I have noticed that most people( including politicians), do not know the real meaning of the word “party”,and do not, as well, know, as between the party and its Executives( officials) , on the one hand and the party’s representatives (agents), in government, on the other hand, who , between the two, should be properly described as “party leader”.Let us first understand what the word ” party “, is.
When we talk of a party , in a democratic system , it is distinct from authoritarian, military, and communist or socialist dictatorships. Nigeria operates a democratic system of government.
Parties in a democratic system of government, are interest groups that aggregate into political groups, recognised by law, to promote certain group interests( as distinct from individual interests).
Such political interest groups are given financial and other forms of support in return for which the party would pursue the aggregated interests of the group, when voted into power.
Therefore, a political party is an organised group , with clearly defined policy, whose main aim is to win or retain political power. In ideal situations, they are manifestations of differences in the social structure of society.
Therefore, the main features of a political party are that :
a)it is an interest group;
b) it is organised ;
c) it is a manifestation of the differences in society;
d) its aim is to win, or retain political power. In pursuit of this ; 1) it nominates( through its internal and agreed mechanisms), representatives( or agents), to represent the party at all levels, i.e. local, state and national levels.
ii), while the representatives (agents), are in government, they are forbidden to pursue objectives, plans and programmes, that are not in tandem with the political parties which they represent. They can not take the place of the Principal, which is the party; they are only Agents, of the party.
Political parties perform the following major functions :
1) interest aggregation;
2) interest articulation;
3)political specialisation and educating the people ;
4) recruiting candidates to various political positions or offices;
5) taking care of the welfare of its members;
6) at the various levels of the assemblies,( local, State, and national ), coordinating their businesses on the various floors of the assemblies.
Political parties operate within the purview of POLITICS, be it local, or national. It is therefore important to understand politics and it’s environment.
Politics is often seen by some people as a bad thing, whose stock-in- trade are blackmails, manipulations, double-dealing, violence and assassinations. This is a mistaken view of politics. This view sees politics as an activity engaged in only by politicians. This is not true. We do have other groups in the society, who are involved in POLITICS, such as professional groups,religious groups, economic and social groups in the society.
We understand what politics means by looking at actual life experiences, in the family, the village,or the Community Head, who takes decisions on behalf of members.
In every human organisations, there is the need for decisions to be taken, by a few, on behalf of the rest of the members. This decision-making is what we usually refer to as politics. Politics Therefore, does not concern politicians alone, but everybody in the society, as it affects all.
We now have an idea of what a political party is, or what it is supposed to be. We also have an idea about the environment of POLITICS, within which a political party operates, or is supposed to operate.
From the above discussion on political parties, we conclude that parties are organised groups, with officials that run them. Thus, we have the national headquarters if the PARTY, then we have the states, local government and in most cases, the ward levels, as branches of the party. They are hierarchical.
In all of the above arrangement, there is no mention of President, or Governor, or a local government Council Chairman in the hierarchy of officials. Executives in government and not independent , as they represent their Principals, the party. They were elected on the basis of party platforms, to represent the party and to execute its plans and programmes. This is the sense in which Executives in government should be understood vis a vis the political parties they belong to , as both members as well as representatives. Views in that sense, I have no quarrel with that.
However, my quarrel emanates as a result of members of a political party elevating the representatives or the agents to a height, far and above the party and its officials. In law, and in reality, an agent, or representative can never be above his Principal or his appointor. They are responsible first to the PARTY, and secondly, to the voters who voted them into power.
The agent or representative can never represent himself , as he can not be both Principal and Agent. While being a candidate at voting periods, h8s name does not appear on the ballot papers. Instead, it is the name of his party and its emblem. Therefore, in law, it is a party that wins or loses an election, and a candidate is considered a winner or loser only in respect of the party he represents. Therefore, when he wins and gets into office, he is expected to act, not in his name, but that of the party he represents as agent.Therefore, he is expected to be loyal to the party and not the other way round. They should obey the party by obeying the party officials in the party officials official conduct. The party officials are the embodiment of the party. Disloyalty to them is disloyalty to the party.
Inspite of this fact and its legal and logical position, it would seem that members of the party, including unfortunately, and inadvertently, the party officials ,have given their representatives or Agents, at various levels, particularly the President and the Governors, status far and above those if the party and the officials of the party. To me, this is contemptuous, condescending, patronising, and unmeritorious . I will consider that as an assault on the concept of “party supremacy”. How would an agent of the party be lifted to a level of respectability and loyalty far above the party he is representing, as such Executives arrogated to himself the unofficial title of PARTY-LEADER ? This is sacrilegious and smacks of executive rascality.
I usually write, criticising the actions and policies of either the President or Governor. It does not translate to disrespecting them as the President of Nigeria or Governor of the State in Nigeria. I do so when I observe that their actions and policies are not in consonance with the manifesto, plans, programmes as enunciated in the manifesto of the party. In that case I owe it a duty to both my country and the party to raise the alarm and to criticise them because what they were doing is not the basis on which voters voted them in.Instead of appreciating that , the people are wrongly conceived and equate such criticism to disrespect for the occupants of those executive positions and disloyalty to the party. I usually ignore them and pity their ignorance.
By departing from the manifesto of the party, they become authoritarian, dictatorial and ultimately undemocratic. Often, my stomach churns on that and I often ask the question to the effect that why would an agent usurp the powers of his Principal by acting that way, yet the party is helpless and engages as a choir of Halliluaiah men?
The Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s era represents the “golden era” in the history of Nigeria’s post independence politics and party politics. During this era, the party reigned supreme and seemed not to have been hijacked by Oligarchs in the Executive arm of government. All representatives seemed to serve both the country and the party. It was an era when the party was given respectability and exercised its power of appointing or recommending people for appointments to all political positions thus exemplifying what democracy should be. Therefore, the government could boast of robust bureaucracy, government and good governance.
In making political appointments, there was deference to the PARTY, which also ensured spread, and equality. But in the present dispensation that does not respect the political party and its officials, everything is done by the chief Executive or an Oligarchy that has hijacked his office, and in that situation, we could see features of prebendalism and nepotism, the two sign-posts of the twine evil of bad governance and government.
Chief Executives are embroiled in this bad governance because they are the main financiers of the party as it is often said that “whoever pays the Piper dictates the tune”. This is wrong. It is not democracy. It is a mockery of it. It is authoritarian dictatorship, which should have no room in modern democratic Nigeria.
The solution is that political parties should wake up from their ling slumber and servitude and regain their lost glory to Chief Executives, who now act as Principals and not Agents.
The above situation , almost at all levels of party politics, drives governance, not on party ideology, manifestos, plans, and programmes, but on the individual and selfish ideosyncracies of the Chief Executives of government, who disregard the party and go ahead to impliment their own plans instead of those of the party. They have turned the Nigerian political parties into dormant, docile and non-ideological organisations, existing as caricatures, yet trying to deceptively comply with the laws of the land , yet , where possible, serving the interests if the Chief Executives. APC and PDP, the two major political parties are neither ideological, nor pursuing and promoting their group interests. The iron law of Oligarchy operates in their organisation and administration and can neither be said to represent their members nor the generality of the people , when they are in government. This is the unfortunate situation Nigeria has found itself in. The country is hanging on the edge of a precipice, and just about to tip.
In conclusion therefore, I consider it an anomaly and weird to say that the party representative or Agent is “leader “, of his party. This is wrong. No matter the Executive position he occupies,( either as President or Governor),he is just a representative or Agent of his party. I do not contest that he is a leader in the country, depending on the level, by all means he should be given the respects that are due to that office. Nut this should not be construed as extending to the political party where he belongs as a member. The only difference from an ordinary member, is the fact that he has the additional function of representing the party in government.
In view of this, he is never the party leader. Party leadership lay with the officials that run the political party. If there is anything like party leader at all, it is the Chairmen of the political parties at the National, state, local government and ward levels. I respect the party Chairman as my party leader, but certainly, not the President or the Governor. Their respects is on different bases. Inspite of the respects they are accorded nationally and state-wide, they are, in military parlance, ” bloody-Agents “, of the political party.
Chief Joshua D Ephraim writes from Abuja.