Regardless of the expectation and anticipation with which the new administration in Nigeria is being greeted, there is no better time than now to embark on efforts to address the underlying challenges that have always undermined the credibility of primaries. Hopefully, by the 2027 election season, relevant legislation and methods will have been duly reformed.
Towards every election season, people lament the scarcity of the right candidates for elective positions, which they also rightly attribute to the systematic manipulation of the party nomination process by powerful vested interests within the parties, who literally impose candidates on the electorate via charades in the name of party consensus or primaries by some hand-picked party delegates.
Public officeholders and other party elites use the instruments of power and public resources at their disposal to ensure the emergence of their political associates, in addition to themselves of course, as party delegates with a mandate to elect party candidates, on an occasion typically characterised by systematic vote buying deals between delegates offering their consciences (if any) for sale, and deep-pocketed politicians literally jostling to outbid one another.
That has discouraged many principled individuals with the potential to turn things around in their respective jurisdictions given the mandate from getting into politics, for they rightly wouldn’t bootlick any so-called political godfather or bribe any greed-motivated delegate. After all, many like-minded individuals have ventured into politics but ended up frustrated at the hands of party manipulators while many others of similar calibre have ended up compromising their moral principles to join the very corrupt elite they have previously often castigated.
Consequently, the electorate is left with the dilemma of having to choose amongst candidates with notorious pasts for gross incompetence, massive corruption cases, and even court convictions against many of them. The average voter, therefore, betrays his underlying frustration by voting for the highest bidder amongst the candidates or voting for whoever his immediate political master endorses, with some hope that the candidate will win and his master will be rewarded with some political appointment or other privileges, for him (voter) to be occasionally rewarded with peanuts by the master over the period of his stay in office or continuation of his privileges.
Only a few votes with conviction, which may still not be in order anyway, for it might be influenced by one manipulative tactic or another.
Ironically also, there is general indifference in all segments of society. Even democratic activists and advocates for good governance, who are supposed to be particularly committed to demanding, among other things, the reform of the party nomination process, have been largely and inexcusably indifferent. They only rant in futility when it’s too late i.e. when birds of a feather flock together have emerged as their respective parties’ candidates. In fact, many of them have turned out to be mere attention-seeking opportunists hiding behind activism to literally extort political appointments and other privileges from the very politicians they have criticised, in return for their loyalty.
Even the few voices of reason in society only urge the electorate to vote for the so-called best of a bad bunch among the candidates, if any.
Now, certainly, until relevant legislation governing the process of the party nomination process and the methods of conducting it are reformed in such a way that it guarantees maximum transparency in the process, the kind of change Nigerians wish for under democracy will never be achieved.
Instead of chasing shadows, therefore, it’s high time that genuine advocates for good governance and other concerned groups and associations embarked on a concerted campaign to demand the reform of relevant legislation to abolish the current corruption-laden delegate primaries and consensus and adopt a direct and transparent primary where all party members are eligible to vote, as the only legal method of nominating party candidates at all levels.
The imperative of demanding such reform represents a challenge that puts Nigerians’ yearning for good governance to the test. If the reform isn’t achieved by the next general election, then the yearning is simply not genuine enough.
However, even when it’s realized, it’s naive to assume that it’s unmanipulable. Vested interests within parties will keep trying to manipulate it. Yet, when sustained, it will certainly make the quest for good governance more achievable, as it will enable people at various levels to push for and indeed secure the emergence of the best amongst them as parties’ candidates for various elective offices.
That way, Nigerians will over time be able to break free from the grip of party delegates to freely elect the caliber of people with the capacity, credibility, inventiveness, and passion necessarily needed to turn things around in the country.
Though the beneficiaries of the status quo will vehemently resist and undermine any attempt to reform it, they will have to eventually succumb to the collective willpower of the people provided they remain passionate, resilient, and determined enough.
Isa sent this piece from Dubai