APC’s ban on delegates voting in primaries, by Abdullahi Umar


The decision by the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC of APC to abolish delegates-based primaries for the all-inclusive approach where card-carrying members would partake in the primaries is not only commendable, but timely.
The announcement had jolted most keen political observers and pundits alike, because this is radical departure from the norm which had hitherto characterized Nigeria’s political party’s primaries since the return to democratic rule, 19 years ago.
Before now, this practice had been fraught with a lot of irregularities, high-handedness, arm-twisting as well as monetization which sees the ticket going the way of the highest bidder in the contest.
The principle of party primary election in a democracy is hinged on five pillars:- Competence; here, expectedly, party officials allow only competent candidates with an unblemished character vie for the position.
Mediocrity and favoritism of any kind are not condoned.
Fairness; party officials must maintain good communication with constituents so as not to short-change them.
Every member or aspirant must be given a level playing ground and must be treated equally, fairly and respectfully.
Transparency; most importantly, aspiring members and voters have the right to know how party officials acts, albeit the way it conducts its business or politicking.
The process of knowing who gets what, when and how must be transparent so as to eliminate any form of doubt, acrimony and internal crisis leading to the elections.
Integrity; this is the most important component that ensures tranquility and upholds democratic values.
A system whose hallmark is integrity would certainly outplay any other player(s).
Independence; when a political party has less external influence, intruders and horse-trading, voters are bound to have confidence and unbridled trust in the system.
Here, voters would have the conviction that, the choice they make is going to reflect in the outcome of the process.
Similarly, hallmark of this independence could be exclusively found in the nature of adhering to the laws, as well as avoiding conflict of interest and equality to all aspiring members of the party.
According to James Madison, the 4th President of the United States, “the aim of every political constitution is…first to obtain for rulers, men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue the common goal of society”.
From the above, we can conclude that, the political class should bequeath to the society, men and women of good character and impeccable record to steer the activities of state.
This cuts across political actors, parties, and processes like primaries and elections.
However, the charade we witness overtime in Nigeria which was essentially elitist as far as party primaries were concerned has fallen short of the principles associated with primary elections.
In each case, most party primaries in Nigeria had been up for grabs with the highest bidder going home with the tag.
It is therefore inconceivable how most elected officials ended up performing dismally and showing brazen disregard to even the electorate.
Such conduct is incongruous with 21st century governance.
And, the prevalence of godfatherism and impunity by certain moneybags is largely associated with the practice of delegates voting in primaries.
Of course, political parties are at liberty to adopt any method deemed fit to conduct their affairs, after all it usually has the parlance- “party affairs, family affairs”.
But in reality, the show of shame and cross-carpeting by members who had lost out in such primaries go contrary to the said family affairs.
If the process was free and fair, there would be no washing of dirty linen publicly.
Most party officials took advantage of the process to settle old political scores or rivalry.
In contrast, the ordinary cardcarrying member is rendered near inconsequential until when the general elections are close.
In such case, a member lacks confidence because he was alienated from the very structure that made up the party, thereby having zero-sense of belonging.
Since it is a generally acceptable fact that bad leadership is the bane of Nigeria, leadership of political parties who had condoned impunity in their conduct of primaries should share the blame.
If they had been more pragmatic both in character and principle; if they had optimal patriotism flowing in their blood, definitely Nigeria would have been better off as a nation.
The crop of politicians we have to contend with today is a product of the flawed delegates vote in party primaries.
The leadership had traded off good governance for the proverbial “pot of porridge”.
If Oshiomhole’s pronouncement last week comes to fruition, it will be the best thing that could happen in the political history of Nigeria as far as party primary is concerned since 1999.
The process would be more democratic as moneybags and political godfathers will have minimal role in the exercise.
According to Oshiomhole, “the more we allow our party members to participate in the process of nominating candidates, the more we will eliminate the issue of corruption or monetizing the processes of nominating candidate in addition to the fact that party members will have senses of ownership of the outcome of the exercise”.
In fairness, APC by that pronouncement has begun the process of deepening democracy in Nigeria.
Though, from the onset it might prove a herculean task because beneficiaries of the status quo ie party delegates will attempt to frustrate it.
Inadvertently, their source of pride, livelihood, free dollars and free accommodation has been halted.
If, therefore, APC can sanitize the process of its primaries power shall reside exclusively with card-carrying members.
The confidence of party members as well as voters would be restored and in a way increase political participation and eliminate voter apathy.
Above all, once party members and other stakeholders as well as voters are allowed to fully engage in all levels of political process, certainly, well deserving and dynamic leaders would emerge, take charge and bring about the change we all crave for.
Indeed, by this pronouncement, APC has shown resilience and resolve to provide good governance for all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, creed or ideology.
Umar is a PhD/Mphil student at the Department of Public Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and currently, Kano state chairman, Buhari/Osibanjo Campaign Organization

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