Democratic Consolidation Through Political Parties: President Buhari’s Rare Example -Dr. Kayode Ajulo

One undeniable feature of President Muhammadu Buhari’s-led government is it’s tendency to skip the scripts, and roll out new plots and twists that both amuse and stun the public. While this proclivity has featured prominently in his government’s interaction with the public at national and international levels, nothing could very well have prepared most members of his party’s inner caucus in the last National Executive Meeting of the party held at the Presidential villa.

In his habitual taciturn but firm manner, President Muhammadu Buhari took the floor minutes into the meeting and dropped a bombshell when he emphatically spoke up against tenure elongation for the party ‘s national and state executive’s in the guise of a national Caretaker Committee. Shell-shocked, his audience listened raptly even as a few at that point could barely hide their disappointment and surprise.

According to Mr. President, it is pertinent not to put the APC at risks in the forthcoming elections in 2019 by ignoring laid down rules in the party’s constitution, even as he admonished an adherence to the country’s constitution in section 233 which mandated parties to periodically replace it’s executives. While his position was shared by his Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN and others, there were those who dissented on the premise of political consideration and rationalised illegality.

I must say that the President’s position is a case for intra-party democracy, and so immediately commendable even if unpopular amongst members of his own party. For a President said to be perennially aloof on laid down democratic principles, his admonition during the APC ‘s NEC meeting must have given his critics a paradox to work out, even as it encourages the public to have faith yet in the democratic capacity of the military General government.

I am, however, constrained to comment on the issue of a lack of internal democracy in a large number of political parties in Nigeria because of it’s direct connection to external democracy or the delivery of same. All political parties in Nigeria tout democracy and the delivery of its dividend as a pivotal point of their campaigns in and out of office. In fact, an essential truth is that without democracy there would be no political parties as history shows. Non-democratic nation states under monarchy or dictatorship usually frowned upon the formation of groups, association or parties with labour or political intent for obvious reasons. As such, the operation of democratic principles in a political party is a necessary reflection of the bigger picture of democracy on a national scale.

The meaningful functioning of political parties should assume the existence of preconditions such as freedom of associations, voting rights, equality, freedom of speech and information, and free and fair elections held periodically. All political parties operating freely in a democracy must therefore necessarily reflect these features. A non-democratic party cannot be trusted with power nor hoped on to deliver on democratic dividends.

It is this fact that perhaps necessitated the constitution to make provisional commentary on party politics with particular emphasis on the need to hold periodic free and fair elections within the party to allow for the rotation of power and, perhaps, the attendant privileges office.

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Intra-party democracy is usually known to nurture citizens’ political competencies and/or producing more capable representatives which in turn ensures that the party produces better policies and political programmes. It is easier for a party whose core beliefs reflect democratic tendencies to understand and respect the rule of law and equality before the law on the national scale.

In a democratic system, political parties are the organizing vehicles for the struggle for power and the articulation of principles and programmes for governance of the society. Only a party that largely follows democratic principles will be able to truly reflect the views and aspirations of its members, and through those members, the views and aspirations of a large number of the citizens of the country. Only such a party can potentially promote democracy on a national scale, and Nigeria surely needs democratic development. We need improvements in our elections.

We need economic development that reflects the genuine needs and aspirations of the vast majority of our citizens as world’s richest man, Bill Gates, only recently pointed out the obvious to the Nigerian government. We need security. We need peace and stability. And we need respect for and development of our democratic institutions such as the judiciary, legislature, law enforcement agencies, indeed even the executive. Also the practice of democratic politics will lead to needed improvements in our international image and our relations with other decent countries.

There is absolutely nothing to hate about democracy which makes the attempt by a few to boycott it’s principles whether at party or country level most unfathomable. While the popular cliché goes, ‘practice what you preach’, what we’ve had for long in some political parties in Nigeria is the case of preaching democracy to the public while running autocratic party structures where a few well-placed individuals in a party make all the decisions for the party and resist the re-shuffling of offices and power with vehemence. The deterioration of internal democracy in political parties by executive power-wielders cast a doubt on every policy or programme carried out, creates division amongst party members and most important impinges on the Integrity of such a party to hold and exercise power in a democratic nation.

It is therefore a much needed breath of fresh air to observe the APC, persuaded by the admonition of President Buhari, set up a Technical Committee to work out the modalities for an intra-party election to either bring in new executives or by the poll re-affrim confidence in some or all current executives of the party. It is by some measure , one of President Muhammadu Buhari ‘s-led bravest interventions as a party leader ever seeing as how a majority of members of the APC ‘s inner caucus had finalised plans to maintain the status quo even if in blatant disregard of the very constitution of their party whose instrument validates the power and function exercised by each and every member of the APC.

On a summary note, the readiness of some members of the APC to disregard certain portions of the party’s regulation should caution our trust of their readiness to comply with the country’s federal constitution. Such attempted boycotts of laid down rules and regulations in favour of contraptions deemed necessary to the actualisation of personal interests or ambition could very well augur badly for the country’s national democracy.

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I advise erring members of the APC to fall in line with the wise counsel of President Buhari and the Vice-President, the erudite professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yemi Osibanjo. We hope to see more translations of such democratic considerations in the country’s national life through the policies and programmes of this administration.

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