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Intra-party politics and quality of leadership



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By Pascal Ebhohimen, PhD

It seems the practice worldwide particularly for most countries that have adopted democratic system of government, political parties are formed with a view to attaining power, to pursue ideology and to have a common agenda . On the basis of this tripod , people then join particular political parties on the strength of their conviction and belief of these principles . The political platform thus forms the basis why individual members within the party show the desire and interest to run for political office .

The political party therefore is made up of their leaders, other members and their followers ( the electorates ) . The party leader is often responsible for managing the relationship with the general public and leading the competition against political rivals . The members must agree to some of the policies and programmes for the society with a view to promoting the common good . It seeks to implement the policies by winning popular support through elections .

The presence of a true leader in a party is an indication of a serious party that means well to us as a people with a common vision shared by the leader. The leader should not therefore be picked out of its membership just because he has a strong or powerful “ Godfather” within the party or he has a lot of money to share to other members or capable of rigging the entire process of choosing the leader to represent the party at any level of governance.

It is important to choose the right leader within the party. The leader must have a crystal clear vision , showing the direction he wants to take its members and the electorates , and thus he is able to inspire and take others along on their journey . He is therefore very credible and quite capable of modelling the way to the envisioned state . A good leader makes people sit up and listen , then follow , not by coercion , not by shouting the odds, but through the power of persuasion . A member that has these qualities , being visionary , and leading by example stands out clearly from the rest of the members. This is the process of getting a quality leader .

And so to be eligible to run for any office, the individual seeking to be identified as a true leader must demonstrate clearly from the outset those qualities , ready and be prepared to serve and then ask for his nomination by members through a true democratic process . His endorsement by party leaders and members after demonstrating these qualities and by persuasive communication is a done deal and the party will be adjudged to be ready to serve the people through the chosen leader.

This is how leaders evolve in a party . Regrettably , however, in this country , the process of choosing a leader within the party is fraught with uncertainties , ambiguity and seems a very complex . It can be better described as a fringe democracy , an aspect of the pedagogy of the oppressed that does no one any good .

My observation so far looking at the process of selecting leaders within the various political parties in Nigeria has not been very comforting for me ; it has usually not looked at individuals with the qualities that differentiate them as true leaders from not -so-true leaders . For me , this is the reason why this nation called Nigeria has been unable to get it right with the quality of its leadership . Religion, tribe, language , big wallet and connection had played major roles in selecting party representatives as leaders .

In some other jurisdictions, these factors might not be very strong to influence the entire process of choice but there is a provision made constitutionally even when an individual who has the salient qualities of a true leader failed to receive nomination, he could stand as an independent candidate wherein the individual stands on its own to get follower-ship and seek for any political office. He is a leader in his own right.

In Nigeria, there is no such provision for an independent candidacy and this for me limits the scope of chances of a true political leader to emerge . You have to belong to a political party , and so cross -carpeting and switching from one party to another is therefore very common . Where is therefore the place of the ideological underpinnings and alignment of the individual principles and that of the political party ? There are therefore serious cases of mismatches hence some people have argued that ideologies don’t matter in Nigeria and therefore no agendas , policies and programmes that are designed to meet the expectations of our people . Leadership choosing process is therefore a threat to democracy in Nigeria.

For me this is the down side of intra-party democracy because the quality of leadership is suspect so long as there is no openness and membership is restrictive to the extent that only a small clique of friends within a shadow arrangement , dominate the choice process . Professionals and career people that have persons of proven leadership capability are overtly ostracized to run for elective offices as they don’t belong to any political party and if they dare show interest of belonging to one , they are resisted with utter frustration .

For me , time is NOW for intra party democracy to be expanded deliberately to allow for wider freedom of members to choose their leaders without undue interference by the dominant coalition of a few clique of members within the party .

Let’s get it right for once to look out for authentic leaders to run the affairs of this great country . 2023 general election is around the corner and “ BIG BROTHER “ is watching how these leaders will emerge in the party and then in the general elections. It is doable and achievable to get true leaders within each political party .


Leadership template with clear leadership differentiators and code must be developed to guide the process of identifying true and quality leaders even within the political party . High quality leaders with the visionary zeal, and transformational spirit will be needed to create the future of our children today .

God bless our country , Nigeria .

Pascal Ebhohimen, PhD , FCIPM, FNIM, FNITAD, KSM

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