Home / News / Local / When big men capture weak parties By Alabi Williams
(L-R) Obasanjo, Jonathan, Buhari

When big men capture weak parties By Alabi Williams

Alabi Williams
04 December 2023
The Nigerian president is listed to be among the most powerful across the world. What is obvious is that the enormous and sometimes monstrous powers are not derived from the constitutions of the Federal Republic at any time, including that of 1999, with amendments.
Instead, the constitutions are very clear with regards to the limitations of an executive president. There is provision for a tripartite power sharing arrangement among the arms in a presidential system, so that the three co-equal bodies – executive, judiciary and legislature- moderate one another.The designers of the Constitution envisaged that leaving too much powers in one arm could easily enthrone a dictatorship. The 1999 Constitution is very clear about this and the three arms have their jobs well spelt out: the president is to execute and the legislature to make laws while the judiciary interprets the laws.

But the reality on ground here is that the president finds it too easy to dominate and encroach on others’ spaces. He goes on to decide the leadership of the legislature, to ensure that the law-making arm is asleep most of the time. Instead of demanding accountability and putting to use its substantial powers over appropriation, the legislature is comfortable having its share and allowing constituents to struggle over daily living.

The bullishness of the executive does not restrain itself even in the hallowed space of the judiciary. While the judiciary is financially independent on paper, the final authorisation of the funds still comes from the executive. The power of appointment, despite layers of checks is still subject to manipulation of the executive. The president becomes a hushed Father Christmas.

Not content with lording it over the other arms, the executive president of Nigeria is also the leader and manager of affairs of his political party. He is crowned the leader of the party, even though the constitution of the party does not ascribe to him such role. Whereas every political party has a national chairman, along with other officers with the backing of their party constitution to manage the affairs, the so-called leader, that is the president can overrule the party exco. He can instigate trouble to create opportunity to remove the national chairman.

Whatever excesses are found with whoever is the president are replicated in the 36 states of the federation.

Even at the Federal Capital Territory, it’s getting more chaotic. These governors are potentates in their respective states. They are accountable to themselves, except in a few states like Lagos, where a certain godfather has refused to relinquish his stranglehold. Despite carrying elephant on his head, the man is still picking crickets.

Governors own the legislatures and use money power to weaken the judiciary. A few states still have very strong judiciaries, but without effective collaboration from the lawmakers, the judiciary alone can’t tame a wild governor.

Governors control affairs of parties in their jurisdictions. Everything surrenders to their sovereign dictates. A governor can decide all candidates that will enter for an election and pay for the processes leading to their election. And some have boasted about it without any sense of shame, indignation; and no outrage out there.

And you’re tempted to ask; where is the electoral umpire and its vetting processes that require that the field is thrown open to all contenders?

The laws are very clear, but those who are programmed to misbehave will still have their ways. And they will boast about it.

Towards the 2023 general elections, former National Security Adviser, Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd) and former Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, promised the elections would be free and fair. The NSA and the IGP promised they were going after state governors who bullied their opponents, who brought down opposition billboards and posters; who locked up stadia and other public spaces, preventing opposition parties from using them to hold campaigns, after payment of fees.

Nothing was done. In fact, governors became more brazen during the election proper. The PDP could not go to Rivers State to hold presidential campaigns and the heavens did not fall. Elections still took place.

A history of political rascality: During the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s years in office, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had three party chairmen in quick succession. Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh and Ahmadu Ali, had to contend with an aggressive presidency. Even after Obasanjo left, the exit door was left ajar, making it easy for Vincent Ogbulafor, Ezekwesilieze Nwodo to be quickly dispensed with, making way for Haliru Bello Mohammed in acting capacity.

Then Kawu Baraje, Bamanga Tukur came on board at a time the party was primed for a plunge. The younger elements, desirous of making a fortune out of the woes began to source for undertakers, men who had no passion beyond commercial value. They found one Modu Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, who wheeled the party into intensive care. It became a game of try your luck.

At the end of the day, the PDP that was safely handed down by revered Alex Ekwueme and venerable Solomon Lar, was mismanaged by a rabble. Today’s PDP is struggling for life while the quality of service rendered by those elected on its platform is lackluster. No proper grooming for those vying for tickets and no proper peer-reviewing among those serving.

In the All Progressives Congress (APC), matters are even worse regarding the wellbeing of the party. The party was a child of necessity, malformed, ill-bred and of roughish tendencies. It was hurriedly put together to access power and since it plotted its way through, citizens have been counting losses.

The legacy parties that preceded it had no chance of surviving beyond their provincial enclaves. They were kicked around by the dominant PDP. So, in the haste to coalesce, they had no proper grooming and knowledge of what to do when they win power. They have succeeded in winning elections three times, but their party is nothing to write home about.

Their first chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, did not perform magic to earn the office. Because of the sacrifice the South-west was willing to make, and his closeness to the man who fixed the union, Bola Tinubu, Akande was picked for the job. He did his best to hold together the rickety platform.

The party was designed to flounder under respected John Odigie Oyegun, despite his able hands. Adams Oshiomhole was propped to chase him out. Oshiomhole too became a victim of counter plots, until the leader, Tinubu was handed the task to reconcile the party in 2018 by President Buhari.

A contraption known as Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), under a sitting Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, was what saved the party from drowning. Despite genuine and informed fears that the CECPC was unknown to law and could lead to constitutional crisis for the party, the package was smuggled through the judiciary.

When president Tinubu took office on May 29, it was clear that the celebrated regime of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as national party chairman didn’t have any chance of survival. Apart from working against Tinubu’s interest in the presidential primary, Adamu appears to be a party man who could not be pushed around. Without firing a shot, the man was advised to go home in his own interest.

The president needed someone he would be comfortable with as caretaker. The one who occupies that seat now, former governor of Kano State, Abduallahi Ganduje, is Tinubu’s ally. So long as he does not nurse a private agenda, he should consider himself safe.

To really understand the delicate nature of the party system, one only needs to do a study of the chequered history of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The trouble with APGA is enough to do a dissertation on the illnesses of political parties. Founded in 2003 by Chekwas Okorie, APGA has spent more resources and time shopping for court judgments than it has invested to prosecute elections.

The tenure of Victor Umeh as chairman, for more than ten years seemed the most litigious. Now, it is not clear who is current chair because different interpretations are given by different contenders to different court judgments. It’s chaotic.

APGA has remained stunted, unable to progress beyond Anambra State, whereas it showed great prospects when it was licensed after that historic court intervention to expand the multi-party space.

Political parties do not matter much to those who use them to attain high offices, be they presidents, governors or lawmakers. After Obasanjo was done with the PDP, he thrashed his membership card. It’s not likely Goodluck Jonathan still has his own card. Maybe he has two now, one for APC and the other for PDP. Muhammadu Buhari can’t be too bothered about party matters. He has been fully compensated for that 1985 ouster.

All eyes are on president Tinubu to prove that he is the true democrat the people have been waiting for. Will he allow democracy to survive in Ondo and Rivers states? Nigerians are watching!

About Global Patriot Staff

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