•Parties lack discipline, internal democracy –Obasanjo, Mark
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, said yesterday that political parties connive with some of the commission’s officials and some security agencies to corrupt the electoral process and rig elections.
Jega spoke of how political parties budget funds for INEC officials and some security agencies to tamper with the outcome of polls.
Jega disclosed this during the opening of a two-day “Roundtable conference on party politics in Nigeria and lobbying the lobbyist and the Legislature” in Abuja.
The INEC boss also disclosed how political parties go to the extent of influencing opposition parties’ agents in what could be termed cash and carry democracy, all in a bid to win.
Jega’s Chief Press Secretary, Kayode Idowu, said what his boss said was not new and that the INEC boss spoke against the backdrop of what used to be.
According to Idowu: “Jega spoke about corrupt tendencies that used to be there before, about corrupt tendencies to corrupt stakeholders in the electoral process.” Also speaking at the conference held at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said that all the political parties lack discipline and are run with practically no manifestos which are usually disguised as campaign promises.
He said manifestos reeled out at campaign grounds are discarded as soon as such political parties get into power. The conference was convened by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS). “Manifestos are prepared for campaigns. After the elections, they are thrown away…No human institution will endure for too long without discipline. We rarely see service in politics.” Echoing Obasanjo’s observation, Senate President David Mark agreed that political parties in Nigeria lack “internal democracy.”
He spoke in a keynote address at the opening of the conference. Mark noted that destabilising forces threaten Nigeria’s fragile democracy, adding that most political parties in Nigeria exist only on paper. “
A political party must clearly stand for something. In our fragile democracy in which destabilizing demons have suddenly found their voices and have been let loose in the new air of freedom, each political party has a duty to preach restraint, caution and political moderation. “The political class as a whole also has the solemn duty of ensuring that Nigerians develop sustainable confidence in our electoral and justice systems. That is the only way that robust democratic institutions can be nurtured.
However, we know that in reality most of our political parties are fledgling and hardly able to stand on their feet. Many exist mainly on paper, and were floated to attract the financial subventions which the 1999 Constitution hitherto guaranteed them, before it was amended. “Even the big ones, which control various executive and legislative arms of government, are often driven by internal convulsions, lack of cohesion, indiscipline and a glaring absence of internal democracy.
These problems have been the bane of party politics in Nigeria, and have been with us since the Clifford Constitution introduced the elective principle in 1922 and Sir Herbert Macaulay formed his Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), in 1923.”
In his opening remarks, Mark’s Deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said unless the culture of internal democracy is entrenched in the political parties, democratic governance and national development would continue to suffer setback. Ekweremadu, who is also Chairman of the Governing Council of the NILS, said political parties were critical institutions of democracy, since “their philosophies and manifestos are the fulcrums around which politicking and governance should ordinarily revolve.
Since parties are the vehicles by which elected leaders, including the legislators get to office, they can be rightly described as the spring source. “Unfortunately, the management of the nation’s political parties gives us cause for concern, for as it is put in Latin, Nemo dat quod non habet (No one can give what he does not have).
And when the processes of political recruitment become diseased and the management of political parties degenerate to rowdy engagement, certainly, the falcon will no longer hear the falconer,” he said.
He stressed that “unless the spring sources, being the parties are themselves impartial, disciplined, buoyant with ideas, populated with visionary leadership, and in fact, free of impurities and ardent observers of their own rules and the rule of law in general free of impurities, then, the hope for good governance could not be realised.” Ekweremadu, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, said that the sixth National Assembly had helped to entrench internal democracy and rule of law during the last Constitution and Electoral Act amendment and called for the support of political parties towards the success of the ongoing Constitution review process.
“Though the issues in the current efforts are possibly sensitive, we believe that with your support, we will build the necessary consensus and pull it through. “We have no preconceived ideas or hidden agenda as our only interest is to give Nigeria a hope for a better future and to deepen the practice of democracy in our society.
“We are determined to give Nigerians the opportunity and knowledge of best practices in successful societies, but it is only for Nigerians to decide what they want,” Ekweremadu said. The event was attended by lawmakers, civil society groups, election management bodies, political parties and leaders, including former President Obasanjo, Mark, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and Jega.