Decrying the crises that engulfed the Democratic Party in the middle of Barak Obama’s second term and as if he had premonitions on the challenges his wife would face after their primaries and during the elections, former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, warned thus, “Continuity is not always as exciting as change. It is not always an appealing mantra”. Obama had earlier won the election on change mantra and change could not be a sensible and suitable message for the democrats again for the Democratic Party to succeed itself. Clinton was alerting them on need for unity and to search for why the democrats should be re-elected. The republicans, on the other hand were chanting “change”.
The democrats paid little attention to Bill Clinton’s warning. Despite Obama’s tremendous transformation achievements, the democrats paid a bitter and painful price. But the democrats bounced back to control the Congress that impeached President Trump only to be reversed by the Senate. In the USA, victory or defeat does not break up a party nor cause decamping. After an election, the losing party quickly addresses their faults and plan for the next election. For example when the Republicans lost to Jimmy Carter, they met immediately and identify the impeachment of President Nixon and selection of the Vice President that succeeded Nixon, who contested and lost to Carter as the major reasons. The Republicans coined the slogan “Contract with America”, sold the idea to the Americans and Carter served for only one term. Ronald Reagan took over with George Bush Sr. (a war hero, former CIA Director, former Ambassador and former Republican Party chairman) as his Vice President. George Bush succeeded Reagan. The Democrats corrected their mistakes and Bill Clinton took over from Bush Sr. The Republicans corrected their missteps and George Bush Jnr took over from Bill Clinton.
The Democrats corrected their mistakes and Barak Obama took over from George Bush Jnr. The Republicans corrected their errors and Donald Trump took over from Barak Obama. The above recount demonstrates how political parties that have grown organically behave in victory or defeat and that it is a truism that opposition politics nurtures democracy. Nobody and nothing contributed to the growth of democracy in Nigeria than PMB and PMB’s opposition. It was therefore not by accident or coincident when congratulating former President Goodluck Jonathan on his 60th birthday, PMB said, “You will bounce back”. In his characteristic exemplary and legendary show of magnanimity in victory and his wholehearted desire for democracy to grow, PMB has named a railway complex after the presumptive opposition leader, Goodluck Jonathan. No Nigerian leader ever did so.
The dissolution of the NWC of the ruling political party by the party leadership is a tacit admission of the existence of clogs in the wheels of progress of the party. PMB’s action is also a warning to the APC on the pitfalls on the way to continuity. A lot have been said but deeper, wider, honest and sincere analyses into the root cause or causes for the crises have been given little attention. In victory or defeat, crises engulf our parties soon after an election in the form of bickering, litigations, factions, declarations and counter declarations that are mere symptoms. The real germ causing the disease is lack of organic growth.
Organic growth is the major challenge political parties in Nigeria face today. Most of them are mere marriages of conveniences or expediency. Parties and candidates have ways and means to win elections, but, soon after victory or defeat, cracks emerge and some party members contemplate decamping, some form new parties. When the current ruling party was in opposition, it provided “why” it should be elected and “who” should be elected. The party rightly identified insecurity, corruption and dwindling economic fortunes of the nation as the major problems bedevilling Nigeria. To the ruling party now, then in opposition, insecurity and corruption bear the signature of the government then in power while dwindling economy is the fallout from the first two evils.
Mindful of, and in response to the national mood and wishes respectively, the “WHO” must be somebody with wide leadership experience including leadership in tempting and corruptible offices; and whose signature has never been found on any evil deed or near any form of malfeasance. The party settled for PMB, which gave the party the fist to punch above its weight. The then ruling party concentrated on “how” to win the election and the “means” to win the elections. They used money- one of the sources of evil- as the means and used intimidation and rigging as how to retain political power. The party lost the elections and members landed into the current economic and financial scandals, disasters and quagmires. Studies have shown that the challenges to party organic growth includes, lack of shared values, vision, mission, ideas, shared prosperity and destiny. Others include degradation of democracy or democratic recession, insecurity, populism, voter apathy, behaviour of victorious politicians, economy and term-limits to mention a few.
Recent developments have revealed that no political party, ruling or in opposition, is immune to party members’ crises that can, in PMB’s words “self-destruct”. Self-destruction is easier and quicker when the party lacks shared vision, mission, ideas, values, shared prosperity and destiny that glue members together. After victory, the idea of organic growth is neglected. Members concentrate on office and contract sharing that generate internal rancour and indiscipline. Inherent human and electorates’ behaviours that are inimical to organic growth surface. Political power makes winners and appointees powerful. There will be the temptation to flaunt authority to the consternation and chagrin of fellow party members and others. Some become very arrogant and inaccessible. Self- flagellation becomes the order of the day. Exclusiveness replaces promised inclusiveness. Others not only rewrite the rules of the game, but also construct the field on which the game will be played to neutralize alternative sources of influence and preserve their positions, neglecting the reasons that brought them to power. Arrogance they say is the enemy of continuing success, that is why PMB always urges members not to gloat after victory, and victory laps are discouraged.
Another serious challenge was revealed in one of Fareed Zakaria’s treatises. He wrote, “In recent years democracy around the world seemed to have fallen prey to two ills. First, populism seemed to triumph economic reforms. Second, in the age of terrorism, fear becomes an easy way to mobilize political support”. Populism and fear have degraded democracy and scholars believe the world is experiencing “Democratic recession”.
Voter apathy is another serious impediment to growth, and it is in tandem with the saying that “It is not the people that vote that decide who wins; it is people that refused to vote”. Enthusiasm deficit is common in some quarters. Time is always an important factor for any type of growth. Political party growth is no exception. Term-limits have been identified as a factor that inhibits growth in nascent democracies more especially in countries that had no history of democracy before birth. With the exception of few countries like the United States of America that were born democratic, other countries like India benefited from absence of term-limits. Short term-limits encourage decamping because of the security, economic and financial incentives; and the welcome mat provided to decamping poor politicians by victorious parties in poor countries. To generate loyalty, have discipline that will lead to organic growth, in addition to addressing the challenges, understanding of the concept of organic growth is called for.
Organically grown parties remain formidable political war machines in victory or defeat. This is because they have grand strategies to build hope, capability and capacity to retain and get new members. The party will have followers rather than mere supporters, because political support has short shelve-life. Ideas causes, shared values, vision, mission, shared prosperity and destiny constitute the oxygen that builds nations, organizations and institutions in a sustainable way. Nations or organizations hold on to values and ideas as sources of unity and purpose for being. The same goes for political parties and party growth. In the United States of America for example, the Republican Party is built on three ideas or strands: strong defence, minimum government and social conservatism. The Democratic Party on the other hand is built on major strands that include; peace and prosperity for all, social liberalism and equality.
– Kinafa, a management consultant, wrote from Gombe