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Mago-mago? Wuru-wuru?

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If you are reading this this Friday morning, the big do in All Progressives Congress (APC), its national convention, would be less than 24 hours away. The bell is tolling for those with the ambition to serve the party at the top in the country. And by tomorrow, they would know their political fate as the system throws out losers and embraces winners.

It has not been an easy walk this far to the big day for the party. The process leading to it was riddled with controversies in the conduct of the state congresses. At least 27 of the 36 states had parallel congresses. But politicians are adept at patching up things when they reach critical moments in order to protect their mutual interests. At such moments, alignments and re-alignments smoothen the path to individual passage into the rarefied political kingdom. Predictions about haemorrhage in the part might be exaggerated. Sure, some people would leave the convention feeling thoroughly wounded. But this may not necessarily translate into an exodus for the simple reason that the other political parties offer less than what APC offers even the disappointed and the disenchanted. In other words, it boils down to the wisdom of remaining where you eat the crumbs rather than gamble for feeding at the table.

What the state congresses threw up is something that has been bothering those of our politicians who believe that democracy should have its tap root in the political parties. In his days in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the then Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, regularly drew attention to the lack of internal democracy in the party once touted as the largest in Africa. No one listened to him. Or, to put it another way, they ignored him. In the end, it spelt disaster for the party. High-handedness in the conduct of the affairs of the party led to its bleeding badly and its mass desertion for the new political kid on the block, APC. As I pointed out here about a month ago, there are obvious implications for lessons ignored when it matters most.

Sadly, PDP did not learn its lessons from its election debacle. It conducted its national convention in December 2017 in a manner totally lacking in internal democracy. On the eve of the convention, the party closed the election door against those who wanted to offer their services to the party and who, in keeping with the practice of democracy, wanted to be judged by all the members of the party who were eligible to vote. Such men became the victims of mago-mago and wuru-wuru that has been the hall mark of PDP since its days when its umbrella offered shelter for all those who wanted to escape from the rain and the sun of poverty and political marginalisation.

Things may appear calm on the surface for the party but those who felt cheated by their own system are doing more than licking their wounds. There is always revenge time in politics. It may or may not come for the party and it may thus get away with murdering its own integrity.

What I find surprising, shocking even, is that APC, the ruling party, is doing exactly what the PDP did and which its leaders strongly condemned. Tomorrow APC will unveil its unity list and immediately put paid to the legitimate ambition of those of its members who want to serve it in various capacities at the top. Imitation remains the sincerest form of flattery. The APC moguls must have reasoned that if the unity list helped to hold the glue in its political rival, then there must be some wisdom in adopting it.

I have always argued in this column that the political parties are responsible for driving our democracy. That being so, they should take their responsibility in growing and nurturing our democracy much more seriously than they do now. Democracy is a work in progress everywhere. But it has a culture without which it would merely blow in the wind. No one gives what he does not have. If the parties do not respect their internal democracy, how do they expect to make the government of the people for the people flower in our country?

The rationale for the unity lists in PDP and APC might have been advised by the need to minimize cut throat competition and save them from the greater problems of broken heads and limbs. But democracy is a competitive form of government. That is part of its beauty. Indeed, lack of competition destroys democracy. Political parties should encourage competitions among its members and with other political parties. Competitions make the change of government possible. To underline the fact, competition is the soul of democracy. No country can expect the emergence of potentially good and competent leaders unless and until those who wish to lead face competition from within and without their political parties. This is still the missing link in the chain of our democracy. Our party leaders do not seem anxious to offer equal opportunities to their members. It is sad, sadder than you might think.

It bears repeating. Political parties are much more than vehicles for capturing or winning elections. Their fundamental role is to drive good governance. Good governance is impossible in the absence of respect for the tenets of democracy in a democracy by the political parties. The unity lists would certainly serve the short term interests of the two parties but they do not serve the ends of democracy or party politics. It is wrong to keep out some people from offering themselves for leadership and being allowed to be judged by their peers. Our country cannot expect to be running a democracy when the very pillars of democracy are cynically allowed to be infected by the termites of mago-mago and wuru-wuru.

We have been at this game long enough to know that countries make deliberate, conscious and honest efforts to sustain and nurture their democracies by playing the game of politics according to the universal rules of the game. A democracy is not a government by those in power at any given point in time. It is not exclusive government. It is an inclusive government. You do not include people by fencing out some people.

We should not be tired of reminding the political parties that there is much to be gained from playing by the rules. Breaching the rules would guarantee victory for some and loss for others. But in the larger context, we risk the systematic destruction of a system that survives on the rule of law. We should encourage our political parties to take their fundamental role in building and nurturing our democracy as a sacred duty in the service of both the nation and democracy itself. Unity lists do not promote democracy. They scuttle it in a most cynical way. I hope, though that APC would emerge from its convention tomorrow stronger and ready to take those steps necessary to make our democracy tick.


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APCAtiku Abubakar
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