Walking a straight line appears to be a very difficult task for Nigerians. That, perhaps, is what their country has done to them. It may be the other way, though. Indeed, the crooked path has become the road often taken in Nigeria, what has pejoratively come to be known as ‘the Nigerian way’. For many, the crooked path is not just the preferred way, it actually is the only way. Sadly, more often than not, those who take the crooked path in Nigeria arrive their destination faster than those who walk the straight line, that is if the latter ever get there.
The difficulty in walking a straight line and following an uncluttered path in compliance with rules and regulations apply no less to institutions in Nigeria. As it is with individuals, so it has become with institutions, especially public institutions. Of course, that cannot but be the case, after all, what is an institution if not a structural machinery that approximates the values and executes the specific programmes of those who set it up?
The problem of Nigerians in walking the straight path and following well defined rules and procedures is evident in virtually all Nigerian public institutions, including Nigerian diplomatic missions in foreign land. Ask anyone who has tried to process a Nigerian passport in any foreign country through foreign missions, even in the most developed countries. Any such attempt brings you face to face with the collapse of order and a people’s pact with tardiness. It is an extension of the regime at home, where touts hold sway and have defied all efforts to change the system.
The chaos and confusion which presently mark the face of the two major political parties, the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as they grapple with the task of conducting their congresses and primaries speak eloquently of the problem of Nigerian institutions with walking the straight line. Conducting party primaries and congresses should ordinarily not be such a maze. In societies where the rules are clear and where the playing field is level, the political parties and the aspirants know what the rules are and when any of the programmes in the schedule leading to the campaigns and the elections fall due. Not in Nigeria. As it seems, not even the party leadership seem to know what comes next. Everyone muddles along, one day at a day, in a circuitous process that is more or a less a circus.
All things being equal, the APC will today, Tuesday, May 24 2022, screen its presidential aspirants. Like every other aspect of the party’s scheme for selecting its candidates, the presidential aspirants-screening exercise has been previously shifted, adjusted and postponed. As the goal post and the rules continue to be moved and shifted, the candidates continue to sway and gyrate to a dance rhythm they hardly understand. They have little or no choice. For those of them who are seriously in the race, they must keep faith and hope for the best. It is like children’s elimination dance contest, you never know who will be the last person on the dance floor. The party had earlier adjusted its special national convention from May 30 to commence on May 29,2022. Meanwhile in some of the states, the congresses are badly hanging, with some clear clue on when the outstanding issues will be resolved.
Across the other side at the PDP end, the confusion seems even more complicated. From the very moment the party’s new national leadership came on stream and started plotting a scheme to jettison the party’s defining zoning arrangement, PDP seem to have become thoroughly discombobulated. The party leadership’s primary area of speciality seems to be in setting up committees. It is not easy to keep abreast with the number of committees, of both standing and sitting varieties, that the leadership of the party has thrown up, to help it resolve some of the contradictions and conflicts bedevilling the party. Interestingly, the more the committees come the more compounded the party’s problems are. For good measures, PDP, perhaps more than APC seems to have multiple court rulings and injunctions to deal with at the moment. Nobody, not the leadership of the party seem clear by its comportment, of how it will exit from this state of flux. Unfortunately, there may not be time for some more committees.
Why all this chaos in the political parties in the course of conducting their congresses and primaries? Simple, because the parties and their leaderships cannot walk the straight line. They find it difficult to establish a level playing field and comply with the rules they made for themselves. This has always been the case with the political parties. As far back as 2006, it was established that the root of the crises in the political parties was their inability to obey their own rules. Sixteen years down the road, the problem has not only persisted, it has grown worse.
Interestingly, the pandemonium in the parties is just starting. More drama and bedlam are still on the way. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has done well to resist the attempt by the political parties to coral it into adjusting the schedule for the parties to conclude their internal processes leading to the emergence of their candidates for the 2023 election. It is instructive that the schedules for the 2023 elections were developed and released by the Election Management Body early enough for the parties to work with. The extension of time they are seeking is simply for them to prolong the bazaar and drama that have no redemptive value for the society. The cost of the current jaunt by politicians at the expense of the larger society is just not sustainable. After paying N100 million and N40 million to purchase nomination forms, in an economy that has continued to shrink by the day, the same elements are busy mopping up every available US dollar and British pound in the economy, to buy off delegates during the conventions.
The tardiness presently identified with the processes of conducting congresses and primaries in the major political parties represent a face of democracy in Nigeria which needs to be changed for order and decency to prevail in the political process. INEC owes itself and the country the duty to firmly hold on to its schedule for the elections. The ongoing drama and self-inflicted confusion in APC and PDP, connected with picking candidates for the 2023 elections, just have to end, however they do it. The political parties must be restrained from promoting values of organisational indiscipline and greed in the society in the name of politics.