There is crisis going on in most of the states as a result of irregularities in the party primaries

Idris Mohammed

Writing on politics is a waste of talent and ink.̓̓ This was the assertion of one of my friends who is also a young writer and journalist. I think the main reason he said so is the fact that most of our politicians are not reading people’s opinions in newspapers. Neither are they interested in using the content. To me also, anytime I place my fingers on the keyboard to type out my opinion on the political atmosphere I feel bored and tied because the electioneering process in Nigeria is disguising but we will not keep quiet and watch things go on the wrong way without putting in our contributions which might at least bring reforms to the system.

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Recently, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conducted their primary elections as mandated by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which requires that for any person to contest on political party platform, the party must conduct primary election or agree to adopt a consensus candidate. The essence of primary election is to give party members a right to have their say in the process, test 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: 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 methods were abused and wrongly applied in Nigeria by both the ruling APC that mixed direct and indirect method while, the opposition party conducted indirect primary election.

In 2014, INEC under the leadership of the then chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, produced the rules and regulation that guide the conduct of primary elections in Nigeria but trust the politicians, they manipulated and bent the rules to suit their purpose.

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I was opportune to observe the presidential primaries of some political parties, which used either the direct or the indirect method. What I witnessed was nothing but a carnival and sharing of money. Worse was the spectacle of our youths shouting and swallowing all over the place. The delegates were not interested in the quality and competence of their candidates. I asked one of the delegate’s for comments on the process and he vividly told me: “I am more interested in knowing the amount to share than the person.” This delegate happened to be a member of one of the smaller political parties not to talk of the mighty APC and PDP. There is crisis going on in most of the states as a result of irregularities in the party primaries. In Zamfara State, for example, lives of innocent people were lost as a result of selfish interest of few politicians, who believed that their choice was the best option for the state. Also, in Kano and Imo states, the godfathers appointed their sons-in-law to be the candidates; you had the Kaduna State governor fighting a senator over who would be the senatorial candidate, the wife of the president pushing her brother in Adamawa and so many other issues that space will not permit me to mention.

Another thing that fueled the crises was how the parties gave automatic tickets to those that decamped and returned; there was no internal democracy. 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 is the political party. In the eyes of the delegates, money was given a higher value than the integrity and quality of the candidate. It was reported that dollars were shared at the venue of a major political party such that the highest bidder finally got the ticket and left the other candidates with lower bids in the dust. Don’t expect anybody that invested a huge amount of dollars to get party ticket to provide jobs, good roads, health care, education and other social amenities to the wellbeing of the nation. To make matters worse, our political atmosphere is not favourable to young people, especially women. The kind of money the parties demand 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 the youths to contest on the platforms of unpopular political parties. Some people are of the opinion that popular candidates can contest in any party but Nigerians are more interested in the party than the candidates. In the future it is hoped that delegates would focus on issue-based politics rather than money in electing the candidates. This will produce competitive and competent leaders with vision and principle that will steer this country out of the present situation to the more promising and progressive atmosphere. As the 2019 election approaches, it is left for Nigerians to evaluate the candidates and vote wisely for the person that will take this country to the Promised Land.

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Idris Mohammed, Zonal Program Officer with YIAGA Africa, wrote from Abuja, via email address: [email protected]