Party Supremacy and Independence of the Legislature: Any Synergy?



By Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda  |

IN the Nigeria’s contemporary political scene, particularly in the eon of governing APC, a new lexicon has been given prominence and is become the topical issue today. It is called “Party Supremacy”, PS. In the PDP era, it was derogatorily called the “Lack of Internal Democracy”, LID, but in APC it is christened and dressed as “Party Supremacy”. What really is the true meaning of the term party supremacy?  Is it any different from lack of internal democracy that became the albatross of the PDP? To understand this, let us do a system analysis. Party in a normal sense means, social gathering, to get together, festivity, revelry, merry making, bash or celebration. In political science, political party which is what we mean here by party is simply a group, organisation or society that is formed with aim of seeking political power. It is also a faction of those seeking political power. (On a lighter mood, I once complained of the squandering of resources by the political party in power in my home state, and somebody asked mean in my vernacular what is the meaning of party? And he went ahead to answer, by questioning, is it not “usoro” which means merriment or revelry, which in truth is one of the meanings of party but in this case since political is added to qualify it, that meaning should not apply as it connotes the serious business of governance. Though in reality, this is what it has meant in the past, hence the mess we have, like we had after Shagari’s time). On the other hand, supremacy means preeminence, incomparability, primacy, domination, ascendency and dominance. So party supremacy infers that the party is the determinate of what happens in the group, which implies dominance, domination, primacy etc. By this, every person in the party has no right of its own, once you subscribe to the canon of the party, or you are the one bank rolling the party. So money is the determinate of who the party is, but money cannot always win election. We recall that PDP raised billions in quantum, but failed the election.

But seriously speaking, who can we say is the party in this case? Is it those who funded the party or every member of the party? How did they arrive at the decision of this person should occupy this position? What arrangement was made for the other political parties that merged with them to form APC? Did they give any consideration to these other parties? If they had been fair minded after the results, why could they not have sat down to iron out the nitty-gritty of the power sharing since the APC at best is a composition of different political parties, rather than come to wash their dirty linen outside? Is this their action any different from autocracy and dictatorship? To answer the aforesaid question, let us with the benefit of hindsight recall what IBB did, which to a large extent, was to avoid this mess and its attendant corruption. He established two political parties and asked everybody to join whichever they please as joiners and not founders. By this he wanted to create a level playing field, where there will not be party owners but all are joiners. From this, party supremacy is in other words party owners and funders. This is a classical case of he who pays the piper. Therefore, party supremacy in our clime is synonymous with the bankrollers and operates by imposition of the will of somebody upon others. This is antithetical and diametrically opposed to the spirit of democracy. Supremacy should not mean autocracy or dictatorship. In a democracy, party supremacy would connote accepting the decision of the majority as binding. And when the majority gives their right to a smaller group, the decision of that group becomes binding on the majority.

Juxtaposing this with the current situation with regards to the APC cum the National Assembly debacle, the party should have created a level playing ground and ask every elected member to indication their interest in any position of their choice, based on an acceptable formula like zoning and seniority in the parliament which the party should spell out. Then a vote would be cast and whoever wins becomes the candidate of the party for that position; and not a situation wherein some people or person decided that this will be for this and nobody can question it. No! That’s despotism and very asymmetric to democratic tenets. It will breed tyranny very soon. Party supremacy would, in that case then arise following the general decision or will. You can engineer and influence the outcome lobbying members to support your preferred candidate, and if he wins, fine, but if he loses, you then accept the general will as the party position; and that position becomes supreme. That way the party would be strong to withstand any storm. After all, sovereignty and legitimacy arises from the people when they freely surrendered it to you and not in your taking it by force, not even from the barrels of gun. The later is a coup d’état; and is a criminal act.

The party should consider the fact that; it is but a vehicle for actualizing political aspiration of the individual who make up its members. Without the members the party is but a mere word. Since the parties sold their forms and did not give it out free, their power is subverted by the transaction. He, who buys something, has the right and privilege over that which he paid for. You cannot sale and still control, the buyers. A party can only claim right over the candidate’s mandate and mind, if it gave him the mandate free and funded his campaign. Somebody who paid the price for your form and then spent his money to campaign cannot be expected to subvert his right to make an independent decision. That you are in a political party does not mean you do not have the right to self action. Abiola it was who said that the party ends when the result of the election has been announced, and these gladiators accepted it then.

When the Assemblies have been constituted, whether states or national, they begin immediately to assert their independence and autonomy. The party can only lobby to get its position accepted by members of the assembly and not force anything down their throat. That’s why lobby is an acceptable political instrument in presidential system of government. Writing a letter to the parliament expressing the party’s position is an abrasion, because the parliament is independent. In the parliamentary system, the question is where does the party supremacy begin and end; and where does the independence of the parliament begin? Does dictation means party supremacy? Are the members of the parliament robots that most be told what to do externally? Are they not supposed to act first in the interest of the nation, before any other consideration?

I submit that “lack of internal democracy” and “party supremacy” means one and the same thing. It is a subterfuge for eroding internal democracy and entrenchment of imposition, autocracy and it breed tyranny in the long run. The benefactor of this arrangement christened party supremacy which simply means imposition is the governors who appoints the commissioners and other political appointees at the state level and even at the local government level and also wants to appoint the ministers and other appointees for the president. Is it any surprise, since they fund the party? So if one man as in the case of APC funded the party, and wants to control every apparatus of the party are we surprised? Whether we are surprised or not, is that the right thing? Is that the kind of democracy we want? Or we support it when it favours us!

We should note that among the myriad of reasons for the hemorrhage in the PDP and what it suffered which APC profited from, was the lack of internal democracy. And I make bold to say that the PDP is waiting to benefit and reap from their lack of ability to learn from the errors by sticking to an abnormality called party supremacy. It was the over bearing influence of the party machinery exemplifies by the enormous power of the governors that racked PDP, and it will sure incapacitate the APC. How can one person become a demigod, deciding who gets what in a democracy. It is not a military rule that you will say, I staked my life to stage a coup, so I decide what happens in this house. We most lean and imbibe the tenets of democracy; we cannot shout “we want democracy, while practicing autocracy”. Is irreconcilable. Nigerians are wiser than that. We better be careful.


Ebongabasi Ekpe-Juda is a Medical Sociologist, Cyber Security Consultant, a social commentator and the author of the books – The Bewitched Church; and- Issues in Security Awareness.

— Jul 20, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT


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