The recent crises in the two main political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at a time the nation is approaching another election season, do not speak well of our party politics. The development, which is capable of derailing our nascent democracy, has underlined the need for internal democracy in the parties.
In the APC, the legitimacy of the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) is one of the issues at stake. The Supreme Court minority judgement of three justices, declared Buni-led CECPC illegal. The judgement was on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the 2020 governorship election in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, against the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. According to the justices of the apex court, the APC, by allowing a sitting governor to be the national chairman, breached Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
An aggrieved member of the party, Okosisi Emeka Ngwu, latched on the apex court’s verdict to file a suit at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory. Among others, Mr. Ngwu is asking the court to sack the CECPC and nullify the actions already taken by the committee. He argues that there was no organ of the party known as the CECPC in the party’s constitution.
Also contentious are the recent ward congresses the APC conducted in different states of the federation. Many party stalwarts questioned the credibility of the entire process. At present, the outcome of the exercise is causing ripples in such states as Kano, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers and Osun. In Kano, national delegates of the party narrowly escaped mob attack by youths angered by the consensus option adopted by the party in the state.
On its part, the PDP is entangled in a leadership tussle, which snowballed into the recent resignation of seven national officers of the party. These officers claimed that the National Chairman, Uche Secondus, failed to carry them along in the scheme of things since they came to office in 2017. Some power brokers in the party have asked Secondus to resign. Also, no fewer than 10 of the 19 members of the National Working Committee (NWC) recently passed a vote of no confidence in him.
Secondus has remained on his seat, saying he would not resign. According to him, the aggrieved members are being sponsored by power drunk politicians.
What is happening in the two parties is not new. It happens at every election cycle. In the build-up to the 2015 general election, for instance, four parties merged to form the APC. Shortly after, a group known as the New PDP joined this coalition to edge out the PDP from power. But no sooner had the APC assumed power than members of the new PDP complained of being left out of party activities and appointments despite their contributions to the victory of the party in 2015. A cursory look at the grievances of most members reveals that they were based more on divergnt interests.
Although the leaders of the two parties have apparently survived the leadership challenges, the need for internal democracy cannot be overemphasised. In the fight for the souls of these parties, the dramatis personae do not bother about principles or ideology. The APC claims to be leftist while the PDP claims to be rightist. But there is no clear demarcation between these two parties. What we have are two sides of the same coin.
This lack of a clear-cut ideology manifests in the frequent carpet-crossing of politicians from one party to the other. In recent times, some prominent PDP members, such as Governors Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Matawalle Bello of Zamfara State and a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Joy Emordi, defected to the APC. More politicians are expected to defect as the 2023 elections approach.
This is why the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, recently called on Nigerians to reject APC and the PDP in the 2023 elections. According to Jega, the two dominant parties are like Siamese twins of corruption and that they have bad antecedents in the past 20 years. He urged Nigerians to look for a credible alternative.
But will this credible alternative drop from the moon? Will it not be constituted by the same politicians who are causing trouble in the two main parties? Jega’s position is more like a wake-up call on Nigerians to rejig the way our party politics is played. If we want to get our party system working, we should go back to the old system when party members contribute money and have equal say in the affairs of the parties. We need parties that will be people-centred and grassroots based. Perhaps, it is time to include independent candidacy in our constitution.