As our fledgling democracy creeps towards its twelfth year, it is pertinent to sound a noteÂ of warning to politicians and political officer holders on the need for internal democracyÂ in political parties to avoid the pitfalls that bedeviled parties during the 2003 and 2007Â general elections.
We must explore ways to inject credibility into the 2011 elections and avoid becoming aÂ laughing stock in the comity of nations.
East, West, North and South politicians are complaining about the overbearing influence ofÂ godfathers and the need to curtail their activities, especially at the party level. It is aÂ blatant rape of the wish of the electorate and nothing short of standing democracy on itsÂ head for godfathers to foist candidates on parties whereas the electorateÂ have betterÂ candidates that they should have chosen for the various elective postions.
Democracy is about choice and to, in any way, subvert the will of the people is criminal.Â The internal wrangling in most of the political parties is due to no other reason but lackÂ of internal democracy within the party framework. Several candidates have opted out ofÂ promising political careers for this reason. Recently, the Abia State Governor, TheodoreÂ Orji, defected from the Progressive Peopleâ€™s Party, PPA, to the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party,Â PDP, following complaints about the alleged hijack of his government by his predecessor,Â Orji Uzor Kalu and his mother.
The despicable roles of godfathers have adversely affected governance across the country.Â The godfather syndrome has been with us for quite a while. The case of the Social DemocraticÂ Party, SDP, and National Republican Convention, NRC, both creations of the former Head ofÂ State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida remains fresh in the memory of Lagosians. The SDP could notÂ decide on a governorship candidate between the late Prof. Femi Agbalajobi and Chief DapoÂ Sarumi and the party lost the election to Sir Michael Otedola of NRC, a party which was notÂ even in contention in Lagos State at the time.
The lack of a clearly defined ideology and the plague called godfatherism in the NigerianÂ context will continue to be the bane of our democracy until the scourge is checked. MostÂ Nigerians believe that what governs party activities today are money, violence and thuggery,Â not charisma, hard work or love for the people, and these are the ammunition of godfathersÂ who determine who is nominated or even elected within the party.
These godfathers are responsible for the current problem of factionalism that has affectedÂ virtually all major parties in the country. Since 1999 when our hard-earned democracy wasÂ ushered in, there have been problems resulting in decamping, violence and even outrightÂ assassination of political opponents. Several souls have been lost, and God forbid, moreÂ will be lost if we do not check our attitude towards power and imbibe the time honouredÂ culture of democracy.
The lack of internal democracy has also led to the proliferation of political parties. TheÂ result is that there is no real opposition and the party with the majority has continued toÂ bestride the political landscape without actually making life better for the people.
As the general elections approach, politicians and political office holders must, for theÂ survival of democracy, embrace a culture of internal democracy in the party and eschewÂ violence in any form.
Nigerians have laboured for too long under dictatorship to allow our democracy to beÂ truncated.