INTERNAL DEMOCRACY BILL: ATIKU CALLS FOR CAUTION
Former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] presidential aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has called for caution over the pending bill which seeks to make federal lawmakers, automatic members of their parties' National Executive Committees (NECs).
The PDP presidential hopeful, who gave the admonition in his recent page Facebook message, titled, 'The challenge of internal democracy in political parties,' said that he would welcome any step to restore internal democracy in political parties, as it would deepen democracy.
''The challenge of internal democracy in political parties democracy is a dynamic process and, therefore, at every stage when challenges emerge, new initiatives also evolve, designed to entrench democratic culture and ethos in our country and among the existing political parties.
'I take notice of the current efforts by the National Assembly to deepen internal democracy among existing political parties. I am encouraged by this multi-partisan proposed amendment to give federal legislators a voice in the decision-making process of their political parties''. According to available details of the amendment, the proposal seeks to make federal legislators automatic members of the NEC of their political parties. Atiku recalled political persecution he suffered in the hands of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appropriated party structures and organs to settle personal scores.
''Personally, I know the dangers of the absence of internal democracy in political parties. My struggles in the past to entrench internal democracy in my party, the PDP, for which I was harassed, intimidated and humiliated, are all too familiar. I believe that as the ruling party, PDP should set the standard for the culture of internal democracy.
'This struggle pitted me against my former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I was eventually frustrated out of my party via the undemocratic policy of de-registration. But thanks to the Dr. Alex Ekwueme panel report that was ratified by the PDP, people like me who were forced out have been reintegrated into the ruling party.
Therefore, I would support every effort, either by legislation or other democratic means, to entrench internal democracy. Hijacking of political parties by a clique for personal advantage to the detriment of others harms the essence of democracy. 'Part of the ongoing reforms by the PDP is intended to address the past mistakes, which led to the virtual death of internal democracy. On this score, therefore, I understand the existing challenges, which compelled the National Assembly to begin a major effort via legislation, to deepen democracy in the existing political parties in Nigeria.''
While expressing support for the bill before the National Assembly, the former Vice President, however, urged the federal lawmakers not to treat it in such a way that the cynical section of the public would be vindicated that it was meant to attain personal advantage.
'One of the fears being expressed is that with 360 House of Representatives and 109 Senators added to other statutory members of NEC, it may be too unwieldy to have each of them as members of their parties' highest decision- making bodies. In particular, the lawmakers should allay public fears that they are not seeking personal advantage through the latest move to amend the Electoral Act. 'If the President could be denied a presumed desire to seek personal advantage through legislation, our federal legislators should avoid the temptation of falling into the same trap.
'Any public perception that the proposed amendment is designed to give them personal advantage over others may undermine the credibility of the current efforts.
'Excessive powers and advantages in the hands of either the executive or legislative branch of government may lead to tyranny, which may in itself stifle the growth of democracy. 'Therefore, while welcoming the current effort to amend the Electoral Act, seeking to make federal legislators automatic members of their parties' NECs, I urge the lawmakers to examine the pros and cons of this amendment in order to sustain public confidence in the legislative process, The politics of exclusion and the hijacking of parties by a clique may have compelled the intervention by the federal lawmakers. In doing so, however, I urge the National Assembly to debate the issue clinically, critically and dispassionately so that in our efforts to avert dictatorship, we don't end up entrenching it in disguise,'' he said.