5th February, 2014
By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. John F. Kennedy
The harrowing political violence in Rivers State and the unending insurgency in the North and the recent intensification of the inter-party negative pronouncements by the two leading political parties in Nigeria is a grim reminder of how weak and the inept leadership at the party hierarchies can fan the flames of possible conflict in the National Assembly and by extension the country at large. PDP, APC
Political insinuations amongst the parties and their agents seek to highlight the lack of common values for the nation and the citizens they aspire to lead. What is more, their actions and inactions far outweigh the national interest thereby, paving way for a strong dosage for anarchy. As we all know, politics in Nigeria from the first republic to the present dispensations are indeed major catalysts for dispute, conflict and violence.
Since the beginning of 2014, there has been heightened acrimony between the two dominant political parties in Nigeria- APC and the PDP. The discordant tunes from the parties in their quest for power and relevance in the minds of Nigerians towards 2015 general elections have resulted in heating up the political space. In view of the foregoing, the national leaderships of PDP and the APC should be sensitive to yearning and the aspirations of the common man in order not to derail the democratic gains in the last 15 years from the treacherous military regimes.
The recent call by the APC for the national assembly to block the national budget on the basis of its majority in the house calls for some deep reflections and discourse in this article. The national publicity secretary of the APC has hurriedly put a claim that the party should use the American legislative principle of filibuster to hold back proceedings on the floor of the house until the impunity in Rivers State is put to a stop by the federal government. In my view, the APC and the PDP must call their political rascals and foot soldiers on both sides of the divide in River State to order with a view to bringing about peace and harmony in that state. This has become necessary in order to reduce the loss of lives during the electioneering campaigns leading to the governorship and general elections in 2015.
It should be noted that filibuster principle being canvassed by the APC high command has its origin in the United State of America and was originally conceived as a way of ensuring that minority opinions were heard and understood before the Senate and indeed the House of Representatives in the case of Nigeria, voted on any critical and germane national issue. The principle behind the filibuster was pure and simple: As long as a member of the house kept talking on the floor, a bill could not move forward. When they felt they had been adequately heard, they could give up the floor and the Senate adopted a procedure known as the cloture vote, which could end a filibuster. If a cloture vote is called for, a super-majority of senators can force an end to debate and bring the question under consideration to an end. However, the filibuster principle has been used sparingly in the USA and it should be discouraged as a political weapon to subvert the will of the people.
But going by APC claim of majority in the national assembly as a result of cross carpets, the call for a filibuster for blocking the 2014 national budget and the confirmation of service chiefs, in my view, was ill -conceived and politically mischievous and above all, was not necessary for a political party that is trying hard to win followers from the much criticised political rival- the PDP. I think there is huge task ahead of the APC or the PDP to win the masses for votes if they do not put their dirty houses in order! They should pursue party supremacy, political tolerance and the politics of inclusion would enhance internal democracy.
There is no space in this article to detail all the current cases of the political utterance aspects of conflicts and violence in Nigeria politics. But what is undeniable is that politicians and their cronies have been used to foment divisions and troubles in the country; to reinforce senseless and selfish ideology; to lend weight to personal economic interest or other hidden grievance. However, there is a whole other set of examples in other democracies – which through their commitment to their political ideals make the most of their unique position within their countries to transform their nations through a party manifesto and purposeful leadership.
Also, political leaders or parties should be seen as long-term members of the Nigerian project with moral authority and non-partisan objectives when elections are over. They could challenge and transform national narratives compelling the ruling party in power by providing alternative policy directions and positively mobilising Nigerian and pressure groups to support such initiatives.
It is of course also important to shine the spotlight on the weakness in the policies of the Goodluck Jonathan administration at the centre. But perhaps where the APC in my submission, can be of most value is to highlight alternatives and other numerous governance building blocks from the APC states that have drawn on good governance benchmarks to explore commonalities, build consensus and seek solutions to the poor masses that need transformation. On the hand, PDP must also tread carefully and be sensitive to issues of national interest and avoid arrogance of winner- take- it all mentality and the grandstanding that has characterised its leadership at the centre since 1999. In addition, the party and its leadership should not take actions that will plunge the country into conflict and violence in the years to come. Leaders and political office holders particularly state governors must focus on governance rather than cheap political popularity and propaganda that most governors indulge in and should also put some quality time in the service of the people.
•Orovwuje is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos.