All Progressives Congress paper delivered by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala Buni at the 2nd Colloquium of the Sultan Maccido’s Institute for Peace, Leadership and Development Studies, University of Abuja, on 7th April, 2021. Governor Buni was represented by the APC CECPC National Secretary, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe Ph.D.ess
PARTY POLITICS, POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AND CRISIS OF GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA: A CRITICAL EXPLORATION OF PEACE BUILDING IN COVID-19 ERA.
Politics is about the attainment and use of power in public office to be able to influence decisions that affect society. This essentially means that human beings must aggregate and drive such endeavor to take on form. The goal of creating a group or coalition large enough to rule is what causes political parties to form and this key goal is what makes parties inevitable. A political party has also been defined as an organization or a group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political views and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement their agenda.
In many countries today, political parties are an essential part of the apparatus of governance. Ideally, they play a fundamental role in the exercise of democracy. A 2002 Human Development Report; Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World, emphasizes, “A well-functioning democracy depends on well-functioning political parties responsive to people”.
Furthermore, in a democratic system it is the role of political parties to recruit and train political leaders who can fill elected positions at all levels of politics. Political parties are the main vehicles for the education of people in democratic organization and procedure; they are the “school of democracy”. Political parties should thus develop and provide choices for citizens in terms of credible and viable policy options.
Political parties have wide reach and during times of conflicts, they can greatly influence how their members and followers act (ie engender violence or convince them to cease hostilities). They can push for peace or create more animosity and thus greatly impact the peace process. Political parties provide a mechanism through which citizens express diversity of interests and aspirations.
Parties are the institutions that successfully democratize representative government and are pivotal in the non-violent means of altering government.Parties provide commitment to regulated political rivalry and legitimate opposition.
Having explained politics and political parties, let us examine what Party-Politics entail.
The Meriam-Webster dictionary describes Party-Politics as political activities, decisions, etc that relate to or support a particular political party.
The Collins English Dictionary defines Party-Politics as politics based on strict adherence to the policies and principles of a political party regardless of how that decision affects the masses. In this context, it can be said to mean partisan loyalism. The term is often used negatively when politicians do things or carry out actions basically to further the interests of their political parties or its leadership and not necessarily in the interest of the people or the state. Viewing Party-Politics in the lens of HAROLD LASSWEL’S long established description of politics as ”who gets what, when and how much”, will aid our understanding of the issues and contestations that characterize party politics. This is so because governance, essentially deals with the distribution of resources within a given territory. And, as we all know, resources are limited, and in this case, conflicts; whether latent or manifest may arise. Individuals and groups are constantly competing for control of limited resources. This is not altogether a bad thing, conflicts are not altogether dysfunctional. In some cases, conflict can help give direction to social change. But in the context of this paper, the conflict that leads to crisis in governance is not functional.
No matter the upsurge of globalization and the prospects of the borderless state, the expectation is for states to take a decisive role in economic transformation, growth, and development and jettison every act that is inimical to improved livelihood as well as socioeconomic and political development of the country. That essentially is governance. The Nigerian state has been confronted with crisis in governance over-time and consequently, it has become challenging presently to eradicate impoverishment, engage in infrastructural development, and stem the tides of insurgency and terrorism, which have the potency to derail the country’s moderate political development. Notwithstanding the efforts of the present administration.
ISSUES AND CHALLENGES OF PARTY POLITICS.
No meaningful or sincere discussion about governance and its challenges in Nigeria can be sustained without a centric view of the outputs of successive political leadership in Nigeria and of course the leadership selection cum recruitment processes. And in so doing, while acknowledging the periods of military rule in Nigeria, party politics is seen to play a pivotal role in this regard. Therefore, it becomes cyclical: PARTY-POLITICS POLITICAL-LEADERSHIP and GOVERNANCE (howsoever). So if as a country, we get the foundation right, i.e. party politics. Then it is most probable that the other variables (political leadership and good governance) will on their own, fall into place. Political leadership means the ability and willingness of persons in positions of authority to harness and maximize the available resources of the country for the greatest good and for the benefit of the greatest number of its citizens.
Here are a few of the challenges that affect the effectiveness of Political Parties:
- Lack of internal democracy in the political parties: This includes the election of party officers and the nomination of candidates. Where the processes are compromised in favour of party leaders, then the outcome may not, in most cases produce the will of the majority of the members. And that commences the dearth of good governance.
- Party Financing: The Electoral Act, sets the limit to electoral financing by candidates, while it also gives INEC the power to regulate expenses of a candidate in an election.And election is a long process and not only the event on the date of election. It becomes a tall order for INEC to track the expenses of all aspirants through the whole process. When, even the costs of nomination forms are astronomically high, how can INEC track the other sundry spendings?
- God-Fatherism: This is related to the issue of lack of internal democracy. Most political parties are funded by major stake holders who then determine what happens within the party. After all, “He who Pays the Piper Dictates the Tune”. When political parties become self-funded, ie through membership dues, then this issue will gradually fade away. This is why the APC leadership as presently constituted and ably led by H.E. (Hon) MAI MALA BUNI, sought the buy-in of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari that the party be returned to the masses, hence the on-going membership registration.
- Clientelism and Cronyism: Clientelism could be seen as the distribution of benefits targeted to individuals or groups in exchange for electoral support. This was experienced in the hoarding of palliatives meant to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic by political elites. This was one of the reasons that the protest snowballed in to a carnage with the resultant ransacking of residences of varying degree of leaders. It was presumed that the palliatives were preserved for distribution to allies to gain political support or mileage, subsequently. The School Feeding programme is another example, where the president’s open-mindedness to capture beneficiaries across political divides is not being replicated in most states. I say this with all sense of responsibility. Cronyism in like manner, is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations. This breeds low-morale and anti-party activities due to the poor reward system. This does not mean that merit should be compromised.
- PARTY IDEOLOGY AND CROSS-CARPETING: Political Parties are basically formed to seek to attain political power through the ballot-boxes. Therefore, gaining of followership benefits them, however for elective offices, the electorates become shortchanged in cases of defections, because the official was elected on the platform of the particular party. Our laws on defection give room for manipulation by smart lawyers and the benefiting party. Our laws should be strengthened in this regard.
PEACE BUILDING IN NIGERIA: POST COVID-19
The Constitution of our Country – Nigeria, which is the Grund Norm, States in chapter 2 that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
Security has been described by the Cambridge Dictionary as “freedom from danger, otherwise said to mean safety”. This is quite a simplistic view, but in the context of this discourse, security refers to National Security and we shall be dwelling on internal security.
The World Bank has reported that Covid-19 will push as many as 5 million people into poverty in Nigeria, while studies have shown that its Socio-economic impacts has increased hunger, starvation and poverty which, of course are triggers to restiveness.
The question therefore is; how has the political class collaborated in a bipartisan way or through interparty approach to solve the conflicts in the country?
It is a statement of that it is the political class that tend to exploit our fault lines of Religion and Ethnicity to fuel conflicts and crises in our country.
Most, if not all the incidences of strife, conflicts, agitations in Nigeria over time do have political under tones. The political elites who lose out in a particular political administration are often times, the loudest in condemnation of every and all actions of the government in power, not out of altruism, but bile, and with the aim of discrediting the government due to their non-inclusion. The present administration believes in genuine agitations for better governance. Of course good governance is not a 100 Meters dash. It is a progressive journey, especially with the situation the APC administration met on ground with low oil prices and the attendant recession. Thereafter, came the covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent distortions in our revenues and economic lives.
A FEW OF THE TROUBLING SCENARIOS INCLUDE:
–The End Sars Protests: There are glaring evidence that the peaceful protests were hijacked by political thugs and hoodlums which derailed from the noble aim of the agitations which was to end Police brutality.
The government responded to them and met their demands, but for whatever motivation, they prevailed amidst ‘cheering-ons’ by leading opposition figures. The subsequent loss of ‘lives’ could have been avoided. The opposition political parties were busy making inflammatory comments which served only to embolden the protesters and the thugs which created tension and the resulting carnage in the country.
–The Herders-Farmers clashes: The history of these conflicts has predated this administration. It is only expected that as time went on and events around the African continent and the Sahel region could over time would only exacerbate the issues. It started basically as a quest for fodder for their Cows which led to the destruction of cultivated farmlands by these herders and the reprisals by the farmers and the cycle of violence prevailed. The influx of small arms and light weapons which found its way into the West African sub-region due to the destabilization of Libya with the fall of Ghaddafi and the uprisings in the region and The Ecowas Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons worsened the situation through the influx ofcriminals (under the cover of herders) from other countries into Nigeria. The situation deteriorated further into the banditry and kidnappings which has led to increasing tension in our lands. Successive governments could have done more to secure our borders, but sadly this was left undone, such that efforts by this Administration will take a while to bear fruits. Statements credited to opposition leaders leave a lot to be desired. They should call evil by its name and condemn criminality for what it is, devoid of religious, political or ethnic coloration. For instance, how can a State Governor justify the bearing of arms by non-state actors? How can a Political Party even envisage that a government would be involved in the kidnapping of its Citizens. How bizarre?
These narratives are just pushed out into the public space through a willing media to de-market the present Administration to gain political advantage not minding the fact that the national security of the nation is at stake. Just few days ago, a leading opposition figure blatantly, without basis, accused the federal government of attempting to assassinate the Benue state Governor, and even promised war. This was long before a Criminal group laid claims to the unfortunate attack on the Governor of Benue State. This posture only encourages the criminals as they tend to intimidate and cause panic within the system.
–Boko-Haram: Non-State Actors and terrorist groups continue to cowardly attack soft targets in order to threaten the peaceful existence of citizens of the free world. The synopsis of these Non-State-Actors show that some of them were created for political ends but they turned into the present-day monsters. Political Parties must rise in unison to clearly condemn any action that is likely to impede on the national security of our country. When September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occurred on US soil, the opposition left no one in doubt in this regard. The tendency to condemn all counteractions by the government in this regard can only be seen in the prism of interference in the efforts of government to quell the insurrectionists.
IPOB & other Separatists groups -: Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. Secession conversations and separatists’ agitations are loud within members of the opposition and those who do not have a seat at the table in this dispensation. That should not be the case.
These postures of opposition political parties and their leaders constitute counteractions to interventions because it impedes the responsiveness and decisiveness of government actions in this regard. They give shades of colorations to government interventions to these threats to the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.
CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDED STRATEGIES FOR PEACE BUILDING.
Can there be meaningful development without PEACE? I doubt.
The quest for peace often goes hand in hand with the quest for security. Peace can be said to be the absence of conflicts or the cessation of aggression (be it internal or external). Peace, they say is not just the absence of war, but the presence of Social Justice. This is the principle of positive peace. Social Justice is the form of equality in the access to education, economic opportunities, health care, basic amenities and or infrastructure, participation in governance etc. So, where all these exist, then there is already the framework for an infrastructure of peace. In the same vein, the UN has stated that Good Governance is measured by the 8 factors of; Participation, Responsiveness, Transparency, Rule of Law, Consensus Oriented, Equity and Inclusiveness, Effectiveness and Efficiency, and Accountability. This administration is committed to ensuring good governance through efforts at strengthening our institutions, rebuilding infrastructures and economic interventions to the vulnerable, post Covid-19. The support of opposition political parties is required for meaningful successes.
Political leaders must acknowledge the problems of society, find common ground and democratize their organizational structures further by opening their parties to the diverse perspectives of the society for deliberation, and aligning the contesting visions clearly into a national framework. They must eschew party politics and toe the path of patriotism and nationalism.
Communication at various levels of political leadership, culture of informed deliberation on issues, management of dissenting voices, reconstruction of the broken relationship and infrastructures in such a context becomes essential to mitigate conflicts.
Other opinion drivers: the media, the academia, traditional and religious leaders must show by words, thoughts and actions that the love of country is higher than other considerations, be it ethnic, religious or political.
Responsible political leadership must be able to calibrate the needs of the people vis a vis the available resources. The theory of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” comes in handy here. When that is done, then crisis in governance will be reduced to the barest minimum.
Effective political leadership must demonstrate the sacrifice of personal example. For instance, President Buhari is an icon of anti-corruption. This is vital for confidence building. Mitigating the spread and worst consequences of Covid-19 depends on the state rebuilding trust with its citizens, through effective communication and action which involves all levels of leadership.
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