Recently, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and People Democratic Party (PDP) along with other political parties conducted their primary elections as required by the electoral law and constitution of Nigeria which provides that political parties can conduct primary election or adopt consensus candidate that will compete.
The essence of primary election is to give party members/delegates the opportunity to have their say in the process, test the popularity of the aspirants and to present a candidate to the citizens.
Meanwhile, political parties in the just concluded primary elections adopted one of either direct or indirect method of selecting a candidate. The APC for example used the direct method were registered card-carrying members of the party elect candidates to fly the flag of the party at various positions during elections.
All registered members are expected to be allowed to vote in the primary election to elect the party’s representative in the general elections. The indirect primaries which was adopted by the PDP empowers group of voters called delegates to elect party representatives at various levels of elections. While both methods have its advantages and disadvantages, both parties largely abused the guidelines of the process even as both methods were combined in certain quarters to suit certain interest.
Despite the 10-page rules and regulation produced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to guide the conduct of primary elections in Nigeria, politicians and their political parties are always in the game of manipulating or violating guidelines. Observation reports from YIAGA Africa shows that majority of delegates were less interested in the quality and competency of their candidates, as the process became highly monetized. As a matter of fact, it was reported that delegates openly revealed that they are more interested in knowing the amount to be received than the quality of aspirants. Unfortunately, this trend of monetization of votes cuts across a handful of political parties.
At the moment, there are political upheavals in some states as a result of irregularities in the party primaries. Zamfara for example is a typical example where perceived has led to the ongoing impasse between the APC and INEC. Also, in Kano and Imo state, where the godfathers alleged appointed their son in-laws to be the candidates as Kaduna state continue to endure the tussle between the governor and the senator, with the first lady Aisha Buhari complaining of impunity in Adamawa, while Delta and Oyo states amongst others continue to swim in murky political waters. Automatic tickets and poor internal democracy amongst issues relating to exclusion of youth and women may also be the reason behind the political crisis in majority of the states.
It is shocking that money continue to play major role in the eyes of the delegates than the integrity and quality of the candidate. Media reports alleged that money in foreign currencies was shared in the venue of PDP primary election as the primaries may have been determined by the highest bidder. This will send wrong signal to the forth-coming general elections in 2019.
To make it worse, our political atmosphere is not favourable to young people especially women with the high cost of nomination forms demanded by political parties. This meant most of the young people were seen in the venues of the primaries as either party delegates, mobilisers or ad-hoc staff but not the aspirants. This leaves youth under the umbrella of unpopular political platforms, even though some people are of the opinion that popular candidates can contest in any party platforms but Nigerians are more interested in the party than the candidates.
Delegates should take issue-based politics rather than money in electing the candidates as this will produce competitive and competent leaders with vision and principles that will steer this country out of the present situation to the more promising and progressive atmosphere. It is now left for the Nigerians to vote wisely and vote the candidates with integrity that will take this country to the promised land.
Idris Mohammed is a Zonal Program Officer with YIAGA Africa wrote from Abuja