By Femi Ogunshola,
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
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He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), when late Adisa Akinloye, National Chairman, presided.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, the late Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal joiner and equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party ideal and ideology.
Mr Leonard Nzenwa, the Chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), stated that non-payment of party dues by party members remains that core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass- owned, mass-oriented, mass-funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA) noted that funding of political parties by money bags or few individuals is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members paid their dues as and when due,” he said.
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claims to own the party. Even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said.
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people use it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility and must be people-centred.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problems in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that they are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
Mr Wale Martins, the Publicity Secretary of the Young Peoples Party (YPP) on his part, said that YPP members pay their monthly dues which, according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos, members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said.
Martins stressed that payment of dues creates a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
He said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money bags have hijacked the political structure and members have given a tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidates that will fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money bags,’’ he said.
Mr Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Executive Director, Adopt a Goal for Development Initiative, said the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public, and not a few political merchants.(NANFeatures)