It is a thing of concern that the two major political parties in Nigeria, APC and PDP, are embroiled in messy conflicts within their separate parties. Ask those involved what the problem is or what they are fighting for and you can be sure they cannot give a coherent answer. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Major party is a political party having electoral strength sufficient to permit it to win control of a government usually with comparative regularity and when defeated to constitute the principal opposition to the party in power.
On the surface the issue appears to be mere leadership tussle of who leads these parties as chairman, but on a closer look, it is more than meets the eye. It is a repetitive hysteria that always heralds baton change.
Political parties in a democracy are as necessary as having multiple routes to science, while party politics on its own is as unnecessary as science refusing to pass through diverse routes to meet man for whatsoever reason. This does not mean that party politics should be completely shunned, but that when there is a clear clash between right and wrong, between mediocrity and excellence, then humanity and development politics should prevail. A good explanation of party politics says that it is the politics which relates to political parties rather than to the good of the people.
Take the United States, a model and developed democracy when compared to Africa, for example. The 2 major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans engage in party politics at times, and sometimes shamefully too, but more often than not, the legislations of congress transcends party inclinations.
The same cannot be said of Nigeria. The hullabaloo along party lines which we saw during the national assembly proceedings on the PIB and the electronic transmission of election result is a case in point.
In a bid to truly understand political parties in Nigeria, let’s look at some definitions of a political party. We will then put Nigerian political parties in the mold of these definitions.
In one definition of political party, a party is an organization that advances a specific set of ideological or policy goals, or that organizes people whose ideas about politics are similar.
This was the case during the build-up to independence, political parties in Nigeria like the NNDP and NCNC were guided by ideologies and though they were not perfect, there was a least a level of sanity and efficiency in them.
If you compel APC and PDP to explain their guiding ideologies today, they may end up giving you generic manifestos.
Another definition says: “a political party is an organized group of people or bodies who seek to capture political power through an election in order to run the affairs of a country. It often puts forward candidates for public office.”
From this description we ask; are parties in Nigeria today organized? Yes and no. They used to be organized on paper, but not anymore. With court cases up and down, and with different conflicting administrative blocs of the same party, they are far from being organized. Though on eves of ‘inevitable’ elections they are compelled by common sense to act organized. .
Do they seek political power? Yes, but as a means to a highly myopic selfish end.
Even a party rule, where a party is the face of the governing system – though dangerous to democracy in itself – would have been better if there is an opposition that is properly guided through ideologies, by honor and courage, to put the ruling party on check. Alas, this is far from the reality. The ruling party is driven by fear that comes out as shrewd smartness, while the opposition hangs in bitterness and conspiracies.
Look at the way honorable men and women are crossing from one party to the other in Nigeria. Most of them are not to be blamed; they have suffered injustice in their own parties and must therefore find greener parties to raise their hope again. If it was just a regional or ethnic occurrence, it would have been easier to solve, but it cuts across the federation.
Bishop Hassan Kukah captured it well in his interview on Arise TV when he opined that there are no proper political parties in Nigeria, rather what we have are ‘group of friends and vehicles conveying people to political power’.
Party politics should not trump good governance, but in a case where party politics supersedes, it should at least have a bearing, a focus and be orderly. It is sad that Nigeria has had problems with good governance at all levels. It is even more disturbing that party politics which should have saved the political face a bit is itself in shambles. What then is the future of politics in Nigeria?