What we have seen so far from the party primaries is not encouraging at all. The primaries are taking us so many miles away from democratic culture.
The ongoing party primaries for the nomination of party candidates for elective positions in the forthcoming general election have thrown up many issues concerning our nascent multi-party democracy that came on board in 1999.
We have seen the titanic governorship slots battles in Lagos, Imo and other states. We have also witnessed the bloody battles for other political positions in Delta, Anambra, Akwa Ibom and others. The ‘do or die’ tactic that dominates the primaries and the reign of impunity of party godfathers underscore the obvious fact that nothing has changed in our mundane approach to politics.
The politics of prebendalism is still in vogue. The politics of kingmakers is still alive and kicking. Our politics is bereft of philosophical thoughts and deep thinking. Most of the political followers care about nothing except their stomach. Whether it is direct or indirect primaries, the godfathers had their ways and will always have their ways because most of the stakeholders in the party are under their strict control.
The primaries are everything but democratic. The exercise is autocracy masked with democratic garb. Most of the party members are financially emasculated and therefore depend solely on party patronage for survival. In a country where the biggest economic activity is politics, the economy will perpetually remain stunted.
This can explain why Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world. This trophy used to be with India but now we have overtaken them. That is why millions of Nigerians are consigned to living below poverty level at $1.90 per day. The ongoing war and chants of war over party primaries are signs that the road to 2019 will be rough and dangerous.
It may even be bloody if care is not taken to address the inherent shortcomings in our democratic system. If the people cannot freely elect their representatives in government, our democracy is indeed in danger. If our party primaries are not free and fair, then the 2019 election may likely suffer the same fate.
If the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are found wanting on this score, what can happen in next year’s general election can be deduced from the primaries. In Lagos APC, it is a rough fight between the godfather, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his estranged godson, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
In Imo APC, the battle is between incumbent Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who wants to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, and Senator Hope Uzodinma. The battle for the soul of Lagos appears to be over. Governor Ambode has in a show of statesmanship, maturity and party loyalty publicly congratulated his challenger and winner of the APC primaries, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu in the interest of the party and the state.
On his part, Sanwo-Olu has wished the governor well for the remainder of his tenure.
Since 1999, Ambode will go down in history as the first governor that was denied a second term bid in Lagos. While the public display of peace and concord is good following the outcome of the primaries, the Lagos APC family must reflect on what led to the crisis and embark on full reconciliation.
The embattled governor has started well on the path to peaceful resolution of the crisis by conceding defeat. The APC leadership should reciprocate his kind gesture and stop the dispute from escalating. The party must embark on reconciliation now. Any escalation of the dispute may be injurious to the APC. The other political parties are keenly watching the political development in Lagos ahead of 2019.
The APC must put its house in order and should never take Lagosians for granted. While the Lagos political crisis may appear to be over, the same cannot be said of the APC in Imo State. With the parallel primaries in the state due to the fact that the party has been so much fractured, it will be difficult for the party to present a governorship candidate for the 2019 election except internal democracy is allowed to prevail.
If the Imo APC fails to put its house in order fast and produce a candidate that the people want, the opposition PDP or APGA may take over from it. However, one of the lessons from the ongoing primaries is the fact that our politicians have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. And they are not ready and willing to learn and subject themselves to democratic ethos.
That is why some of the primaries witnessed violence. The politicians are the same irrespective of crossing from one party to another. They care for nobody except themselves and their families. Another lesson is that despite our change sloganeering, nothing has really changed. Despite their profession of new faith in their new political clubs, they still retain the basic elements of their old nature.
Unfortunately, the APC that promised change has brought less and less of change in the polity. It is yet to fulfill its major campaign promises including restructuring. While the party is running away from restructuring, the shadows of restructuring will catch up with it come 2019. The more change we shout, the more we remain the same.
Change has lost its meaning in Nigeria because of the attitude of our politicians. Sadly, the opposition PDP is not even showing examples. It appears the party has not learnt lessons from its past mistakes. The PDP must not joke with its presidential primary. Failure to get it right will spell doom for the party. Already incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari has emerged the sole presidential candidate of the APC.
Therefore, any miscalculation by the PDP will seal its fate in 2019. If the PDP is serious about taking over from the APC next year, it must present a pan-Nigerian candidate that can defeat the incumbent Buhari. Nigerian politicians should reflect on the nomination exercise and come up with measures that will ensure that democratic culture is enshrined in the internal workings of our political parties.
Our democracy will be in jeopardy if internal democracy is absent in the parties. What we have seen so far from the party primaries is not encouraging at all. The primaries as presently conducted are taking us so many miles away from democratic culture. We cannot be practising democracy when its tenets are being trampled upon, when the rights of the electorate are daily assaulted and the integrity and sanctity of the ballots disrespected.
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There is need to change the current narrative on democracy and put emphasis on doing the right things at all times. For this to happen, our politicians must change their attitude to politics and fully embrace internal democracy.