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Zamfara lessons and the cost of party infighting

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[FILE PHOTO] Gov. Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara

How did it come about that party primaries have become more controversial than the main elections? At every round of general elections in Nigeria, pre election litigation (having to do with primaries/ nomination) far outweigh those on the actual elections.

Today, intra party shenanigans constitute one of the greatest threats to our democracy. The penchant for party big men to personalise and hijack party structures for selfish ends; the endless rivalry and distrust; the fierce desperation for power, have all conduced to foster a pervasive culture of indiscipline and lack of internal democracy in the parties.

Parallel party congresses and excos are paraded till election day! Party strongmen would torpedo authentic list of nominated candidates and replace same with names of lackeys and ‘loyal’ party boys!

The internecine conflicts generated by these happenings would then over heat the polity, belabour the judiciary and affect the business of government, pre and post elections.

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To address the problems foist on our fledgling democracy by intra party squabbles, our electoral laws, including the Electoral Act and the Constitution have continued to undergo reworking.

It is to this same end that a crucial amendment was done to section 285 of the constitution, to address pre election matters. It was to have retrospective effect, touching on primaries/ nomination issues far back as 2015.

The judiciary has also come to the rescue by wielding the big stick. At the heart of the supreme court decision on Zamfara APC is, a schism among the body of lawyers in Nigeria, on the ratio decidendi, if you like philosophy, of the judgment.

A school of thought is of the view that the apex court should be revisited for a review and possible reversal of the judgment, as they believe substantial justice was sacrificed on the alter of technicalities.

Another school is of the view that the judgment is reflective of the determination of the bench to cure the recurrent mischiefs wrath by intra – party shenanigans; and to send a strong message to political parties on the need to play by the set rules.

The second school of thought may well be the mind of the law Lords in reaching their decision on Zamfara APC.

The Zamfara episode is a riveting expose on all that is wrong with our politics. We could see the dire consequences of excessive power tussle within parties. Politicians who are determined to wreck the ship if things don’t go their away. Those who rather see the party obliterated than see it succeed outside of them.

The political misfortune that befell Zamfara APC is readily traceable to two key gladiators: Senator Kabiru Marafa and outgone governor Abdulaziz Yari.

Senator Marafa, having lost out during the gubernatorial primaries of the APC, went ahead to form his own faction. In the build-up to the elections, both gladiators fought bitterly, leading their respective camps into an avoidable face off and stand off that would outlast the primaries and general elections.

Whilst the Governor Yari’s camp insisted that primaries were held, Marafa’s camp – ever ready to pull out the rug from under- insisted there were no valid primaries held by the Zamfara APC. The legal contestation was allowed the whole hog as both factions failed to reach a compromise. Today, the Zamfara APC suffers annihilation in most regrettable circumstances.

Judicial intervention is very critical in a developing democracy like Nigeria. It bridles the excesses in our political culture, thereby disciplining the political process. Political parties therefore must have learnt a lot on the importance of unity and internal cohesion. In deed a house divided against itself cannot stand. If a party is united at nomination of its candidates, everybody gains. But once there are factions, and the crevice is allowed to fester, everybody in the party stands to lose.

Going forward, political parties must have to further strengthen their internal mechanism for crises management. Party players, especially the big men donors and financiers, should learn to be more conciliatory and humble. Money and humility hardly mix. But a good politician is a good team player regardless of the size of his war chest.

Franklin Oseya is the Assistant Chief State Counsel, Ministry of Justice Delta State and Director, Law Academy Nigeria.

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