How well do you think internal democracy of political parties can help achieve the Nigeria of our dream?
Abraham Lincoln, the former President of America, gave this popularly known definition for democracy: Government of the people, by the people, for the people. It should be noted that this definition or any another definition boils down to a government, for, by and of a group of people that share the same many things in common. To keep them united, enough to perform democracy as a body, there has to be something that they share and have in common. However, when religion, tribe and some other classifications are higher pivot than ideas in a diverse community or group of people, we are left with a partisan democracy. Internal democracy in political parties is a solution to this partisan democracy. Though imperfect, it is seemingly still the best solution so far.
Internal democracy is the ideology that transparency, accountability and fair play in terms of equal opportunity should be available and accessible to all members of a political party. Simply put, internal democracy expresses the basic principles of democracy within political parties.
It also creates room for various means of carrying along all party members in internal party decision making and other deliberations, which fosters popular participation. Hence, if popular participation thrives then issues like gender equality and sort won’t be far fetched.
The Yorubas have this proverb that goes thus
“Ile la ti n ko eso re ode”
(“Charity begins at home”)
The fact that a party may not be able to do the country any good if they are in disarray is clear from this proverb. A vivid example is the People Democratic Party who dominated Nigeria’s political sphere for sixteen consecutive years. Their difference in tribe, religion and others were more pivotal than idea or goals and the party was plagued by Godfatherism, tribalism and other frivolous conducts.
The first parties in the First Republic: Action Group (AG) for Yoruba West, National Council for Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) mostly dominated by Igbo East and Northern People Congress (NPC) for Northern region represented ethnic and religious groups than party ideology. This blueprint set the foundation for continuous ethno-religious and regional parties and this has been a big problem so far. For years, Nigerian political parties could not find a standing ground they could all agree upon, they just could not look beyond their clear difference, hence, the reason for internal democracy. It should be noted that even in the presence of Internal democracy, they still face this problem but in a mild form. This is due to the fact that internal democracy or intra-party democracy means political parties have an agreement, laid down procedure and principles of mutual decision making with avoidance of conflict or managing it in order to prevent arbitrary decision or imposition of candidates. Internal democracy is vital for democratic unity and representation. It gives room for proper recruitment of members,socialisation, training, discipline, unity, accountability and transparency.
The absence of internal democracy create anti-party activities, conflicts, failure in election, deviation from the principles of democracy, questionable substitution, disqualification and reversal of nomination of previously screened and cleared candidates due to party intrigues, rude power display, impunity and disregard for fair play and justice, Godfatherism and so on.
More so, if at all we want to achieve the Nigeria of our dream, we need to eliminate the pestilence called Godfatherism. We can only achieve that through internal democracy. Since internal democracy favours equal participation, inclusiveness and institutionalisation; the system where some set of people control the party and have massive influence over who becomes candidates for public offices is soon eliminated.
However, the continued promotion of internal party democracy depends on parties’ historical origin and IDEOLOGY and not the principles of democracy. There has to be a a selfish or selfless goal they all agree on, as opposed to the Godfatherism type, for I believe the collective selfishness of a group is better than the selfishness of one, because no matter how selfish they can be, they are at least putting into consideration a large number of people in their agenda compared to an Omega figure.
In conclusion, I believe internal democracy can help achieve the Nigeria of our dream because firstly, I see no better solution than internal democracy and most importantly, it gives room for popular participation on the ground that there is equal opportunity.
© Oyebiyi Oyedeji Alfred
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