Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Hydra-headed Nature Of Political Parties And Their Effects On Democracy

Democracy simply put is defined as "government of the people, for the people and by the people’’ and since the beginning of the recorded history of man, man has experimented with numerous types of government such as monarchy, theocracy, oligarchy and autocracy but of all, democracy is adjudged the best because it gives political power to citizens of the state instead of giving such to a particular person or few families. Although power belongs to the masses in a democratic state, not every individual will have the opportunity of participating actively in the affairs of the state or be able to hold political position. What people therefore do is that they elect representatives on the platform of the political parties as the party system is a surer way of electing representatives. A political egghead while trying to reiterate the relevance of viable political parties to democracy said that ‘’in ideal democracies, political parties are not perceived as mere platform for contesting elections rather, they play plethora of roles like educating their members politically, informing members in administrative offices about public opinion as well as maintaining a strong ideological base that would ensure its survivals in future election‘’. The above stated clearly underscores the sanctity of political parties to the socio political, economic and democratic development of a nation as political parties control the human element in a nation.

Unfortunately, since the evolution of democracy in Nigeria in the year 1999 after many years of military rule, Nigerian political parties vested with responsibility of managing the nation’s resources and people have failed to steer the ship of Nigeria to the shore of development. These parties refuse to learn from the 1966 to 1999 experience and have therefore failed continually in proffering creative solution to the nation’s numerous problems as a result of their hydra-heeded nature.

The major hydra-headed or intractable problem confronting our political parties is the lack of clear-cut ideology. Before going further, it is imperative to take a look at the definition of ideology. To a layman, ideology is a system of ideas and ideals especially one which form the basis of economy or political policy. But in political parlance, the definition of Paul James will be most suitable. According to Paul James, political ideology means ‘Patterned cluster of normatively imbued ideas and concepts, including particular representation of power relation. These conceptual maps help people navigate the complexity of their political universe and carry claims to social truth’’. For the fact that ideology describes a set of ideas, it is therefore ipsofacto central to Politics. Looking at the structure and manifestoes of the about fifty political parties in Nigeria, one will realize that all are bereft of ideology and none has an intelligent manifesto. These parties posses the same ideology and manifesto of “chop I chop” and “the end justifies the means” which add no value to the nation. Since ideology serve as the foundational principle or Policy of a vibrant political group and in extension, since a political party is essential for democracy to thrive, it would therefore not be erroneous to say that the bane of the problems confronting the Nigerian state is the clueless political party the country parades.

Lack of internal Democracy in the structure of Political Parties is also a stumbling block, no wonder they cannot provide us with a truly Democratic State. In their organization, these Parties are always locked in internal competition and strife occasioned by the battle for Supremacy. Very good examples are the battle for Political leadership of the Ogun State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) between Omooba Olusegun Osoba and the incumbent Governor, Ibikunle Amosun and the struggle for relevance between Senator Teslim Folarin and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala in the Oyo State chapter of the people’s Democratic Party (PDP) to mention a few.

Furthermore, none of the Political Parties in Nigerian can be tagged as a national party. All our parties are regionalized and are delineated along religion and ethnic line. Religion and ethnicity have become Political Platforms in Polity. Expressions like “Christian – Muslim ticket” “Muslim – Christian ticket” “Christian – Christian ticket” “Muslim – Muslim ticket” “Hausa – Yoruba ticket” “Igbo – Ijaw ticket” et al have found their way into our politics which has led to social unrest and agitations for secession.

The monetization of political processes is another faceless monster affecting democracy
as it is well known fact that in any clime where the processes for joining political parties or contesting election is based on financial muscle, democracy in such a situation will never stand the test of time. Election nomination forms in Nigerian cost on the average, between five hundred thousand naira and ten million naira which has put it out of the reach of the lower and middle class People. Political Parties have become channel for siphoning public funds. Their primary aim have become looking for ways to grab political power at all levels and by all means possible so as to gain access to the national treasury to milk it dry.

These teeming and intractable knotty issues confronting our political parties have dealt our democracy a deadly blow and have inflicted a sore wound on the socio-economic and political development of our country. This is evident in the quality of elections that have been held in Nigeria. In any democracy, elections are used as the yardstick for measuring the level of democratic development but the conduct of election in Nigeria only reflects the level of democratic underdevelopment in the body polity. Elections in Nigeria have been marked by shoddy preparation and organization, lack of transparency, disenfranchisement of a large number of voters and a high level of pre and post election violence.
Other defeatist effects of the hydra –headed nature of political parties on democracy include the lack of respect for the sacrosanct constitution of the country. There is a prevalence of extra-judicial killings, brazen disrespect of the rule of law and a ginormous level of corruption. Negative ideals and values have found their way into the nation and are fast eating up the moral fabric of the nation. Ill-gotten wealth has taken precedence over labour and the government feeds fat on the commonwealth to the detriment of crucial sectors like education , health and economy and political gladiators now cross –carpet without shame .Nigerians sell their civic rights to the highest bidders and idiolect like ‘’stomach infrastructure’’ have found their way into the Nigerian political jargon. To say the least, democracy has degenerated into "ablistocracy" which according to Femi Falana (SAN) means ‘’government of the cabal, by the cabal and for the cabal’’ (cabal means the rich few).

One will be utterly disappointed and highly disconsolate if one should compare the democratic, social , political and economic development of Nigeria with that of countries like Singapore , Indonesia and Malaysia – These countries once trailed behind Nigeria (in terms of development or underdevelopment, as the case maybe ) but have now joined the league of developed nations with Nigeria still wallowing in object underdevelopment.

On a final note , to build an ideal democratic state and open Nigeria up for development , our political parties and political actors must fulfill their primary objectives. If serious about developing democracy, political parties must espouse lucid ideological values and positive ideals of tolerance, justice, equality, fair play, accountability and respect or the sacrosanct constitution and rule of law. They must also spread their tentacles to accommodate people without prejudice or ethno-religious bias. Parties should provide communication channels that are vertical and horizontal which will facilitate a healthy relationship and downplay 'factionalization' and internal strife to the barest minimum. Once political parties re-strategize and change their defective orientation, things will fall into their proper places and Nigeria will be able to boast of a sane democratic order.

The writer of this article, Gbadamosi Elias is an astute member of OAU Peeps News Agency. You can reach him via
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