Friday, April 25, 2014

Searching For Economic and Political Stability: Is Party Politics Necessary?
Nigerian skyline in Lagos.
April 25, 2014  12:03 am
By Adisa Adeleye

As practised in the developed world, democracy, with its accessories, is the norm.  Many developed European countries do associate the democratic practice with full employment (unemployment is interpreted as less than 3 per cent of the working population).

A truly democratic state would promote the growth of multi-party system, i.e. the existence of many political parties which results in one or more parties forming the Government while one or the others are regarded as the Opposition.  Under the British parliamentary system, the government will always have its way while the Opposition would have its say.

Nigeria, since its independence in 1960, had practised the British Parliamentary system (1960-1966), military dictatorship (1966-1979), another military plutocracy (1983-1999) and military/civilian democracy (from 1999 to date).  The 1999 Constitution which enforces a strong Centre is being described as a military sponsored Constitution, as opposed to a federal one.

Since 1960, politicians have been in the forefront of operational democracy in Nigeria.  The politicians of 1960s crashed the country because of lack of discipline, morality and insensitivity.  The long army rule prevented the growth of necessary political experience, and to some extent, gave rise to the birth of political opportunism and corruption.  The army catch-phrase of “with immediate effect” has become long lasting in the present unclear civilian political era.

It can be said, without any fear of contradiction, that the era of party politics in Nigeria since 1951 had been one of unmitigated disaster.  No lesson of the civil war (1967-1970) had been properly understood, today.  From the high hope and lofty aspiration of 1960 Independence and the 1999 return of democracy to the present turbulent period, there had been stories of woes and catalogues of unfulfilled promises by politicians of all shades.

At the moment, the country is plagued by the atrocities of the Boko Haram murderous gang, by notorious kidnappers and ruthless armed robbers – perhaps, products of demoralizing unemployment.  There is the ruling party (government) and the Opposition in the Centre which corners over 52 per cent of the country‘s total revenue.  The politicians of both parties, as a matter of routine, would consider the approval of the federal budget, prepared by the Executive whose duty is to execute all projects in the annual budget.

It is refreshing to note the acrimonies (even by members of the ruling party) over the approval of the annual budget. It is also enlightening to notice the unity of purpose by the legislators of all parties in matters concerning their privileges and emoluments.  It is like a conspiracy of some sort by legislators against the good people of Nigeria.

Many politicians have argued, with conviction, that the legislators‘ unarguably high take-home pay could be justified in the many social and community services performed by them.  There are many demands on the legislators by individuals and communities that would be inadequate to fund from the average salary of a legislator in the Senate and House of Representatives.  In many places, the local legislators fill in the gap left by our inept local councils.

However, the specious argument in favour of unearned income of the legislators and extravagancy of the executive class should not allow for flippancy and corruption noticed in the political panorama.

If Nigeria is a poor country in spite of abundance oil and gas, if the country operates its queer form of democracy with its discredited party politics, if the country is in a state of war in its North-East, if the country is in the iron grip of merciless kidnappers and hired killers, what then, is the role of party politics and politicians in the quest for prosperity?.

A three-time Nigerian leader once gave a clear answer which was then misunderstood and now forgotten.  Chief Obasanjo, a military democrat (?) once noted that “the Greeks who bestowed democracy on the world did practice it without political parties”   His view was that “multi-party bickering is definitively a luxury we cannot afford.

To Chief Obasanjo before he was elected President in 1999, noted that the essential ingredient of democracy is freedom and the provision of choice for the people.  Crucial for me is that a democratic setting must be a choice on personalities and a choice of programmes; fundamental human rights and obligations as well as freedom of expression.

Obasanjo‘s democratic ideal would be interpreted as the elected leader with unrestricted rights to choose his ministers, including from the Opposition.  It might be believed that Obasanjo tried his hands on “Technocrats” who might by now become PDP‘s ‘converts‘.

It is suggested that if President Jonathan had cast his net very wide instead of his narrow and shallow pool, things might perhaps turned better.  His party‘s exclusive policy of cornering all positions of privileges and offices could not but, produce ‘abusers‘ according to his spokesmen. and not friends and admirers.

In a multi-national society, a ‘winner-takes all‘ mentality would not sustain a lasting peaceful and prosperous environment.  The lasting solution of the country‘s problems lies in a leader who is a statesman, first and last, and not a wily politician.  He must be the Father of the Nation by words and deeds.

If I were President Jonathan, I would forget the elections of 2015 and concentrate now on matters of Security and Employment which are sure ingredients of Prosperity.  I would send the politicians to stay in their various constituencies until insurgency is finally crushed and peace sustained.

It is better for the present politicians to be agents of peace and prosperity in the country rather than agents and apostles of disunity and ethnic warfare.  Perhaps, this was one of the topics discussed by President Jonathan at his all inclusive Security meeting of Governors early this week.

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