A former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, has accused Nigerian political parties, including the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, of lacking internal democracy.
Mr. Atiku, who is a member of the APC, made the criticism on Tuesday at the second annual conference of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, in Abuja.
Speaking at the conference which was organised under the theme: ‘Inter Party Democracy: A Recipe for Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria,’ he emphasised on the deficiency in the two major parties, APC and PDP, and stressed that true democracy requires internal democracy in the political parties.
He described as “undemocratic and bullying” the practice whereby governments direct parties to fill vacancies in their leadership without election, stressing that it would be impossible to build democracy on a foundation of dictatorship and intolerance.
“In my view, there is a close relationship between democracy within political parties and democracy within the nation. Put simply, you cannot give what you don’t have. You cannot build democracy on a substructure of dictatorship and intolerance. A political party that constricts the freedom of its members cannot really offer freedom to the citizens of the nation. Democracy is not just an idea; it is a cultural practice.”
“For a number of years now, we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their constitution.”
“In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the executive at the state or federal level, fills the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratise parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations.”
“This means that efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy must include efforts at democratising our political parties. The institutionalisation of democracy in our internal party processes will help us deepen democracy in Nigeria. Leaders are more likely to tolerate opposition from citizens and other parties if they tolerate it within their own party.”
The former vice president said the lack of internal democracy in political parties was responsible for the clashes between parties and their elected representatives on one hand and the legislature and the executive on the other.
He lamented that the loyalty of some lawmakers and members of the executive was with political godfathers who sponsored their elections rather than the party.
At the event, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mahmud Yakubu, restated the commitment of the commission to ensure that election results were determined by the votes cast by the citizens.
Mr. Yakubu said INEC would continue to be courageous to ensure that only winners of polls were returned.
He urged political parties to create opportunities for women and people with disabilities to participate in the political process too.