January 09, 2014 NigerianNews
Letter to the
January 09, 2014
THE AUTOCRATIC POSITION OF 'PARTY LEADER' IN
Gradually, Nigerian politicians are introducing
a brand new political system that had probably never existed before and
does not currently exist anywhere in the world. It is important to note
that, there are two ways to creativity; one, you can create something
from the scratch and two; you can modify and re-modify something that
is existing, until it becomes entirely different from its former self.
There is little or no doubt that Nigerian
politicians have continue to engage in practices that tend to shape and
re-shape democracy into an entirely new political system that one will
face great difficulties in trying to find a name for it. Can we call it
the Nigerian brand of democracy or can we simply call it Nigeriancracy?
Our current political system is neither
democratic nor dictatorial. It is probably in-between or a marriage
between the two. At the moment, it looks like our politicians are not
ready for democracy and they don't want dictatorship by the military so
that's why they have settled for political dictatorship.
In Nigerian politics of nowadays, the most
influential and authoritative position is that of 'party leader',
whether at the national or state level. The party leader is superior to
the party chairman, party executives, party elders, party trustees and
even party constitution, and yet no any democratic election is needed
for the position. All you need to become party leader is to try at all
cost to be a president, state governor or minister. In some parties, a
good financial status or an ex-public office holder status will
suffice. If you are a party leader, you can do and undo in the party at
will, with little or no resistance.
Before the 2003 general elections, this
position of party leader was officially non-existent at all. It was
formally introduced into this Fourth Republic by former President
Olusegun Obasanjo after he secured a second term in office.
In 2003, Chief Obasanjo learnt a bitter lesson
from the powerful PDP governors who were alleged to have nearly cost
him his second term bid. As a very good student of politics, Obasanjo
learnt from that encounter with the PDP governors who nearly ditched
him for his deputy that they derive their powers through the sole and
dictatorial control of party structures at their various states. Soon
after securing his second term in office, Obasanjo began the process of
controlling national party structures. After succeeding, he declared
himself PDP national leader.
At the beginning, it wasn't clear who had the final say on party
matters, between the PDP National leader and the PDP National Chairman
as it was like a situation where two national chairmen are operating
under the same party. As events unfold, it was clear that in the PDP,
the partly leader is supreme to everyone and everything in the party.
This phenomenon rapidly spread to all PDP states with state governors
taking it as an opportunity to legitimize their undemocratic control
over state party chairmen. From then, other opposition parties with
state governors like ANPP and APGA began to operate under the same
system where state governors are regarded not as members but as people
above the party and its constitution. Up till now, it is not clear
whether PDP has amended its constitution to accommodate the position
and assign it with specific constitutional functions, but the position
outlived Obasanjo as President Jonathan is actively the PDP national
This idea of party leader in Nigerian politics is disgusting and
overbearing as much as it is undemocratic and unneeded. The position
exists in other democracies, but not in the Nigerian format and hardly
do you find it co-existing with the position of National Chairman.
Furthermore, the position is being subjected to democratic processes in
other countries like South Africa and Britain, both in its formations
and operations. This is unlike in Nigeria where someone proclaims
himself party leader just by virtue of being a president, governor or
minister. In China for example, a party leader may be politically
stronger than the president.
This issue of party leader is not peculiar to PDP. The newly formed All
Progressives Congress went as far as incorporating the position into
its laws from the onset thereby undemocratically proclaiming state
governors as state party leaders with almost unlimited powers. This was
a party many Nigerians expected to behave differently from the
much-hated PDP. At the moment, APC has given powers to state party
leaders to single-handedly appoint interim party executives which is
not only autocratic but a betrayal of justice and fairness.
Not only in APC and PDP, similar instances can be seen everywhere in
most opposition parties. Some months back, the National Chairman of
Labour Party declared former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel as Ogun
party leader. The LP Chairman is somebody whose position was recently
enmeshed in crisis over his alleged refusal to step down after his
tenure has since expired, but he is still hanging on to unilaterally
appoint people as party leaders.
What is the rationale behind giving party leadership to the custodians
of public funds if not base on the expectation that they will use state
funds to finance the party? The extent to which people in the executive
arm of government at all levels are being worshipped in this country is
Let's take the PDP for example, since when did they actually elected a
National Chairman? The chairman is always appointed by the president or
state governors who are party leaders. This has rendered the party
impotent, with all the party executives directly answerable to the
president, who ordinarily should be just an obedient member of that
party. How do you expect fairness here?
It is now that we begin to understand why the self-acclaimed messiah
party, the APC was running from house to house in search of governors
to join the party so that they can have enough custodians of public
funds in their fold as party leaders.
This concept of party leaders must stop, elected public officers should
run the government and become leaders of the state while elected party
officials should run the party and become leaders of political
movements and ideologies. Our failure to do this has done a lot of
damage to our democracy so much so that, we don't operate a democracy
any longer. If one person under the guise of party leader can determine
who gets what, how and when in a party, then what type of political
system are we operating under?
All the prominent political parties in Nigeria are not serious; they
are not ready for democracy. Until they completely reform themselves or
new serious ones emerge, we may not have democracy at all.
Amir Abdulazeez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a member of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI) and he wrote
from Chedi Quarters, Dawakin-Tofa L.G. Kano.