From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has charged his party and the leaders to liberate themselves and shed off any fear of citizens’ engagement, internal disagreements, political negotiations and the compromises that may emerge both within the party and in the country.
In a statement he issued in Abuja at the weekend, titled; ‘Nigerian Democracy and Challenge of Interests’ Negotiation’, he queried the difficulty in elective and appointive political leaders engaging demands of citizens.
“For a nation as diverse as Nigeria, what does failure even means? Without negotiating any of the demands of citizens, how successful can we claim to be? Or, by trapping our democracy to be negotiating only electoral contests, are we in anyway able to avoid the fear of failure? Difficult decisions are required to develop our democracy.
“It requires huge sacrifices by our political leaders. The amount of sacrifices required may not be a function of any potential loss. For instance, what will any leader or section of the country lose if provisions of the APC Committee on True Federalism are to be subjected to debates for constitutional and legal amendments in the National Assembly? Why is it easy to mobilise support for electoral contests but impossible to consider any mobilisation for contests on matters that affect the wellbeing of our democracy and our nation?
“Without the capacity to negotiate interests and broker compromises, our democracy and our nation is imperiled. Both citizens and political leaders must take the urgent necessary steps to be on the same page and transform all our political structures into active platforms for interest negotiations.
“Why should we have political parties that are only platforms for electoral contests? Why is it difficult for our elective and appointive political leaders to engage demands of citizens? Why should we have trade unions, civil society, youth and women organisations, etc. whose activities are now more noticeable if only they are able to organise protests and strikes?
“Beyond serving as affirmative action for freedom of association and right to freely protests and organise strikes, what is the value of those protests and strikes? In fact, what is the value of our democracy?” PGF DG queried.
Writing further, he said: “Democratic development should be about the significant compromises brokered and the extent to which citizens, on account of the compromises, are able to feel a sense of belonging. Any democracy can be adjudged to be working well if through the different compromises it produces, citizens are able to feel a sense of belonging. A major requirement needed may have to do with the task of aligning the vision of political leaders with the hopes and aspirations of citizens.
“Interestingly, it is always much easier for citizens to align themselves with the views of political leaders. Those views may or may not necessarily equate to visions, nonetheless however, citizens can simply hope that their interests are represented in the views of leaders.
“As a party, APC is far ahead of its political peers in terms of being a liberal party with strong internal contestation. But such liberalism is yet to produce the corresponding requirement for interest representation and negotiation within the party, which is responsible for why our elected and appointed political leaders in the party estimate citizens’ demands as disagreement and subversive when it doesn’t correspond to their positions.
“It is also why fellow party leaders would appear intolerant to positions of other party leaders regarding both citizens’ demands and internal disagreements. We need to appeal to our leaders at all levels, especially in APC to liberate themselves and shed off any fear of citizens’ engagement, internal disagreements, political negotiations and the possible compromises that may emerge both within the party and in the country.
Fear of citizens’ engagement and political negotiations is largely what is emboldening political opponents whose credentials on this score are anything but attractive.
“Emerging from a big existential leadership crisis, all our political leaders in APC should ideally be encouraged to consider testing political proposals that should strengthen and deepen our democracy. There should be no room for complacency. In fact, as a party, we need to take every necessary step to open up our party structures and invite patriotic Nigerians, members and leaders of organised groups to join the party.
“With party’s National Caretaker Committee about to commence processes of membership registration and verification, we should aggressively mobilise Nigerians across all parts and sections of the country to join the party. This should be a necessary precondition to accelerate the process of ensuring that political negotiations in the country go beyond electoral contests.
“Part of the incentive required to encourage members and leaders of interest groups to be convinced about the APC being the go-to party for the realisation of political aspirations of diverse interests including professional and organised groups has to do with conducts of elected and appointed officials in governments controlled by the party. Are our elected and appointed officials dispose to public debates, engagements and negotiations with organised groups?
“Or, do they also consider demands by interest groups as expression of disagreement and therefore evidence of conspiracy against the party, governments it control and all our political leaders? For our democracy to develop to the level of producing compromises on a permanent basis, and with all Nigerians across all sectors based on corresponding respect for every interest in the country, the structures of our parties must be opened and broadened to accommodate everyone. Otherwise, our democracy will remain stagnant and limited to electoral contests with the risk of the current ugly leadership vicious circle.
“In APC, nothing is impossible. Our leaders have broken the country’s political ice twice. They have led us to negotiate the first successful merger of political parties in the history of the country. They have also led us to successfully negotiate a major leadership crisis of existential magnitude, which is arguably the first of its kind that has not led to breakaway and split in the party.
“As party members, we need to support our leaders and appeal to them to introduce all the required initiatives to enhance the democratic orientation of both the party and the country. At this critical point of our development, both as an emerging democracy and as a party, the catchphrase should be producing political comprises through debate and negotiations. This should be our new standards for political contests in the country, based on which we are able to command electoral advantages and assert our political superiority,” he noted.