The sooner politicians in prime public offices are weaned of this dangerous sense of entitlement they harbour, the stronger democracy will be in Nigeria
Adams Oshiomhole, chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) is presently embattled. For a man who declared that he does not lose sleep even in the face of seismic movements around his domain, the former labour man seems to be weathering the storm with equanimity. Come to think of it, the struggle is his life – read that how you will.
For obvious reasons, this column will not go deep into analysis of the present bone of contention in the party Oshiomhole leads or in any other political party for that matter. Suffice it to say that the APC chairman is squared up presently against some powerful elements within his fold. Oshiomhole’s traducers within the APC are not only repeatedly muttering things into President Muhammadu Buhari’s ears about their party chairman, they are also throwing in all their weight to get the man they all elected with glee a few months ago to behave as they want. In the raging contention within his party, Oshiomhole has many critics and opponents. By the same token, he has many who support his sometimes irritably dogged disposition. All that is not the focus here.
In defending his stance on the various disputations arising from the recent primaries in his party, which is the root of all the brouhaha therein, Oshiomhole last week made a point that resonates with this column. According to the party chairman, the bigwigs in his party, mainly, a handful of state governors, who rail against him because he did not call primary contests in favour of their respective candidates, should understand that, one, he does not have power to confer on them the status of emperors who must have their way at all times. Two, if at any point there is a conflict between what majority of party members want and what one powerful individual wants, he has no problems siding with the majority.
Whatever the shortcomings of Oshiomhole may be, it is difficult to fault him here. The principles he enunciated as guiding him in this matter are what democracy is all about. It is the failure or refusal of key platforms of democracy to abide by such principles that has left Nigeria’s democracy with serious headache and even deformity since 1999.
The ceding of all powers to make collective decisions and to point the way to go at various critical junctures to a few instead of the majority has been a major weakness of democracy in Nigeria. It is a problem that cuts across party lines. As is often the case with impunity and dictatorship, they mutate rapidly and aggressively once they set in. So has it been within the political parties and politics at all state levels in the land.
But democracy does not promote a sense of entitlement. The fact that a man performed well as President or governor or senator does not in any way in democracy give the fellow a right to foist his wife, son, son-in-law or friend on the people as the next President, governor, senator or whatever. And we are talking of where an elected official performed so well in office. It gets rather bizarre, reprehensible and unbearable when an elected official performed dismally in the reckoning of the majority in his constituency and still has the effrontery to be declaring with open eyes that he should decide or appoint the person he wants to succeed him. That is how bold persons in public positions have become in Nigeria.
Now, we are not totally naïve as to accept that there may not be other factors at play in the policies and stance of Oshiomhole within his party. Let’s look at it this way: a politician does not get up, spend his resources and capital to contest and win the chairmanship of a party just for the sake of coming in to restore party supremacy. It can happen, but politicians are not known to be that altruistic. Whatever other factors are behind Oshiomhole’s insistence that the majority must have their way in the outcome of the primaries in his party this time, it must be conceded that he is espousing a fundamental basis in democracy in this matter. We simply hope that what the party chairman says is guiding him is truly what is guiding him.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the electoral process may, in the long run, benefit substantially from the disputations over the primaries in the political parties. By fighting and dragging themselves down the road over what is right or wrong, the parties will hopefully end up instituting credible processes of selecting their candidates. If and when the power to decide who emerges a candidate within a party is extricated from state governors, ex-governors and sundry godfathers, and rightly restored to the party faithful, elections in Nigeria will record a major stride. That obedience to the supremacy of the majority within the political party will, without doubt, translate to better compliance by parties and their candidates to the dictates of democracy and respect for the will of the majority in the main elections.
Only last week here, we talked about the evolving phenomenon of governors transiting from government houses to the Senate almost as a given destination. While it was conceded that there is no law barring individuals who had completed their full tenure as governors from contesting for Senate, what is not and cannot be correct is the sense of entitlement by these citizens that they must have a seat in the Senate. Have they asked their constituencies if they want them there? One of the governors who is yet to complete his tenure but has also seized the ticket of his party for Senate in his constituency was quoted sometime ago as saying that, by May 2019, he will table such and such a bill at the Senate. Can you beat that? And that was even before the man secured the ticket in his party. If such a fellow is defeated in 2019 as some of them may well be, they will begin to search for what INEC did or did not do to them. The sooner politicians in prime public offices are weaned of this dangerous sense of entitlement they presently harbour, the stronger democracy will be in Nigeria.