Manipulation of primaries; Plateau state as case study

It was the late Arthur Nzeribe who asserted that Nigeria is not mature and prepared for democracy. However, that statement was mostly viewed as an ideological personal conjecture by many political gladiators who are in politics for selfish ends.

But in truth, looking at the political scenario that is at play in Nigeria, there is nothing to suggest we are practicing democracy according to its norms and values as obtained in civilised democracies.

While it is generally agreed that democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people, in contrast, what is flagrantly being practiced in Nigeria is obviously the government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

Take, for instance, the Nigeria mode of conducting primary election. From the local government primary to the state and federal levels, the prevailing system of conducting primary elections are hijacked, manipulated and subverted by the few privileged by providence to be in authority.

Taking the forthcoming governorship primary elections as a case-study; the political parties’ guidelines and rules of conducting primary elections are well spelt out and expected to be transparently conducted through four major processes, namely, consensus, congress, and through the delegates of the participating political entities or through the state wards executives known as excos.

However, in the prevailing circumstances, the powers that be at the state level have successfully decimated the congress processes of conducting all primary elections which should have been more democratic, transparent and acceptable to the generality of the electorate and in the interest of all the contesting aspirants.

Also, the powers that be at the state level, precisely governors, have successfully demystified the powers of ward exco’s of political parties to freely elect the popular and acceptable aspirant in consultation with the ward’s party members and for the people they represent.

Similarly, the consensus option of electing or selecting party flag-bearers is also hijacked or denied the enabling environment for the process to produce the most popular and acceptable aspirant by most governors.

However, in this circumstance, the option for the people and the aspirants remains through the delegates. Unfortunately too, it remains an open secret that governors control and teleguide these delegates, by virtue of their influence, largely because most delegates are sponsored by governors – a matter of who pays the piper dictates the tune.

However, it has been observed that the alleged interference and manipulation of party delegates who are supposed to conduct primary elections by governors is responsible for the mass-protest votes being witnessed across some states. Such tendencies have in most cases resulted in the defeat of incumbent governors and the ruling political party in some states, due to the imposition of unpopular aspirant by governors against the general consensus of other stakeholders.

In 2014, the former governor of Plateau state single-handedly imposed an unpopular governorship candidate as the flag-bearer of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, against the wishes of the generality of other members of the party.

But the people became aggrieved and mobilised for protest votes in favour the All Progressives Congress (APC) which was the least expected political party to win the governorship election in the state then.

Consequently, APC in Plateau state clinched the governorship seat with Governor Simon Bako Lalong as the greatest beneficiary. That was how the APC emerged as the ruling party in Plateau state. Before then, PDP had been the dominant party in the state.

However, it is pertinent to state that history is about to repeat itself on the Plateau if urgent and decisive action is not taken by Governor Lalong.

Already, the unfortunate path has been taken because APC had already lost the Bassa-Jos North federal constituency by-election conducted few months ago to the PDP, largely due to the failure of Lalong to embrace the most acceptable candidate.

It is instructive that APC governorship primary election is fast approaching. Thus, Lalong should do the needful to avoid the greedy tendencies that brought him to power else, history may repeat itself.

Lalong should emulate his Kano state counterpart, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who few days ago anointed his deputy, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, to succeed him. Governor Ganduje said his decision was predicated on the fact that he has absolute confidence in Gawuna.

In the case of Lalong, he would save Plateau from political tension and potential social belligerence if he also anoints his deputy, Professor Sonni Tyoden, with whom they weathered the storm of inherited but polarised citizenry.

No one ever imagined APC would win in Plateau, Taraba and Benue states. But the selfish interest of the former governors which subverted the will of the people, made it possible for APC to defeat PDP in these states.

Mohammed Isa Bilal,

Managing Director,

Royal Publicity Publishing Company,

No. 8 Shendam Street,

Jos, Plateau state


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