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No invitations are sent to either the intellectual, women or the youth in any democracy

Published by The Nation on Sat, 05 Jun 2021


By Nnedinnso OgaziechiThere have been new agitations in the Nigerian political space since 1999 by women and the youths. Then progressively the elite, most of whom never care to know what happens around their communities not to talk of bringing their expertise to the political space joined in. Nigerian politics has seemingly been monopolized by the older generations as the younger ones seem uninterested.The urge to grab power for its own sake has dominated the political landscape giving rise to the political clich of installing candidates from the cleaner to the Speaker. That is a political saying that summarizes the veiled greed of most politicians to monopolize the political spaces available through their cronies.The Attorney General of the Federation recently caused a bit of an uproar when he stated that governors must start restructuring from their states first. He pointed out the fact that most governors wield too much power over the State Houses of Assembly and the local government administration. We might have issues we disagree with the AG on but I guess there are some truths in there.It has been discovered that the full blooming of our democracy is hampered by the apathy by some demographics and it is a huge problem. The young people and women often complain of exclusion without making efforts to go sit at the table. They easily forget that the people they call old today all started as young people in their 20s and 30s. A Rotimi Amaechi became the River State House Speaker for two terms as a young person then went on to become a governor and now a minister. A Donald Duke became a commissioner in his 20s. A Pat Utomi was Political Adviser to President Shagari as a young person. For women too, all those whose names are in the history books for their political participation locally and internationally did not have the posts presented to them on a platter. While The RoundTable Conversation believes that there are socio-economic factors that affect the full participation of all the different demographics, we still feel that more efforts must be put into their acts to be more fully engaged to provide leadership instead of waiting on the old politicians to either resign or die first.The RoundTable Conversation decided to find out from the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Akpan Udoedehe who was once a Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, and a former governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is today the National Secretary of the partys Congress Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).The RoundTable Conversation decided to find out from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Akpan Udoedehe, who was once a Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, and a former governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is today the National Secretary of the partys Congress Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).The RoundTable Conversation wanted to find out what the party intends to do differently in the process of presenting candidates for future elections in ways that would be inclusive and fair. The RoundTable believes that intra and inter-party democratic processes or lack of same impact on the general elections. Senator Udoedehe said that in terms of leadership evolution processes, the first stage in the APC is to know the members, who are they' The party is updating the data and memberships across all voting demographics. We want free and democratic processes and that inspired the recent updating of the party registration of old and new members from the smallest units of the party structure, the ward levels. The people must be prepared to choose who they want at elections.Given that in Nigeria, campaign funds are not regulated, how is the party going to make sure that money is not an issue' Senator Udoudehe maintains that with money or no money, the people decide who leads them in a democracy and that is what the APC understands so well. He believes however that the values of the people influence their political processes and so it is not for the APC to dictate for the people. We expect that party members must obey the electoral rules.The politician emerges from the people and as such, it would be delusional to assume that the politician would behave differently. Whether a politician has money or not should not determine his political future. The people must begin to look at the values an individual possesses. It is time to look at the values that promote human flourishing. Money does not vote at elections, the people do and as a matter of fact, money matters across world politics but we want the character of an individual to earn him any position he seeks because that is the only way he can work for the people.As a Sociologist I understand human interactions. Again, the clamour by women and young people to enter the political space must be backed by actions. No one gives you power, you must as a young person or woman get up and take your space at the political table. I was a local government chairman at the age of 32. I defeated older people then. If you know you have a calling to serve your people, join politics in your ward.To Senator Udoedehe, it is a puerile argument to sit back and complain. He believes that once anyone has the heart for service, it is a duty she or he owes the people to step forward and the APC as a party has some waivers for women who do not have the financial muscle to make all the statutory payments for election forms but have the capacity to win and serve.Women must not fall to the blackmail of being called prostitutes; it makes no sense to fall to such cheap blackmail. All over the world, spouses can decide to support or not to support each other. Be mindful that there are some men whose wives decide not to support too often alleging that political duties keep them out of the homes so it takes a great sense of understanding and support for any spouse to join partisan politics so it is not a gender thing.Politics like other spheres of life comes with its own nuances but for any woman who has the competences and the heart for service to be scared of being called names is not encouraging. Women have achieved a lot in all other sectors and the APC as a party recognizes this and have been making efforts to amend its constitution to create more chances for women.I feel what we should be canvassing for is human rights, equity, justice and fairness. Creed should not be an issue; personal choices should not be an issue to build a great democracy. Quality representation is what the APC is always working towards. In the composition of the caretaker committees we have strict percentages for women, those living with disability and the youth. The APC does not spoon-feed anyone but we try to make it easier for them to have access to finance. The issue is still left for people to join our party to get the privileges we grant women and the young ones.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan is a veteran journalist who had equally contested for a seat in the House of Representatives before being elected to his present position in the PDP. He believes that the party has always been known to work by the rules in terms of internal party democracy and we have a model of electing people into offices. We strictly follow the partys constitution from the lowest level to the highest.We have the processes of electing local officers who run the affairs of the party and conduct the different congresses which bring up candidates for the general elections organized by the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC). The two variants are clear. The process is the delegate system. Structural party officers, members elected to run the affairs of the party all do their duties. From the wards, zones and states, there are clear party democratic party processes. The delegates elect the candidates for all the executive and legislative contests.As far as the agitations for inclusive politics goes, we believe that there must be an inter-generational complimentary leadership because in our culture, no matter how old your father is, as long as he is alive and well, he will continue to make leadership inputs but recognizes the part youths can play too. The party does not interfere with the choices of the people so we present the candidates chosen by the people responsible for such choices.The delegates choose the people they want. So in terms of inclusiveness, the women and youths must make the move by participating from the grassroots level and thereby making themselves available to go through the electoral processes. The PDP has always made deliberate efforts to carry women along. The constitution has been amended to give women at least 35% of the party executive where they are available and show interest and we dont charge women for nomination forms but just the expression of interest forms.For those who complain about finance, we believe in the PDP that the people have the right to choose their leaders and in most communities the people may decide to choose the not so rich but those they believe would serve them better based on their history. People know those with the values they love and no matter how much others spend, they would insist on those they want. The problem of Nigerian politics does not really lie with any political party even though we believe the political parties have their own roles and missteps sometimes which is human. We believe that the people must sit up too and make decisions about those that would lead them. The moment political parties finish with their internal processes and put candidates up for elective posts, the people would speak at the polls.We want the elite to be more politically active and step forward to challenge those they criticize. Apathy in politics by those who feel they can do better makes the system uninteresting. Democracy is about the people and we want them to own the processes. It is left for the people to choose the best individuals that have the gravitas. Power is not given out, it is worked for. There should be no excuses at all.The dialogue continues
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