The politics of party primaries


The current wars over primaries ought not to have arisen if our politics is played with a high sense of responsibility and decorum.

Robert Obioha

The raging civil war over party primaries is unnecessary. And it should not be the case either. The war is not about principles. It is only about the hegemonic control of party structure or party power by some political godfathers with intent to have their way in imposing candidates for elective positions in some of the states.

Most state chapters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and indeed some other parties are boiling today because of the struggle to control the soul of the party and impose candidates. It is never for good governance or for service to the people. Our politics is not for service. It has become one huge business empire for some emperors. Nigerian politicians see politics as big business that must yield high dividend.

That is why we have career politicians and professional politicians. Most of them have not done any job before except politics. What is tearing some of the political parties apart is the kind of primaries their members are embracing. In the ruling APC, the battle is between those who want direct primaries and those who are in support of indirect primaries.

There are yet others who want the consensus arrangement. While the leadership of the party favours direct primaries, the state chapters of the party are sharply divided over which mode of primaries to adopt. Interestingly, Section 87 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 makes provision for both direct and indirect primaries when it states: “The procedure for the nomination of candidates for political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.”

Section 87(3) of the same Electoral Act provides that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.” Section 87 (4) of the same Electoral Act states that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidates shall adopt the procedure outlined in paragraphs a-d.”

The constitutions of some of the parties are on the same page with the provisions of the Electoral Act on the procedure for primaries.

The current wars over primaries even among members of one political party as seen with current events in APC ought not to have arisen if our politics is played with a high sense of responsibility and decorum.

They should never have occurred if the political game is played according to the rules. Without doubt, direct and indirect primaries have their inherent advantages and disadvantages. Whichever mode of primaries is chosen must benefit some people more than others. If the politicians do things the right way, the mode of primaries should be of little or no consequence.

The war over the primaries in some states is because some state actors want to impose their preferred candidates. For peace to reign, they must have their way. That is what our politicians have reduced our politics to. In our politics, only the few rich determine for all of us how the nation’s politics will be played.

They determine who will be our governor, senator and even our president. Imposition of candidates is one of the problems of our politics since the inception of the nascent democratic experiment in 1999. The problem is becoming more complex with every election season. And it is going to be an issue in the 2019 election season.

The patrons of our politics are holding all of us to ransom. They do so not for altruistic reasons. They do so for selfish reasons. That is why the nation will know no genuine progress, growth and development. The current prebendal politics will take us to no destination. With prebendal politics or politics of patronage, the Promised Land is still too far away. It is also not yet Uhuru for our politics.

Sadly enough, the politics of godfatherism is still in vogue even though political godsons and their godfathers usually end up dancing in the market square. We have watched such political drama so much and it is no longer entertaining. It has lost its entertainment value. Unfortunately, the politics of godfatherism is all over the country.

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Every geopolitical zone has its fair share of that unholy political romance which most times end up in divorce of the worst order because such marriages were hurriedly contracted in the dead of the night. There were no rooms for courtships and the partners did not know each other so well. The failure rate of such political marriages is so high. Our politics must be divorced of such marriages.

Godfatherism is alive at the federal, state and local government levels of our politics. But it is more prevalent in the states. In most instances, the political godfathers use their political godsons to extend their hold on power, money and influence. When the godsons want to assert themselves, the levers of power are withdrawn and things will fall apart. This can explain the rumbles in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Osun, Imo and some other states where party primaries’ battle will be fiercely fought.

Apart from corruption, the next virus affecting Nigerian politics is the politics of patronage or godfatherism. It corrupts the political system and breeds mediocrity. It encourages mismanagement of state resources. And in Nigeria, the godfathers are always awake and watching over the activities of their anointed godsons, giving them political appointees and determining what happens in their states. It is a pity that our politics do not have godmothers. And if there are indeed godmothers in Nigerian politics, they are not as ubiquitous as the godfathers. The political parties’ primaries are always rancorous because the godfathers must impose candidates for any position they fancy.

Such imposition is much easier if the party prefers indirect primaries and more difficult if the party adopts direct primaries. Direct primaries will permit more people’s participation in our politics, but indirect primaries will exclude some people and narrow political participation.

Besides, it encourages monetization of politics and makes the political trophy to always go to the highest bidder. Our politics must be weaned of those that impose candidates on the parties and insist that they must have their way. We must do away with the politics of installation. All the political parties in the country must enthrone the principles of due process and ensure internal democracy in the choice of candidates for elective positions.

For our democracy to endure, the basic tenets of democracy must prevail in the conduct of affairs of the existing political parties. The bad blood over party primaries in many states is because we loathe the idea of internal democracy. We cannot be democrats in name and autocrats in attitude. Our attitude to politics must change for the better. Let the change begin in the way and manner the parties are run.

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