2 April 2009

Nigeria: PDP, AC Oppose Internal Democracy Bill

Abuja — A fresh bid by the House of Representatives to re-order party politics in line with democratic norms suffered some setbacks yesterday as major political parties kicked against a bill seeking to promote internal democracy within the 50 registered political parties in the country.

The proposed law geared towards entrenching best democratic practices in the administration of political parties and designed to guarantee free and fair intra party primary elections, congresses and conventions.

It was thrown open to stakeholders at a public hearing convened by the Joint Committees on Electoral Matters, Justice and Intra and Inter-Party Affairs.

The major political parties including the ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Action Congress (AC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as well as the Peoples Redemption Party(PRP) were unanimous in their recognition of the need for some form of sanity in the conduct of party affairs.

They however kicked against the bill because of the common fear that the proposed law had the potential of seizing control of party machineries from the political parties and transfering same to government institutions particularly the courts.

In specific terms, the bill seeks to checkmate the cabals and godfathers believed to be present in every political parties and discourages the practice of concensus and outright imposition in the nomination of candidates for elective positions in the political parties.

Under the proposed law, no member of a political party shall ascribe or cause to be ascribed to himself or herself such titles as 'leader', 'godfather' or 'godmother'; no vacancy in any elective party position shall be filed by appointment, selection, annointment or affirmation.

The bill also proposes that while political parties may suspend an erring member for a period of time, no political party can expel a member unless such an action is backed by the pronouncement of a court of competent jurisdiction.

National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olusola Oke, who fired the first shot at the bill said while it was desirable to entrench internal democracy in the parties, the attempt by the National Assembly may be over-reaching itself in seeking to legislate on the internal affairs of the political parties.

Action Congress(AC) rejected the bill in its entirety with the party's National Legal Adviser, Dr. Ego Ezuma, saying that while the bill might have good intentions, the problem with the Nigerian political party was not attributable to absence of laws but a problem of poor attitude of the politician.

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