Political Parties and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria: A Study of the Peoples Democratic Party, 1999-2015
This study investigated the nexus between political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria with emphasis on People’s Democratic Party from 1999-2015. Political scholars and analysts have identified a number of benefits associated with political parties. In spite of all the benefits of political parties in instituting democracy and fostering democratic culture in a state, this paper argues that in Nigeria, the party system functions differently and undermines democracy in a number of ways. Thus, our study was guided by the following research questions: Does lack of internal conflict resolution mechanisms in the PDP undermine democratic consolidation in Nigeria? Secondly, does the absence of rule of law in the implementation of PDP constitution impede democratic consolidation? To empirically interrogate these questions, the study was anchored on the documentary method of data collection while content was used analyse the mass data generated. Using the Marxist theory of post-colonial state as a framework of analysis, the study revealed that the corrupt, authoritarian, absolute, arbitrary, exploitative, rent-seeking, prebendal, predatory comprador and neo-patrimonial character of the ruling class undermines democratic consolidation in Nigeria. To turn around and avoid the future occurrence of these dastardly acts, this paper makes robust recommendation that PDP should explore internal conflict resolution mechanisms in resolving its crisis, the party’s constitution should be held sacred and it should dictate and guide the party’s activities.
Keywords: Party Politics, Democratic Consolidation,Conflicts Resolution, Rule of Law, Party Constitution
Words Count: 222
Background of study
Political parties are integral part of the process of consolidating democracy. Democracy depends on political parties to survive, since the structure of elections, from citizen participation to candidate selection and presentation of competing political programmes, are done by political parties (Lamidi and Bello, 2012).There is, therefore, a link between political parties and democratic consolidation. However, there is an absence of democratic consolidation through political parties in Nigeria. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the former ruling party, was unable to entrench democratic culture and behaviour in Nigeria’s political space.
Democratic consolidation for Gasiorowski and Power (1998) connotes an acceptable qualitative improvement in democratic practices and it is the process by which a new democracy matures, in a way that makes it unlikely to revert to authoritarianism without an external shock. Democratic consolidation connotes “the challenges of making new democracies secure by extending their life expectancy beyond the short-term and making them immune against the threat of authoritarian repression…” (Beetham in Ainabor, Idomeh and Braimoh, 2010, P.17). This makes it clearer why Obasi (2001, P.21) posited that “democracy is…the opposite of arbitrary, despotic or tyrannical rule”. The conditions for democratic consolidation are: popular legitimization; the diffusion of democratic values, the routinization of anti-system actors, civilian-military relations, party building, organization of functional interest, the stabilization of electoral rules, judicial reforms, alleviation of poverty and economic stabilization. Meanwhile, to consolidate democracy, political parties are expected to exhibit the following features: they must be composed of like minded people whose world views are similar, they must promote a set of programmes embodying the vision, mission and manifestoes of the party and designed to meet the needs of the public; they must be mass based, which helps to legitimize them; they must evolved gradually and systematically over time, with identifiable leaders who constitute their rallying points; they must exhibit characteristics of internal democracy in their operations (Kehinde and Adejumobi, 2007). Once political parties exhibit these features for a considerable time the democratic process can be characterized as consolidated. Yet democratic theorists maintain that parties’ internal functioning must conform to democratic practices because the quality of democracy in a state mirrors internal behaviour of parties. According to Mainwaring (1999, P.11), “the way political parties behave and carry out their activities affect such vital questions as the nature of, and citizens attitude to democracy, the level of accountability and quality of elections in a country”. Hence, since Africa’s democratic renaissance, there have been calls for African parties to be internally democratic in order to promote democracy within society (Gyimah-Boadi 2004; Bratton 2012).
Mainstream rhetoric in Nigeria media and popular discourses of the polity is often centred on the claim that Nigeria is “consolidating its democracy”. The evidence on the ground, however, contradicts this claim. With the transition to civil rule in 1999 (Signaling the commencement of the Fourth Republic), political parties had the mandate to produce the right calibre of people to govern (Momoh, 2013).
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) emerged as the dominant political party in 1999 with the return of democracy in Nigeria. PDP since its formation in 1998 had one unique feature of being the only party that has national outlook. As the ruling party in Nigeria between 1999and 2015 four general elections were held 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Thus, it sustained the nation’s nascent democracy for as long as 16 years. This is first ever in the political history of Nigeria. However, the last 16 years of the PDP rule witnessed a profound assault, rape, debasement, travesty and reversal of democracy. The two general elections in 2003 and 2007 held under the PDP government were characterized by notorious electoral malpractices. The general election were like warfare with a flurry of intimidation, thuggery, outright violence, widespread electoral irregularities, horse trading, ballot box stuffing with thumb printed ballot papers, ballot box snatching, election rigging, manipulation and falsification of election outcome and announcement of preferred candidates as winners. Starting its origin, the then ruling PDP was described as mixed bag of persons with different ideologies, that is, the conservative, the radicals and the progressives; who do not only misunderstand themselves but are regularly feuding (Amadi, Echem and Nwoko ,2017).
Within the PDP there has also been serious erosion of democratic values. Its primaries, conventions and congresses, which are the democratic institutions for nominating party candidates for elections and electing party officials, have little been regarded. This scenario led Ibeanu (2013) to note that political parties largely pursue (and profess) democracy outside the gates and resist it within the gates. Eni (2006); Owuda (2005) in their different submission noted that the PDP as political party witnessed the development of ‘godfatherism’, ‘babaism’, personality and military cult of the highest dimension, Horse-trading, browbeating, talk to step aside culture and imposition of preferred candidates of the godfathers in the party have characterized the party primaries, congresses and conventions. Some of the party leaders tell candidates nursing ambition with air of finality to forget it because there is no vacancy for their desired political offices.
Rather than concentrating on consolidating the nascent democracy, the tussle for power and control of the party machinery become the order of the day and this makes democratic consolidation difficult. Sambine (2004) posited that those who own or play major roles in the formation of the parties end up being dictatorial. In PDP for example, Ogbe (2004) lamented that there were individuals who did not see themselves as being members of the party, who rather sought to own the party or to own part of it and to dictate to the party.
Consequently, the crisis in PDP divided the party into factions and caucuses with many bigwigs posing as members of Board of Trustees and others as elders and leaders of the party. The collision among these group manifested in frequent change of party leadership. Within eleven years, the PDP had six chairmen, out of which none of them complete his tenure. Besides the internal wrangling between former President Obasanjo and his Vice Atiku, the issue of Zoning within the party nearly broke the party into pieces. Similarly, the activities of godfather in the party rendered the party ineffective in the process of discharging their responsibilities. These “godfathers” impact negatively on democracy by restricting citizen participation as a voter or candidate. Also in an undemocratic way, they imposed candidates’ right from local level to national level, on agreement that they surrender the state treasury to them (Omotola, 2007). These kinds of agreement explain why the delivery of public goods becomes mirage in our society. Thus, democracy has no meaning once it failed to improve on the life of citizens. The legitimacy of leaders whose process of selection fallout of democratic norms is highly questionable at the expense of national stability (ICG, 2007).
The trend of internal crisis within the party since 1999 shows that the PDP spent more time on reconciliatory process, than on a programme that would benefit the electorates. It is equally deduced that failure of political parties to embrace dialogue in resolving their internal crisis is antithetical to democratic consolidation. Since the principal tenet of democracy is the possibility it offers to resolve crisis through dialogue, without recourse to violence, even when they are irksome to warring parties (IPU, 2006). The undemocratic conduct of PDP also contributes in no small measure to the political violence and political assassination in Nigeria. As party abstained from healthy intra-party rivalry in the process of candidates selection, the venue of party primaries were mostly turned into violence gathering.
With respect to the conduct of political parties since 1999 to 2015, PDP did not engaged in the issues that will consolidate democracy in Nigeria. The party that was expected to perform integrative roles and engage in nation building instead, was/ are busy with internal crisis. They fueled the tensions created by division and tribal loyalty, as they embraced exclusion politics such as denial of wider participation by the citizens. They spent more time on internal crisis, than implement the policies that will affect majority of voters positively. As argued by Ojo (2008), the survival of democracy depends on its ability to address the major problems of the people. The undemocratic nature of the party also fueled the violence and political assassination that portrayed Nigeria as one of the most risky nations in the world.
Therefore, from the above, this study argued that political party supposed to be the key player in the drive to entrench democratic culture but the PDP in Nigeria case proved to be different. In this light, this study investigated the nexus between political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. In particular, it unravelled the underlying factors that aid or account for the intra-party conflicts in the People’s Democratic Party that stood as obstacle in the drive to consolidate democracy, with a view to pin-pointing useful lessons to boost democratic growth in Nigeria. The study investigate in particular the weak and problematic mechanism for resolving conflicts within the Peoples Democratic Party which have accounted for the reasons why from 1999 to 2015 there have been more than 12 reconciliatory committees to resolve crisis within the party as well as how the absence of the rule of law in the implementation of PDP constitution had stood as an obstacle to the entrenchment of democratic culture in Nigeria.
Statement of the Problem
The third wave of democratization which commenced in the late 1990s in Africa was largely a transition from authoritarian rule/military dictatorship to democratic regimes (Young, 1999). As democracy became fashionable all over the world, authoritarian regimes in most countries, especially Africa transmuted or transformed into democracy. In other words, they became more democratic or simply wore the toga of democracy in order to gain national and international acceptance. Moreover, Nigeria was not spared from the contagious and snowballing effects of the democratic wave (Ogbonna, 2014).
In fact, since the return of Africa to the paths of democratization under the ‘third wave’, the challenges of consolidating democracy have occupied a central position, not only in academic discourse, but also in the domains of civil society, public policy and democracy aid industry(Ogbonna, 2014 ). This is because sustaining and consolidating democracy is often a task as difficult as establishing it, if not much more daunting (Schedler, 1998). Moreover, the experience of history demonstrates convincingly the fluctuating fortunes of democratization in Africa, given the abysmal failure of all previous attempts at democratization in the continent (Omotola, 2009).
Party politics is one of the greatest challenges of the contemporary Nigeria society as it undermines good governance, distorts public policy, leads to misallocation of resources, intra-ethnic conflicts, political corruption and culture of primitive accumulation. The challenge of internal party democracy poses a threat to the democratization process in Nigeria. The situation within the political parties in Nigeria especially in the PDP where internal democracy has become elusive has been a source of worry to many exponents of democracy and good governance. In every democratic setting, there are basic rules of conduct and behaviour that regulates the actions of members of every political party so as to ensure the achievement of a common purpose for the good of all.
Various scholars have tried to provide explanations as to why democratic consolidation in Nigerian political parties, with emphasis on PDP, is still a wild goose chase despite all measures put in place to address it. For instance, Oji and Eme (2014) argued that the problem of democratic consolidation in the PDP is linked to party funding and other counting fees like the expression of interest, formalization of interest and other administrative charges which culminated in the prohibitive cost of seeking public office in Nigeria is the major reason why democratic consolidation remain but a dream in the party.
In line with the above, Ikejiani-Clark (2008) submitted that because of the relationship between party funding and candidate selection/nomination, financial donors (Godfathers) of PDP take over and or hijack the party control with a view to determining who is selected or appointed to occupy which party or public office. This goes a long way in posing as a threat to the political development of Nigeria.
Aleyomi (2013) equally observed that the problem of democratic consolidation in the PDP is linked to poverty of the party’s ideology due to its capitalist and conservative disposition without clear policy position as a basis of popular mobilization and legitimacy of its actions.
To Ojukwu and Olaifa (2011) the problem of democratic consolidation in the PDP is lack of policy consistency. They noted that “since the party took over government in 1999, it has evolved so many policies that are yet to be implemented. For instance, between 2000 and 2002, the Olusegun Obasanjo government came up with the reform and privatisation policies while Yar’Adua who took over in 2007 came up with 7 Points Agenda without proper implementation to deepen the country’s democratic space.
To Ezeani as cited in Okoye et al (2012) power of incumbency is responsible for PDP woes in consolidation of democracy due to indiscriminate use of power of incumbency which polarises the elite who are chief executives of that states that often superimpose their whims and caprices on party members and supporters.
In addressing the problems associated with democratic consolidation in Nigeria with special emphasis on the PDP, many scholars of thought such as Momodu and Matudi (2013), Eme and Anyadike (2011) as well as Aleyomi (2013) and successive party leadership of both past and present have made several attempts at proffering solutions on how best to eliminate this ugly reality remain an exercise in futility.
In Nigeria, for instance, the former ruling party (PDP) under the chairmanship of Okwesilieze Nwodo initiated the online registration of member’s project. It is a scheme that would inevitably strip the party’s stalwarts of direct control of the party. The essence of the scheme was to give the ordinary members of the party equal right to vote and be voted for in an election by making the party open to all, deepening democracy through internal party democracy; strategies for conducting credible, free and fair party congresses and primaries as a means of boosting party membership and funds and among other things aimed at harmonising parties membership data, returning the party ownership of the party to the people and strengthening the party various structures at all levels across the country has been undermined by this phenomenon.
There are two strands of analysis to explain the problematique of the study. First, lack of internal conflict resolution mechanism in the PDP undermine democratic consolidation in Nigeria. The former ruling party has found itself in series of conflicts that keep recurring like mathematical decimal. The reason for this is that the PDP as a political party has not been able to adopt global best practices in resolving the crises, this is largely the reason why despite the inauguration of more than twelve (12) reconciliation committee put in place to resolve crisis, yet there is no headway as to reach on to a compromise, some factions within the party still feels side-lined and out of the scheme of things within the party organisation. It was discovered that PDP lacked effective use of conflict resolution mechanism such as mediation, negotiation, conciliation and arbitration.
Second, the absence of rule of law in the internal workings of PDP impede democratic consolidation. This is because in the implementation of the PDP constitution since 1999 to 2015 not even the spirit or the letters of the law of the PDP constitution has been followed. This has accounted for the lack of due process in the party’s internal workings.
It is against this background that this study poses the following research questions:
- Does lack of internal conflict resolution mechanisms in the PDP undermine democratic consolidation in Nigeria?
- Does the absence of rule of law in the implementation of PDP constitution impede democratic consolidation?
Objectives of the Study
This study has both broad and specific objectives. The broad objective of the study is to establish the relationship between party politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria, using the PDP as a case study.
The specific objectives are:
1. To explain how lack of internal conflict resolution mechanism in the PDP undermined democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
2. To analyse how absence of rule of law in the implementation of PDP constitution impeded democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
Significance of the Study
The issue of political parties and its importance in consolidating democracy in Nigeria has attracted academic scrutiny. This study has both theoretical and practical significance. The theoretical relevance of this study derives from the fact that it has tried to fill the gap in the extant literature which the scholars have not satisfactorily filled and thereby providing a new framework under which the problems associated with political parties and democratic consolidation in the PDP and in Nigeria in general could be analyzed and explained. The findings of this study will equally add to the existing stock of scholarly literature on political parties and democratic consolidation in Nigeria. As such, it will then serve as a reference material or data for scholars whose interest would eventually be aroused by the findings to undertake further studies in the area.
Practically, the research will be of immense value and guide for politicians especially in the PDP as regards to the entrenchment of internal party democracy in Nigerian political parties, as a necessary prerequisite for democratic consolidation and political development in the PDP and in Nigeria in general. This is because its findings will provide valuable data/information that will assist in articulating potent ways that will help in resolving the problems inherent in party politics, especially in the consolidation of democracy in the PDP and Nigeria in general.