Let the process of the primaries be free, fair and credible and acceptable to all. The venue of such events should also not tear the parties apart…
As we move towards the 2019 general election, one issue that should bother the stakeholders is how to conduct acceptable party primaries. Our party primaries had been characterized by literally buying the delegates in the case of indirect primaries. Such exercise had been money-guzzling and the votes going to the highest bidder.
At times, the primaries don’t even take place. Those concerned can stay in a hotel and compile the list of the candidates for elective positions and forward to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
We earnestly want a change in this narrative. As we move closer to next year’s poll, there are strong signs that the primaries, the necessary condition for political parties to nominate candidates for elections, may tear the parties apart if the exercise is devoid of internal democracy. Nigerians are getting wiser and more politically sophisticated with each passing day.
By hindsight, they can no longer tolerate the impunity of the past and the reign of the godfathers. For so long, the nation’s political parties cannot boast of observing internal democracy, the necessary tenet of democracy, in the conduct of their affairs. The leaders or owners of these parties have fooled some of their followers for so long.
They have played god for so long under the guise of democracy. The time to dethrone them is now. It is obvious that where internal democracy is lacking, impunity reigns supreme. Where there is no democracy, dictatorship and anarchy will definitely set in. It is evil therefore for most of the existing political parties to operate from the instinct of one man, who is generally regarded as the leader, and whatever he says becomes law.
This vitiates the elementary meaning of democracy which is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. One-man ownership of a political party is a mockery of multi-party democracy. It is akin to dictatorship. Unfortunately, in our own brand of democracy, the owners of party structure determine who gets what position and who does not get.
At the federal level, the person in power can dictate what happens in the party. It has been so in the past 18 years or thereabout. Down to the states, the godfathers take over and dictate what happens in their domains of influence.
And in states without godfathers, which are few, the governors who want to emerge as the new godfathers dictate the tune of the political dance and threaten fire and brimstone if their wishes do not become law.
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Is this the kind of democracy our founding fathers envisaged? I don’t think so. Something is fundamentally wrong with our modern day party politics. There is so much selfishness and personal gains among the political class than what can benefit the general public on whose behalf they got their political powers.
The essence of government is for the common good of the generality of the people. And that is why the primary duty of government is to protect lives and properties and ensure the welfare of the people. Our governments since 1999 have been found utterly wanting in this onerous function.
Let me also add that despite our pretensions that we are running a democratic government, I do not believe that the forthcoming party primaries will be free from impunity and handpicking of candidates across the country. The ominous signs are there already.
We do not need a soothsayer to predict the likely outcome of the party primaries. Already, those who will become governors and legislators come May 29 next year have been anointed and they are governors and legislators in-waiting. The election, at times, is a mere formality exercise. That is why there is voter apathy during each election season. That can explain the reigning vote-buying culture that has been elevated to an art.
Whether INEC bans mobile phones at polling booths or not, Nigerian politicians must find other means to bribe the voters. The excruciating hunger and poverty in the land do not help matters. The culture of ‘see and buy’ and ‘vote and cook soup’ or stew will prevail because our politics is devoid of welfarism. Our politics is still capitalist oriented. The ubiquitous presence of the godfathers can explain why some politicians can wake up and say this person will be governor and this person will not be governor and it came to pass.
Interestingly, our extant electoral laws support both direct and indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for elective positions. That is why in the All Progressives Congress (APC) some of the states have embraced direct primaries, while others have chosen the indirect primaries. Whichever mode of primaries each party adopts, what is paramount is sticking to the rules of the game.
In other words, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with any mode of primaries. Even if a party adopts the consensus method, the most important thing is to ensure that there is due process in the exercise. Sadly, our party primaries lack due process, whether direct or indirect. The parties should not fight or be unduly troubled over primaries.
Let the process of the primaries be free, fair and credible and be acceptable to all. They should not kill their opponents or kidnap some party chieftains because they want to conduct primaries. The venue of such events should also not tear the parties apart as being anticipated in some quarters. If the political parties get the primaries right, it will deepen the country’s nascent democracy. It would rub-off on the next year’s general election.
But, if the exercise is marred by violence and impunity, it will be a minus for our democracy. And it will signal a bad omen for the 2019 polls. It is important that states such as Imo, Lagos, Kaduna, Ogun, Delta and some others, must ensure that their primaries follow due process.
I say this because any deviation from the norm will spell doom for the leading parties in these states. Some of these states have been in the news recently over who will run for the post of governor and who will not run. It is only free and fair primaries that would douse the tension in these states.