UNMASKING REAL AND BRIEFCASE POLITICAL PARTIES
Some people have argued, rightly or wrongly, that a multi-party Nigeria is uncalled for at this stage of the nation's political development. Those who oppose the view have done so with no less vigour. And for those who adopt a midcourse approach to the discourse, a 57 political party arrangement is far away from their thinking.
After the initial registration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Peoples Party (APP) which later metamorphosed into All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Action Congress (AC), there were agitations from the civil society as well as a section of politicians who lost out in the power game for the registration of more political parties.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in response to a court ruling to register more parties, increased the number to 57 at the last count. But some exist only in name. After the 1999 general elections, a section of politicians who found it difficult to find relevance regrouped to form political parties but it has been difficult to place the ideological leaning of some of the political parties. In deed, almost all the parties have had a poor showing at successive elections after 1999.
In Abuja, where most of the parties are required by law to maintain functional offices as a condition for registration by INEC, Sunday Sun gathered that some of those offices are either locked or left desolate. It was gathered that even some of the support staff have had to find their ways owing to accumulated non-payment of salaries.
As it appears, only the PDP, Action Congress (AC), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and Progressive Peoples Party (PPA) have functional offices in Abuja while other parties like All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) have two offices each as a result of crises within the party which has led to fictionalization. A faction of AD has two offices in Wuse District just like APGA with an office in Gwarinpa District and another one in Wuse 2.
In Area 8, located in Garki district of the FCT, the doors of Community Party of Nigeria (CPN) has remained locked for upwards of six months. A source close to the premises of the building hinted that apart from the first year rent paid by the party, it has refused to pay again. An officer of the party who pleaded anonymity said the party has no money. It was learnt that even the security man, who is the last man standing, has remained because he hibernates within the supposed party secretariat having been used to people in the vicinity.
The Progressive Action Congress (PAC) though deserted seems to exist, at least since its sign-post can still be found.
For the African Renaissance Party (ARP), it is officially located at Gwarinpa but operates mainly from the private residence of one of the leaders in Federal Housing Authority (FHA) along airport road just like its counterpart, the African Liberation Party(ALP ) that operates mainly from his Garki 2 residence and maintains an office in Wuse 2.
In fact, ever since it was sited in Zone 6, Wuse District, there had been controversies about the office. There were strong beliefs among some officials of the party that one of its leaders was using a friend's house as office complex for the party.
For the National Democratic Party (NDP), after the crisis that saw the exit of its chairman, Alhaji Habu Fari and the emergence of Kazim Afegbua as his successor, activities of the party have remained skeletal even though it still maintains an office in Wuse 2.
The story is not different for the Better Nigeria Peoples Party (BNPP) in Gwarinpa, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Utako and Citizens Popular Party (CPP) at Lozumba Complex in Area 10.
For Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), only a wall fence separates them. Interestingly, the two gates are always under lock and key. Both parties' officials as well as other staffers like the security guards seem to be out in the wilderness searching for the proverbial greener pastures.
Former Inspector-General of Police, Gambo Jimeta's Movement for the Restoration and Defense of Democracy (MRDD) still operates its office at Asokoro and it is like some of the party's official businesses are conducted at home, sometimes.
And while Liberal Democratic Party of Nigeria (LDPN) uses an office space at the Peace Mass Transit complex, the Movement for Democracy and Justice operates from Bannex Plaza. So, it is not clear if all the political parties have offices as Sunday Sun was unable to locate them in Abuja. Political observers argue that trouble started for the parties when INEC began to insist that subvention to registered political parties will only be on the basis of performance at the polls.
So, for parties that are yet to win even a counsellorship seat, it became difficult and almost impossible to cope. Accordingly, while some have closed shop and carry all the party structures in their briefcases, others were said to have relocated to the states and try to foist alliances with those holding political offices irrespective of party affiliations. A visit to INEC on Tuesday also did not help matters. It was gathered that addresses of political parties could only be released to this reporter through a written request.
Wittingly or unwittingly, some of the parties are deemed small but Osita Okechukwu, National Publicity Secretary of Conference of Nigeria political Parties (CNPP) said there is no small party. According to him, if there was a free and fair election, all the parties would have had something to show for their existence. He said the most critical index to measure the strength of a party is the number of votes in an election but in Nigeria, this is lacking.
In this part of the world, votes are allocated to parties.
He added that in other parts of the world, there are parties, even though family-owned like the Congress Party in India or the PPP in Pakistan owned by Bhuto. They have all done well because election is free, fair and transparent. There is a social contract between the led and the leaders.
Against the argument canvassed that some of the parties should be de-registered, the CNPP spokesman said the problem is not about the number of the parties nor problems that have arisen as a result of internal democracy but that of a one party system which PDP is the metaphor. This is the problem.
'For the fact that the state of Israel, with less than 10 million people, has 17 political parties and election is free and fair, the PDP with over 600 out of 774 local government chairmen, 800 out of 990 members of the state assemblies, 260 out of 360 members of House of Representatives and over 90 out of 109 Senators as well as 27 out of 36 governors, they still have incurable phobia for free and fair elections' he said.
He also did not express surprise that most of the political parties including the major ones lack ideologies as a way of propagating their ideals. 'There is no need for ideology anymore. Since the collapse of communism in the 80s and 90s, deep ideological foundation for political parties, especially, also collapsed' he added.