ACHIEVING POPULAR PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS
Popular participation is defined as the act of taking active part in political activities publicly or in a way that is enjoyed by a large number of people.
Popular participation in politics is a process whereby the ordinary citizens or people (peasant, improvised men and women, tenants and the poor); and the elite(government, trade unions, industrialists, scholars, landowners and the rich) come together to determine who governs them so as to protect individuals from being maltreated or taken advantage of by politicians and those in power.” Power to the people is a famous popular slogan”.
Popular participation in politics could also be described as a process where all citizens irrespective of their financial, marital, social status, religious and political beliefs all band together as equals under political parties or movement to determine who governs them at the local , state or national levels.
Popular participation could also mean a political principle or practice. It involves the participation or involvement of all citizens in choosing their leaders or their representatives at all levels of government towards decision making process.
Reasons Why People do not Participate in Politics
- Money Politics: As a result of money involved in politics in developing nations, people lack interest and do not participate actively in politics because there’s little or no chance for them without spending a lot of money. A lot of money, often siphoned from public funds, are used up in political campaigns. An upcoming politician or political parties may discouraged or sidelined because of this.
- Obstacles: This implies the difficulties that will make one not to achieve his/her aim in politics. In politics, there are a lot of obstacles. It could be fear of intimidation. People maybe denied the opportunity of expressing their opinion freely and may affect their political participation.
- Discrimination: This is the treatment given to the political opponent in an unfair way because of the tribe or party he or she belongs. For example, in Nigeria discrimination may occur in terms of religion, tribe, ethnic group, location among others and these inhibit people from popular participation in politics.
- Illiteracy: This refers to lack of enough knowledge and awareness. Individual who do not have any political ideas cannot play or participate in politics. The individual may not see the need to participate in politics rather he sees politics as a birth-right of the educated and elitist class in the society. High level of illiteracy therefore inhibits people from participation in politics in Nigeria and other developing countries of the World.
- Cultural / ethnicity barriers: There are people who do not participate in politics because of their perceived view of not being given equal opportunity either as members of the minority ethnic group to upturn the majority.
- Intimidation and Thuggery: Many prominent Nigerians have been beaten up by political thugs and in the process they have sustained permanent bodily harm occasioned by assault. In some extreme cases, many have been assassinated. These and others inhibit active political participation.
- The belief that the votes of the electorate will not count at the end of the polls or election. Hence, the need to emphasize one man, one vote.
- Insincerity and partisanship of the electoral body leadership. For example, the judiciary has indicted some Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials of bias and noncompliance with the rules guiding the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
- Perceived gender discrimination against women. Many women do not participate in politics because of the fear that their male counterparts will not vote for them.
- Economic Factors: The high fees charged for nomination forms by political parties, and money required for campaign tours discourage a lot of people from participating in politics.
- Government Factors: The government at all levels particularly, when either the incumbent President, Governor or Chairman of local government is contesting, they do not provide equal opportunities to all political parties and candidates.
- Weak and Compromised Legal System: There are inadequate law courts to try election problems and sometimes corrupt judges help in delaying and dispensing of electoral cases. For example, the Ekiti State Governorship petition took almost 3 1/2 years to end and the same situation occurred in Delta , Osun and some other states in Nigeria.
- Religious Inhibition: There are religious extremists who preach against women aspiring for political offices or even vote during election. At times, they do not even allow their wives to obtain voter’s registration card.
How Popular Organizations are Formed
Popular organizations are referred to as organizations meant to care for the citizens. Popular organizations are institutions of groups of people with the same political views, interest or ideology who come together to participate in the democratic process or political activities of a country.
These involve: voters registration, conduct of intra-party primaries (elections) and inter-party electoral contest with the sole aim of winning, forming and controlling the government at all levels in the country. Manifestoes are formed; emblem; slogan; their plans for the country etc. Then, a congress is called to ratify all of these and thereafter the popular party registers with the electoral umpire who will verify their claim and issue them a certificate of recognition.
Characteristics of Popular Organizations
- It must have elected officers such as: chairman, deputy chairman, secretary, treasurer who will oversee how things are being run in the organization.
- There must be employed officers in charge of day to day administration of the organization.
- Each of these officials must have their various offices in their various branches located in the country or state.
- There must be bye-laws guiding the running of the organization.
- There must be security personnel safeguarding the affairs of the organization.
Specifically in Nigeria, popular organizations have been formed through:
- Government Proclamation: For example, Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida through a decree in 1992, allowed the registration of two political parties (Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Congress (NRC) that contested the 1993 general elections.
- Ethnicity: In pre-independent Nigeria, popular organizations are formed along ethnic divides. For example, Action Group in the West and the Northern People Congress in the North. This arrangement continued even in the first republic.
- Religious Affinity: Members of the same religious belief often share the same political ideology. This makes it easy for them to band together to form popular organizations or parties, contest and probably win elections. For instance, the Fresh Democratic Party (Pas Chris Okotie) and Democratic Party presidential aspirant in USA, 1988; Rev Jesse Jackson are good examples of politicians with religious affinity.
- In advanced countries of the world, pressure groups have also come together to form popular organizations to protect the masses from oppression. For example, the Labour Party in Nigeria was floated by the Nigeria Labour Congress which contested and won election in Ondo State.
- Ideological / Intellectual Groups: At times political activists (human right groups) have banded together to form popular organizations to give their members a platform to contest elections. For example, Professor Wole Soyinka’s new party in Nigeria was established for this reason. So also, the NCP (National Conscience Party of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi).