Party primaries and matters arising in Nigeria
Recently, the All Progressives Congress and People Democratic Party conducted their primary elections as mandated by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria that for any person to contest in a political party platforms and it is the choice of that political to conduct primary election or agreed to adopt consensus candidate that will compete. The essence of primary election is to give party members a right to have their say in the process, taste the popularity of the candidate and also to present the acceptable aspirant to the citizens. Before going deep into the problems in the process, let me shed more light on the two methods for the sake of people to understand the pattern applied.
There are two ways available to conduct party primaries in Nigeria, that is the direct and indirect method. The direct method simply involves registered members of the party getting an equal opportunity to vote for the flag bearer as the general populace does in a general election. All registered members of a party are allowed to vote in the primary election to elect the party’s representative in the general elections. The indirect method empowers a special group of voters called ‘delegates’ to make the choice for everybody else. Both the two methods were abused and wrongly applied in Nigeria by both the ruling All Progressives Congress that mixed direct and indirect method while, the opposition party conducted indirect primary election.
Despite the effort made by Jega in 2014 where the INEC produced 10-page rules and regulation that guided the conduct of primary elections in Nigeria, it seems the effort has become wasted.
I had the opportunity to observe the presidential primaries of some political parties where used the direct and indirect methods. What I saw is nothing but the carnival and sharing of money and worse is our youths shouting and wallowing all over the place. The delegates were not interested in the quality and competency of their candidates, I asked one of the delegate`s opinion on the process, he vividly told me that “I am more interested in knowing the amount to share than the person.” This is only in one of the smaller political parties talkless of the mighty APC and PDP.
There is a crisis going on in most of the states as a result of irregularities in the party primaries. Zamfara for example where lives of innocent people were lost as a result of selfish interest of few politicians who believed that their choice is only the best option for the state is instructive. Also, in Kano and Imo state, where the godfathers appointed their son in-laws to be the candidates, Kaduna fighting between the governor and the senator, wife of the president pushing her brother in Adamawa and so many other issues that space will not permit to mention.
Another thing that is fuelling the crisis is how the parties gave automatic tickets to those that decamped, no internal democracy and to my humble opinion in Nigeria’s party system, loyalty to the party doesn’t get you the votes of party members. Party members themselves are more loyal to dollars than to an abstract personality that political party.
It is shocked that money play more role in the eyes of the delegates than the integrity and quality of the candidate, Punch Newspaper reported that dollars were shared in the venue of PDP primary election, the person with highest bidder finally got what he wants and left the other candidates with lower bidder. Don’t expect any body that invested his huge amount of dollars to get party ticket to provide jobs, good roads, health care, education and other social amenities to the well being of the nation.
To make it worse, our political atmosphere is not favourable to young people especially women, the kind of money the parties are demanding is beyond the reasonable amount that a patriotic young man or woman can afford and most of the young people were seen in the venues of the primaries as either party delegates or thugs but not the aspirants, Leaving youth with only contesting under the umbrella of unpopular political platforms, even though some people are of the opinion that popular candidates can contest in any party platforms but Nigerians are more interested in the party than the candidates.
Delegates should take issue based politics rather than money in electing the candidates, this will produce competitive and competent leaders with vision and principles that will steer this country out from the present situation to the more promising and progressive atmosphere. It is now left for the Nigerians to vote wisely and vote the candidates with integrity that will take this country to the Promised Land.
Mohammed, a zonal programme officer with YIAGA Africa, wrote from Abuja.
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