By Chinelo Obogo
Former chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has alleged that moneybags’ and godfathers have hijacked the dominant political parties in Nigeria and that the lack of internal democracy within the parties may cause them to implode. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) are Nigeria’s dominant parties.
Jega, who spoke on a television programme monitored in Lagos, yesterday, said it was impossible for APC and PDP to change and do the right thing as evident in the disorderly primaries they conducted recently.
He lamented that after 22 years of democracy, Nigeria is yet to rid itself from the overbearing influence of people who see political parties as special purpose vehicles for winning elections for their personal gains. He also said it was not yet time to require political parties to conduct direct primaries.
“People have captured and controlled political parties for self-serving objectives, so no energy is devoted to organising primaries. Governors deploy state resources to control political parties in their states to decide which candidate will emerge. It is all driven by self-serving objectives and it is political rascality.
“After 22 years of democracy, we have still not freed ourselves from this overbearing control of people who just use parties as special purpose vehicles for winning elections by hook or by crook. That is why many of us are beginning to think that these so called dominant parties are really a huge disappointment, a drag to the democratisation process of our counter, and if we are hoping for change within these political parties, I regret to say it will be very long in coming. This is why many of us are pushing for a new purpose vehicle for democratic elections and to ensure that we move in the right direction.”
Jega said it would be hard work for the new party they are forming to upstage APC and PDP, but that it was not impossible given the commitment of the people involved.
“We have to address the problems that are crippling us. It is impossible for APC and PDP to change and say they want to do the right thing and you can see the evidence in the so called primaries they conducted recently and how disorganised it was. Many of these parties may explode or implode because of some of the crises associated with their primaries. I am sure that many patriotic Nigerians are not happy to see these kinds of perpetual political wrangling take place in political parties and the arena of governance.”
Jega described the conduct of primaries as a purely party affair and noted that INEC’s responsibility was restricted to to that of a monitor. He criticised political parties for not paying attention to their primary objective of moblising citizens on the basis of a clearly defined programme or manifesto and getting people to register as members.
“The parties have been dominated by so called godfathers and moneybags who are not interested in membership because they think that they can use money to field the candidates they want and to get the candidates they want elected. So the issue of having registered members is not their concern, so if they are required. My personal opinion is that it is not yet time to require political parties to conduct direct primaries,” he said.
Commenting on electronic voting, he said though Nigeria was not ready for it, it was however time INEC began looking around for the electronic voting technology adaptable to the country and how to harness it.
“We are not as prepared with electronic voting as we are with electronic transmission of results. For electronic voting, since the prohibition has just been lifted, it is now time for INEC to begin to look around for what electronic voting technology is adaptable to Nigeria and begin to source it and pilot it before beginning to think of how to deploy it. Once we are ready, we may start doing it in phases by starting with large urban centres with higher literacy rates. It is what INEC can begin to look into.”
Commenting on the preparedness of INEC to carry out electronic transmission of results he said: “I believe that it is possible in 2023 for INEC to do what I can call an ‘A grade’ electronic transmission of results. The objective would be to do it 100 percent but if we can get 70 or 80, it is still an ‘A’ and we should be happy with it and keep improving.
Our fear of failure should not prevent us from trying something new that is being done all over the world because of how important it is to the conduct of free and fair election and the elimination of fraud. I am happy with the decision of the National Assembly and the harmonisation committee.