Last weekend, two of our major political parties namely the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conducted congresses ahead of their various national conventions.
The conduct of the congresses show that internal democracy is yet to berth within political parties. The parties seem incapable of managing talk less of accommodating internal party differences.
It will be recalled that it was lack of internal party democracy that led to the formation of nPDP, a schism which led to the defeat of PDP by the APC in 2015! Yet, PDP does not seem to have learnt anything from its mistakes.
One is even more surprised that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is going the route of lack of internal democracy!
For a party that was a beneficiary of the fallout of lack of internal democracy in PDP only in 2015, it ought to have learnt a thing or two from the mistakes of the PDP, instead, it is here repeating same errors. If the APC had kept its house in order after the decimation of PDP in 2015, the opposition party would have been buried by now, but the current galloping resuscitation of PDP was purely the result of internal APC wrangling through which the party needlessly gave away states like Rivers, Zamfara, Edo, Bauchi, Adamawa, Benue, among others.
The congresses last weekend showed that little have changed within Nigeria’s dominant parties! If things had changed for the better or had the parties learnt from their past experiences the congresses would have been less rancorous and more accommodating of other views.
Instead, what you have is a bazaar of parallel congresses.
While the exercise was successful in some states, parallel congresses took place in many other states! In Lagos State, a faction loyal to ex-Governor Akinwunmi Ambode held a parallel state congress, theirs took place at the Baptist Academy, Obanikoro and produced Beatrice Omotayo Tugbobo as the first female APC chairman in the state. The other congress produced the former Commissioner for Rural Development in Lagos State, Pastor Cornelius Ojelabi as the new chairman of APC. He was elected at Mobolaji Johnson
Arena, Onikan. That congress was led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
In Ogun State battle for the soul of the APC lead to the conduct of parallel congresses of two factions – one loyal to the incumbent Governor Dapo Abiodun and another to the immediate past governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. In Abeokuta, shooting was recorded at the venue of a parallel APC congress in the Ogun State capital. The incident occurred during the exercise organised by a group led by Senator Amosun, the lawmaker representing Ogun Central district at the palace ground of the Alake of Ake in Abeokuta, the state capital. Although the cause of the violence has yet to be ascertained, party faithful at the venue is said to have scampered to safety. Yemi Sanusi, the immediate past caretaker chairman emerged as the substantive chairman of ruling the party at a state congress held at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, while Tunde Oladunjoye emerged as the publicity secretary, while Aderibigbe Tella was elected secretary.
In the southeast, it wasn’t as smooth in Abia State as different congresses were held at Umuahia Township Stadium and the other at Ekene Dili Chukwu Motor Park.
The PDP also conducted the exercise in seven states – Oyo, Kwara, Lagos, Adamawa, Borno, Kebbi, and Ebonyi, respectively.
While the exercise was peaceful in Adamawa and Kwara states, there were some skirmishes in Oyo State, where a member of the party, identified as Omolaja Alao, was attacked by suspected political thugs during the factional congress of the party at Jogor Centre, Ring Road, Ibadan, the state capital. Also, the faction led by Governor Seyi Makinde, Senator Hosea Agboola and Ogunwuyi held their congress, which produced Mr Dayo Ogungbenro as chairman.
In Lagos, the exercise was cancelled following violence that broke out at the venue of the congress which held at the popular Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos Island.
In Ebonyi State, the crisis rocking the state chapter of the PDP took another dimension as one of the candidates in the state congress, Barr. Silas Onu declared himself winner of the state chairmanship election. He accused the party leaders of imposition, even as he claimed to be the only chairmanship aspirant who fulfilled the requirements of law as prescribed by the PDP constitution and the current approved guidelines for congresses.
The aforementioned instances of intra-party crisis have shown that political parties in Nigeria have failed to appreciate the importance of internal democracy to the survival of the democratic system of governance in general. The importance of intra-party democracy cannot be emphasized, this is because where it is ignored it undermines democratic processes.
A party’s internal procedures help to define what the party stands for. Clear internal rules and procedures are invaluable for parties, which are seeking long-term electoral success.
Procedures that regulate internal conflict can contribute to a party’s longevity, particularly if rules are transparent, well-publicized and understood by members. Internal party democracy is the implementation of a minimum set of norms within the organization of political parties. This minimum set of norms should provide a bottom-up approach to forming a decision in the party and the internal distribution of power at different levels, bodies, and individuals.
The minimum set of norms are internal rules and procedures that give ordinary members greater influence on issues such as candidate selection, leadership selection and policy platform. The most engaging models of internal party democracy are inclusive, participatory, deliberate, responsible and include fair distribution of power.
The internal rules of political parties should be guided by clarity, transparency, accountability and independence, as well as by effective links between party leadership and local and regional levels of the organization. Their interaction with society should be based on dialogue, interdependence and co-operation.
Parties generally adopt party constitutions or party statutes to spell out the relations between different levels of the party, and to define procedures for making decisions. These rules usually detail how local and national party leaders are selected (and
often, how they may be de-selected), how candidates for public office are selected, and who is eligible to stand for both types of positions.
As parties contribute to the expression of political opinion and are instruments for the presentation of candidates in elections, some regulation of internal party activities can be considered necessary to ensure the proper functioning of a democratic society.
Let the leaders and members of political parties adhere strictly to their constitutions to guarantee internal democracy so as to save and further the current democratic dispensation.