Nearly four years ago, this column asked a rhetorical question, What manner of primaries? What manner of primaries? wondering what transpired at the various party primaries in December 2014.
Sadly, those questions have not been answered till date. More painfully, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Things have instead gone worse. The stories are not different, from Zamfara to Ogun, Adamawa to Imo; it’s been crisis upon crisis. Of course our political parties have never been good advertisements for internal democracy, but things have gone haywire. Even the president’s wife has been ululating over how her younger brother was treated in Adamawa State, just as in another state, two sons-in-law of the outgoing governor came first and second in the primaries while their father-in-law picked, or snatched, more like it, at gunpoint, a senatorial ticket. This was after the national executives of the party had earlier conducted a round of primaries.
In another party, someone who lost the presidential primary simply went back home and collected the governorship ticket from the previous winner just as another loser just picked the senate ticket even when he did not contest earlier. In Lagos State, a serving senator was conned into believing that there will not be primary since all the three senators in the state have been given automatic return tickets. He thereafter asked his supporters to go home only to be confronted with the shock of his life at Abuja when he saw results of a primary he did not partake in. “We can’t afford to present him as our candidate as he is not popular, “ his traducers said. He wisely withdrew from the race. In Ekiti, a senator who defected from PDP to APC was outplayed when an earlier agreement of automatic ticket, a condition upon which she joined the party, was jettisoned and another person was ‘elected’ instead.
The ding-dong battle over who represents APC in Ogun State continues as the name changes at will based on the idiosyncrasies of the state governor and the party executives in Abuja. Maybe when the ballot is printed, party members will know who is actually their candidate. It was candidate A today and candidate B tomorrow, changing like London weather. Based on communication by INEC, Zamfara State APC is not allowed to field candidates for all elective positions in the next general elections, as the party did not hold any primary to elect her candidates. While it seems a logical move especially as INEC is exercising her independence, I wonder why such order does not extend to other states as very few could be said to have held primaries in the real sense of it. What do we say about a motley of political parties, which held primaries only to affirm their presidential candidates? Quite a number of political parties rushed their conventions on Saturday, October 6 to meet the deadline of submission of their candidates.
A guest on a radio programme earlier this week explained how he toured over 200 wards in Lagos State on behalf of an aspirant and nobody was ready to listen to them without collecting money first. It’s as bad as that. Only God knows how much delegates to the last PDP convention went home with after the show in Port Harcourt and the situation is so serious that names were removed and added at will without recourse to guidelines and party constitution in many states. There were also violence and raucous behaviour across party lines at different centres in the country. Simply put, we’re intolerant of dissenting views and cannot tolerate opposition to political hegemony. In many places, aspirants never had to convince party members why they should vote for them. New faces were the most disappointed as they spent money and never got the chance to even demonstrate their competence at all.
So, where do we go from here? What can we do differently? We must all remember that we can’t build something on nothing and we’re not laying the foundation for a strong democratic culture with the way our parties conducted their primaries. Figures were manufactured and we are proceeding on a familiar journey to the past. The influence of money is mind-boggling and the limitation on campaign finance seems irrelevant. We even distribute foreign currency as inducement to voters and the rest of us merely shrug and pretend nothing untoward is happening. Our democracy is no longer participatory and many are seemingly cut off from the process of electing those who represent us. We need a re-orientation as our political pathway is doomed if we continue like this. Beyond the giddiness of who is challenging whom, we need to make our primaries to be actual primaries not just farcical ones like we just had.