You are currently viewing The Question of Party Supremacy, By Simbo Olorunfemi
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Time and again, we complain about the state of our political parties. How it is that the parties easily become subservient to elected officials, and they are not able to rein in erring members, control their conduct or moderate their leanings to be in conformity with party positions.

Well, part of it has to do with lack of discipline and the reliance of the parties on big men, mostly elected officials for funding. Such is it that party positions are largely passed on to pawns, people deemed pliable, mostly retirees not seen to have strong political ambitions of their own.

But much of the talk about party supremacy is misplaced. People often cite the ‘good old days’ of the Second Republic when the party was said to have reigned supreme.

Truth be told, what we had then was a carry-over of what transpired in the First Republic, which was a parliamentary system. And even in the 2nd Republic, that didn’t end well, even in a tightly organised party like the UPN, with a good structure. The Omoboriowos, Afolabis stood up against the party position. They left. But it didn’t end well.

Fact is, it is an anomaly, of sorts, to explain the party to be that strong as many expect it to be, in a Presidential system. That will be a confusion of expectation with what obtains under a parliamentary arrangement.

Once the party ticket is ‘handed’ out, there is not much the party is able to do. In many cases,the elected official – President, Governor – becomes the de facto party leader. There might be the Chairman, party leader de jure, but the power and control resides elsewhere. Chairmen of some national parties are, at best, Personal Assistants, of some Governors.


As it is, the party is only a vehicle through which the Executive attains power in a Presidential system. The elected official allows the party to thrive, only to the extent which he likes.

So, when we ask for the party to reign supreme here, which template are we following? The American template? Who, again, is the Chairman of the Republican party in the USA?


We see what happens in other climes and we are not able to properly contextualise it. What you saw in Zimbabwe and South Africa is parliamentary element of the system (Presidential-parliamentary hybrid, like the one in France) coming to the fore.

You want a system where the party reigns supreme and is able to exercise greater control of party members, even to the point of recalling ‘deployees’ to public offices, utilising the instrumentality of ‘vote of no confidence’ to force a change of government, at little cost, reducing the impact of money in politics, increase the chance of bringing new breed and youthful elements into power? The best shot is the PARLIAMENTARY system.


Strategic thinking, strategic engagement is what we need.

It starts with agreeing on what we need.

Proliferation of parties and presidential candidates speak to a dearth of strategic thinking on our part.

    1. 2018

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