By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Director General of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has cautioned that dark cloud hovers over Nigeria, except the political leaders abstain from their fears to negotiate regional interests and broker compromise that will guarantee peace and harmony across the country.
In a statement he issued yesterday, Lukman lamented that political leaders always see divergent interests, views and opinion by the citizens as an afront, hence they either move to crush such diversity or approach such clamour with frustrating dispositions, citing the Oputa Panel, Political Reform Conference of 2005, 2014 National Confab, and 2017 APC committee on True Federalism.
Speaking further, the DG PGF enjoined political leaders to see dissenting voices as an opportunity towards politics of interest negotiation, which will produce balanced democracy that meets the aspiration of citizens, even as he warned against focusing only on politics of electoral contests all the time.
“Without the capacity to negotiate interests and broker compromises, our democracy and our nation is imperiled. Both citizens and political leaders must take the urgent necessary steps to be on the same page and transform all our political structures into active platforms for interest negotiations.
“Why is it easy to mobilise support for electoral contests but impossible to consider any mobilisation for contests on matters that affect the wellbeing of our democracy and our nation?
“Why should we have political parties that are only platforms for electoral contests? Why is it difficult for our elective and appointive political leaders to engage demands of citizens? Why should we have trade unions, civil society, youth and women organisations, etc. whose activities are now more noticeable if only they are able to organise protests and strikes?
“Beyond serving as affirmative action for freedom of association and right to freely protests and organise strikes, what is the value of those protests and strikes? In fact, what is the value of our democracy?”
He pointed out that democratic development should be about the significant compromises brokered and the extent to which citizens, on account of the compromises, are able to feel a sense of belonging, adding that democracy can be adjudged to be working well if through the different compromises it produces, citizens are able to feel a sense of belonging.
He said a major requirement needed may have to do with the task of aligning the vision of political leaders with the hopes and aspirations of citizens, observing that it is always much easier for citizens to align themselves with the views of political leaders, though the views may or may not necessarily equate to visions, but citizens can simply hope that their interests are represented in the views of leaders.
“As a party, APC is far ahead of its political peers in terms of being a liberal party with strong internal contestation. But such liberalism is yet to produce the corresponding requirement for interest representation and negotiation within the party, which is responsible for why our elected and appointed political leaders in the party estimate citizens’ demands as disagreement and subversive when it doesn’t correspond to their positions.
“It is also why fellow party leaders would appear intolerant to positions of other party leaders regarding both citizens’ demands and internal disagreements. We need to appeal to our leaders at all levels, especially in APC to liberate themselves and shed off any fear of citizens’ engagement, internal disagreements, political negotiations and the possible compromises that may emerge both within the party and in the country.
“Fear of citizens’ engagement and political negotiations is largely what is emboldening political opponents whose credentials on this score are anything but attractive. Emerging from a big existential leadership crisis, all our political leaders in APC should be ideally be encouraged to consider testing political proposals that should strengthen and deepen our democracy.
“There should be no room for complacency. In fact, as a party, we need to take every necessary step to open up our party structures and invite patriotic Nigerians, members and leaders of organised groups to join the party. With party’s National Caretaker Committee about to commence processes of membership registration and verification, we should aggressively mobilise Nigerians across all parts and sections of the country to join the party.
This should be a necessary precondition to accelerate the process of ensuring that political negotiations in the country go beyond electoral contests. Part of the incentive required to encourage members and leaders of interest groups to be convinced about the APC being the go-to party for the realisation of political aspirations of diverse interests including professional and organised groups has to do with conducts of elected and appointed officials in governments controlled by the party.
“Are our elected and appointed officials dispose to public debates, engagements and negotiations with organised groups? Or, do they also consider demands by interest groups as expression of disagreement and therefore evidence of conspiracy against the party, governments it control and all our political leaders?
“For our democracy to develop to the level of producing compromises on a permanent basis, and with all Nigerians across all sectors based on corresponding respect for every interest in the country, the structures of our parties must be opened and broadened to accommodate everyone. Otherwise, our democracy will remain stagnant and limited to electoral contests with the risk of the current ugly leadership vicious circle.”