The special press release in January 2018 by former president Olusegun Obasanjo, advising President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek a second term in 2019 expectedly elicited divergent interpretation. The letter was incisive and loaded with thoughts which require intellectual discourse and rational consideration.
The call for a Third-way by Dr. Obasanjo and the dismissal of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, (APC) and the major opposition party, People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) as incompetent is enough to stimulate the interrogation of political parties in Nigeria.
Universally, the essence of a political party is the same, it is an association of men and women with clear objective to participate in the political affairs of the country and to achieve the control of governmental apparatus. However, the structural and organisational efficiency or defects of a political party is dependent upon the political culture of the country.
The morphology of APC, PDP and other political parties in Nigeria are the same. All political parties in Nigeria are anchored on the political culture of Nigeria as political behaviour is a function of political culture.
The generality of Nigerians share in the frustration of the former president as expressed in the letter to president Buhari. In addition majority of Nigerians equally agree that both APC and PDP have glaring structural and character defects for a sustainable democratic governance. However, the solution to these inadequacies will come from political socialisation that will entrench participant political culture in Nigeria.
The major indices of a participant political culture are internal democracy in the political party as well as free and fair elections where citizens vote for candidates on the basis of credentials and credibility and not on parochial considerations, such as ethnicity, religion, money for vote etc. Unfortunately, Nigerians have been regularly frustrated by lack of internal democracy in the parties and the refusal of the electoral commission and security agencies to conduct free and fair elections. A case in point is the messy situation of local government elections in Nigeria.
It’s sad to also note that, it is a common phenomenon in Nigeria for a democratically elected president to assume the ownership of the political party at the national level, while the state governors with the support of the president appropriate political parties as their private estate at the state level. This experience cannot be peculiar to APC and PDP, it will also be the same if a president is elected on the platform of another political party.
Political socialisation of the citizens to internalise participant political culture, responsible political behaviour, internal democracy and the conduct of free and fair elections is the recipe for the foundation of democracy in Nigeria. Former military president, Ibrahim Babangida attempted this policy in his formation of the defunct Social Democratic Party, (SDP) and the National Republican Convention, (NRC).The aim of Babangida’s administration was to prevent individual ownership of political parties in Nigeria and to ensure internal democracy in the parties. The 1993 SDP national convention in Jos demonstrated the merits of joint ownership of a political party and internal democracy when the SDP delegates shunned the 14 SDP governors to elect the late M K O Abiola as the SDP presidential candidate against the request of the governors for Baba Gana Kingibe.
While political socialisation is the responsibility of every citizen, the leadership of such assignment is usually the federal government of any country, but there is no sign that the present federal government in Nigeria is interested in such responsibility.
Consequently, Obasanjo call and the inauguration of a Coalition for Nigeria should be commended. The coalition should be vigorous in mobilising all progressives and believers of democracy in Nigeria, its leadership should be pragmatic and facilitate a broad based political alliance with the major opposition party in Nigeria, the PDP, and infuse internal democracy into the party to erase the structural and character defects observed by Obasanjo. The alliance with Coalition for Nigeria will strengthen the PDP and conscientise the party leaders, members and delegates for the presidential primaries on the need to elect a presidential candidate with verifiable credentials that will support democratic PDP and democratic Nigeria.
The focus of the Coalition for Nigeria in conjunction with the commitment of all patriotic Nigerians towards the conduct of free and fair general elections will achieve the desire of Dr. Obasanjo, which is a clear reflection of the desire of the majority of Nigerians to vote out the present failed federal government of Nigeria and make a second term ambition of president Buhari an advantage to the opposition political party.
The new political environment will clearly dictate to elected president and state governors that the lack of internal party democracy coupled with a sustained conduct of a free and fair general elections will destroy any ruling party that choose to be insensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
Dr. Osifo is a lecturer in the department of Political Science and Public Administration, Igbinedion University.