Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nigeria: When a Political Party (the PDP) Crosses the Line

I read with dismay the newspaper coverage of the meeting between the top hierarchy of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), President Obasanjo’s political party (the ruling party in Nigeria) and Senators from that party.
“Top officers of the Peoples Democratic Party rose from a four-hour meeting with senators elected on the party’s platform on Wednesday, with a warning that senators opposed to extended tenure for President Olusegun Obasanjo were free to leave the party.”—Punch.
This is an unnecessary meddling of the PDP in the affairs of the legislature. Yes, the Senators were voted in on the platforms of the parties, but must the party control the soul and conscience of its members? Where is the line between party affairs and legislative matters? Does this party, the PDP, know when it has crossed the line? Who will call it to order?

It is expected and permissible that a political party should be able to exert some but limited influence on its members, particularly on issues relating to the core principles and doctrines of the party; however, its utterly unacceptable for the party to mandate its members in the legislature to act in ways that may contravene the very constitution they have sworn to upheld.

The extension of the terms of office for elected officials, as it’s being clamored and orchestrated is one instance that contravenes the Nigerian constitution, and for a political party, the PDP, to mandate its members in the national assembly to support this agenda is unethical and in fact treasonable. The political parties have no business whatsoever manipulating the legislators; it is a rape of democracy that defeats the purpose of the institution.

News agencies also report that the PDP top hierarchy states: “security would be tightened at the National Assembly; the gallery will be cleared and access will be granted only to governors, party officials and those accredited from the Presidency”. This is absurd!

Again what business does a party have in meddling in the internal dealings of the national (or state) assembly? Where in the world does a political party start advocating for- and controlling the protocol in- the legislature?

To suggest that the Presidency determines who have access to the gallery of the national assembly is a reflection of the ignorance and shallow-mindedness of the big guns of the PDP.

Who would grant access to advocacy groups, or general members of the public and the electorate that gave the legislators their mandates in the first instance, or anyone that have genuine reasons to attend the assembly sessions? The Presidency?

Nigeria is in serious trouble, if this is what democracy has turned to in the country. The undue interference and influence of the parties, particularly the PDP, in matters in which it has no business is very unsettling and will only lead to the collapse of the democratic institutions in Nigeria.