History repeated itself in South Africa on Wednesday. Like nine years ago, when former President Thabo Mbeki resigned over crisis of confidence, his successor, President Jacob Zuma, threw in the towel, for the same reason. It was a display of the tenets of democracy, where the will of the people and the supremacy of a political party prevailed.
Yes, Zuma lost the confidence of his political party, the African National Congress (ANC). Following allegations of corruption, abuse of office and other malfeasances, the ANC finally asked Zuma to resign as president. ANC Secretary General, Ace Magashule, speaking the political party’s mind, said Zuma’s ouster was inevitable to assure South Africans “at a time when the economic and social challenges facing the country require urgent and resolute response.” By the manner he left office, Zuma tasted the bitter medicine served Mbeki. He lost the leadership of the ANC to Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, just like Mbeki lost to him in 2008. He was forced to resign, just like Mbeki was persuaded to quit.
In all these, one thing stands South African politics and governance out: Superiority of political parties and institutions to all in authority or power. Nine years ago, the ANC passed a vote of no confidence in Mbeki, asking him to resign from office. Mbeki obeyed. This week, the ANC, again, demanded that Zuma must resign. The former president had no option than to quit. This shows that South Africa has strong institutions than strong leaders. It also shows that the southern African country’s institutions align with the people and the nation and not with people elected or appointed to offices. This is a lesson for Nigeria.
To be sure, the ANC, on two occasions, had the courage to tell sitting presidents who came to office on its platform to resign. The party felt embarrassed about the controversies dogging the erstwhile presidents. And in order to preserve its dignity and the retain its integrity, the ANC asked them to quit office. Conversely, in Nigeria, political parties seldom reprimand their members in positions of authority. Where their members in government are wrong, the political parties defend them. Apart from 2003, when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), feeling embarrassed by the conduct and performance of then Anambra State government, Chinwoke Mbadinuju and therefore, bore its fang by denying the governor re-election ticket, the country’s political parties, in this dispensation, now defend the failures of their members in office. Where the political parties are expected to side with Nigerians and the country, they play politics and defend the indefensible. They shirk their responsibility and, therefore, allow things to go terribly wrong.
Government agencies and institutions are also guilty of this. At present, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is raising hell following the reordering of elections earlier scheduled by the National Assembly, to the extent that it may go to court to challenge or contest the powers of the federal lawmakers. The question is: What is the business of INEC with which election holds first or the which one comes last? Agreed that INEC could fix order of election,but the National Assembly could make laws to alter it. Why would this be a problem for INEC, whose assignment is to organise elections? For finding fault with the National Assembly’s decision on election schedule, the INEC is giving itself away as siding with the Presidency, which had earlier faulted plan to reorder the elections. The Presidency prefers the presidential and governorship elections held first, while the National Assembly, by the new bill, wants the two elections last. It behoves on INEC to obey the law.
Like INEC, security agencies work forthe Presidency instead of Nigeria. Here, security agencies tend to take sides with those in government instead of the country, as a corporate entity. This is why a minister of defence, whose duty is to secure the territory of Nigeria, would come out to say that killings in Benue was caused by the enactment of anti-open grazing law and the so-called blocking of grazing route. This is why an Inspector General of Police would order the arrest of a Prince Kassim Afegbua for authoring a statement on behalf of former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, which called on President Muhammadu Buhari to quit in 2019. This is not right. Allegience should be to the country and not to individuals.
To be sure, Nigerian political parties and other institutions need to learn from their South African counterparts. The parties should know that they are superior to those in government. They should know when to stand for the nation instead of their members, whose actions and inactions are inimical to the progress of the country.
Nigerians have complained about the situation of things in the country. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has never agreed that the current Federal Government is not doing well. The party would rather join those in government to blame the previous administration instead of admitting the failure of its members in government. Why would APC defend government when it is not a component of government?
For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerian political parties should learn not to be subordinated to those in government. They should know that political parties ought to be supreme. That is the lesson from South Africa. Of course, without political parties, there will be no elected government official officials, as the constitution is clear that candidates for elective offices must be nominated by political parties. If the political party is supreme, why then do party leaders appear answerable to those in government, when the reverse should be the case? Why should a government official be seen as leader of the political party, above the chairman, just by the accident of being in government? Why would meeting of a political party be held at the Presidential Villa or Governors’ Lodge, because the president or governor is attending, instead of at political party’s headquarters? Why do government officials decide those to get political parties’ tickets instead of the parties, as institutions?