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Justice Uwais And Internal Democracy Among Parties

December 27, 2012

The former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais, was recently in the news when he accused the National Assembly of killing the major components of the electoral reforms, including internal democracy.

According to Uwais, who was speaking at a workshop in Abuja organized by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre in collaboration with the McArthur Foundation, the National Assembly destroyed the electoral reforms to “serve parties’ interest” rather than democracy.

In what appears to be one of his bluntest public criticisms of the manner the electoral reforms  were tampered with, former Chief Justice Uwais lamented “a situation where candidates who won primaries were short-changed by their political parties made it difficult to achieve a flawless electoral process.

No sincere Nigerian can fault these honest criticisms by retired Chief Justice Uwais, who headed the Electoral Reforms Committee set up by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. By openly showing his concern over this issue, Justice Uwais must be commended for his candour and sincerity. How can any sensible nation that assembled eminent Nigerians to produce credible electoral reforms throw away the major components of such reforms?

Internal democracy is not only the responsibility of the ruling PDP but also of the opposition political parties. Unfortunately, our political parties only pay lip service to democracy. Commitment to democracy seems to dominate the key points of the constitutions and manifestoes of Nigeria ’s current political parties. In reality, however, they are allergic to anything democracy stands for. Such is the kind of hypocrisy that attends the conduct of the leaderships of Nigeria’s political parties.

In fact, the success or failure of the electoral system depends largely on the commitment and sincerity of political parties to promote internal democracy. As honestly observed by Justice Uwais, the electoral process would be harmed greatly if political parties insist on imposing candidates other than those duly elected by the voters at the primaries.

Sadly, however, even the so-called opposition parties which perceive themselves as better alternatives to the ruling PDP are no less guilty of destroying internal democracy. For example, the current internal crisis of confidence rocking the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was caused by the selfish and undemocratic policy of the substitution and imposition of candidates.

In Kano State for example, it is on record that Mohammed Abacha resoundingly won the gubernatorial primaries in December 2010, but a clique in the party national headquarters in Abuja withheld the results because the outcome did not favour their own preferred aspirant for the office.

To the outrage of the voters that openly and freely expressed their choice, the party leaders substituted Mohammed Abacha with Colonel Lawal Ja’afaru Isa (rtd) who was decisively defeated by the former. Col. Isa, with only 78,000 votes at the primaries, replaced Mohammed Abacha who won 144,000 votes! If the will of the people should count, how can a man who won only 78,000 votes become a party candidate at the expense of the aspirant that won 144,000 votes?

Where is the commitment to democracy and justice by the CPC leaders? Is the will of the CPC national leaders superior to the will of the voters? If the party leaders had a ready-made candidate, why did they conduct the gubernatorial primaries in the first place? In fact, if they had no desire to respect the results, why must they waste the time of the voters?

This miscalculation remains the biggest moral burden on the CPC national leaders. The inherent injustice in the imposition of candidates has no place in democratic practice. They should not run the CPC like the Chinese Communist Party and pretend that they are democrats. In fact, the CPC could have captured at least nine states in the North during the 2011 general election, but lost the opportunity because the party national leadership took the will of the voters for granted.

Former Justice Uwais deserves our praise for coming out to tell our political parties the bitter truth they don’t want to hear. Opposition parties cannot take the moral high ground to attack the ruling PDP for lacking democratic principles when they themselves are tarred with the same brush. The CPC national chairman, Chief Tony Momoh, has a credible pedigree as a distinguished lawyer.

It is, however, sad that a clique in the party could be allowed to destroy internal democracy under his watch. The current reformation and reconciliation efforts in the CPC will go nowhere as long as the party leadership doesn’t  discard the undemocratic practice of imposing candidates, which led to the debacle of the party during the governorship and House of Assembly elections in 2011. Does the party expect to face the 2015 elections with this undemocratic tendency or mentality?  Repeated blunders can lead to fatal consequences.

Culled from Leadership

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