The election of leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the ward, local government and state levels is indeed the internal business of the party. But the APC is also the largest political party in Nigeria in addition to being the ruling party, facts which make its internal workings a matter of utmost public interest and concern.
The last four weeks have witnessed the party’s attempt to choose its leaders through ward, local government and state congresses as required by law and as is imperative in any democracy. What should be a normal, regular exercise to reaffirm the democratic credentials of the party suddenly degenerated into so much rancour and violence to the shock of both the party members and other Nigerians.
Nigerians are particularly perturbed because in a few months, the country would get into its quadrennial election cycle through which the country elects representatives into their governments at all levels. The question in the minds of most Nigerians has been: if the internal elections of the ruling party are rife with rancour and violence, how is it possible that inter-party contests wouldn’t degenerate into a war in the next few months? First, the APC ran and won power on the promise of “change.” The outcome of most of the congresses did not reflect a free and fair election at any of the three levels, did not portend hope, and, indeed, looks like an ill omen for the 2019 elections. The ruling party is expected to be a shining example to other parties; it should be the true face of democracy in Nigeria. On the contrary, Nigerians see a poor example, and wish that other political parties should learn from the shortcomings of the APC when they embark on similar exercises.
The elections claimed at least two lives in two states, one in Lagos and another in Delta. If government is a platform for the provision of service to the people, how does violence and murder come into the matter? It was apparent that there was absence of internal democracy within the state branches of the party.
The result was the shocking phenomenon of parallel congresses that seem to have split the party into factions in most states and creating the danger of factionalisation which might be detrimental to the party’s ability to win elections. The struggle to control the structure of the party in the various states seems to be at the root of all the conflicts. The impression is created that some individuals and groups own the party, have domineering influence in the party branches and are, therefore, determined to assert their will without due regard to the wishes of a majority of members of the party. That is antithetical to democracy. Political parties owned like sole proprietorships can only lead to dictatorship, oppression and autocracy, and the evidence is everywhere in the state branches of the APC.
There can be no doubt that vaulting ambition, political brigandage and violence would, if not checked now, be carried to the party’s convention scheduled for the next few weeks. This is where the various appeal committees constituted to resolve the intra-party squabbles come in. They should try to do the impossible by reconciling the warring factions and mold them back into functional party systems. They must not compromise themselves; they must err on the side of democracy. These committees are the last effort which could make or break the party in the various states. They should see their work as part of measures for building a democratic culture.
We think that Nigerians should learn a lesson from the APC troubled congresses and realise that without transparency, there cannot be true democracy. A party dominated by a few individuals cannot be democratic; it is a sure sign that there is trouble in the party. There has been unnatural willingness to tolerate violence in our politics.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be blamed for this cankerworm for not having convicted anyone since 1999 for violence and grievous electoral offences. Until candidates who sponsor thugs and assassins are treated like felons, which they are, and promptly disqualified from the office they seek, there will be no end to electoral violence in Nigeria.