By Casmir Igbokwe
Hard times have pushed a lot of people into becoming desperadoes. Many of the characters in the so-called Nigerian political parties are typical examples. They come together to form these parties for reasons not connected to any serious ideology. What they want is bargaining power or their share of the national cake.
It is nauseating. Shortly before the 2019 presidential election, for instance, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) fell out with its presidential candidate, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili. In what the woman called classic political entrepreneurship in full display, ACPN quickly endorsed the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari, for the election. Ezekwesili later withdrew from the presidential race and resigned from the party because of what she described as the transactional attitude of its officials. Many other mushroom parties similarly endorsed either Buhari or the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
This is partly why I was not surprised to read about the purported vote of confidence passed on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by some 75 political parties last week. According to reports, the 75 political parties thanked the INEC management for “a well planned and carefully executed 2019 general election” and gave INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, pass mark for the conduct of the elections.
These parties gave this commendation in a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day National Roundtable for the 2019 General Election Review, organised by the Centre for Transparency Advocacy in Abuja. Some of the political parties that attended included the Labour Party, Progressives People’s Alliance, Accord Party, and National Conscience Party.
This particular pass mark smells like another political entrepreneurship on full display. Otherwise, how can anybody hail INEC that is a party in the ongoing case at the election petitions tribunal? Besides, some opposition parties, especially the PDP, have levelled serious allegations against the electoral umpire. For instance, there are allegations of manipulation of the INEC server and the resultant dishing out of fake election results. The card reader also reportedly malfunctioned in some places, resulting in the disenfranchisement of a good number of voters. There are many other alleged irregularities that marred the elections. The tribunal is yet to resolve these issues but we are already hailing INEC for a job well done. Is this not an attempt to influence the judgement of the panel?
This is akin to what the director of strategic communications of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, did recently. He petitioned the acting Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, and the director-general of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, asking them to interrogate and possibly prosecute leaders of the PDP for alleged illegal access to the INEC server. He was reacting to Atiku Abubakar’s election petition against the victory of President Buhari, wherein he made a claim of having access to INEC server. For a matter that is already before the tribunal, does Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and his party need to petition the security agencies again? It is either that they wanted the police and the DSS to circumvent the course of justice or they were just playing to the gallery.
Likewise, the head of the five-member panel of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal and Appeal Court president, Mrs. Zainab Bulkachuwa, reportedly prejudged the PDP’s petition during the inaugural sitting of the tribunal last Wednesday. She allegedly said there would always be complaints no matter how an election was well conducted. Was she trying to prepare the minds of Nigerians to accept that the APC won the 2019 presidential election despite the complaints by the PDP?
There is a very urgent need to rescue our sinking democracy. The starting point should be the political parties. Many of them do not practise internal democracy. Their primaries are always rancorous; and the stock-in-trade of some of their members is defections.
Ninety-one of these parties contested the 2019 general election. This unwieldy number presented a problem to some illiterate voters who got confused while searching for their preferred party on the ballot paper on the Election Day. As far as Nigeria is concerned, not up to five political parties are worth being on the ballot paper in our national elections. The rest can be state-based. In the United States, the two main political parties are the Democratic Party, founded in 1828, and the Republican Party, founded in 1854. The majority of other parties are state-based. And they all have their ideologies.
The ideology of some of our own parties is to look for whom to endorse for a fee. Or who to give pass mark for some pecuniary gains. Let us be careful so we don’t destroy the only hope we have of this democracy. We must allow the judges to do their job without fear or favour.
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, May 13, 2019