The realisation of practical democratic governance presupposes the existence of a strong and steady opposition with the ability to provide outlets for dynamic influences, inclusiveness, and viable alternatives. A democracy lacking these key components leads to bad governance and the attendant ills that Nigeria is currently suffering from. We therefore commend the political parties: ACN, CPC and ANPP for their attempts to actualise their realisation of a formidable opposition party at all levels. Without a merger of efforts, it will be near impossible to provide dominant parties with a strong contest in 2015.
The discussions around the merger have captured the interest of Nigerians who want to believe that as Nigeria’s democracy continues to endure, it will yield more of the dividends expected of a mature democracy i.e., an accountable government, free and fair elections and increased social, economic and political development for all citizens.
However, in the context in which we find ourselves: mysteries around foreign reserves and our excess crude account, an alarmingly wasteful 2013 budget, insecurity, gross embezzlement and misappropriation of public finances as most recently highlighted in the media, low human development indices especially in health, education and job and wealth creation there are signs that the political parties who say they want to bring Nigerians change in 2015 are not sincere about wanting a positive change in Nigeria.
The first and strongest signal that the ACN, CPC and ANPP might not be serious about securing and strengthening the hope of Nigerians that the 2015 elections will be different from what has been so unsatisfactory so far is the membership of the various merger committees. The merger committees are not representative of the demographics of our population and representative of the demand for change Nigerians are calling for.
To properly capture the aspirations of Nigerians, the merger committees should have more women, young people (18-35) and people living with disabilities. This is because it is only by creating a platform which captures and represents the true aspirations of all Nigerians (not just the old guard political elite and their acolytes) that we will begin to realise the type of meaningful change Nigerians want.
The merger parties should have less of those who have been involved in one way or another with the sad state of our politics and our governance and more of the people of talent, passion, integrity and vision of which Nigeria has plenty of. While there are undoubtedly a few on the various political party merger committees who inspire confidence for the most part and as a whole these merger committees inspire no confidence and we make the following demands:
1. The merger committees must all ensure that their respective committees are representative of Nigerians which is to have no less than 35% women, no less than 15% under the age of 35 and no less than 10% of people living with disabilities
2. The merger committees must be constituted with Nigerians of character, proven track record in their areas of expertise and not just persons who have held political office or attempted to hold political office
3. The merger committees must commit to a manifesto which captures the future aspirations and destiny of generations of Nigerians not yet born and deal with real issues including: a national integration plan, party membership criteria, candidate selection criteria, selection of delegates, ensuring free and fair primaries, party rules and discipline as well as affirmative action for gender, youth and persons living with disabilities.
4. The media must do more than just report the news; it must provide the perspectives and analysis on what is being reported. The news of the merger committees broke without any media house picking up on the fact that the committees are completely unrepresentative of Nigerians and the implications of this for a ‘new party’.
Nigerians are tired of meaningless change where the more things change the more they stay the same. This is not what Nigerians want in 2015 – we want real, meaningful change and the only legal and peaceful means to achieve the change we want is through the ballots, during elections, by voting for the best candidates the political parties present. We insist that the political parties put their houses in order and prepare to support the most capable, most passionate and most credible candidates forward and we fear that unless the political parties start to practice real democracy, they will be unable to help Nigerians deepen and improve the democracy we have today.
Governor Fashola said last week that the country’s problems need a new pair of eyes and pure heart that can see, and clearer minds that can articulate the problems better. That is the heart of the matter. We could not agree more – but it does not stop with mere rhetoric, the political parties have to act – by include those with the fresh eyes and new perspectives to fashion out the party for our future.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all Nigerians.
Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund
Women’s Right Advocacy and Protection Alternative
Youth Action Initiative Africa (YAIA)
National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ)
Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD)