For all you may care to know, the protracted crisis of the immediate past ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), did not just start after the party lost political power to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Its fall in the 2015 presidential election was the aftermath of the prolonged crisis itself. To say that the PDP is currently wallowing in its blood and excesses is to underscore the reality. But the truth is that this democracy is deeply troubled by the lingering torrent of internal squabbles rocking the former ruling party which still prides itself as the biggest political party in Africa. Indeed, the trend that has for long threatened the very fabric of the party has deepened considerably and has almost irretrievably metamorphosed into a monster. Admittedly, the PDP is a child of events and circumstances.
It is only an irony of circumstance that the 34 patriotic, fearless and seasoned politicians who challenged the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha’s attempt to transform into a life president when they formed the G-34, were sidelined at the maiden convention of the party in Jos in 1998. This was the genesis of the party’s leadership crisis as military apologists took over and started overrunning the party’s machinery. The trouble actually started in 1999 when the then president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, soon after his inauguration, unilaterally handpicked Chief Evan Enwerem as Senate President much against the dictates of party rules and regulations. After the Jos convention of the party, the founding fathers made up of such notable Nigerians as Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Prof. Jerry Gana, etcetera, became marginalized as Obasanjo virtually hijacked the part as first among equals. He singlehandedly handpicked the party chairmen and principal national office without due democratic process.
This was to be expected since these people were hardly united by ideological persuasion as by self interest. In democratic societies, parties are supposed to be associations of like-minds brought together by beliefs, ideology, worldview and common interests. The objective is traditionally to struggle legitimately for political power through the mechanism of the electoral process. Every political association is therefore expected to rally round a common manifesto upon which an electoral mandate is extended at the polls. In fact, the primary function of a political party is to canalize and crystallize opinion- to narrow the policy alternatives before the voters and to synthesize diverse views of individuals, groups and sections. This is exceedingly important to the democratic process. Parties, all over the world, act as brokers of candidates for office and agencies for the training of future leaders. Elaborate publicity facilities in addition to great party leaders stimulate enthusiasm and interest in public affairs.
Indeed, another group of services revolves around party responsibility. If a certain party achieves the control of government, the electorate is entitled to hold that party accountable for its stewardship in office. This responsibility is only but imperfectly realised in many countries. The minority has the responsibility to expose the weaknesses of the majority and to furnish criticism of the party in power. Ideally, when governance becomes complicated both by the distribution of powers between the Central and the federating units and by separation of powers into the three arms of government at whatever level, as is the case in Nigeria, parties correct this diffusion of governmental authority in part by providing reasonably compatible groups of officeholders. Finally, the political party often performs a social and humanitarian function. Parties and their auxiliaries hold bazaars, dances, and picnics . These events add up to the enjoyment of the participants and to the political consciousness of a voting community. Where the political party is thoroughly organized, it plays an important role in humanizing a hard government. Also, the party leader in the precinct or ward is an interpreter of individual needs and desires to public officials.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, since the current democratic dispensation began in 1999, all Nigerians have seen from PDP and other parties is the flagrant manipulation of the democratic process and abuse of power. The parties themselves lack internal democracy, party discipline and esprit de corp to foster a formidable democratic culture in the country. For want of space, we cannot here enumerate the countless squabbles within the internal organic structure of the PDP: between state and Abuja politicians of the same party; between state governors and the presidency of the same party and between governors and their deputies or president and his Vice President, of the same party. The long and short of it is that ‘militicians’ killed PDP and frustrated the smooth growth of democracy in the country. It is only in Nigeria that a court of competent jurisdiction would block the majority from having their way due to the entrenched partisan interests of the minority. The PDP leadership crisis is therefore inevitable. But its resolution is long overdue. And this is rubbing off negatively on our democracy. As we write, there is no strong opposition to the party in power that can present alternative choices for the electorate come 2019.
Regrettably, what we have seen in our country since 1999 negates all of the above ideals. It is as though the political parties exist to frustrate genuine democratic practice in the country. If therefore a political party is noted more for infighting amongst its rank and file than for genuine democratic culture, then it must look inwards and examine itself. Rather than make its size an asset to the wider society, the PDP has continually hurled the nation in the direction of perdition. Its protracted crisis which regrettably mirrors the general crisis of governance in the country must be checked through improved discipline within its ranks to ensure orderly evolution of true democratic culture in the country. The judiciary must be careful with the way it is handling the PDP crisis in order to safeguard this democracy.