife.
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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