Rancour After Party Primaries
The last general election must have been an eye-opener to many Nigerians. Rather than getting better what transpired were simmering rancour, bitterness, intra and inter-party wrangling, complaints and irrelevant litigations. And the politicians were the culprits-in-chief.
Given the seamless growth of democracy globally and especially in Africa, the 2019 election ought to be a generous beneficiary of the flourishing democratic culture. But, our politicians did what they knew best different from what obtains in other climes.
Most of the noticeable pitfalls were attributable to the adoption of non-democratic party primaries by political parties. Fellow Nigerians of good fortune; several things eventuated all in the guise of selecting candidates to vie for elective positions. A political party that hopelessly fell victim to this ugly scenario was the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In picking their flagbearers, the party witnessed major crises virtually in every state of the federation. As a remedy, its national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, introduced the direct primaries option. But the alternative created more problems than it solved as those with most sinister motives shunned the innovation that worked in Osun State in deciding the current governor for the gubernatorial election last year.
Many bigwigs in the party lamented and complained about a process that would have ensured a free and fair course. They preferred the old fraudulent variety of indirect primaries which have often proved less effective in choosing candidates democratically.
Indirect primaries and the so-called consensus options many political parties are accustomed to are undemocratic and amenable to manipulations and massive fraud. For instance, indirect primaries enjoy a reputation for monetising party electoral processes. Party delegates can easily be bought over by money bags and get an entire process compromised.
Party members fall over themselves to pick delegates or contestants, not for love of the party or for contestants, but for the mundane advantages they stand to obtain. Consequently, delegates lists are altered at will thus inciting conflicts.
Also, indirect primaries embolden godfatherism. That is the bane of the Rivers State APC where a person seeks to foist his whims and caprices on the entire party machinery. In such circumstances, no one can be something in the party unless the godfather sanctions it. In all, indirect primaries favour the highest bidder.
Conversely, the direct primaries option is the best available and most sanctioned because of its fraud-proof disposition. Even though the method failed in the APC following corporate greed and imprudence of some of its members, other political parties including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should adopt it.
Direct primaries accord with international best practices. In the United States of America (USA) which unarguably is the prototype of democracy, the two major political parties utilise direct primaries to elect their candidates. That was why Barack Obama could emerge as the presidential candidate of his Democrat party. The current president, Donald Trump, clinched the Republican ticket through the same model without strong affiliation to his party.
Another advantage of the direct method of primaries is it doesn’t require so much money to be an active participant. Any member that has the requisites for popularity could become a flagbearer. Additionally, it is cost effective and confers a good sense of party ownership on bona fide members. Then every card-carrying member will have a say and equal value.
If taken on, direct primaries will sprout party politics in the country as more persons may appreciate the relevance in belonging to a party and disport very progressive politics. For once, confidence will be restored in party structure.
There is a link between how contestants for elective positions emerge and the quality of a nation’s leaders. Things have gone askance with us in this regard, that is why leadership has become the biggest nightmare of our dear country.
I recall the words of Viscount James Bryce, a British jurist and statesman: “political parties had become so corrupt that the nominating process had to be taken over by the state … Under the old system, narrow and selfish oligarchies (the “Ring”) controlled the nomination process and manipulated the outcomes in order to guarantee the election of ‘their man.’ “
That obviously is the case with Nigeria. Are political parties not excessively corrupt? Are primaries not negotiated or commercialised? We need a system that would allow for free and open nominating procedures which would make bribery, fraud, violence, and manipulation a thing of the past. That system is direct primaries.