By ANDREW ESSIEN, Abuja
Former Vice President and chieftain of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday came down hard on his party as he publicly described its activities in recent times as undemocratic.
Atiku who further chided the leadership of the party over its inability to organize the statutory meetings for its organs, said that the lack of internal democracy has made the party and others parties turn into bullies.
For his part, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, who was the keynote speaker at the event, stated that the electoral umpire under his watch has recorded major success in the recent time, assuring that the body will not hesitate to deregister ineffective political party if need be.
The former Vice President specifically called the attention of the APC deputy national chairman (North), Shaibu Lawal, who represented the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who was on the high table, to take notice of his speech while he was making his submission at the 2nd Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) annual conference yesterday in Abuja, which centred on internal party democracy.
Atiku said, “For a number of years now we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their constitution.
“In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the executive at the state or federal level, fill the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratize parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations.
“This means that efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy must include efforts at democratizing our political parties. The institutionalization of democracy in our internal party processes will help us deepen democracy in Nigeria. Leaders are more likely to tolerate opposition from citizens and other parties if they tolerate it within their own party.
“The lack of internal democracy in political parties is one of the reasons for the fraught relationships among parties and their elected representatives and the legislature and the executive. The loyalty of some in the legislature and executive lies not with the party but with a godfather who sponsored them, and the godfather may even be in a rival political party. Such anomalies will reduce if internal democracy flourishes in our political parties, and by extension the wider society.
“The selection of leaders in a democracy is a serious business because so many other things ride on it. Whenever we get it wrong the nation or a part thereof suffers. We must strive to get it right most of the time. And it is the voters who should freely make that determination. I therefore thank the IPAC for organizing this conference and for inviting me to chair it.”
The INEC chairman urged the political parties who have right to conduct party primaries to also give women and people living with disabilities opportunity to stand for election, while assuring that his leadership will continue to be courageous and always be on the side of Nigerians.