Democracy as a system of government derives its strength from citizens’ participation and the rule of law. That is to say that one of the vital ingredients that sweetens democracy is a multi-party system that gives citizens opportunity to choose from several parties and candidates during periodic elections.

Also, multi-party democracy enhances checks and balances by giving the opposition an avenue to constructively criticise the ruling party and government in power so as to keep them on their toes.

So, when recently the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Ganduje, said that for the South-East region of the country to exercise political power and stop complaining of marginalization, the region would need to connect to the ruling party, those words left a sour taste in the mouth.

Ganduje spoke during the Anambra APC 2024 colloquium and empowerment rally at the Ifeanyi Ubah International Stadium, Nnewi. The colloquium was hosted by the Senator representing Anambra South, Ifeanyi Ubah, with the theme “Demarginalisation of South-East Zone and Integration into National Politics”.

The APC National Chairman said Anambra State was not making the kind of progress it was expected to make because it was not connected to the central government and pointed out the need for the state to join APC. Anambra State has been ruled by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (AGPA) since about 2006 when Peter Obi became the governor.

“As we stand here today, one curious fact is bare for all to see: Anambra is not making the progress that a state of its means, in terms of resources in men and material, is expected to make. The diagnosis is not far-fetched. Anambra has not connected to the central government since the beginning of the government of Governor Peter Obi,” Ganduje said.

“This is the missing link. And this has limited its benefits from the Federal Government who is the chief custodian of our commonwealth. From Peter Obi, to Obiano and now Soludo, they have all been on the APGA platform. That has been a total of 25 years of dislocation from the centre.

“Most states surrounding Anambra have not just left their original political party, they have now joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre in efforts to improve the lot of their people and they are happy and better for it. Their governors are now using their connection to the centre to attract development to their states.

“Why should Anambra continue to live in isolation? What is the justification for this? If there had been a superlative performance and outcomes on their isolated platform, one would have said that it is a worthy isolation, but nay!” he said.

He cited the case of Imo State, which used to be PDP but, according to him, “has now tightly embraced APC”; Cross River, which he said “has also moved to join the APC”, and Ebonyi State, which “was highly PDP but it has abandoned that ‘umbrella’ and received the broom to sweep clean its house”.

Ganduje further said Anambra’s refusal to connect with the centre has greatly deprived its people of enormous dividends in terms of infrastructure and other benefits”.

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“Today Imo and Ebonyi sons and daughters are appointed as ambassadors, and given other lofty portfolio and positions because of their connection to the centre. But Anambra’s failure to transit regional political sentiments has made it stuck and trapped in the mud of self-inflicted limitations and inevitable exclusion.

“This is a natural occurrence in line with the reality that you have to be at the table to negotiate what comes to you. If you are not at the table, nobody will speak for you when the chips are down,” he claimed.

Ganduje’s argument may sound convincing to a lay mind. However, anyone who has followed Nigerian politics since 1999 knows that the APC Chairman was just blowing hot air. Being in the party at the centre has never guaranteed better treatment for any state in the South-East.

But that aside, what is more worrisome is the eagerness with which the ruling party appears to be pushing to transform Nigeria into a one-party state. Must one party occupy most of the states and zones in the country? It is understood that a party in power would be concerned with always having the majority on its side, but the APC needs to understand that multi-party system is the beauty of democracy.

Nigeria is a democratic country, so it allows a multi-party system of government and decentralization, which proves that the states of Nigeria can be ruled by any given party. So, every state and region need not be in the same party with the president before they can enjoy political power or even the benefits of good governance. It is an aberration to say a state or region is not getting what is statutorily due to it because of party differences.

In any case, the South-East was predominantly PDP (People’s Democratic Party) for the 16 years that the party was in power, how much political influence did the region wield at the time? And what amount of development happened in the region within that time frame? Even the Second Niger Bridge, not much progress was made on it throughout the PDP years; it took the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari to complete the project and open it for public use.

Marginalisation of the South-East does not appear to have anything to do with political party. Despite much of the South-East being in the same party with the president at the centre, marginalisation of the region led to agitations like the one by the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) beginning from 1999. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has since continued from where MASSOB stopped.

So, it is puerile for the APC Chairman Ganduje to suggest that unless some parts of the country join a ruling party, they would not see tangible progress.

Today, Abia State is making tremendous progress under an APGA government led by Alex Otti, the kind of progress that may not have been made in Imo State that has enjoyed communion with the centre in the last over four years.

Rather than asking Anambra and other South-East states to join APC, Ganduje and his party should ensure even spread of developmental projects across the states and regions in the interest of equity and fairness. A state does not need to come under the control of a ruling party before it can get what is its due. The South-East has been crying out over its perceived marginalization; it is time to really look at it and see where the problem lies with a view to proffering solutions. Political party affiliation shouldn’t be a criterion for federal presence in a state or region.

Meanwhile, Nigeria is currently grappling with too much power at the centre. The discussion right now should be about how this power can be devolved and decentralised to give the states and regions wings to fly instead of foisting a one-party system on the country. A one-party system will be the death of democracy in Nigeria.