Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Politics: Why Party Administration Must Be Reformed

24 May 2012

By Salihu Moh. Lukman

If Nigeria's opposition parties ever hope to defeat the PDP's stranglehold on Nigeria and the political environment, the planning, mergers and alliances must begin from now. Opposition parties must also promote internal democracy by carrying out critical reforms in the way the parties are run. Therefore, there is a need to go back to the drawing board to re-examine the rules and management of our parties to come with dynamic party administrative structures. Part of the requirement for registration as a political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) states that the party's constitution and rules must: 

  • Provide for periodical election (not exceeding four years subject to reelection) on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party;
  • Ensure that the members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party reflect the federal character of Nigeria. Members of executive committee must belong to different states not less than two thirds of 36 and FCT; and
  • The programme as well as the aims and objects of a political party shall conform with the provisions of Chapter II of this Constitution.

This has translated into the provision of uniform structures with virtually the same designation of officials across all the political parties. The nomenclature, number and functions of the structures and officials are virtually the same. What you find in the PDP is almost word-for-word what you have in the ACN, CPC, ANPP, Labour Party and others with respect to structures and provisions of officials in the constitutions of the party. The only variation is where the parties' names are mentioned. 

All our parties are governed by National Convention, Board of Trustees, National Executive Committee, National Working Committee, State Congress, State Executive Committee, State Working Committee, Local Government Area Congress, Local Government Area Executive Committee, Ward Congress and Ward Executive Committee. The small variation would be the existence of Stakeholders/Elders structures at National, States, Local Government Areas and Wards in different forms. 

In terms of officials, all our parties have a minimum of 24 officials since the INEC registration requirement stipulate that the "executive committee must belong to different states not less than two thirds of 36 and FCT". Arising from this, Nigerian political parties all have a National Chairman, Deputy National Chairman, Six National Vice Chairmen (one from each geopolitical zone), National Secretary, Deputy National Secretary, National Treasurer, Deputy National Treasurer, National Financial Secretary, Deputy National Financial Secretary, National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Organising Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, Deputy National Publicity Secretary, National Legal Adviser, Deputy National Legal Adviser, National Welfare Officer, Deputy National Welfare Officer, National Auditor, Deputy National Auditor, National Women Leader and National Youth Leader. 

These designations are cascaded down to states, local governments and wards with slight variations. In all cases, the main focus is not about recruitment or providing services to members. References to recruitment and services are hardly traceable in the constitutions of all our parties. A quick explanation would be the hurried way they were packaged in order to meet INEC requirements and get registered as political parties. A second explanation would be the fact of originating from a common source given that ANPP and AD were breakaways from PDP, ACN being formed by AD leaders and splinter group of PDP, CPC being a breakaway of ANPP, etc. 

The questions would be: now that these parties are opposing the PDP, why should they retain the same structural outlook? Why should emphasis to membership recruitment and services not be a major distinguishing feature of these parties from the PDP? The answer is: because the main focus of all our parties is to win elections fairly or unfairly! Arising from this, political practice and culture is the same across all the parties. It is all about recruiting membership based on individual aspirations for political offices, capacity to buy/procure votes, employ thugs for political campaigns, contract ballot box snatching and capacity to organize rigging during elections. 

A major determining factor therefore is financial capability of individuals. Across all the parties, once an individual aspirant is recruited with strong financial capability, the party is surrendered to him/her. Such a person would then proceed to nominate/appoint party leaders from among his loyalists. Accordingly, presidential aspirants nominate/appoint party leaders at national levels and gubernatorial candidates nominate party leaders at states, local governments and wards levels. Candidates for elections are also similarly recruited that way. Presidential candidates recruits gubernatorial candidates and gubernatorial candidates recruits other candidates for lower offices from the ranks of loyalists. As a result, a few individuals have become the proprietors of our political parties. 

Issues of participation and democracy are compromised, professional management of parties ignored and disciplinary conduct of members sacrificed. The consequence is the preponderances of so many unethical, unfair and uncivilized practices by party leaders and public representatives of political parties, including public officials. Knowledge, logic, conventions, qualifications, skills and experiences carry little weight. For instance, the Chairman, Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Treasurer, Legal Adviser, etc. of the party can be any ‘yes-person'. Offices are reduced to territorial control with hardly any focus on services. Cost considerations are hardly regarded. It is more about access to resources. 

In the circumstance, all party officials are full-time. They are political, administrative and bureaucratic leaders. In fact, the definition of structures in the constitution of all our parties entrenches and enforces this ambiguity. A good demonstration of this is the fact that the Secretariat of the party, which is supposed to be the administrative and bureaucratic organ of the party, only ascribes its location, which as the INEC rule provides should be Abuja, with offices in state capitals, local government headquarters and wards. There is hardly any further definition with respect to functions and responsibilities. Even provisions specifying that the National Secretary shall be the head of the Secretariat and its composition can only be assumed. 

Lack of professionalism is therefore an inherent characteristic of all our parties. Also, the absence of viable democratic funding sources is a major attribute of our parties. This partly accounts for why the recent external auditors reports on the accounts of political parties for the year 2010 released by INEC produced virtually the same result. The summary is: 

a.      Parties do not have internal audit reports and accounts for the year under review (2010);


b.      Conventional accounting books were not properly maintained;


c.       Budget and budgetary control were not in place; and


d.      The parties do not have a well defined fixed assets register and assets were not labeled; 

In addition, INEC reported the income and expenditure claims of all the parties, which are hardly verifiable given that there are no accounting books and budgets. Interestingly, this is the situation with all the parties with very minor differences. With no exception, this report covers all the 63 registered political parties in the country. And all the parties have Treasurers, Financial Secretaries and Internal Auditors. The question we need to ask is what are the responsibilities of these officials? 

The truth is that many of these officials don't even know their responsibilities as provided in their respective constitution. Besides, the constitutions of our parties are in most cases blind or ambiguous on matters of responsibilities for these officials. As a result, our parties are at best models in bad practices, inefficient and ineffective in service delivery and excellent examples of dysfunctional structures. This being the case, they cannot be the harbingers of good and democratic governance. 

How do we create a model party that can engineer the development of democratic, efficient and effective political organization that can mobilize Nigerians based on an agenda of developing and harnessing the resources of the country? This is not simply about meeting INEC registration requirements. It is about efficient mobilization and deployment of resources – human resources especially. 

The first reference point of our parties is mobilizing citizens and strategically deploying them into public services. From all evidences, our 63 existing registered parties are anything but political parties as far as human resource mobilization is concerned. As for deployment into public service, it is more by default on account of demands by aspiring politicians. As a result, our parties are ambition rather than inspiration driven. This is the factor which produced the absence of choice. Choice, if it exists at all, is more about the individual candidates and not the party.  

A crucial challenge before opposition parties in Nigeria is the need to properly restructure internal party organization with the objective of developing service framework around which citizens' mobilization can take place. Restructuring internal party organization would require clear definition and delineation of responsibilities. This would mean separating political leadership from the administrative. It would also further require outlining responsibilities of all functionaries based on modern organizational standards. In other words, there is the urgent need to professionalize the workings of our parties if they are to meet the expectations of Nigerians. 

A situation where offices are designed based on convenience and office occupants are recruited based on personal loyalty is counter-productive and can only breed undemocratic practices. Professionalizing the operations of our political parties would necessitate focus in two areas. These are membership mobilization and party funding. The two are related. 

As it were, it is the absence of focus in these two areas that made our parties what they are – mere platforms for contesting elections and not representatives of any interest. To be able to mobilize membership would entail making offers to specific interests' of citizens. The strength of commitments to these offers would determine financial contributions. Beyond offers however, membership would be encouraged to make contributions if they are guaranteed prudent management of party resources. Also, apart from legal requirements, good financial management is imperative for the financial survival of parties and sin-qua-non for internal democracy in the party. Financial management should not be therefore only vested in the hands of political leaders. Competent personnel with requisite fundraising and bookkeeping skills must be recruited and remunerated. 

In addition to financial management, sound and proactive communication strategies should drive our political party membership mobilization programme. Therein lies the role of propaganda, which is basically about influencing the attitude of Nigerians towards political and governance issues in the country. It is the consistency of the message being conveyed and its relevance to the realities of Nigerians that would attract membership to the party. The main challenge is to develop the internal capacity within our parties to develop the messages and popularize them. It is not simply the responsibility of a Publicity Secretary. It is also imperative to consider the presence of competent communication skills experts who can develop the messages and create platforms for their dissemination. This is not happening in any of our parties today.  

The other issue is the need to focus mobilization specifically towards women and youths. This is because women constituted about 50% of our population and youths constitute more than 60%. Any party that is popular to these categories of our population would be guaranteed majority votes. Already, given the provision for Women and Youth Leaders in the parties, it can be argued that this is already recognized. What is missing is the absence of clear mobilization programmes or projects. Our parties need to consciously invest resources to develop youth and women mobilization programmes and projects.  

In the debate about repositioning our parties, especially opposition parties, if we are interested in achieving a good measure of political and democratic progress as a nation, all negotiating parties need to do at the initial stage, is to prioritize issues of membership mobilization and party funding with the objective of developing a framework that would ensure delineation of political and administrative responsibilities within our parties. Good delineation would mean that majority of our parties' political leadership are part-time officials and very few are full-time. However, it would also require that a conscious decision is taken to recruit specialized financial and communication experts to provide services to the parties.  

This would then define the day-to-day workings of the party. In addition to these day-to-day workings of the party, there are other periodic services that parties must provide, which is not the case now. For instance, the task of recruiting agents for elections can be handled better by the party which can in the process organize specialized trainings for them. As it is today, in almost all the parties, the task of recruiting agents is largely the responsibility of candidates with little input from the party. Also, the issue of managing the process of filing petitions after elections can be better organized and handled by the party. Many good cases have been lost on account of poor handling by candidates and wrong choices of lawyers.  

Given all these, the challenge is for our opposition parties to engage and negotiate political, administrative and bureaucratic frameworks for service delivery. It will be less controversial to have an agreement on these issues. Once there is agreement on the need for these reforms, it will be much easier to develop a strategy on how to manage the resolution of more difficult challenges such as the issue of leadership, staff and candidates' recruitments. 

In the context of our discussion of the need for ACN and CPC to unite in order to present a stronger electoral challenge to the PDP, these are the primary issues. Capacity to have agreements on these issues would fundamentally change the political outlook of our parties.


©  EsinIslam.Com

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