May 19, 2022

How not to lead a political party

BY OLALEKAN ADIGUN

The Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) – an umbrella body of state governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – met with President Muhammadu Buhari after the party’s long-awaited national convention was held. again been postponed by the Guardian and Extraordinary Planning Convention (CECPC), this time from February 26 to March 26, 2022. The APC has been embroiled in conflict since 2019. The ruling party appears to face an existential threat to the first time since its formation less than ten years ago. And that’s because most of the challenges facing the APC today – like many African political parties – have to deal with how not to lead them.

Political parties are important agents of leadership mobilization and recruitment in modern democracies. They have become so important nowadays that it is almost impossible to imagine a democracy without their operations. This explains why the famous professor of political science at the University of Ibadan, Adigun Agbaje, argued (in 1998) that viable political parties are key ingredients for democratization. He said not having strong and viable political parties in a democracy is “like trying to pass off brown water as tea”. Therefore, the weakening of political parties through excessive regulations, lack of conflict resolution mechanisms and excessive judgments can stunt their growth and development, which also portends danger to emerging democracies.

The history of the APC is too well known to require a retelling here. Most people are also aware of the genesis of its current imbroglio. Things started when state politicians like Zamfara, Rivers and Edo couldn’t handle disagreements, which is pretty normal in party politics. What looked like local party issues soon took unexpected turns at the national level. This prevented the party from fielding candidates in the 2019 elections in Zamfara and Rivers states. The party lost its only real south-south route, Edo State, to the opposition.

Things came to a head when the Edo debacle later consumed the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In what looked like desperate measures, the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) dissolved its National Working Committee (NWC) in June 2020 at a meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari. At the meeting, Buhari called for the immediate suspension of all pending litigation involving the party and its members, as well as the ratification of the party’s gubernatorial primary election conducted in Edo State. . It was at this same meeting that the party created the CECPC headed by Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni to organize a convention to inaugurate a new group of leaders to steer the affairs of the party in six months. What most people thought was a simple, once-and-for-all solution turned out to be more problematic. The committee headed by Buni has not been able to carry out its main task two years after its creation. Tensions have risen. Some fear that the party will resume the road to Zamfara or Rivers, this time on a national scale!

The party has faced (and still faces) members resorting to court demands and counterclaims, orders and counter orders, injunctions and counter injunctions that are mostly against the grain. This brings us to an essential point: political parties should not be over-legislated or over-judged. Although we can say that politicians can be dubious by nature, there should be limits to government involvement in political parties. I say this because too much government involvement in the internal affairs of political parties will not make them grow. It’s a fact.

It is only recently that the National Assembly adopted the amended electoral law which obliges political parties to organize direct primaries to select their candidates. One wonders then, how can one think that it is correct to make a law dictating to political parties how they must select their candidates? Why must all political parties organize their primaries in the same way or in a certain format? Is there a perfect mode of party primaries? Regardless of the mode of party primaries adopted, there will always be people who feel aggrieved or cheated, no matter how transparent the process.

What happens next is the party’s conflict resolution mechanism that needs to be activated. In the UK, for example, local party leaders (not ordinary voters or members) – and mostly in “safe” areas – simply interview candidates (especially first-timers) from whom they select for find out who flies the party flag during elections. Are there people who feel aggrieved? Yes there is.

This brings me to the excessive court cases that have plagued APC and other parties lately. One of the injunctions used as the basis for dissolving the NWC from the party was an order from an Abuja High Court in March 2020. Since Oshiomhole could have been revoked by court order if he did not failed to comply with internal party disciplinary measures against him, what is it then the court’s business to appoint his replacement? The argument that the “top party official” should succeed him seemed (and still seems) ludicrous. If the party president is removed or has resigned, constitutional procedures are in place to replace him.

Article 14(2)(iii) of the party constitution is clear on who should fill the role; whether on an interim or effective basis. The APC has at all times: two deputy national vice-presidents (north and south) and six national vice-presidents (each representing geopolitics). This means that there are constitutionally eight people in the line of succession to the position of national president, but somehow the court believes that the “highest party official” in the south-south zone to succeed Oshiomhole after his retirement is a certain assistant. national secretary.

What happened to the National Vice President (South-South)? So where are the powers of the party’s NWC or NEC to determine the next course of action following the removal of the substantive chairman? Weren’t these bodies established by the party constitution supposed to do that? In the Supreme Court, for example, once the chief justice resigns, retires or dies, does the senior or next highest justice take over? If so, where does the “highest party official in the area” argument come from for the APC?

Political parties, like any other human organization, are subject to error. They should be allowed to make their mistakes and correct them. Even the courts have had their fair share of errors. We all witness how the corruption cases against a former governor were all dismissed by our courts only to be found guilty in foreign courts. In Osun State, a judge Olamide Oloyede has drafted a petition for a sitting governor to be removed. She was later removed by the National Judicial Council (NJC) after being found guilty of violating professional ethics over the said petition. All of this and more happened with the judiciary having internal dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve issues. Imagine the courts having to deal with too much executive and legislative interference from time to time.

Political parties should be allowed to grow to enable them to play their role in the democratic process. They will not grow with too much external intervention and excessive legislation. The constitutions of the United States and the United Kingdom do not mention political parties or their operations. Today, the Democratic/Republican and Conservative/Labour parties are visible aspects of the democracies of both countries. These parties developed through great revolutions, world wars, great depressions, the collapse of quasi-parties, (re)alignments and other upheavals. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa has gone through difficult times to become what it is today.

Few know that the UK’s bipartisan rivalry was between the Tories (conservatives) and liberal (Whigs) parties. The Labor Party has relegated the Liberals since the start of the 20and century. Parties must evolve. And that means they must be allowed to make their mistakes, to run their affairs with little or no outside intervention. If there is one aspect of political parties that should be seriously regulated or litigated, it is their campaign finance or their violent tendencies. Otherwise, these parties will not grow and we will continue to wonder why we are not democratizing.

The current crisis of the APC and the unnecessary extensions of its extraordinary convention could have been avoided without unnecessary interventionism. We should start looking at political parties as important agents in the democratic process. The important clue lies in the way they are managed!

Olalekan Adigun, an accidental writer, sent this piece from Lagos. He can be reached on twitter: @MrLekanAdigun and [email protected]