From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Moh Lukman, has claimed that the dishonesty in the funding of political parties in Nigeria is responsible for the preponderance of unethical, unfair and other substandard practices by the party officials and public officials.

In a statement he issued in Abuja at the weekend, the PGF DG commended Senate for the endorsement of direct primaries for all the political parties, but emphasised that lack of membership participation in the primaries has been a source of national frustration.

Titled; ‘Internal democracy in political parties and prospects for new Nigeria’, he wrote: “A strong corollary is the issue of party funding? How are political parties funded? Are there accountability mechanisms associated with the process of political party’s financial mobilisation? In other words, are members contributing to party’s finances? Are they aware of all the sources and size of contributions? Is the awareness of sources and size complemented by members’ consent of any expected transaction details associated with such financial contribution?

“The Nigerian reality bears some levels of dishonesties about issues of party funding. Party members, to say the least, are free riders. Across almost all Nigerian parties, issues of membership subscription hardly exist. Politicians aspiring to emerge as candidates for elections are the financiers of political parties, including funding electoral campaigns.

“With that, political practice and culture in the party is about recruiting loyalists to be members. Once an aspirant has strong financial capability, he/she then controls the party. Such a person would then proceed to appoint loyalists to serve as party officials. Issues of membership and participation in political activities, including holding party positions and appointments into governments controlled by the party, are restricted to close associates and supporters, while professional management of the party and disciplinary conduct of members are conveniently ignored.

“The consequence is the preponderance of unethical, unfair and other substandard practices by the party officials and public officials. Party offices are reduced to territorial control with hardly any focus on the responsibilities associated with them. Cost considerations are tied to personal conveniences of politicians aspiring for elective offices and depending on which party organs are subordinated to campaign structures of contestants. As a result, lack of professionalism and absence of a viable democratic funding sources have become a major challenge for all Nigerian parties,” the statement read.

While commending the Upper Legislative Chambers, he wrote; “Unlike in the past, at least before 2011, when Nigerians consider the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the extension of the ruling party, relatively today, INEC’s independence is greater and more reflected in the results of elections.”

“The party in power at federal level loses elections as much as the opposition, if not more. Votes now count and the margin of inaccuracy in terms of results of elections is getting smaller since the commencement of introduction of technology in Nigerian election in 2011.

“The disconnect however is that although progress is being made to enhance the processes of election management in the country, management of political party remained very backward. The practice across all Nigerian parties is that political leaders aspiring to contest elections for political offices recruit members. The aspiring political leader influence choices of party leaders based on estimation of loyalty.

“The loyalists who emerge as political leaders in turn become delegates during party primary for the selection of candidates for election, who then confirmed the aspiring political leader as the party’s candidate for election.

“Issues of membership participation and internal party democracy are compromised, professional management of political parties doesn’t exist, and disciplinary conduct of members and leaders are sacrificed. The consequence is the preponderances of unethical, and unfair practices by party leaders.

“Lack of professionalism and absence of viable democratic funding sources are major characteristics of Nigerian political parties. This explains why for instance external auditors’ report on the accounts of political parties by INEC raised issues bordering on absence of internal audit, accounting books not properly maintained, lack of budget and budgetary control, and poorly defined, fixed assets registers, among many others,” Lukman highlighted in his statement.

On how lack of membership participation in primaries haa become a source of national frustration, he said: “Notably, issues of membership participation especially during the process of selection of party candidates within political parties in Nigeria is a major source of national frustration, which is perhaps the rationale behind the October 12 Senate proposal to compel all parties to adopt the direct method of primary to weaken the capacity of some power blocs within parties from manipulating internal process of candidate selection.

“The current dominant reality of choosing candidates for elections in virtually all political parties in the country is through the indirect method of using delegates in all parties. The critical issue of citizens’ participation in politics and how it leads to the difficult task of candidates’ selection is an issue that appears to be the cause of most of the frustration of Nigerians with politics. The decision of the Senate to propose amendment to the Electoral Act to compel parties to use direct primaries to select candidates for election is informed by this reality.

“The rationale for direct primary based on expanding the democratic space for membership participation is hardly contestable. Some of the questions requiring good responses, which further make the application of the direct mode of party primary appealing include, for instance: will increase in participation of party members lead to more citizens’ participation during general elections?

“Could it also bring party leaders closer to membership, or citizens closer to their elected representatives? The reality is that the space for participation of party members, or what some literature refers to as ‘logic for collective action’, which assumes that membership participation in activities of political parties is dependent on economic choices in diverse areas, including politics. This certainly would suggest that low participation means small groups of interests control the parties,” he argued in the statement.

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