23rd February, 2015
By Wole Solanke
The beauty of democracy is when people of different backgrounds come together to form a government that pays special attention to yearnings of the citizens. But in Nigeria, politicians mix governance with wealth accumulation and enrich their various pockets while the masses are left to suffer. It is one of the dangerous trends that may short-circuit our democracy if care is not taken. I have travelled wide, but I have not seen a place where personal interest is placed above the majority’s interest as is the case with governance in Africa.
There should be a wide gap between governance and money making. Our politicians jettison governance and go for wealth. This is responsible for politics of thuggery, arson, assassination and loss of lives and properties.
Electioneering campaigns, generally, are too riotous, violent and full of intrigues in our country. Political parties will do anything if that would enable them capture people’s votes to form the government. Politicians should put a stop to this for the future of our children.
It is because politicians lack sincerity of purpose and discipline that they engage in primitive accumulation of wealth. There should be discipline among public office holders if this country must progress.
By November this year, I will be 95 years old. I spent about 80 years in London, for my educational background and life generally. The type of democracy being practised in Britain today is far different from what we are practising in Nigeria.
The use of political parties in Britain as well as other European countries is often carried out with transparency and with utmost sincerity to the people, vividly and absolutely in the interest of the people. A situation in which a particular party will have to endorse or nominate a candidate against the wishes of the people during the primaries is clearly undemocratic.
If Nigerians claim to have borrowed this democracy from the Americans, we should be able to practise it as the Americans do. I don’t see anything wrong if Africans are able to fashion out their own system of governance if the one copied from Americans do not match our culture.
Looking at democracy as clearly defined by former President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, as “the government of the people, for the people, by the people,” it is rather sad and regrettable that political parties (which in fact includes their cabals and their cartels are oppressive and undemocratic) constitute the taproot of corruption in Nigeria.
Looking back now, since the adoption of political parties in 1960 for example, you will find that unhealthy rivalry, arson, assassination, looting of the treasury, do-or-die politicking, unilateral appointment of candidates against the wishes of the people, attacks on persons rather than on issues and their manifestoes and a lot more become the order of the day during political campaigns for votes for any elections in Nigeria.
This has never been the case in Britain and other European countries. Frankly speaking, political party system is not compatible with Nigeria. It is un-African. You will scarcely find any part of Africa free of turmoil as a result of the adoption and uses of political parties.
Going back to history, before the advent of the British, all parts of Nigeria, be it North, South, East or West had their own systems of administration. For example, the town hall system/constituencies, which was not bedevilled by upheavals or looting or unlawful killing, as we now have in Nigeria, existed in some parts of the country. It was often conducted peacefully.
It would have been marvellous if we can go back, develop, and streamline the town hall system simply by appointing people who are knowledgeable and show appropriate interest and eventually elect one from among them to represent the nation or state in the House of Representatives or Assembly, and absolutely in peaceful and joyous atmosphere without vituperations or unhealthy rivalry.
Have you ever heard of a sit-tight minister, Prime Minister/President in England or European countries? The answer is NO! Any elected political office holder will resign, often within 24 hours if their own ideas conflict with the opinion of the people which they believe should be supreme. The reverse is the case in Africa. Why? It is because the system of governance operated in European countries would never put much money in their pockets as is the case in Nigeria.
Our politicians have seen this and taken advantage of the electorate by allocating enough wealth to any political office without minding the electorate that voted them into office. In fact, operating two Houses of Parliament, I mean the Senate and House of Representatives, is a mere waste of economic resources that should be channelled to improving the life of the citizens.
To be honest with ourselves, it is difficult for any politician to amass so much wealth without the support of their political godfathers. The cabal is the citadel of corruption in Nigeria. And when the head practises corruption, all the big and small names there would do likewise. Under normal circumstances, a member of the House of Representatives ought not to earn more than a university don. But most of them earn a don’s annual salary in one month. For doing what, you may ask?
Here are my reasons for advocating for zero party system: the current political system is sheer waste of public funds. And how is the money obtained? Through corrupt practices in high places. Also, political office holders, because of the assistance obtained from top party hierarchy, compensate the cabal that helped them win election which may not be so in a zero party system.
It is my belief that the two Houses (parliament) often formed by political parties are foreign to Africa and can be abolished or amended. This was done in a North African country some years ago. Similarly, a West African country suspended their senate last year. Imagine all the rioting, arson, assassinations, unlawful killings and armed conflicts taking place all over Africa, they all arose as a result of the intrigues of political parties justling for power.
Let us tell ourselves the truth: adoption of the ordinary rules of meetings practised by associations such as the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigerian Labour Congress, the various unions in universities and other tertiary institutions is simpler to understand, cheaper — it would cut the unnecessarily exorbitant expenditure of the legislature by, at least, 75 percent and help produce better results.
Once again, the political party system is a mere grand design to provide cheap jobs for the elite to get fat salaries or incomes at the detriment of the workers and ordinary citizens.
With a well and properly constituted INEC and the already laid out constituencies as well as a properly supervised computerised system of voting, elections should take place joyously and results announced within 48 hours in peace and without the presence of the army or police at the polling booths.
•Solanke, a lawyer, wrote from Lagos.