Monday, September 30, 2019

Political Parties in Nigeria Essay

Democracy no doubt is the world’s current new bride. To the extent that everyone – Politicians, Journalists, statesmen and even laymen – call themselves democrats while those who wish to defend a regime no matter its nature call it democracy (Williams 1995:65), one could aptly say the world is in the age of democracy. But as democracy is gaining currency the world over, it need be stated that the Institution of political party constitutes the lubricant of the current democratic wave. This is because, political parties serves as vehicle for expressing myriad of world views held by citizens as well as an instrument to garnering the informed and active participation of the citizens in the political process which constitutes the hallmark of any democratic practice. As noted by Hague and Harrop (1987:141-142), party competition is the hallmark of liberal democracy because it is the device which makes governments responsive to the electorates by providing voters with s ome choice while simultaneously restricting that choice to a few broad alternatives. In other words, the greater the number of parties and / or the latitude of freedom, the more democratic the political system is or becomes while the the more they are conscripted, the lesser the likelihood of a democratic political system. This view was also shared by Anifowoshe (2004: 59) when he noted that the condition of the political parties in a political system is the best possible evidence of the nature of any democratic regime. It must however be stated that while parties constitute the piston in the engine of democracy, the nature and activities of political parties themselves may constitute a stumbling block in the way of democratic growth and sustenance. This has been the paradox of party politics in Africa where the institution has remained largely underdeveloped. Instances abound where activities of parties have been a major factor in the decline of democratic politics or outright termination of democratic administrations and their subsequent replacement by military authoritarian regimes. In this context, the Nigerian state is a reference point. Nigeria became independent in 1960 after years of colonial rule. Independence ushered in a multi party democracy under a Westminster parliamentary model. However, due to a number of circumstances including intra and inter party bickering and, political excesses of parties and their leaders among others, the first democratic republic was truncated in January 1966 following a bloody coup detat championed by the five Majors. The abrupt termination of the first republic also ushered in a thirteen-year long military rule that lasted till October 1, 1979. Nigeria had another taste of multiparty democracy between October 1979 and 31st December 1983. However, like most of the parties of this period themselves, the problems of the first republic reincarnated to mare the democratic processes, culminating in the military coup of December 31st 1983 and the beginning of a second phase of military rule in the country. Indeed, the second phase of military rule in Nigeria which lasted between December 1983 and May 29, 1999 was the most dramatic and traumatic in the history of the country. It was a period mostly characterized by series of coups and counter coups, political maneuverings and above all, endless transition to civil rule programmes or what Diamond et al (1997) has aptly dubbed ‘Transition without End’. But while the political imbroglio of that period cannot be blamed out-rightly on the excesses of political parties and their leaders, the need to avoid such was always advanced as a defensive mechanism for continuous tinkering with the then transition process. For instance, reasons for dissolution of the 13 political associations that first prelude the third republic and their consequent replacement by government created SDP and NRC and, annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election that eventually calumniated in the abortion of the third republic were carefully crafted under the need to avoid repeat of mistakes of the past republics. Detailed work on this has been done by scholars and need not be recounted here (See, Diamond et al 1997). However, what must be stressed here is that, Nigeria’s current democratic experience was the end product of a long and tortuous journey through the woods of military autocracy. Although the decade of the 90’s generally was characterized by external pressures for democratization around the world, the resilience and perceptions (rightly or wrongly) by Nigerians that democracy holds prospect for a better life was also a major factor that sustained the struggle. Also, perhaps, in acknowledgment of the sanctity of the party institution to democratic sustenance, the country has continued to operate a â€Å"growing† multiparty democracy since 1999. Thus, from three parties in 1999, it currently has over thirty political parties with prospects of more to be registered. Against this long background, this paper seeks to examine the role of parties in sustaining Nigeria’s democracy. Further to this are: To what extent do Nigerian political parties conform to their expected role in the political system or in sustaining democracy? What are the encumbrances (if any) on their performance in Nigeria? What is / are to be done to place Nigerian political parties on the part of vibrancy vis-à  -vis democratic sustenance? Unraveling these problematic calls for rigorous inquiry. But to start with, situating the role of parties in a universal context is essential. Political Parties and Democracy: Theoretical Framework Political party is one of the genuses of intermediary groups in a political system. Others include interest groups and pressure groups. Thus, the relationship between viable political party and democratic governance is no doubt axiomatic. Political parties are the lubricant of democracy and without which, democracy based on the western model cannot function (Adele 2001:35). This is essentially because it provides a credible means of harnessing the variety of public opinions essential in sustaining a democratic society. While democracy rests on the informed and active participation of the people, political party is a viable tool in this regard. This perspective is shared by political scientists. As Anifowoshe (2004:59) remarked: Democracy exists where the principal leaders of a political system are selected by competitive elections in which the bulk of the population have the opportunity to participate. As a matter of fact, the condition of the parties, in a political system, is the b est possible evidence of the nature of any democratic regime. Implicit in the above statement is that a party’s level of institutionalization, cohesion and social base, determines the extent of its viability and the extent to which it could be said to be performing its functions in a democracy. In other words, viable political parties contribute to democratic growth much as unviable ones may result in democratic regression. Although there are myriad of definitions on what constitutes a political party, yet they all revolve around electioneering and the control of government. For instance, political parties has been conceived as an instrument for contesting elections for the purpose of selecting candidates and party(ies) to exercise political power (Yaqub 2002:122). This definition is in consonance with that which sees political party as an organization, which is principally, absolutely and actively involved, in the electoral process, in a democracy, with the major intent of winning political power and controlling the government (Onuoha 2 003:137). The import of these definitions is that the major goal of political party is to capture and control governmental powers. This it does through participation in electoral process in which it fields candidates to contest for various posts. Yet, it must be stated that while the major goal of a political party is to capture and maintain control over personnel and policies of government, such at times may have to be done in coalition with other party(ies). This is especially the case where electoral victory is not based on ‘first past the post’ system or where a single party could not win the minimum electoral seats necessary for it to constitute a government. However, beyond fielding candidates for elections and controlling governmental apparatuses, political parties also perform other functions which on the one hand set them aside from other organizations such as interest groups and more importantly on the other hand, makes them sine qua non for democratic development. These include; the task of political recruitment and training, education, socialization, breeding consensus, providing alternative world views and political communication among others (see Okoosi-simbine 2004:85-86; Yaqub 2002:112; Aina 2002:10-12, Onuoha 2003:137). It is the extent to which parties are able to discharge these functions that determine the extent of democratic growth in the country. Important in carrying out the above functions is that part ies especially in culturally variegated societies such as Nigeria must eschew those intervening variables that are likely to mar programmes and policies of the party such as salience of ethnic, religious or other sectional interests. Where this is not avoided, the tendency is that a party will find it considerably difficult in harnessing or mobilizing mass support for democratic growth. The emphasis here is that parties are formed not only to promote policies but also to secure social interests. It therefore follows that parties must have broad social bases in order to be able to aggregate interests rather than articulation of specific sectional ones. Also central to democratic growth through the party system is party institutionalization. That is, the process by which parties become established and acquires value and enduring stability (Huttington, 1965:394). Although the extent of party institutionalization varies with party systems the world over, it is usually measured based on some factors such as party age, count of splits and mergers, electoral stability, legislative stability and leadership change (Janda, 1993:167). Of equal importance is party coherence, which has been defined as the degree of congruence in the attitudes and behaviour of party members’ (Janda 1980:118; 1993:173). There is no gainsaying the fact that the degree of coherence among party members bears direct relevance to party strength and stability. This is because a strong and coherent party in terms of membership and structure is usually stronger and coordinated both in articulating view and garnering electoral support than are fragmented one. It is also the factor of coherence that enable parties to effectively discharge the function of National integration which they are expected to perform especially in plural societies. It must be stressed that, while parties in the advanced countries of Europe and America, are observed to have attained the status described above, those in the developing countries tend to be a little far from it. In other words, political parties in the developing countries cannot be ranked on equal scale with those of the advanced countries in terms of viability of the institution. Hence, it could be reasoned that the difference between the two worlds accounts for the different levels of democratic growth between them (e.g. Nigeria and USA). Although Nigeria has returned to democratic practice since 1999, yet there is a growing concern over the sustenance of its democracy. These concerns obviously owe their origin to the nature of political parties and party politics or activities in the country. Issues surrounding this dilemma are examined next but before this, description of the character and general tendencies of current political parties is essential. Roles and Functions of Political Parties From various literature on political party, it is evident that democracy, especially the liberal majoritarian version would be practically impossible without the institution of political party. This no doubt is anchored on the expected roles of political parties in deepening the democratic process. One major role expected of any political party is the task of political recruitment and education. The centrality of this function lie is the fact that it is directly connected with fulfillment of the common aim of all parties. That is, the aim of fielding candidates for election and capturing or exercising political power either singly or in cooperation with other parties (see, Yaqub 2002:164; Ball 1988:73). In other words, in the process of trying to capture political power, political parties serves as a major instrument/platform through which candidates for public offices are recruited at all levels. This is the case in both socialist as well as competitive liberal democracies. According to Ball (198:77), in such political systems where parties are absent (such as in zero party situation) or weak, political elites are usually recruited from traditional elites or through religious and military organizations. However, such sources of recruitment usually have implications for stability of the regime because they lack the more popular base of political parties. In other words, the institution of political party provides an avenue for recruiting politically ambitious persons into the political elite class. In this, we can also accommodate parties’ role as a credible means of political succession. This is because parties would have narrowed down the number of competitors for a particular office to what it considered the best choice at the material time. This process help reduce pressures on the political system as well as streamline citizens choice. In addition, in the process of campaigns for elections, parties inform and educate the public on important s tate policies and actions much as they do while in power. Even for parties out of power, they provide a constant source of critique of government policies which attimes help to change, modify or improve the quality of policies and programmes. Related to the task of recruitment and education is the role of parties as socializing agents. Generally speaking, most conceptions of socialization agreed that it is a process by which individuals incorporate into their own attitudinal and behavioural patterns, the way of their respective social groups and society (Babawale, 1999:218). If this is true, it follows that in the course of preparing candidates for elections, campaigns and other political activities, the individual within the society is acquiring some attitudinal or behavioural patterns necessary to make a politically vibrant individual. In addition, knowledge about political institutions and processes are acquired and internalized by the individual. Perhaps, this informed why political socialization have been conceived as all formal and informal explicitly or nominal political learning at every stage of the life circle that affects political behaviour, such as learning of politically relevant social attitudes and the acq uisition of politically relevant personality characteristics (Greenstein, quoted in Babawale 1999:219). Another major role of political parties in any political system is in the area of serving as link between rulers and the ruled through what is known as political communication. That is, parties provide a means of expression and information flow, both upward and downward, in any political system. Although, the flow of information is crucial to the survival of any political system, the direction of information flow however varies. For instance, in a liberalized multiparty system, there is tendency for information flow to be tilted more in favour of upward flow. This would allow the ruling party to feel the pulse of the populace as well as respond positively to policy demands. But even for parties out of power, it has a tendency to reinforce collective consciousness of party members and strengthen the level of attachment to the party. On the other hand, where there is a single party, the tendency is that information flow will be more from the top to the bottom. For instance, Hague and Harrop (1987: 140) had noted that in Stalin’s Russia, ‘the democratic’ expression of opinion from the grassroots of the Communist Party was negligible compared with the â€Å"centralist† flow of directive from the top. This notwithstanding, what is important is that, irrespective of the strength or direction of information flow, political parties have the onerous role of serving as a two-way communication process between the government and the people. The formulation and implementation of collective goals is yet another major function of parties. This is because in the process of seeking to capture power, they formulate programmes and policies either through conventions, meetings and even manifestoes which they hope to implement while in office. Some of these issues eventually constitute the collective goals of the society. Related to this is the mobilization role of parties. Indeed, parties are known to have been in the vanguard of mobilizing the citizens. This they do through mass rallies and other forms of display of unity that emphasizes identification between the individual and the party. Hague and Harrop (1987:140) noted that, parties have been the prime movers in the revolutionary upheaval of the modern age. They alluded that the enormous transformations of Russia and Chinese societies in the last century were led by vanguard communist parties committed to radical social changes. So also were the nationalist parties of the third world who played critical role in the attainment of independence and the subsequent attempt to weld new nations out of traditional societies (Hague and Harrop 1987:140-141). In the process of developing collective goals, parties also serve as important agents of articulating and aggregating the myriad of groups and individual interests in the society. Although this is not an exclusive function of political parties as it is also performed by interest groups, but parties are able to do this on a wider and / or national scale. Indeed, all parties have social base that cuts across ethnic, religious, occupational and class divides. It thus serves as a platform through which the diverse interest base are articulated and aggregated to form coherent whole. The underlying assumption here is that parties are able to synthesize and reconcile the multitude of competing interests into a broad national value. It must however be stated that this function of political parties, though important, need not be stressed too far. This is because, most often, parties mainly respond to interests and demands that are consistent with their ideology or in line with controlling int erests in the party. In this context, parties are important agencies in determining which interests are represented in politics and which ones are left out. From discussions so far, it is apparent that the relationship between political parties and democratic sustenance is axiomatic. Indeed, the various roles performed by political parties in the political system are expected to strengthen the democratic processes. This demand also implies that political parties and political leaders must in themselves be democratic. What this translates to is that the extent to which individuals within the party and the party organization itself assimilate democratic tenets to a large extent affects the extent to which they are able to discharge the above roles as well as the quality of democratic growth in the political system. In other words, having democrats is precondition for democracy to take root. How these intricacies of party politics and democratic sustenance have played themselves out in Nigeria will be our next focus after a preview of political parties in the country’s current fourth republic. Parties in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic Political parties in Nigeria’s fourth republic emerged against the background of a military managed transition prograamme which began in 1998 and reached its climax on May 29, 1999 when a new civilian administration was ushered in (see Momoh and Thoeveni 2001). Before this experience, Nigeria has had previous democratic republics between 1st October 1960 when it gained political independence from Britain and January 1966 when it was rudely terminated in a military coup; another one was between October 1, 1979 and December 31, 1983 while a third one was not allowed to take root in the early 1990s because it was eventually truncated by its own architect. What is remarkable about all the republics is that, with the exception of the aborted third republic which had only two parties dejure, all others were characterized by multiparty system. Extensive work on previous republics have been done by Coleman (1971); Joseph 1991; Diamond et al 1997; Ujo 2000 and Yaqub 2002). To begin with, parties in Nigeria’s current fourth republic have been characterized by what could be described as a seesaw numerical transition. This was because, at inception of political activities in 1998, several political associations were registered (though provisionally) as political parties but was later prone down to three before the 1999 elections and by 2003, several others came back on the stage. This numerical transition deserves extensive comment. Upon commencement of political activities in 1998, close to fifty political associations sprang up but at the close of nominations, only twenty-four of them had applied for registration with INEC. After thorough scrutiny, only nine of these parties were formally registered (provisional) by INEC according to its guidelines. These are Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Peoples Party (ANPP), Democratic Alliance Movement (DAM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), United Democratic Party (UDP), United Peoples Party (UPP) and Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ). However, the future and continuous existence of these parties was tied to passing the acid test. To continue to exist and function as a political party, a parting was expected to score at least, a minimum of five (initially ten) percent of the total votes in at least 24 states of the federation during the December 1998 local governments elections. Thus, of the nine parties, only the APP and PDP clearly met the criteria having scored at least five percent in over 24 states of the federation each. The AD was third with 5 percent of votes in 14 states of the federation. However, in addition to the APP and PDP, the AD was also registered partly to assuage the south westerners who were still aggrieved by the June 12, 1993 election imbroglio and most importantly, because of provisions of the electoral laws that the third best party would also be registered in the event of only two parties meeting the recruitments. Consequently, based on the modified criterion, the AD, APP and PDP were registered to contest the 1999 general elections. Following increasing pressures for registration of more parties, three other associations, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), National Democratic Party (NDP) and United Nigeria Peoples’ Party (UNPP), were registered in June 2002 out of over twenty that applied for registration. The registration of these three parties however heightened agitations by those yet to be registered until they were finally registered later in the year. Those factors that made their registration inevitable included subtle blackmail by other associations seeking registration, fragility and growing intra party deputes among existing parties and above all, the resort to litigation by those not registered among others (see, Anifowoshe 2004: 63) Added to this was increasing factionalisation of existing parties. Indeed, the ruling by the Federal Appeal Court in Abuja, FCT, which favoured the registration of more parties, was a major and perhaps most significant factor that prompted registration of more parties by INEC to the extent that about thirty political parties freely contested the 2003 general elections. It must be stated that, although thirty political parties contested the 2003 general elections, the trio of PDP, ANPP and AD have remained dominant since 1999. While the PPD is currently controlling 27 states (previously 28 before the court order that awarded victory of Anambra state governorship election to the APGA candidate earlier this year), the ANPP has seven states and AD, one state. They all however, have their men in the national parliament, though with varying strength. Also, there has been a growing rate of factionalization, crises of succession and internal bickering within the parties. This is with the consequence that more parties and political association have continued to emerge from them to the extent that Nigeria is currently having about 37 political parties with prospects of more to come. The new bride of parties include the ACD, MRDD, Action Alliance †¦ For instance, the rate of factionalization within the ruling PDP have gone to an extent that several factions have emerged as new parties on their own. This was the case with the MRDD spearheaded by a former national chairman and other prominent members of the party. The same account could be read for the recently formed ACD which from all indications is spearheade by imcubent Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Indeed, the PDP is not alone in the troubled waters of dissent. Even notable members of the AD and ANPP are now either full members of one of the newly registered parties or fraternizing with the intention of becoming one. This was the case with the incumbent protem National Publicity Secretary of ACD, Lai Mohammed, who was hitherto a strong member of the AD. Indeed, in the build up to 2007 general elections, there seem to be general disarray among political parties in the country. While new parties have emerged after 2003 general elections, there is nothing to suggest that more will not spring up before the next 2007 elections. But if the deepening or defense of democracy is a prime factor which politicians have always adduced for the alignment and realignment of forces leading to formation of new parties, to what extent have Nigerian political parties with its increasing numbers satisfied this aspiration? Or better still to what extent have they fulfilled the expected roles of parties in a democracy necessary for deepening the process? This is our prime concern in the next section. Nigerian Parties and Democratic Consolidation Perhaps a good way to access the impact of parties on democratic sustenance is to align our thought in this direction with the expected roles of parties in a democracy. Indeed, Nigerian parties by whatever angle they are looked at are political parties properly so called. At least, to the extent that the common aim, as parties elsewhere, is to capture political power and control machineries of government. By implication therefore, they are practically veritable instruments in the recruitment of political leaders and political elites. In fact, viewed against previous experiences, one would observe an increasing sensitization and political education of Nigerians. However, one must be cautious in stressing this argument too far giving the contradictions inherent in the ways and practices of the parties. This is because, at the facial level, parties may have been recruiting candidates for various elective posts, but beneath we may ask: what is the quality of candidates being recreated? Are the parties democratic in their recruitment process? Obviously, answers to these questions are negative. To anchor this further, we may begin on the premise that to have (or sustain) democracy, first, there must be democrats either as individuals or party organizations. It is obvious that at inception of the current democratic administration in 1999,and with exception of the PDP then which had a consensus candidate in Chief Olusegun Obasonjo, all other two parties were not particularly democratic in selecting their presidential aspirants. For instance, the decision of the A D under the influence of Afenifere, a pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization to select chief Olu Falae as the party’s presidential flagbearer at a meeting held in Ibadan by party elders without allowing proper democratic contest between him and Chief Bola Ige cannot be described as democratic. In fact, the undemocratic nature of what is now the ‘De Rovans Hotel’ episode has been adjudged as a major factor in the crises that has been rocking the party since 1999 (see National Interest June 18 2006:18). So also was the case with the APP between Dr. Olushol Saraki and †¦. The later was eventually selected in a rather spurious manner. Expectedly this action stired controversy within the parties leading to factionalization in the case of the AD and protest votes against the party by Dr Saraki and his supporters in the APP in the 1999 presidential elections. In addition, many of the three parties’ aspirants for other posts were either hand picked or selected in a surreptitious arrangement. Indeed preparations for the 2003 elections witnessed an almost complete disregard of democratic tenets in the process of recruiting candidates for elective offices. Although many of the parties attempted to pick their aspirants, especially presidential nominees, through national conventions, but unfolding events and protests by other aspirants after the conventions smacks of fluidity of the process. The implications of all the above is the increasing factionalization of the parties and rising level of intra party crises. Worrisome as these situations appear, there is nothing yet to suggest advances in democratic direction by the parties even for the 2007 elections. The recent convention of the PDP in which it was resolved (or maneuvered) against the wishes of some other members that its candidates for elections will be by affirmation is a pointer in this direction. Also is the case of the NDP which has already adopted a candidate, Rtd. General Babangida, as its presidential flag bearer for the 2007 election without holding a convention. What we can derive from the above analysis are two fold. First is that a faulty premise cannot produce a sound conclusion. A party whose internal machinery is undemocratic cannot nurture democracy in a larger societal context. Second is that the candidates so recruited have not gone through any democratic training within the party nor tested democratically to ascertain their level of subscription to democratic tenets. In this case, such candidates while in office will likely be intolerant to opposition and above all, perpetuated through undemocratic tendencies. Current unfolding occurrences in the country manifesting in succession crises, third term agenda etc. tend to confirm all the above assertions. In other words, the bottom line remains that, neither Nigerian political parties nor politicians could be regarded as democrats thus cannot effectively and sufficiently contribute to maintaining the system. In terms of political communication and serving as link between the government and the people, Nigerian parties grossly parade a deficit balance in this regard. This is because none of the parties has a functional formal communication channel. The reality is that most of the parties’ structures especially at the grassroots are only vibrant at the approach of elections. After this, they fade away while the party continue to exist only at National and state headquarters. Indeed, the critical ingredients and means of political communication necessary for a vibrant democracy are conspicuously absent in the parties. These include avenues for expression of opinions by citizens, free information flow (upward or downward) among others. These elements help strengthen attachment and loyalty to the party thereby holding prospect for increased political participation. However, Nigerian parties are not forthcoming in this regard. What is apparent is that relations within the parties are mo re of client-patronage relation. Party leaders and elected officers most often become alienated from other party members and even the electorates immediately after election. For the parties in power, the only relation that there from exist between party elites and other members usually is occasional distribution of patronage in order to preserve members support and loyalty while those out of power fizzled away only to re emerge at the approach of another election. For this reasons, harnessing citizens’ initiative or sustaining a vibrant political participation of members becomes difficult with the result of docility in party activities. Indeed, communication is the life wire of any organization the lack of which may result in the organizations eventual death. The party organization and indeed the political system is no exemption in this regard. Perhaps, we can make bold to say that the near zero communication level of Nigerian political parties is a major factor in their inability to institutionalize or funct ion effectively as lubricant of the democratic project. As already noted in this text, parties also play mobilization roles as well as articulate and aggregate the myriad of opinions held by individual and groups within the society. This no doubt facilitates development of collective goals. A careful observation of the Nigerian experience however reveal parties as playing contradictory roles to the above. First, mobilization of citizens has often been limited to periods of electoral campaigns. For Nigerian parties and politicians, election periods are periods to galvanize the people and exhume powerful oratory remarks. The average politician is always willing to visit the nooks and crannies to mobilize and solicit support for the party and candidates. But while this is part of the mobilization function of parties, it need not be confirmed solely to an election period routine. Rather, it is a process that must continue in order to bring out the best from the citizens in terms of input into policies and programmes of the government. But given the psyche of the Nigerian politician and their end-means orientation of politics which is to acquire political power in order to secure economic resources, citizen contribution / input into policies and programmes is of inconsequential effect. This crave for economic security at whatever cost by the political elites could therefore be adduced as a contributing factor to continued non alignment of policies with realities confronting the Nigerian electorates. Another dimension of the faulty mobilization function of parties in Nigeria is that even where they, as elsewhere, have wider social base of support, political maneuverings often create a situation whereby parties resort to politics of ethnic and/or religious mobilization. Indeed, mobilization politics along the lines of ethnic, religious or some other forms of cleavages have been a major character of party politics since independence. For instance most parties of the first republic used divisive mobilization politics to garner electoral support. So also were parties of the second republic. With the exception of AD which is rooted in the south west and maintains affinity with Afenifere, a socio cultural organization in the region, all other parties of the current era could not be said to have their support base restricted to a particular region. However, in the process of electioneering campaigns, many members wittingly or unwittingly often whip ethno-religious sentiments as strategies to mobilize support. Consequently in the prelude to the 2003 general elections, the mood of many Nigerians was that, Religion will play a prominent role in their choice of leaders†¦. Muslim- Christian rivalry was so intense that none of the 30 political parties in the country has managed to develop a firmly national support base. Muslims consider Obasanjo’s ruling peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a Christian party. The all Nigerian peoples party (ANPP) of his nearest rival, Muhammad Buhari is considered by Christians to be a Muslim party (Marahatha Christian Journal, 2003). The emphasis therefore is that, where mobilization is carried on, on a faulty premise, it becomes extremely difficult to articulate and aggregate programmes and policies that serves the national interest. In this context, programmes and policies often articulated are those that are in consistent with that of the dominant interests within the party, be it socio, cultural or economic. In terms of political socialization, it may be argued that there is a tendency for negative socialization among Nigerian political parties. Socialization, conceived in terms of the process by which the individuals incorporate the ways of their respective social groups and society into their individual patterns and behaviour, is expected to be facilitated by political parties through campaigns, rallies and other political activities. In Nigeria, however, this has a negative content arising from series of violence and atmosphere of insecurity that often mare electoral processes in Nigeria. Nigerian parties and politician alike have a penchant for recruiting and making use of political thugs mostly recruited among motor garage boys, unemployed Youths and even Students at moments of campaigns and elections. Such behaviours and orientations which are antithetical to civic culture obviously are imbibed by younger generations. The consequence is that this erodes democratic senses of bargaining and compromise and instead creates the impression that force and crude militancy are the best ways to live and achieve political goals. The negative impacts of the socialization process is already being exhibited at other levels of politics below the state such unionism, especially student unionism. Indeed, student unionism at the tertiary level is expected to evince civic and enlightened qualities by virtue of the place of tertiary institutions in the country. However, a common observable trend in most tertiary institutions in Nigeria is that campus politics has often time been characterized by intolerance, maneuverings, money politics and a host of other negative traits exhibited by Nigerian political parties to the extent that institutions authorities may at times impose sanctions or outright ban on campus political activities. Situations like this no doubt have implications for their future political engagements and by extension, democratic growth in Nigeria. Our endeavour so for has been to trace whether there is an alignment between the expected roles and functions of political parties in sustaining democratic process and the activities of political parties in Nigeria. For one, while the role of parties in democratic sustenance is in controvertible, the Nigerian political parties have not been seen playing these roles. Why is this so is our focus next. Observed Weaknesses of parties in Nigeria From discussions so far, it can be gleaned that the indispensability of political parties to democratic sustenance is not in doubt. What is perhaps worrisome is the ability of Nigerian political parties to function effectively as catalyst for democratic growth. Gleaned from a number of observable trends, some factors serve to explain this unfortunate mess. First we may note ideological emptiness of the parties. Conceived as a set of coherent ideas which guide and tailor behaviour, ideology is expected to fire and sustain inspirations of party members. According to Scruton (quoted in Okoosi-Simbine, 2005:24), parties ideology are moral systems that enshrine the sanctity of contract and promise between them and the electorate because they constitute the political doctrine from which a programme of political action emanates and upon which basis citizens choose how they will like to be ruled. Essentially therefore, parties as organizations with diverse social base must be bounded by such set of common beliefs and ideas in order to help propel a vibrant democratic society. Unfortunately, Nigerian parties and politicians are merely playing survival game. Prime to them from observable trend is the desire to capture and maintain political power irrespective of what this takes. Consequently, this drive to capture power by all means possible tends to erode the performance of other functions necessary for democratic growth. The lack of ideology also serves as conduit for series of political vagrancies that characterized the political terrain. As observed by Aina (2002:19), Nigerian poiticians behave like political bats, changing affiliation in response to perceived fortunes or electoral advantage. Akin to the issue of ideology is what we may refer to as poorly digested manifesto of the parties. The manifesto is basis upon which contract between the rulers and citizens are sealed because it is the representation and/or expression of the political party’s direction, purpose and how it hopes to achieve them while in government (Onuoha 2003:141). It is the party’s statement of intention about how it hopes to achieve good governance. It is therefore the basis upon which performance of an incumbent government can be assessed and balanced against the need for change. Unfortunately, manifestoes of Nigerian political parties have proved to be manifestations of emptiness, similar in content and providing no choice for the citizens. The only difference between them as observed by Okoosi-Simbine (2005:22) is the emphasis they give to the programmes articulated or in a few cases, the strategies for carrying out the objectives. In other words, their manifestoes are more a replica of the other. Again, this close similarity in manifestoes can be hinged on their inability to develop a coherent ideology. As onu0oha (2003:145) rightly observed, any meaningful and functional manifesto must spring from a profound party ideology. Thus, a manifesto without a party ideology is like a body without a soul. In this context, rather than lubri cate democracy, parties constitute more of a burden on democratic practice. Prevalence of primordial sentiment may equaled be adduced as responsible for the inability of Nigerian parties to respond positively to the challenges of democratic sustenance. Indeed, the ability of a party to effectively perform its role especially in multi cultural settings is usually circumscribed by the socio-economic structure of the society. Therefore, since parties are institutions competing for spheres of influence in the socio-economic and political configuration of the society, there is every tendency that there activities will be likely be intertwined with prevalent socio-political sentiments of the society (Suleiman and Muhammad 2006). This is suggestive of current Nigerian parties. Indeed, post independent Nigeria has witnessed party’s base being deeply rooted in ethno-regional and religious sentiments to the extent that the major parties of the first republic (AG, NPC and NCNC) and their second republic successors (especially NPN, NPP and UPN) are often regarded as ethnic pressure groups. While parties of the current fourth republic may not be so deeply rooted in a particular region, nonetheless, the continuous use, overtly or covertly , of ethnic and religious sentiments in party politics reinforces social divisions among the populace which in turn weakens party structure and organization. Needless to stress that, a weak party in terms of internal structure cannot function optimally in deepening the democratic process. We can also speak of poor financial standing of the parties which made them susceptible to hijack by money barons who eventually use them to achieve personal benefits. Politics generally is an expensive activity and the role of money in contemporary Nigerian politics is indeed overwhelming. Although the government, through INEC, is currently financing the parties, but considering the spending pattern of the parties, government finance is generally considered insufficient. Consequently, additional funds are sourced through party financiers that include influential business men, party members in government and so on. For instance, the Plateau state governor, Joshua Dariye, sometime ago claimed he gave the PDP part of the 1.6 billion naira ecological fund he was accused of mismanaging. Similarly, only recently the ANPP caretaker committee chairman and gover nor of Bornu state directed all the seven governors on the platform of the party to contribute 20 million Naira each to the party’s purse within two weeks while all presidential aspirants and senators were to contribute 10 million Naira each towards the administration of the party (The Punch Editorial, †¦June, 2006:16). The implication of this is that Nigerian parties will likely for long be hijacked by money barons who will eventually constitute godfathers within the parties. Second is that credible aspirants who cannot afford to pay the huge sums would have to forget or submerge it while thirdly, internal party democracy becomes jeopardized. The resulting effect of all these is that parties becomes constrained as popular organizations capable of being the vanguard of democratic growth. Rather, they become characterized by frequent conflict and internal party squabbles. Also as a fall out of the above circumstances, programmes and policies that are often articulated and implemented reflect more of the interests of the so-called godfathers rather than that of the formal party organization. Thus, as the International IDEA (2006:8) have noted, given this context, Nigerian party life is characterized by a very low level of debate on policy options. Another observed weakness of Nigerian political partie s is the absence of political education. It is a common fact that Nigerian political parties have not been carrying out programmes aimed at enlightening the populace and even party members. This is because the party organization has been confined to mere instrument of contesting elections. Thus after elections, most of the parties become docile both in terms of recruiting new members and organizing activities to enlighten citizens about the political process. According to the country report on Nigeria by the international IDEA (2006:8), all the parties surveyed do agree that their members are active only during elections. The import of this is that once elections are over, only very few things link the party with its members thus, the expected role of political communication and education wanes out. We may also note the long years of military rule as another factor for the nonperformance of Nigerian political parties. Indeed, Nigeria’s long reign of military rule from 1966 to 1999, except for the brief period of 1979 to 1983, have affected the psyche of the average Nigerian politician. Military rule as it were is undemocratic. But its long reign in Nigeria with all its undemocratic tendencies have walked its way into the subliminal consciousness of most Nigerian. Thus, even though the military is out of power and democracy in place, the legacy of authoritarian tendencies still permeates the orientations and behaviours of the political class. The implications of this are that Nigeria currently has a short supply of tested democrats while democratic institutions remain large underdeveloped. In other words, while the success of any democratic experiment is predicated on the availability of individuals who are democrats in themselves, Nigeria’s long years of military tutelage has done no less than wipe out the last vestiges of democratic qualities among Nigerian politicians. Conclusion So far in this work we have tried to examine the link between political parties and democratic sustenance in Nigeria. It is observed that the institution of political party is indispensable if democracy is to be strengthened. This is by virtue of the various functions they perform which transcend the mere activity of fielding candidates for elections. However, the Nigerian situation is observed to be a deviation from the norm. if anything, Nigerian parties have not only failed in discharging these roles, but are equally working in the direction of democratic regression. In the main, the poor financial base of these parties, lacks of institutionalization, empty ideological content among others are part of their major constraints. Against this background, it is suggested that the government should improve on its funding of these parties in order to avoid their hijack by selfish money barons. Equally, the INEC should put in place mechanisms that would ensure these parties are internally democratic. Internal democracy of the parties no doubt will magnify into useful premise for democracy to thrive in the larger Nigerian society. Above all, there must be the political will by politicians themselves to allow democratic tenets to take root in the country. The above, it is believe are good recipe for democratic sustenance in Nigeria. References Anifowoshe, Remi (2004), ‘Political Parties and Party System in the Fourth Republic of Nigeria: Issues, Problems and Prospects’ in Olurode, Lai and Anifowoshe, Remi (eds.) Issues in Nigeria’s 1999 General Elections. Lagos, Nigeria: John West Publications Limited and Rebonik Publications Ltd, pp. 55-78. Diamond, Larry, Kirk-Greene, Anthony H.M and Oyediran, Oyeleye (eds.). Transition without End: Nigeria Politics and Civil Society under Babangida. Ibadan, Nigeria: Vantage Publishers. Babawale, Tunde(1999),’Political Culture and Political Socialization’ in Remi, Anifowoshe and Emenuo, Francis (eds.) Elements of Politics. Lagos, Nigeria: Sam Iwanusi Publications. Pp. 210-225. Ball, Alan (1988), Modern Politics and Government 4th Edition. London: Macmillan Press Coleman, J.S (1971) Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hague, Rod and Harrop, Martin (1987), Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction. 2nd Edition. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan Education Ltd. International IDEA (2006), Nigeria: Country Report Based on Research and Dialogue with Political Parties. Stockholm, Sweden. Janda, Keneath (1993) ‘Comparative Political Parties: Research and Theory’ in Finifter, Ada, W (ed.) Political Science: The State of the Discipline II. Washinton DC: American Political Science Association. Pp.163-191. Joseph, Richard (1991), Prebendal politics in Nigeria: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic. Ibadan: UPL Marahatha Christian Journal Online (2003), Religion is Likely to determine Nigeria’s Election. URL: Retrieved August 15 2005 Momoh, Abubakar and Thovoethin, Paul-Sewa (2001), An Overview of the 1998 – 1999 Democratisation Process in Nigeria. DPMN Bulletin Online: (Retrieved January 4 2006) Okoosi-Simbine, Anthony (2005), ‘Political Vagrancy and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria’ in Momoh, Abubakar and Godwin, Onu (eds.) Elections and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria. Nigeria: Nigerian Political Science Association pp 17 – 33 Onuoha, Browne (2003), ‘Political Parties and Elections: A Critical Review of Party Manifestoes’ in New Era Foundation, The Grassroots and Political Change in Nigeria. Lagos: Joe – Tolalu Associates pp 137 – 152 Suleiman, A. and Muhammad, A. A. (2006), ‘Religion, Party politics and Democracy: Implications of Religion in Nigeria’s 2003 Presidential Election’ Journal of Development. Vol. 2 no 1 (Forth coming) Ujo, Abdulhamid (2000), Understanding Political Parties in Nigeria. Kaduna: klamidas Publishers Williams, Adebayo (1995) ‘The Fictionalization of Democratic Struggles in Africa: The Nigerian Experience’ in Olowu, Dele; Soremekun, Kayode and Williams, Adebayo (eds.) Governance and Democratization in Nigeria. Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books Ltd. Pp. 65-67. Yaqub, Nuhu (2002), ‘Political Parties in the Transition Process’ in Onuoha, Browne and Fadakinte, M. M. (eds.), Transition Politics in Nigeria, 1970 – 1999. London: Malthouse Press limited pp 118 – 134

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.