TWO-PARTY SYSTEM - A VITAL INGREDIENT OF POLITICAL AND ELECTORAL REFORM
I think that two-party system should be a critical element in the political and electoral reform for developing Nigeria's political culture, for enhancing our system of government and for building a strong democratic nation – Dr. C. K. Ekeke.
About two weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted down two-party system, which was proposed by the Minority Leader, Hon Ali Ndume, which suggested limiting to only two political parties to be registered for 2011 elections. Even though, the two-party amendment was not among the forty amendments that were proposed to improve the 1999 Nigerian constitution, however, most of us have been writing since the beginning of our 4th Republic and return to democratic presidential system, which was modeled from the United States of America, to adopt a two party structure and perhaps allow few independent political candidatures and political parties.†
I am acutely aware of my limitations and skimpy knowledge on the subject of political science and game of politics because I am not a politician or a student of political science. But as a public theologian and passionate student of leadership, I decided to take on this subject matter for the simple reason that it has persisted for so long in my mind. This piece is perhaps an attempt to awaken our able political science scholars, politicians, law makers, and those enlightened minds on the subject of political science and art of governance to rethink Nigeria's current political culture and figure out how our nation can tailor and construct its political systems that are capable of producing credible candidates, knowledgeable electorates, build strong democratic values and able to yield the expected dividends of democracy.
Historically, Nigeria has had various systems of government – unitary, parliamentary, military and now democratic presidential system, yet without any political peace or progress. It was the erudite scholar and Nigeria's former permanent representative to UN,†Dr. Joseph Nanyen Garba, in his book, Fractured History, who said "In our thirty-four years of nationhood, we have made an unprecedented turnaround; going from a nation of hope, strength, abundance, economic prosperity and high aspirations to a nation which has become the embodiment of a degenerate society."
Since independence, Nigeria has been governed by a group of selfish, greedy, egoistic, visionless, malicious, mischievous and treacherous political and military rulers. Despite the enormous human potential and abundant natural resources Nigeria is endowed with, she has not enjoyed any genuine political peace and national prosperity.† Instead, the country has been ruled and governed by military and political tyrants that denied the masses basic governmental provisions such as security, order, peace and basic necessities of livelihood and denied the people the yearnings of every human being, which is the inalienable right to life, justice and pursuit of happiness.
For nearly fifty years now, what we've had in Nigeria is a military dictatorship and political tyrants that oppressed the poor and minority members of the Nigerian state. The promises of these various governments have been a dismal failure.† They have not kept their promises and dealt with wrenching problems facing the people and nation but floundered and left the Nigerian masses worse than when they were under the British colonial regime. In a nutshell, Nigeria's ruling class with their borrowed systems of government have failed to fulfill its obligations to the nation and to the people.
And so, with the return to democratic system of government in 1999, people felt relieved but since then Nigeria has not had any credible and fair elections or seen any substantial dividends of democracy. The INEC has not been able to organize any fair and free elections. The 1999 and 2003 elections were marred with massive rigging, ballot stealing, violence, killings, political thuggery and all sorts of court actions against political opponents. The 2007 election was worse. It was just a sham and mockery of democratic elections.† The INEC did not have the capacity, resources and manpower to collate and count all the votes from 36 states of the Federation and yet declared the late Musa Yar'Adua as president elect.† What we have seen since the last ten years or so has been sort of a perilous political environment of the worst kind.
One of the key reasons among many for this political muddle is because of Nigeria's weak political culture. In 2003, about fifty political parties were registered by INEC for general elections and about twenty-five candidates for presidential election. Even though democracy is a system of number, it does not mean that every Dick and Harry will have to form a political association and run for office. In fact, as at today, there are about fifty-seven political parties in Nigeria and about 47 candidates are nursing ambition to run for the office of the president. I read recently where 1,200 candidates are running for PDP chairmanship in Cross River State.† This is absolutely a joke and mockery of democratic system of government.
It is for this reason that most of us have been writing and speaking out for years about the need for our nation to truly model the United States style of democracy of two party system even though our electorate s and nation's infrastructure may not†be at par with the U.S. I still think that two-party system should be a critical element in the constitutional amendment because it will help to develop Nigeria's political culture, enhance our system of government, and build a strong democratic nation.
There are those on the opposing side who think otherwise.
I strongly believe that electoral reform will never work effectively no matter who the President appoints as INEC leader without political reform.† And the key to electoral reform is limiting to only two-party systems for general elections such as the House of Representative, Senate, Governors and Presidency. The INEC officials must be trained and provided with vast resources, manpower and systems in place in order to conduct credible elections. In fact the electronic voting system suggested by Senator Ayo Arise of Ekiti State should be a viable solution if the Nigerian State truly wants to have a genuine, fair, and credible election.
Most people I talk to including politicians and regular Nigerians from all walks of life believe that two-party system will actually help to restrain some of the†cultural, social and political ills in our society – such as ethnicity, tribalism, religious intolerance, corruption, poor leadership, etc. Today, Nigeria is grouped into six-geopolitical entities.† The political wrangling and debate over the zone that†will produce the next presidency – the so-called zonal or rotational presidency may be reduced and with time permanently eliminated if Nigeria adopts two political parties that are broad-based and with shared vision and political will to transform not just one region of the country but the entire nation.
The zoning arrangement in PDP today will not exist if there was another strong opposition party.† Names such as -Peoples Republican Party (PRP) or Nigerian Republican Party (NRP) have been suggested that can be formed with broad based structure, ideals and visions that are embraced all the ethnicity and tribes within Nigeria with credible and visionary people, who have great aspirations to transform not just one region of the country but the entire nation.
Today, PDP is the only broad based Nigeria party and that is why every one is joining the party. But it will be a sad day if Nigeria happens to become a one party state. General Abacha tried it in the 1990's and failed. I think that the leaders of ANPP, AC, APGA, PPA, CPC, PMP, PDM, and other mushroom political parties for the interest of our nation must set aside their egoistic and selfish desires, power greed and come together to form a strong alliance with a refined vision that is embraced by all so that it can present itself as a credible opposition party to PDP in 2011. In a country of nearly 250 ethnic groups and 57 political parties will further divide the nation and create a national dilemma and political nightmare. Since democracy is a system of numbers, there will be no hope for any party that does not have a broad based national influence and possibility of winning any national elections or even within state level will be a mirage.
I'm afraid to say that what we have currently in Nigeria is a democratic totalitarian statecraft in which power is concentrated in the center and if the other political parties do not find common ground to come together as one strong opposition party against PDP, Nigeria may be heading toward a one party state, which is a very dangerous thing and may lead to denial of the individual rights, limitation of freedom of speech, abuses of equal rights and privileges.
Off course, one party system is no longer democracy but communism. More so, even with one major party in power for nearly eleven years now, there is no way internal democracy can be enhanced without strong opposition. Our political culture will never be strong because of political persecutions, violence, killings, thuggery and Godfatherism. Nigerians may be forced to embrace programs that are overly policing against popular will and against the interest of the poor masses.† There will be no social, economic and political justice at the council, state and national levels. There will be a sort of political impenitent and impunity which will be lethal damage to peace, unity, progress and well being of most Nigerian people.
But two-party†arrangement†with strict party Code of Conduct with criteria such as leadership as service, patriotism, integrity, ethno-neutral,†religious tolerance, shared vision, transparency-driven, knowledge-driven, good virtue, basic education, and character can discourage a lot of unskilled and unprepared people from running for political office. Such party ideals will discourage those crops of Nigerians that are superficial, cryptic, inept, greedy, corrupt, unqualified, arrogant and incompetent, whose stock in trade is to steal, embezzle, diminish and rubbish the potential of Nigerian people and society.
It is so sad that the House of Representatives did not give the two-party amendment any serious consideration in their constitutional amendment exercise. The constitution ought to be a document designed to protect the unity of the country and its citizen from tyranny. It ought to be a document that defines the rights of her citizens and not just assigning duties to them. Even in the Western culture, with particular reference to the United States of America, the constitution is†revised from time to time otherwise the constitution falls captive†to the anachronistic views of long-gone generations.
If any constitutional amendment does not acknowledge shortcomings and in our case - establish a well-defined set of core values that addresses national unity, patriotism and parameters to discourage ethnicity, tribalism and religious intolerance among the peoples of a diverse and complex nation like Nigeria, then we are just wasting our time as one indivisible nation. †We cannot move forward as a nation and fulfill our common purpose and destiny if ethnicity, tribalism and injustice are not addressed in our country. We truly need a national identity that harbors ethnicity and discourages tribal identity.
Today, what we have in Nigeria is a culture of government that is biased, corrupt and immoral. It is a system that undermines people's needs but favors a few elite. The style of democracy that we practice in Nigeria today is designed to discourage true, credible and visionary leaders but rather designed to enthrone weak, incompetent, visionless and ruthless rulers into position of power and authority.Our current system of government does not recognize nor reward honesty, character, integrity, talents, skills or potentials but rather recognizes and rewards dishonesty, violence, crooks, cronies, criminals and visionless people.
In a nutshell, we are victims of a biased and slave mentality system of government. The Bible clearly teaches that government is instituted so that people can have order, security and peace in the society (Romans 13). That has not been the case in Nigeria and for Nigerians. Additionally, Nigerians are also victims of their own envy, jealousy, greed, corruption, rage, anger, bitterness and hatred of one another. The civil war, tribal sentiments, religious, cultural and linguistic differences are just a few examples that continue to divide the nation into various ethno groups.
If we are serious about building strong democracy and enhancing our political culture, we must reverse the culture of cultic political associations that we currently have today.† Today, our political culture is a culture of impunity, money worshippers, egotism, greed, avarice, envy, hatred, jealousy, immorality, idolatry, atrocities, ignorance, darkness and death. Political rituals, divination, astrology, sorcery, witchcraft, magic, and all manners of evil and satanic manipulation have become the order of the day in today's Nigeria political landscape.No one can be nominated to even a state commissioner without entering into some sort of cultic and ritualistic worship. Because of this idolatrous democratic system, qualified and well-meaning individuals have removed themselves from such satanic worship and refused to participate into something that will defy their conscience and true worship of God.
Sadly enough, what we have today is a political culture of corruption, greed, arrogance, violence and killings because being elected to political office has become the surest way to amass wealth. We must change the trend and reverse the political mentality in order to encourage intellectuals and other talented individuals to join politics in order to truly transform our nation. Until we restructure our political systems and the electoral reform which is in the mouth of millions, we will not see fair and credible elections, no matter who the President or an independent body appoints as INEC chairman. I believe without a doubt that two part structure will help to enhance Nigeria's political culture and eradicate the political callousness in our nation today.
Dr. C. K. Ekeke is a public theologian and consultant.