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Obeying the constitution solves all problems


Anxiety has been mounting in Rivers State as political parties jostle to win 37 national and state legislatives seats today.

Anxiety has been mounting in Rivers State as political parties jostle to win 37 national and state legislatives seats today.<br />

Political instability is endemic in Nigeria to-day. I have a few thoughts that may assuage the situation. I believe all should return to the original party on whose ticket they were elected. Who should initiate this? I believe this should be INEC! Cut-off date should be May 2015.For this to succeed – all the provisions with regard to split in party should be repealed. It was used as an excuse to obviate constitutional provisions. INEC should recognise the original party members whose names it has on its books. If a member wishes to leave that party or faction – he must be deemed to have resigned. This step would introduce much needed discipline in the party.

Funding of party should principally be by members’ subscriptions. At the ward level the election should be conducted by party members at known dates and sites. It should be on the same day throughout Nigeria.

Local government elections should follow similar procedures:the contestants should be known and identified and must be party subscribers.
All efforts should be made to discourage outside influences.If a party breaks up, INEC should kick in conciliatory forum, and decides which faction is strongest through an objective appraisal: it would then recognise that part of the party.

At the national Level, party disposition as at May 2015 should be starting point. That is the official list. Anyone who has left his or her original party should be ready for election: if he has not left his original party, then he remains a member. Same is applicable to State Assemblies and to governors. The simple principle is that you cannot leave the party under whose umbrella you won an election and remain a member of the assembly. Maybe APC members would probably see this as against them because several PDP members have crossed over to APC. But this is short-sighted and selfish because it is these unprincipled movements which heat up the polity.

When everything returns to status quo ante, bye-elections may follow. People joined parties because they presumably believed in the philosophy and principle of that party. They did not join so that the party conveys them to assemblies only for them to seek other parties at their own will.

It has been argued that the parties have no principle or ideology or philosophy. So why did anyone join? The party is not a shirt you put on when it suits you and you throw away whenever you like. If the party is not strong, not developed, then democracy will not work, will be congenitally weak and consequently make the nation equally congenitally unstable. Unless the parties are stable, its membership equally stable, it would not develop an ethos, a history and a culture, without which democracy is not possible.

Far more important is that a steady strong party could develop to be an antidote to corruption by building up institutions within it. We have some “politicians” who have joined all the political parties – they are not politicians but political jobbers and prostitutes.

A stable political party can easily carry President Muhammadu Buhari’s message on corruption to all levels of the party. That message is lost to most cadres and levels of the party today. Many watch the President struggle with the problem of imposing his will on corruption on people who had been helpful to him on his way to the Presidency.

Changing parties is responsible for excessive political litigations, which have exposed the underbelly of the judiciary to corruption. Nigeria does not understand the seriousness of having a judiciary that is corrupt. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. If we lose confidence in the judiciary, it will take more than 20-30 years to rebuild that confidence.

Ban all constituency projects. Our experience has been that it is no more than an avenue for members of State and National Assemblies to feather their already over pampered beds. A radical review of the oversight functions of the assemblies is called for. Ban Governors from seeking other elective offices and even ministerial appointments especially in view of their over-generous retirement benefits to which a sharp knife should now be applied.

Put bluntly, corruption can never be eradicated in a system such as practised in Nigeria. It is trite to say that it is impossible to practise politics without money. In Nigeria people go into politics not to serve but to enrich themselves. Once you declare an interest in politics you begin to spend money; to the local chiefs, to the local apparatchiks, to the women and men supporters, to everybody even as you try to get nomination. From there it is a steady stream of spending till you achieve the post you are looking for: your helpers, supporters, even opponents all stand with open hands to take money. You give because you believe that if you win you will get the money back. This is the mentality that has to be changed. That change will have to be led by the President and National Party Executive members, who must seek to recruit the most capable, not the richest.

The party nomination itself is a heavy demand on the pocket of aspirants. They beg, borrow, steal and do worse to get this money. The “campaign” is another exercise in philandering and indulgence in conspicuous expenditure over a long period. Aspirants are known to buy cars, motor cycles, houses, etc. for supporters and party leaders.

The party conventions – this is not an exercise for the faint-hearted or those not well healed in money. Every single party activity is a spending point, spending which has no limit; requests are relentless from friends and foes alike.

Then, when one has secured the nomination, more spending is called for in campaigns until the Election Day. As the day approaches another phalanx of hands are out for more money. Those who put up posters, town criers, musicians Djs, vehicles, etc. This is on the side of the contestants of party A.

Then enters INEC, when a new floodgate of spending opens up. All levels of officials are budgeted for , including security officials, Police, Army, Navy, and Air Force plus a plethora of collating officers, registration officers and confirmation officers.

Meanwhile the contestant is responsible for feeding countless cavernous mouths that seem never to stop eating. On top of this, the candidate is told that he has to protect his votes while checking that his opponent is not stuffing the ballot boxes with ballot papers obtained from INEC officials. Shadowy people are all over the place claiming to have done this or that for the candidate, who, of course, had paid someone else to perform these duties.

If it is an intra-party contest, these people collect from all the contestants. If it is an inter-party contest sometimes members of the opposing party pose as security agents to extort money from their opponents.

After the results are announced, a new set of blood suckers descend on the contestants – the lawyers who contest every little point in the election to the happy pockets of the judiciary. Of late, these groups of miscreants have hit the limelight, not to the surprise of anyone who has been a politician. And that is the rob. Everything said above is well known to all politicians – the president, the governors, the members of the National and State Assemblies, the local government chairmen, councillors and all office holders of the political parties, the security services, the INEC and so on.

But the problems are not beyond solution. They can and will be solved by the people who practise these evils – the politicians. They know the harm they are doing to Nigeria. They know they must reform. No one will do it for them. And if they do not do it, Nigeria will fail. Am I speaking to a stone? That is what it feels like. Speaking to a rock, which believes that it cannot move, until it encounters an earthquake or tsunami?

In this article:
INECMuhammadu Buhari‎
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