Political parties are central suppliers of political information to the people, that is, educating and enlightening the public on the activities of government. They are seen as social agencies conglomerating different shades of people, religion, views and cultures into one broad outlook. In sum, political parties are seen as synthesizers of public opinion by virtue of their ability to combine, compromise, distort and even express diverse views of the public.
Political parties is one of the political institutions in a competitive democracy. Political Parties also serve as an index through which democratic governance could be compared in States, in that, the structure and operation of party politics in policies tend to serve as a measuring rod for determining the fragility or otherwise of democratic systems.
A situation where political parties are poorly structured to perform articulative, aggregative, communicative and educative functions, such a system is likely going to be associated with poor political culture which tend to make the democratic process so fragile. But where political parties are well structured to perform articulative, aggregative, communicative and educative functions, such a system is often associated with participant political culture which tends to ensure a stable democratic process.
Democracy in Nigeria is associated with the pattern of colonial governance in the state. It could be recalled that decolonization as envisaged by British in what later became the Nigerian state was viewed as a gradual process of constitutional transformations that would give greater freedom to the Nigerians in form of participation in governance through party politics before the attainment of political independence in 1960.
VIABLE PARTY SYSTEM AS BASIS OF DEMOCRACY
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of democratic transition in Eastern and Central Europe and in Africa. Political parties were strategic tools for bringing about the change or transition from a one party regime, military regime to a competitive political order.
Political party is ‘a social group or a system of interdependent activities characterized by a high degree of rational direction of behavior towards ends that are objects of common acknowledgment and expectation’. It is different from other social groups, such as labor unions and other associations because of the unique functions it performs for the system, such as organizing for public opinion, communicating demands to the center of governmental decision-making and political recruitment. This is why a political party is taken ‘as a useful index of a high level of political development’. Hence, the relationship between a viable party system and a democratic order is obvious.
BASIC ROLES OF POLITICAL PARTIES
Political parties perform an important task in government. They bring people together to achieve control of the government, develop policies favorable to their interests or the groups that support them, and organize and persuade voters to elect their candidates to various offices. Although very much involved in the operation of government at all levels, political parties are not the government itself, and the Constitution makes no mention of them. The basic purpose of political parties is to nominate candidates for public office and to get as many of them elected as possible. Once elected, these officials try to achieve the goals of their party through legislation and program initiatives. Although many people do not think of it this way, registering as an APC or PDP makes them members of a political party. Political parties require the involvement of as many people as possible. Most members take a fairly passive role, simply voting for their party’s candidates at election time. Some become more active and work as officials in the party or volunteer to persuade people to vote. The most ambitious members may decide to run for office themselves.
ROLE OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN ELECTIONS
1. Representing Groups of Interests
The people represented by elected officials are called constituents. Whether APC or PDP,Constituents make their concerns known to their representatives. In turn, elected officials must not only reflect the concerns of their own political party but must also try to attract support from people in their districts or states who belong to the other party. They can attract this support by supporting bipartisan issues (matters of concern that cross party lines) and nonpartisan issues (matters that have nothing to do with party allegiance).
Political parties represent groups as well as individuals. These interest groups have special concerns. They may represent the interests of farmers, small business operators, industries, or public and civil servants — any similar individuals who cooperate to express a specific agenda.
2. Simplifying Choices
Political parties should appeal to as many different groups as possible. They do so by stating their goals in a general way so that voters are attracted to a broad philosophy without necessarily focusing on every specific issue. The alternative to using the general philosophies of the political parties to sort out candidates is to vote for individuals based on just their own one-or two-issue programs.
3. Making policy
Political parties are not policymaking organizations in themselves. They certainly take positions on important policy questions, especially to provide alternatives to the position of whichever party is in power. When in power, a party attempts to put its philosophy into practice through legislation. If a candidate wins office by a large majority, it may mean that the voters have given him or her a mandate to carry out the program outlined in the campaign.
This are the problems associated with political instability in the Nigerian State. It is on the basis of competently performing these roles that a political party can stand a good chance of displacing and, thereby, taking power from a political party currently in the government be it intra or inter party politics.
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD.
Nigerians should be free to fashion the Constitutional arrangement spelling out the conditions under which the various ethnic nationalities would have to work with one another in common towards political development of this nation.
There is a need for a system that would provide for a political understanding to enable free, fair and credible election where accountability will take the lead.
There is an alternative. The Nigerian politics is built around the Presidency and Aso Rock. If our constitution made provision for the incumbent to be removed from the race, Nigerians would have been free to organize not only a free and fair election, but ensure the credibility of the election. The Nigerian history is there for us to learn from. The President and the members of the political class can always say that the situation is different because they are involved as beneficiaries.
Nigeria needs new political parties and politicians that can initiate a system that will work for the development of ourNation. Alternatively, a new political organization with new ideology would have to be developed as the competitor along with the PDP, APC for political offices in 2019 and beyond because the formation of new parties as we are presently witnessing would only lead to a one party-dominance and would further erode the Nigerians faith in election
*** Jomo Iroha is a Public Affairs, Media Influencer and Consultant. Tel: 07083825570. firstname.lastname@example.org