I have never understood the idea of political parties expelling members. To be sure, I understand why a party may expel an executive member on grounds stipulated in the constitution.
But what does it mean to expel Yaw Berko, an ordinary member of the party?
In a functional democracy where party membership gives a right to vote at the primaries, such a move could trigger constitutional questions as that suffrage flows from the Constitution and can’t be assailed by a party.
In Umuofia, most party members have no vote at the primaries anyway. So expulsion has suffrage consequences only if one were a delegate.
Some party members pay their dues. Expulsion means the party is rejecting future receipt of the dues. Why reject dues? Will past dues be refunded?
Some members contribute to parties by way of donating funds, ideas, time, etc. They also persuade friends, family, associates, etc. I am unsure of how a party benefits from rejecting these contributions.
A party member’s most valuable contribution is to vote for party candidates in general elections. This is why most parties work to increase their membership.
Here, we observe that the Party can’t stop anyone from voting for its candidates or for that matter for voting against its candidates. So expelling a member has no consequences for this ultimate issue.
Finally, suppose a party dismisses Yaw Berko. Nevertheless, Yaw Berko continues to hold himself out as a member. What remedies in law are available to the Party against Yaw Berko?
Parties should embrace more members and tolerate diversity in their membership. Some members are ideologues. They will resist any departures from the party’s core values. Some members are partisans. They defend the parties’ interests, which sometimes do not align with the core values. Some members are loyalists. They are loyal to the current officers and leaders of the party, even at the expense of the parties’ core values or interests.
It is important to understand that current leaders can depart from the parties’ core values and interests. Equally it is important to understand that ideologues & partisans can call out and reject such departures. These departures and resistance often lead to frictions between ideologues and loyalists or among the 3 elements of the parties’ base.
I have observed, sadly, over the life of the 4th Republic that the loyalists not only have their way in these battles but they drive out the ideologues from the parties, leading to our parties becoming less ideological and more of personality cults.
Parties should grow their membership. In Umuofia, where membership does not come with a right to vote in primaries, dismissing non-executive members does not add value, quite apart from the non-enforceability of the action.
Even if a member supports an independent MP, a party should still covet his presidential vote. Even if a member supports an independent presidential candidate, a party should still covet his parliamentary vote.
Parties should move towards one member one vote (OMOV) in primaries. This is not just what the Constitution demands in article 55, it is also the surest way to get the members buy in on the parties’ candidates. The more members who vote in primaries the higher the likelihood that members support the parties’ choices. Conversely, the less members who vote in primaries, the higher the likelihood that members will prefer others.
Ultimately, the best way to get members’ buy in on the parties’ choices is to make them co-sponsors of the candidates rather than impose delegates’ sponsored candidates on them.
A political party brings together people with the same political ideas to draw out programs that advance and promote the interests of the citizens. Under this view of a political party, parties should have no interest in expelling ordinary members for expressing their ideas or preferences for non-party choices.
Of course, a political party may be narrowly defined as a vehicle for capturing political power and using that power to confer benefits on those perceived to have been central to the acquisition of power. Under this view, parties will keep a lid on “membership” to deny benefits to expelled members!!!!
Parties should learn from Fomena!
#SALL is the cardinal sin of the 8th Parliament.