Atiku Cautions APC, Other Parties against Undemocratic Acts
• INEC to unleash joker in 2019 polls
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has warned the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other political parties in the country not toy with the issue of internal democracy and freedom of choice of their members.
Atiku also cautioned political parties against the selection of candidates for election, adding that when they make wrong choice and that it is the entire nation that suffers it.
Atiku’s concern came just as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it would unleash a joker by deploying new technology in the conduct of the 2019 general election.
The former vice president said he was particularly worried over the intrusion of the executive at the state or federal level in the affairs of the party which has led to failure to organise statutory meetings for the organs of the party.
Speaking at the 2017 annual conference of the Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) on the theme:, ‘Internal Party Democracy’, the Waziri Adamawa, said no government can build democracy on a substructure of dictatorship and intolerance.
In an apparent reference to his party, the APC, Atiku said, lack of regular meetings and elections has tended to portray it and other parties as a bullying and undemocratic party.
“For a number of years now, we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their constitution.
“In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the executive at the state or federal level, fill the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratise parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations,” he said.
The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was represented at the event by the Deputy National Chairman (North), Shaibu Lawal, while the Secretary of National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ben Obi, represented the opposition party.
While harping on the dangers of lack of internal party democracy, Atiku said a political party that constricts the freedom of its members cannot really offer freedom to the citizens of the nation.
On the touchy issue of executive-legislative face-off, Atiku said lack of internal democracy in political parties was one of the reasons for the frosty relationships between parties and their elected representatives and the legislature and the executive.
He said: “The issue of internal democracy in our political parties has been with us for a long time, indeed since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999. In long-established democracies those statements would seem trite. But I recognize that our democracy is young, and our parties are also rather young.
“As a result, they are still wrestling with issues of party building, party structures, internal democracy and the nature of the relationship between parties and members, parties and legislatures and parties and government as well as among parties themselves.
“We had a very long period of authoritarian rule in Nigeria, ending in 1999. The legacy of that period is still with us as can be seen in our various governance institutions. Indeed even elements of that authoritarian past still wield power and influence in our country as we try to transition from that legacy.
“Also the structure of our economy is such that the state remains the most important source of economic opportunity. This heightens the struggle for state power and helps to shape the relationship between parties and members, among parties and among the various arms of government.
“The absence of internal democracy in our parties is a major reason our democracy remains fragile and why the quality of leadership that we produce has not matched our expectations and the challenges facing us as a nation. It is also one of the reasons it has been very difficult to hold leaders to account.
“But we know that power wielders hardly voluntarily enlarge the democratic space. That is why I’ve often opined that internal party democracy will only come with genuine electoral reforms in the country.”
Meanwhile, INEC, said yesterday that it would deploy new technology in the conduct of the 2019 general election, adding that it will however hold it close to its chest to avert smart Nigerians finding their ways around it.
Speaking at the IPAC conference, the chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, warned that though the number of political associations seeking registration as political parties had hit over 103, the commission would not however hesitate to deregister any of the existing 45 political parties that fail to meet the provisions of the law.
Chronicling the challenges facing electoral commissions in Nigeria and other parts of the world, the Electoral Management Board (EMB) boss warned politicians against deploying resources in winning elections at the polls since the new technology would checkmate all their antics.
According to him, “I want to reassure Nigerians that no election result will be announced either at the state offices or headquarters before the conduct of the elections. All election results will continue to reflect the will of the Nigerian people. The commission will continue to approach the responsibility with courage and will never fail.
“We will continue to be guided by the provisions of the law and any qualified association must be be so registered. When we presented certificates to the newly registered political parties, that where parties qualified to be deregistered under the law, we shall also courageously deregister political parties since the provisions of the law is very clear in that respect.”