Director General of the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), Professor Eghosa Osaghae, has advised the country’s political leaders to work assiduously to expand the delivery of public good or what in some parlance is called “democracy dividends,” in order to assuage the prevailing atmosphere of ethnic and regional bickering in the country, which has
Director General of the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), Professor Eghosa Osaghae, has advised the country’s political leaders to work assiduously to expand the delivery of public good or what in some parlance is called “democracy dividends,” in order to assuage the prevailing atmosphere of ethnic and regional bickering in the country, which has the potential of putting Africa’s most populous nation asunder. “Everything seems to take a warlike approach because of the short supply of public good,” the erudite professor noted.
He also lampooned the political actors for concentrating on issues concerning their personal welfare rather than those dealing with national development. “The voices of our legislators are louder on matters of personal emoluments. They are always united on their welfare,” he mused.
The accomplished professor of Comparative Politics is of the view that the feverish intra elite competition for political power and pre-eminence have always made the political actors leverage on ethnic and regional affiliation which has brought the nation to its present parlous state.
Alluding to the assertion of scholars like Jibrin Ibrahim, who argued that political parties in Nigeria are mere platforms for contesting election, Osaghae, also a former Vice chancellor, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, contends that the lack of provision of public good to the mass of the people has led to what he called the exacerbation of “centripetal forces” pulling the nation apart, a veiled reference to the different self determination groups like Ilana Omo Oo’dua, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Middle Belt Forum and the Lower Niger Movement angling for independence of their respective regions.
Because the parties of the Fourth Republic lack character and ideology, he posited, it was possible for politicians to be members of party a in the morning, move to party b in the afternoon and again move to party c in the evening without any consequences, contending that such vacillatory posture makes a mockery of the party system, rendering the parties unable to rise to galvanize the people on concrete issues of national developments.
Delivering a keynote address to the opening of the Annual Summit of Political Parties And Stakeholders in Abuja at the weekend, the NIIA boss said that the Nigerian society is “deeply divided” which makes the different groups worked up over every little disagreement. “Nigerian society is a highly divided society, every little disagreement can stir crises. Deeply divided societies tend to be unstable. There’s little that everyone struggles for,” he reasons.
The conference which has the theme, “Political Parties And Democratic Stability in Nigeria: Setting Agenda For 2023 General Elections” was organized by the National Institute For Policy And Strategic Studies, Kuru – Political Parties Leadership And Policy Development Centre (NIPSS-PPLPDC) under the European Union Support for Democracy in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) project.
Fingering the military which banned political parties at the onset of military rule in 1966 accusing them of causing the nation’s disunity, Osaghae contended that this wrong move seriously affected the growth and development of political parties.
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has done well in aligning the political parties to national objectives by making their programmes and manifestos conform with Chapter 2 of the Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, the biggest challenge of the polity, in the words of Osaghae, is the dominance of godfathers with “deep pockets”.
Also speaking at the event, National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr Leonard Nzenwa lamented that “efforts organized around, and directed at building, husbanding and projecting our democracy as a stabilized one has suffered perception haemorrhage, yielding an uncontrived imagery of still-born, sickly, mutated growth that neither celebrates progress nor honour charitable development but rather has thrust us out as a lagger in the league of democratic nations.”
Saluting the resilience of participants over the change of venue, he said, “the IPAC acknowledges that it is security instability that has led to relocation of this great meet from Akwa to Abuja. And it is this security instability that has robbed off negatively on the lives of the people of Anambra even as it has impacted every facet of the lives of Nigerians in various parts of troubled spots across the country even as banditry, kidnapping, farmers/herders insurrection continue to fester unabated.”
He noted that, “The naked fact is that where there is high security instability, democracy and its stability will suffer. We must therefore brace up to the reality that our democratic effort will be impacted by insecurity in the many parts of the country.”
Advent of Democracy
Nzenwa, also national chairman, African Action Congress (AAC), argues further:
“Indeed, advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1919, five years after coupling of different groupings that composed the nation by the British was greeted with excitement and great hope. 100 years after we are still unsure whether it’s been uhuru for us all.
“Democratic test as witnessed through elections from 1923 when the nation took the dithering step of conducting the first local polls on September 20, that year for the Lagos Legislative Council with Herbert Macualays’ Nigerian National Democratic Party , NNDP winning three of the seats actually began the first major tryout In our national journey to stabilize our own variant of Democracy.
“It is not for our want of not trying enough, that is attempting, to embrace and domesticate noble tenets of Democratic practice and recondition them to our peculiarity and benefit but rather our collective power-civic authority relationship DNA which mostly is not only fragmented but more often on collision course with one another has emptied us out both as being acrimonious and democratically unsettled.
“In setting agenda for 2023, therefore, we need do deep introspection and interdict ourselves sincerely including raising the vexing questions as to how well stakeholders have fared in delivering on their mandates as well as how they hope to overcome challenges that has bestrode the political landscape in the face of mounting insecurity and voter apathy, an unappealing socio-political combo that Roger Martins of Harvard and University of Toronto view as part of “ wicked problems” ambushing underdeveloped and developing nations, and militating against their development and growth.”
Stabilize Our Democracy
He said that “IPAC, proposes that a focused and deliberate effort on the part of stakeholders working sincerely to stabilize our democracy to steady the Nigerian State would be, amongst others, to direct all resources toward ensuring that political scavengers rooting to dismember the country through their actions and utterances are checked by relevant agencies of the State, task all to ensure that they are committed to values that enhances promotion of democratic stability such as guaranteeing the rights of all to vote and be voted for, harmonious intra and internal party democracy, independence of the judiciary, effective and courageous National Assembly, respect for rule of law, promote and support an independent electoral umpire; have free, fair, inclusive and safety-laden polls, mainstream gender and vulnerable groups in all things, fair and justiciable distribution of the resources of the State amongst components that compose the State and ensure that all groups whether they be ethnic, professional, national, etc are given equal opportunity to have, and are made to have access to all political power resources within the State.
“We just exited an emergency consultative meeting of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, not longer ago today, to seek a way forward for the Anambra November 6, Gubernatorial Polls that is being threatened by high level of insecurity with tens of lives wasted by unknown gunmen and forces bent on destroying democracy, an ugly affront to stability of representative democracy in the country.
“And we made it clear that the sanctity of lives is very important in as much as we want to hold an election based on timeline and fulfill conditional and electoral act requirement – the people’s lives matters most and the stability of their existence should be given the highest of consideration even as we work collectively to stabilize democracy in the country.
“For political parties, we will continue to put our best legs forward despite the challenges that the polity throws up. We, indeed, can do more, with sincere support from all stakeholders.
“Finally, the urgency of the now demands that we recover our dear country and redirect her towards the right path.The tapestry of our hearts should tune us to actions that will neither expose us as ethnic egotist or religious bigots tainted by primordial instinct of destruction.
“The burden of history and accountability should impel us to move enmass to rise up against forces set to bury representative democracy. We will only be true to ourselves if we honestly look ourselves eyeball to eyeball, speak truth to power and to ourselves work, and for genuine development and growth of representative democracy,” the IPAC national chairman asserted.
Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), Mr Hamza Fass-Fihri, said the theme of this year’s summit – “Political Parties and Democratic Stability: Setting the Agenda for 2023 General Elections” is a timely reminder of the extremely critical position political parties hold in the consolidation of Nigeria’s democratic experience.
“I must at this point congratulate the NIPSS for sustaining this annual dialogue which has provided a platform for constructive exchanges with political actors while making meaningful contributions towards the stability of Nigeria’s political and democratic life. ECES is indeed proud to associate itself with this laudable effort.
“No doubt, political parties are intimate to any democracy, being primary stakeholders in the political electoral landscape. Their conduct or misconduct impact considerably on the outcome of electoral processes, and by extension, on the stability of the democratic system.
“By virtue of the Nigerian Constitution, political parties hold the exclusive rights to nominate candidates for elections into political offices. Their sigificance is not limited to elections alone, as they also play a critical role in contributing to the national debate on policy issues, while also serving as a lead vehicle for promoting citizens’political participation as well as dissemination of political and electoral education.
“Doing so, they can be instrumental in resolving contentious political issues and setting policy directions and alternatives for government and the society. As primary stakeholders and given their roles in a democratic society, it is imperative for political parties to recognize at all times their collective responsibility in the stability of the democratic system.
“Political parties must continuously demonstrate in words and actions an abiding commitment to democratic stability, which materializes through internal democracy and inclusivity, openness and partnerships with civil society organizations, promotion of democratic values and fair and peaceful participation into the electoral process.
“When citizens feel properly represented and included in the political process as a whole, and feel the benefit from the political system, they do not relent in supporting its development, and vice versa.
“ECES is proud to have collaborated with NIPSS within the EU-SDGN project over the last four years, jointly providing support to strengthen political parties and their capacities on some electoral-related issues: development of a code on conduct, inclusion of marginalised demographics (Women, Youth and PWDs), transparency and communication, peaceful and inclusive campaigning, campaign finance regulations, to name a few.
“I hope that this summit will help in sensitising participants on the overarching significance of sustaining and stabilising the democratic system, while ensuring all stakeholders effectively play their roles, particularly the political parties for which we are convening today.
2023 General Elections
“Coming ahead of the 2023 general elections, I’m convinced that the summit will design clear strategies for political engagements while also strenghtening the commitment of political actors in carrying out their responsibilities.
While wishing the resource persons and participants fruitful deliberations, let me assure this distinguished audience of the commitment of European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) to efforts that will build inclusive and pluralistic political party system in Nigeria through our support to the Independent National Electoral Commission – Our beneficiaries for Component 1 of the EU-SDGN programme, the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and other stakeholders.
“I also wish to place on record ECES’ sincere appreciation to the European Union for its funding support to us within the EU-SDGN and even beyond in other projects we are implementing across other countries in Africa,” he noted
In his welcome address, Acting Director General, Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Gen Chukwuemeka Udaya (rtd), noted that his organisation has enjoyed very good relationship with IPAC since the establishment of the Political Parties Leadership and Policy Development Centre at the Institute to enhance the capacities of leaders of political parties.
According to him,
“The National Institute recognizes the efforts of IPAC in providing a platform for political parties’ engagement and promoting inter-party dialogue since 2013.
“The National Institute wants to reiterate the significance of political parties in democratic governance, and specifically in ensuring stability of the polity and national integration. It is emphatic that the strength of political parties and party system determines the success of democracy.
“It is based on this that NIPSS-PPLPDC since its establishment in 2013, has been engaging with functionaries of political parties to strengthen their capacities. NIPSS-PPLPDC with the support of EU-SDGN has since 2018 been engaging with political parties for the purpose of promoting pluralism, tolerance, internal democracy and equality of political parties and the political party.”
Some of the specific objective(s) of this collaboration include:
i. To enhance internal democracy and respect for rules in political parties;
ii. To strengthen adherence to legal requirements on party funding and campaign finance;
iii. To strengthen engagements among Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant stakeholders; and
iv. To enhance the involvement of women, youths and persons with disability in political parties and the political process.
“In pursuance of these objectives, the NIPSS-PPLPDC with the support of EU-SDGN has engaged political parties particularly through conduct of capacity building activities, observation of political parties’ behavior before, during and after elections.
“The exercise has provided opportunity for the NIPSS-PPLPDC to observe the conduct of political parties as regards issues such as party primaries, conventions, campaigns, inclusivity, adherence to the Code of Conduct of Political Parties and other legal frameworks for elections, the conduct of party campaigns and the elections.
“This was necessary for the purpose of assessing the impact of the activities organized for functionaries of political parties by NIPSS-PPLPDC.
“Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, this Summit, with the theme: Political Parties and Democratic stability in Nigeria: Setting Agenda for 2023 General Elections is very apt as it set the tone for discussion of a very important event in the life of our dear nation.
“This Summit provides a platform for stakeholders; political party leaders, INEC, Civil Society Organizations, scholars, eminent persons and others to dialogue and strategize on critical issues that may set the tune for the 2023 General Elections particularly as they relate to democratic stability of Nigeria.
“NIPSS-PPLPDC is committed to continue working with the political parties and IPAC particularly in building their capacities to enable them effectively perform their critical roles in Nigeria’s political system. We would continue to review our training curriculum to address emerging issues in our political system and also to make political parties better organized, more vibrant, imbued with internal democracy, devoid of violence and high level of inclusiveness.
“I have no doubt in my mind that with the array of distinguished personalities gathered here today, that the purpose of this Summit would be fully realized. It is my earnest desire that the partnership between NIPSS-PPLPDC, political parties, IPAC, INEC and other stakeholders in the electoral system will continue to be sustained and strengthened in the course of consolidating democracy in Nigeria,” Udaya said.
The conference, attended by state chairmen of IPAC, representatives of civil society and political scholars, had the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who was represented by National Commissioner, Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, as special guest.
Photos: A cross section of participants at the conference