By Abba Mahmood
Democracy is a process at the heart of which is the political party which is the platform and vehicle for any politician aspiring to come to power through electoral means. There are provisions for independent candidates in some countries but an independent candidate even in advanced democracies like the US can only win at most legislative elections. No presidential candidate has ever won any election anywhere without the support and structure of a political party. This is the reason why a stable, cohesive and healthy party is necessary for the formation of a stable government, and vice versa.
Relative to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is new. One of the main reasons for the decline and defeat of the PDP in the 2015 general elections was its lack of internal democracy. Candidates were imposed and the space was restricted for potential aspirants to try their luck. Delegates were imposed through the whims and caprices of the powerful chieftains, especially governors of the party. There was a justifiable revolt which led to the defeat of the PDP in the last election.
From all indications, the APC is now copying straight from the PDP playbook. A clique of three powerful officials in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party is bent on imposing so-called “consensus” delegates for the next congress and convention of the party, usually those cleared by the state governors. If there is no internal democracy, if the party cannot adhere to its own constitution, if the APC will also impose candidates and restrict the democratic rights of its members, then where is the difference between the APC and the PDP? Indeed, where is the change?
What the APC leadership are trying to do is clear dictatorship without a mask. As Thomas Paine said men do not change from enemies to friends by the alteration of a name. It appears the APC is just a change of name from the PDP. We are back to where we started: faced with a ruling party that has let us down, with no opposition strong enough to challenge them. If there is a long term lesson to be learned from the past almost three years, it is that the status quo is unsustainable. The common denominator of the years of political paralysis that Nigeria is living through is the failure to adapt. Buhari has failed to understand the ways in which the world and his own society has changed. With no presidential political adviser in an era of politics, with his indifference to party issues even though he is the leader of the party that brought him to power, he will soon realize that he has no platform even if he has ambition. And if the mistake of the APC continues, in a few months it will be a “political corpse”.
I know of no way of judging the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the APC for the last almost three years, to justify those hopes with which people have been pleased to solace themselves. There are no signs, nor symptoms today which were not present yesterday. And it is better to imagine a crisis where none exists than to fail to recognize one when it comes; for a crisis is a culmination of events which calls for new considerations and new decisions.
Without internal party democracy which is a necessary condition for genuine democracy, the APC appears to lack the philosophical beliefs, the social tradition, the scientific knowledge, and the political flexibility to make an easy transition from the old ways to the new. In other words, it is apparent that we voted for a fake change. This is because the traditional African approach to politics is essentially utilitarian. Ideas have to be of practical value; purely abstract principles are of limited appeal. There is little sympathy for failed causes and the first step to failure is to deny the people their right to choose who they want to govern them, the first-step being allowing free democracy in the party to bring up democratically elected party leaders and delegates. After all, apart from peace and security the main responsibility of any government anywhere is the promotion ot the economic wellbeing and welfare of the people.
It is not in numbers but in unity that strength ultimately lies. There can’t be unity if the people are not allowed to have their free choice in APC or any party for that matter. If the APC leadership insists on their plan to impose their choices on the party without following their party’s constitutionally laid down procedure, the destruction that will visit the party will be worse than what the PDP went through. Already, there are crises in virtually all the state branches and the party leadership has not been able to call any to order or instil discipline. One cannot see how an unstable political party can ever form a stable government.
The mistake of the APC is already giving the discredited PDP another chance. The APC remain weak and divided. With the integrity of Buhari being assaulted and the credibility of his government being questioned daily due to his self-inflicted wounds, nobody knows just what the APC and its government stands for. It has no roots, no philosophy, practically no policy other than its support for Buhari who is now caged by the worst cabal in Nigeria’s history. But the victory of good over evil; the triumph of truth over falsehood; and the ultimate success of right over wrong has always been a matter of time.
I really don’t believe the people of Nigeria will uphold any political party that puts political expediency above democratic, national interests. There must and will be a gigantic final conflict between the forces of progress, enlightenment and democracy, and the forces of reaction, ignorance and evil. That struggle may be postponed, but it cannot be evaded or avoided. There is no question as to which side will be the victor… History is on the side of the oppressed.