By Tope Fasua
Corruption has mixed with impunity in Nigeria. People who should be ashamed of themselves are now strutting about calling the shots. Someone once remarked that given cursory look at the Senate or House of Reps looks like a lineup of criminals; 419ers, embezzlers, kidnappers, prostitutes, killers, bank robbers and serial bad-debtors, fraudsters of all types. Most of our governors are like that too. Ditto those who run for the presidency. Somehow, what Paul Krugman called ‘adverse selection’ not only plays out in our economics but also in our politics. Krugman has said about countries like Nigeria a while ago, that given two economic policies, we have always choose the worse. Goven two political candidates, we also veer to enthrone the brigand. And our people say that if an impostor is not accosted in good time, even the landlord becomes the accused. We may have got to that point in Nigeria where a career in crime is becoming a sine qua non for another career in public service. Corrupt people get elevated to high offices all over the country as well. Sad.
The debate around the ‘proliferation’ of political parties in Nigeria is raging and will take on a life of its own now that the elections are fully over. I have argued extensively before that the rush by sundry groups to register their parties is a cry for help. It is the logical reaction when even the activists realize that activism will not change the country. It is the right step forward, when guys in the corporate sector realize that it is not enough to stay in some comfortable cocoon and deceive themselves about their middle-classness, defined by occasional business-class foreign travels or membership of country or golf clubs. It is what happens when a generation sees the light and realizes it has been too docile for too long. No one can force all tendencies together all at once, or commandeer that we all think in some certain restricted ways. No one can pinch a child constantly and command her not to whimper. Your irritation with the rash of political parties that swarm all over the country will not do. Only a proper treatment of the underlying disease will make that rash disappear. This is a classic case that can be likened to many people struggling for the steering of a bus careening out of control and taking all inhabitants to Hades. The passengers, having lost faith in the driver and his conductors, have a right to intervene in the piloting of the vehicle.
No one should be forced to queue after any two terribly warped and corrupt parties – which are actually one and the same in spirit. A country must constantly reinvent itself. We must remember that PDP and APC are popular today simply because of illegal access to taxpayers’ money. Yet, APC and PDP are not written into the Nigerian constitution. Before them we had SDP and NRC. And even farther off, we had NPN, UPN, GNPP. NPP, AG, NCNC, NPC and so on. Therefore, before any party should be abrogated or delicensed, fair opportunity must be given and even fair amount of funding afforded. Otherwise we devolve straight into some sort of neo-autocracy. We have seen how the Army and other security agencies have been deployed for electoral purposes and that tells about the kind of possibilities we may face in a near future where political expressions are stifled, and people are no longer free to express themselves. The backlash of a bottled up society is another thing to consider. The more you bottle people up, the more you risk a major upheaval and civil strife eventually.
BREAKING NEWS – There is currently a surreptitious plan to strangulate and squelch the resurgent political expressions in the land already. The problem here is whether those who want to effect this plan are worthy of doing so. The Chairman of IPAC, Peter Ameh has been drawing our attention to this clear and present danger, but I only did extensive research into what as exactly going on recently. Before now, I had been watching the actions of guys like Senator Nazif. The other day we were at the Senate for a hearing and on the agenda, they had ‘Major Political Parties’ to speak first and then others. We protested and this illegal protocol had to be dropped. A party is a party.
So what is in the offing now, is that President Buhari, sometimes in June 2018 assented to an amendment to the Nigerian constitution (Amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Reubblic of Nigeria, Fourth Alteration, Number 9, Act 2017), with the conspiracy of the Nigerian Senate, granting INEC the authority to delicense political parties under some unclear conditions viz:
1. Breach of any of the requirements for registration
2. Failure to win at least 25% of votes cast in:
a. One state of the federation in a presidential election or
b. One local government of the state in a governorship election.
3. Failure to win at least
a. One ward in the chairmanship elections
b. One seat in the National or State House of Assembly; or
c. One seat in the councillorship election
It is unclear if these laws are to be considered together or if a single violation of any of these rules grants INEC the authority to delicense a political party. It is also unclear how many trials are to be granted a political party before these rules are applied.
Political parties supported all the electoral law amendments that were stepped down 4 times by the president. Some of the proposed amendments is about how to engender more transparency by moving towards electronic voting. Many of the new parties are run by young, forward-looking Nigerians who are more at home in an environment of electronic transparency. But the guardians of darkness stepped down the idea whose time has come. In fact, the first amendment proposed that we have the smaller elections first, so that the power of incumbency and ‘mainstream politics’ will be reduced and young parties can snatch one or two small posts. At the fourth presentation, the president said the bill was too close to elections! He therefore prioritized himself and very much unlike the father he is meant to be, he left our new political expression in the lurch.
The issues are that if Nigeria will have to build a two party system it shouldn’t be based on APC and PDP because both parties have committed too many outrages in the past. There is a need, for the sake of Nigeria to start all over afresh. We must do everything to ensure that the political space, political thoughts and ideologies in Nigeria are not guillotined on the altar of neo-feudalism and some ill-gotten superiority complex. Nigeria cannot, and must never be a slave society. Again, young parties must now be funded for a while, to cover up grounds lost when the so-called big parties were being funded. Or we take each party as an entity based on Section 4 of our Constitution which grants everyone of us the right to come together and form groups based on mutual understanding and mutual interests.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this scheme of deregistering political parties is the just concluded elections and the frauds that mar them. Also the fact that our elections are getting ever more violent. Let’s take the presidential elections alone. We saw billions of Naira and Dollars being moved by the two ‘large parties’ thereby monetizing the elections. We say planes and bullion vans laden with such monies. We heard confessions of party officials to that extent. We then saw results that made no sense; 1.6million people disappeared from the voters’ register. 900,000 people were accredited but never voted even though accreditation and voting are simultaneous and should be equal. We saw evidence that votes were written in parts of the country in order to achieve desired results. We saw underage voting. Nigeria also lost at least 100 people to violence, including youth corpers. No one is even speaking about the numbers kidnapped. These are the reasons why we must never agree to any ‘chancing’ by the ‘two big parties’ who cannot whitewash themselves of past and present sins. They cannot come to equity with unclean hands. These are the reasons why what we need in fact, is an infusion of new, fairly innocent and clean blood into our political space. If we consolidate our politics based on opacity, violence, fraud, tribalism, ethnicity, religious and other forms of bigotry, embezzlement and corruption, and a blatant refusal to reform and transform, a terrible fate awaits us all.
We have been appealed to, in the interest of peace to accept the results of an extremely flawed elections. We have respected the right of seriously aggrieved parties to approach the courts as part of the legitimate electoral process. But our quest for peace and progress for our country, is obviously being taken for foolishness. Only one new party will probably qualify for non-deregistration so far, and that is YPP. I personally am not enamored of the Senator-elect sprung up by that party and his antecedents. He does not represent the resurgence of ideological politics that tends towards ethics and integrity. The remaining parties will find it tough to attain 25% of any votes anywhere. Curtains?
Tope Fasua is a Public Affairs Analyst.