Democracy thrives with the rule of law. The fundamental principle is that the law is always supreme and must be the guiding spirit of all actions in public life. Those who do not respect the letter and the spirit of the law are punished. If a law is found to be insufficient or repressive, using the instruments of legislative or judicial power, the law is interpreted, modified or repealed. The constitution is the foundation of law, and any rule or law that conflicts with the constitution is null and void and of no effect. These are the foundations on which our democracy rests. Instead of adhering to these principles, politicians, political parties and those in power act roguely and abuse laws with impunity. No wonder the INEC recently warned all political actors and parties to abide by the constitution, the electoral law, the provisions of their own constitutions and the guidelines issued by the INEC.
Is there something in our genes or in our nature that says we can’t obey the rules? From the historical record, Nigerian political parties and the political elite have little to no room for adherence to rules, laws and statutes, and I mean any law. Nigerian political parties can pass for good study in anarchy and rascality. This may be part of the reason why there is an increase in judicial intervention in our politics, both in internal party affairs and in election results.
In our democracy, political parties are meant to be vital institutions that provide the platform under which people participate in politics. Using a football analogy, political parties are like football clubs where all members share the same hope and aspirations for the club to succeed in football matches and tournaments. The club creates its brand, ideology and essence and sets up the administration to select, train and mobilize a team to participate effectively in football tournaments. Thus, the club is not only a vehicle for winning football matches but an institution that represents an ideology, a way of life and the collective vision of its members and supporters.
Likewise, political parties are not just vehicles for winning elections, but essential institutions of democracy based on strong values, ideologies and visions. As a critical democratic institution, a party must allow rules and laws to guide the struggle for power. When this is not the case, anarchy is inevitable.
The parties must never choose which rules or laws to follow and which to abandon. This blatant disregard for the rule of law, indeed for the very constitution of the parties, has led to great mistrust on the part of the people and is part of our permanent leadership malaise. No matter what political party leaders say, Nigerians are skeptical that there is no room for rules in this part of the world. This is at least what the political actors have sown in the minds and minds of citizens. Nigerians now believe that politics is a game with no rules, which is unsuitable for anyone with a modicum of moral foundation.
This anarchy and this impunity shown by the parties force the exclusion of leaders capable of joining politics. It is disturbing that every time I speak with great private sector leaders about the importance of joining politics to increase the quantity and quality of leadership in our political space and enrich our democracy, and improve the lives of our people, they often come back with “this is your Nigerian politics is too dirty and irrelevant to us”. The famous social scientist, Professor McKenzie, probably had Nigeria in mind when he warned he It has been several years since “if the rules limiting the struggle for power are not observed more or less faithfully, the game will disappear amidst the sinking of the whole system”.
However, the Nigerian parties are victims of societal roguery, which began in the military era, but they have gone ahead to perfect lawlessness and roguery with impunity. Our political parties and stakeholders have chosen to borrow and adopt a military culture of impunity where a small clique of influential party leaders believe their interests are above party rules and the law of the land. Rules and laws mean nothing to these political overlords, and they break rules and laws, and political parties expect there to be no consequences. The rascality of political actors has brought out judicial rascality, particularly on issues of political litigation.
Political rascality is an open invitation to anarchy that we do not yet realize because the political elite often get away with it. The established norm is that the rules we collectively subscribe to guide the entitlement of individual political party members and citizens.
Recently, INEC also called on parties not to hold primaries outside of constituencies for which parties nominate candidates in accordance with Article 84 of the Electoral Law of 2022. This rule is clear and all parties are aware of it. . However, it will come as no surprise to anyone interested in politics in Nigeria when some parties blatantly start breaking this rule and hold primaries outside the constituencies for which the parties nominate candidates. In the past, we have had examples of party primaries being held entirely outside precincts or sometimes in “unknown” locations for the interest of some selfish leaders within the party.
In addition, the INEC provided an emerging calendar of political activities. We expect the parties to follow this schedule and adhere to the procedural and operational guidelines stipulated by the INEC. Some parties neglect this timeline and dictate the procedures and rules as stipulated by INEC and superimpose their own on the party for various ulterior motives which may be undemocratic.
In the internal processes of some Nigerian political parties, the personal interest of the leaders dominates the collective interest and good. The cult of personality, blind loyalty to individuals, opportunism, personalized rule triumph over generally accepted rules and laws. They trivialize respect for laws and rules and popular participation. Some leaders impose candidates on the party on the basis of parochial interests that are not in the interest of the party or the country.
This anomaly has led to a situation where people with no proven leadership or people management experience occupy sensitive positions of authority with no knowledge or skills to perform and no moral position to do what is right other than do what wants the leader. In these circumstances, democracy and the people suffer. By following party rules as stipulated in the party constitution, the election law and constitution will only strengthen democracy and attract quality and suitable people to take on leadership responsibilities.
This party roguery has led to an increase in intra-party conflict and pre-election disputes. In the past, such intra-party conflicts and pre-election disputes were rare. Since this current democratic dispensation, there has been a phenomenal upsurge in these issues, significantly impacting Nigeria’s electoral process. Some of these cases have reached the Supreme Court. Additionally, Supreme Court rulings on these issues have re(shaped) our electoral ecosystem for generations to come.
I have to say that it is necessary for our country to return to the days when such intra-party conflicts hardly existed, occupying much more of the precious time of our judges to decide cases in which they would prefer not to venture everything.
There are many examples where party roguery has cost parties and their members dearly. The example of Zamfara State APC is still fresh in our minds. In the Zamfara case, the Supreme Court’s decision had a significant impact on the electoral system and allowed a new incursion of the judiciary into our politics. The parties are still reeling from the consequences of the intra-party conflicts that led to the problems.
I hope all stakeholders should work hard to avoid such a conflict and minimize judicial intervention in election results. The foundations of most intra-party conflict are impunity and roguery by the party and party leadership, and they must reduce this to a bare minimum. They are, in fact, the scourge of our democracy.
Party rascality is odious in three significant ways. It is wishful thinking to expect a group of lawless individuals to run a peaceful and prosperous country based on law and order. No group of individuals, political party or otherwise, can give what it does not have. Furthermore, if political parties can ignore their constitution, ignore INEC guidelines, violate electoral law and attack the constitution of the country, then democracy is in danger. Moreover, a political party that lacks internal cohesion and discipline cannot successfully administer the state or the people even if it manages to win elections.
We expect parties to have mechanisms for internal discipline, internal self-correction and internal protection of the rule of law. Nigerian political parties must abide by the laws. They must provide sufficiently credible platforms to form governments populated by individuals who agree with and uphold the party’s entrenched ideology and principles, have the leadership qualities to deliver the dividends of democracy to all, and have an overwhelming desire to obey the rules and laws of the parties, the INEC, the electoral law and the constitution of the country. Intra-party conflicts that often lead to pre-election disputes are bad omens that do us no good, and they harm our democracy and are distractions from the serious business of leading and serving the people.
Ultimately, I recommend that political parties put in place mechanisms to ensure that parties adhere to all rules and laws guiding internal party systems and external party activities regarding pre-election and post-election elections. elections. Leaders of political parties must put an end to any undemocratic and illegal action or inaction, which is at the root of the conflict within the party. The personal and selfish interests of the leaders must be subsumed while the collective interest of the members must dominate. Nigerians are becoming politically savvy. Recent events show that Nigerian youth are realizing their responsibilities and mobilizing to have an impact. Any party that overlooks this fact and returns to “business as usual” can create its loss. In the legislative elections of 2023, let’s say no to rascality and party impunity!
Warning: This article is entirely the opinion of the author and does not represent the views of The Whistler.