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EDITORIAL

Party Politics And Nigerian Democracy

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Democracy is accepted as a system of government that, under normal circumstances, assures effective
representation. What this means is that it gives the people the opportunity to participate in governance, that is to say, authorise their chosen candidates to speak for and represent their interests in government. We note that it
was this system of government that the famous 16th President of the United States of America,

Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg, Pennsylvania address at the dedication of Soldiers National Cemetery in that city on November 19, 1863, defined as government of the people, by the people, for the people. He also prayed

that any nation that adopts that system of government “shall not perish from the earth”.

This newspaper, in recalling these words of that great man who abolished slave trade, wonder if Nigerian politicians have found time to read his two-minute speech on that occasion that still remains one of the greatest
political speeches ever so as to ask themselves the pertinent question – are we truly democrats?

We raise this issue to draw attention to the ongoing macabre dance on the political stage by people who claim to be the ruling class by virtue of the fact that the parties they belong to control the political space and dictate public
opinion.

By their behaviour, it is becoming obvious that they don’t care whether or not the country ‘perishes from the earth’ so long as their selfish proclivities are assured.

A party system in a democracy is supposed to be for ease of managing the processes. It is put in place for administrative convenience. It is defined as a concept in comparative political science concerning the system of government by political parties in a democratic country. The idea is that political parties have basic similarities: they control the government, have a stable base of mass popular support, and create internal mechanisms for control-
ling funding, information and nominations. Is this definition applicable to Nigerian democracy as things are presently?

In the country today, party politics is assuming a dimension that is threatening to destroy democracy itself. Low voter turnout in elections and the willingness on the part of the people to put up their votes for sale are ample
proof that the people are losing faith not in the system but in the participants in the system. Either way, that is a sad commentary on the mind set of those engaged in it.

The danger, and that is what should be everybody’s concern, is that the people who actually should take the lead in the democratic process, the very people Lincoln had in mind, are not only confused, dejected and seemingly
rejected by the same people who they voted into office and power to represent them and protect their interest. They are also left out in the whole scheme of things. They are scarcely thought about and only remembered during elections when their votes, the real weapon of power in a democracy, is manipulated out of  their control.

To a ‘limited’ extent, they have themselves to blame for their fate because, often, they allow themselves to be induced into selling their birth right for a mess of porridge. They allow their lowly position in the society to becloud and befuddle their senses to the extent that they, eventually, lose their right to ask questions and get answers that ought to define their destiny. In the process, their well-being and that of their children are mortgaged almost irretrievably. Otherwise, they ought to be on a ground, solid enough to call the bluff, stand up to the shenanigans of some elements

within the political class and consign them into the abyss of irrelevance.

We use ‘limited’ in this context advisedly considering the fact that this same political class deliberately in Machiavellian style and through impoverishment, made it difficult for the people to know what they actually want in
the democratic setup. For them, it has become all about living for the moment. It is this scenario
that has enabled the political class to ride roughshod on their sensibilities.

The last election is slightly above one year old and the scheming is already on for another that is three years’ hence. The ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which, to all intents, is a mere amalgam of disparate shades of political opinion and persuasion which fused together because of the exigencies of the moment, is tearing itself
to shreds over who controls the structures.

As if in competition, the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is giving Nigerians every reason to believe that they have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the past when they led the country astray
for 16 good years. The populace, askance and perplexed, are pondering whether this is the democracy they craved for.

As a result of the perceived irresponsible behaviour of these two parties, a school of political
thought is canvassing for independent candidature where leaders will be elected strictly on their
own merit without reference to any party affiliation. About time too.

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