May 17, 2010

The British Elections: Lesson for Nigeria

Nigerian’s new democracy after eleven years can be said to have failed to perform optimally despite the apparent capacity of democracy to bring about accelerated progress. The question thus arises as to why the democracy has not been able to perform to the expected standard.
The recent British Election that eventually gave the reins of British power to David Cameron can provide an answer to this question. First of all, we have seen that the electoral body in Britain is not a property of the Prime Minister. It is pragmatically the property of the people of Britain. Secondly, the British elections have reminded us once again that political parties are founded on grounds of political ideologies. Thus members of a political party should come together by virtue of the similarities of their views as to how the country should be governed. Such views as held by people could be shaped by cultural or religious background. It explains why a diverse nation such as Nigeria demands a multi-party democracy to be able to accommodate the spectrum views of the people. Thus a political party is almost like religion and one’s political opinion is not expected to change frequently.
Since the British election did not produce an unambiguous winner, it became necessary a coalition government to be formed. Since the parties are distinct by virtue of their ideologies or, simply put, the promises they made to the electorates, there is no guarantee that coalition talk will always be successful. Hence it wasn’t a surprise that the discussion between the Labor Party and the Liberal Democrats failed to produce a coalition, compelling the Labor leader to, Gordon Brown to consider resignation as the best option for him. The liberal democrats promised electoral reforms and amnesty to illegal immigrants. They were able to agree on the first but not the second. The talks then failed as result.
In Nigeria however, many of the politicians are ignorant of the basis of the distinctness between political parties. It explains why politicians in the country brazenly change political parties. As the administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo approached its end in 2007, the Nigerian Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, left the party to form another political party, the Action Congress, under which he contested for the presidential seat. Having lost under the Action Congress, he has returned to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with the intention of contesting for the same position. The question is where is the ideology?
If the Nigerian democracy most give dividends, governments that truly mean well for the nation must be courageous enough to bring about total electoral reform as suggested by the Uwais’ Report. The electoral body that emerges as a result of such a reform must also insist that any political party wishing to remain registered must outline the challenges of the nation it intends to tackle and then merge with parties with similar goals. Further more, the electoral body must educate Nigerian politicians and electorates regarding the basis of party membership. Nigerians must understand that a political party should be like a favorite beer, football team or a religious group to an individual.

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