Opinion | Oye, APGA and path to democratic consolidation ~ By Collins Opurozor
Nigeria’s electoral democracy has often come under scathing attacks especially within the intellectual circles. Sobriquets like simulated landslides, direct captures, hollow rituals, murky waters, machine politics and bandwagons have too often been adopted in describing the country’s electoral process.
For far too many, the issue is not so much that votes do not count than that votes are not even counted. Snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes, falsification of election results, intimidation of electoral officers, financial inducement of voters and underaged voting still defile the electoral system. These do not only undermine the credibility of elections but also dim the drive for democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
Nigerian voters, as a result, do not attach great value to their votes. They have no illusion about the importance of their votes, because they suspect that their votes will either not be counted or that their votes will not count. They also see the mandates claimed by most politicians as effectively dubious.
Yet, to strengthen democracy, the culture of voting must be thoroughgoing and the sanctity of the vote protected and all efforts at the devaluation of the vote roundly rejected.
Another maelstrom which democracy in Nigeria has been confronted with is lack of political accountability. There is in place a system which promotes prebendalism, corruption and abuse of public trust. The political parties, far from frowning at the anomie, encourage and reinforce it through their opaque accounting processes. Many political parties in Nigeria have become the sanctuary of corruption and a refuge for the corrupt.
Indeed, political parties are the main gatekeepers of democracy. They wield great influence over the quality of representation which is delivered to the people by determining which candidates are nominated and elected and which issues achieve prominence. They lend the platform for leadership recruitment, and put in place a mechanism for checking elected officials, so that political malfeasances by their members can curtailed. So, the troubled path to democratic consolidation in Nigeria is, in the main, a function of the failure of the country’s party system to fulfill its historic obligation as the bastion of democracy.
It is exhilarating that APGA under the watch of Ozonkpu (Dr.) Victor Ike Oye has attained milestones in entrenching within the party a culture of accountability. It is also heartwarming that Dr. Oye, who has been described by the INEC Chairman as a course of study in political growth, has led a revolution against electoral fraud, devaluation of votes and commodification of electoral mandates, and for the protection of the sanctity of votes, thereby making APGA the torchbearer in all discourses for the advancement of democracy in Nigeria.
First, the refreshing reality that political officeholders elected on the platform of APGA seldom, if not never, lose their positions in court is indicative of a party which accords deep reverence to democratic norms and which valorizes and respects the sovereign wishes of the people. Across the country, APGA’s campaigns under Dr. Oye are defined by a determination to connect with the people and ensure that the people are given a pride of place. And because the party has been returned to the path of service delivery and good governance, resounding victories have always been the outcome. In the last governorship election in Anambra State, APGA did what could be described as unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria by winning all the local government areas in the State. It also won the Anambra Central Senatorial Seat, sweeping all the local government areas, even all the wards, therein.
In 2019, the party also won ten seats in the House of Representatives, as against the two seats it had won in 2015. More interesting is that three of those seats are in Benue State, one in Taraba, one in Abia, then five in Anambra. The party also overwhelmingly won six seats in the Imo State House of Assembly, and won chairmanship seats in Abuja. In Nassarawa and Zamfara States, the party has expanded its grassroots reach, built a strong political base and massive goodwill for assured victories in subsequent elections.
In accountability, APGA under Dr. Oye has been a pacesetter. It is not rare in the party to see functionaries lose their positions for violating this core value which the stewardship of Dr. Oye has established like an article of faith. It happened in Imo State, and in many others. This culture of accountability has amply reflected in the governance style of Anambra State which is under APGA. On the authority of the Transparency International, public sector corruption in Nigeria is lowest in Anambra, and the NBS also affirms that Anambra’s debt profile is among the lowest in Nigeria. These verdicts are emblematic of a regime of prudence and accountable governance.
Further, APGA under Dr. Oye is the only party in Nigeria which accounts to party members and the public alike on every of its income and expenditure. After the 2019 elections, Dr. Oye publicly declared all revenues which accrued to the party, which amounted to well over N1.2 billion. This does not happen in any other party, where party funds are essentially retired by a coterie of individuals as honoraria and estacodes!
To deepen democracy in Nigeria, there should be a sustained effort by political parties to emulate the examples which Dr. Oye has set in APGA; to place a premium on the sacredness of votes and sacrosanctity of political accountability, so that the country may part ways forever with hollow rituals, bandwagons, direct captures and simulated landslides.