The Senate President David Mark and his Deputy Senate President and Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Institute for Legislative Studies, NILS, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has up braided party leadership in Nigeria, saying they have become a cause for concern over their lack of depth in party management.
They stated this during the opening of a two-day workshop on Party Politics in Nigeria and Lobbying and the Legislature organised by the NILS in Abuja.
According to David Mark, he said ” 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 riven 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’s Constitution introduced the elective principle in 1922 and Sir Herbert Macaulay formed his Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), in 1923.
“Intra party squabbles arise mainly because political party affiliation in Nigeria is rarely anchored on ideology or any uniting and defined philosophy, but rather largely on crass opportunism. This undermines the capacity of the political party to govern effectively, even after gaining political power. The internal contradictions sired by the coming together of strange bedfellows breed convulsions, strife and upheavals which hamper the machinery of governance. In the most extreme of cases, as we had in the First and Second Republics, intra party squabbles combined with inter-party conflicts to scuttle the democratic experiment.
Two vivid examples are the events leading to both the January 15, 1966 coup, and that of December, 1983.
“Modern representative democracy requires viable, ideology based political parties capable of providing clear policy options as evidence of a demonstrable capacity to govern. Political parties ought not to be corrupt self-centered organizations dominated by power hungry elites who serve only their own interests, and those of their cronies. Political parties must serve the interest of the ordinary citizen.
“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.”
In line with his boss, Senator Ekweremadu said political parties were critical institutions of democracy, since “their philosophies and manifestoes are the fulcrums around which politicking and governance should ordinarily revolve”.
He said unless the culture of internal democracy is entrenched in the nation’s political parties, democratic governance and national development would continue to suffer setback.
Calling for a closer collaboration between parties and their elected officers, the Deputy President of the Senate noted that “whereas the legislature in an emerging democracy like Nigeria’s is faced with onerous tasks of deepening democracy and quickening development through effective law reforms, repositioning of democratic institutions, effective appropriation and subsequent oversight functions, among others, it needs the support and collaboration, of all stakeholders, especially the political parties to succeed.”
Ekweremadu said: “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 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”
On the constitution review by the National Assembly, Ekweremadu who also heads the Senate Committee on Constitution Review explained that the sixth National Assembly had helped to entrench internal democracy and rule of law during the last Constitution and Electoral Act amendment exercise and called for the support of the nation’s political parties towards the success of the ongoing constitution review process.
He said “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.”
The event was attended by lawmakers, civil society, election management bodies, political parties and leaders, including the Senate President, Senator David Mark, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme, and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega.