‘Dearth of ideology by political parties in Nigeria worrisome’
Since 1999, when Nigeria returned to democratic rule and party politics, two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have continued to hold sway both at the federal and states levels, particularly from 2011 to the present.
Although, there are many fringe parties, none of them have been able to make any significant impact at the centre both in the contest for the presidency and the National Assembly elections. Today the only three parties that are holding executive offices are the APC, PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is ruling in Anambra State.
While the APC controls the central government and the majority in both arms of the National Assembly, the PDP controls other national positions and states except in Anambra where APGA holds sway.
This is despite the fact that over 30 political parties contested for various positions across the country during the 2015 general elections. This has raised questions as to whether Nigeria is ripe for multiple party politics or that the system should be rearranged to trim the parties for better improvement.
Expressing concern about the dearth of party ideology in the country, the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo recently said the PDP is at present on death row while his party, APC is gasping for breath.
Osinbajo’s position must have been informed by the numerous internal crises holding down both parties after the 2015 general elections. The PDP has not been able to wriggle out of the internal crises that caused it the 2015 presidential election; thereafter it was engulfed by struggle for control of its national chairmanship between the factions of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff f and Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, while the APC is also facing its internal challenges.
The Vice President, who spoke at the National Conference on Political Party Supremacy and the Dynamics of Parliamentary Autonomy put together by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, in Abuja early this week insisted that Nigeria could begin to build very strong political parties.
He asserted that the country could not boast of strong parties in situation where the PDP is on death row, the APC is gasping for breath. He said it is very important that in building the parties, the country must also look out for leaders that can work assiduously to mobilise people, leaders with conviction, leaders who are independent, leaders who are courageous, leaders who have capacity, and leaders who are disciplinarian.
“If we have these leaders and we appoint them to lead our parties both at national level and at the local level, we can be talking of political parties that will deliver the dividends of democracy to the people,” he noted.
He said energy should be directed at strengthening the political parties because presently, the political parties are very weak. The vice president flayed the indiscriminate manner in which politicians have been jumping from one party to another in the recent times, saying: “If we keep jumping from one party to the other there will be no way we are going to strengthen the existing ones.”
He averred that politicians should be able to stay in their party, work at strengthening them and ensure that it becomes “a family culture whereby my son, my grand son, great-grand son will know themselves.”
Meanwhile, concerns have also been expressed over the absence of clear-cut ideological positions in the posturing by the various political parties and their aspirants ahead of the November governorship election in Anambra State.
Besides, cross carpeting especially on the heels of elections, has been decried as a major bane of democracy in Nigeria. The national auditor of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief George Mughalu was particularly worried at the situation where Nigerian political parties lack clear ideological commitments, saying it does augur well for political advancement in Nigeria.
Similarly, governor Ben Ayade of Cross River state maintained that there is no ideological difference between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC.
Speaking when the national chairman of PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff, visited him at the Government House, Calabar. He said what Nigeria need now is peace and unity.
“There is indeed no ideological difference, whether you are in PDP, APC or you belong to one faction of the party or the other. If truly you put people above your person, you must allow peace to reign by recognising the challenges of the society.
“The challenges of the society have created in itself a structure that allows us to resolve conflicts and move ahead as a country” he stated. Delivering a lecture in Awka, titled ‘Political Ideology and Consistency in Party Politics,’ Mughalu contended that politics of issue has been long forgotten and abandoned to the background while identity and money politics have become the fore runners in the country’s politics.
He said, “One cannot ignore the existence of money politics in Nigeria. It is because of this trend, and the rise of selfish and parochial interest, the high level of party indiscipline, and the absence or weakness of party unity that the presence of ideology in Nigerian politics is constantly being questioned.
“It is often this personal pursuit that results in perpetual cross carpeting also known as defection and an absence of consistency and continuity in party politics. Politics of value cannot exist without ideology, seen by all to be upheld with consistency and continuity”.
According to him, a political party must have an ideology it stands for, whether on the issue of security, economy, corruption, peoples welfare, etc., adding that a good number of politicians use party as a vehicle to win election.
Mughalu who is a governorship aspirant under the APC platform, took a swipe on defections by Nigerian politicians from one political party to another, saying it has become the order of the day in our polity.
While condemning such practice, he maintained that the spate of defection can only be reduced or completely eliminated if political parties are seen for what they really stand for and not as a vehicle to arrive at one’s destination.
“The incessant cross-carpeting by politicians is one of the major challenges confronting the nation’s nascent democracy. Political parties have been reduced to being used to promote personal and sectional interest at the expense of national integration and development,” he stated.
Acknowledging that though the party has no right to stop anyone from joining the APC, being an all inclusive party, he however canvassed for more stringent conditions to be stipulated as prerequisite to would-be defectors in order to reduce the increase.
On the forthcoming governorship poll in Anambra, Mughalu explained that he is in the race because he has integrity, the qualifications and knowledge to govern Anambra, assuring that he would not disappoint the electorate.
He urged the electorate to vote for the candidate who has the fear of God, somebody who must be accountable to the people in the state, stressing that it is not a do or die matter as the “truth is God knows who will be governor of Anambra.”
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi Youth Initiative Movement (EYIM) has described the former governor Chief Martin Elechi’s defection to the APC as laughable and demonstration of absence of ideology in the nation’s party politics.
National President of the group, Mr. Utobo Anthony said it is in support of the ruling PDP and Governor David Umahi instead of politicians who were jumping boats to look for relevance.
The group posited that politicians that crisscross parties lack ideology especially after their party lost elections. While disagreeing with the reasons given by Elechi for joining the APC, the group stated that the people are aware of the situation on ground noting that the era in which the government deceive masses has gone.
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