When Following Convention Is Not The Ideal; By Nasiru Suwaid
“Politics is a supermarket of desire, everyone who enters it, goes there with some wants, needs and a fierce unstoppable aspiration to attain.”
-Mallam Aminu Kano
If you are ardent viewer, listener or reader of either the electronic, broadcast or print media, you would never to likely miss a programming title; People and Power or People and Politics. Most probably as a series, a political program or as a newspaper column and this is not specific of whether the mass media outfit is local or international, because, these two wordings are the characteristic component of what bestows governance and its accompanying policies that oils the wheel of democracy. For the people, they are governed by two cardinal principles, which are religion and cultural tradition, while the former covers the penal aspect of enforcing the conformist societal values, the latter deals with the unenforceable adherence to accepted social values.
The basic difference being, while breaching a religious vow elicits an instant corporal punishment, the mode of enforcing traditional norms are premised on collective societal frown, which ostracizes anyone the dared to challenge the agreed cultural code. In the case of politics, the two principles that guide it are the constitutions and conventions, with the former regulating the sanction aspect of the requirement for adhering to the fundamental reality of the rule of law, while the latter guards the conventional norms of established ethos in a democracy. The Right of First Refusal is one of such democratic convention, which is offered to an elected politician to contest an elective post, with a distinctive proviso that it is not invoked to preclude or exclude any aspiring party member, the right to contest the seat in issue, as part of and in fulfillment of his or her established constitutional right to stand for such elective post.
Generally, it is premised on certain assumptions, which is that the representative offered such a rare privilege, must have performed adequately to warrant such graceful honor, as to render as meaningless enterprise, the need for conducting political party primary elections and this understanding, must have attained a universal effect, beyond mere political gimmickry, as it is wont to be done in our climes by favor seeking party executives and of course, desperate political appointees, whose only vision is who or what guarantees their positions. Most importantly, like all things premised on general accepted understanding, conventions are usually silent agreements of choice and an unspoken understanding, which does not require threat, as an incentive to the enforcement of performance, as it is premised on the goodwill of the parties in agreement. In this instance, it is not needed for the highest policy organ of a political party to sit and bar others from aspiring to a particular seat, as the norm is for it to be taken as given, that no one wished to challenge an incumbent, either due to celebrated performance or the fact that the personality is simply unbeatable.
It is noteworthy, that neither by the resolution of the National Executive Committee of the People’s Democratic Party, nor the later press conference of the National Publicity Secretary of the party, was the impression created that everybody is in agreement with the decision. In fact, the image and body language of Mr. Olisa Metuh, while making clarification on the whole deal, was an exercise in repeated threats on the need for conformity, if anyone wished to be seen as a ‘responsible and respectable party member’, while admonishing those who wished to disagree to toe the party line and stop dissenting from a pact that might not favor them. The poser here being whether a simple verbal threat, premised on mere unenforceable convention, could dissuade and discourage any determined individual, from seeking to enjoy a constitutional guaranteed right of a citizen.
Now, coming down from the realm of the theoretical aspect of procedural politics, into the canopy of practical politics, which highlight the everyday characteristics of the vocation that celebrates the essential search for power, a politician would always look for his or her own personal interest, before standing for any higher national ideal. Thus, any ‘concession’ extracted from the elected People’s Democratic Party members is usually on a quid pro quo basis or the more literal ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’, which easily explains that nothing goes for nothing, as favors are shared in reciprocal terms. This raises the issue of whether the conventional wisdom of the Right of First Refusal was also offered to the governors, as well as the legislators. Despite the reactive and reactionary denials, it is easily discerned that they could not have pledged such support, without a similar reciprocal gesture to the governors who want to be senators and to the senators who wished to abandon legislative chambers for state executive mansions.
The problem though for such draconian waivers, it is easily a straight swap, which did not take into cognizance, the usually established tradition and need I say a Nigerian convention, for a governor to always anoint his successor, most often, a lackey who is not expected to rock the boat, though and unfortunately, in most cases, an urbane and ‘exposed’ federal law maker, could not be trusted to do the bidding of mentorship, but what am I saying, actually, what I am inferring is that a typical Nigerian governor, upon completion of the term of office, usually wants to be a senator, but does not wish for a senator to succeed him. The question then is what does that portend, it generally means, the nation is set for a period of sustained political turbulence, if not aggravated upheaval, but most specifically, the Nigerian ruling party is approaching a season of political implosion, because, it is the biggest party in the country, having the highest number of elected representatives, with equally a matching multitude of aspirants and office seeking contenders.
Yet, most of the political offices that looked seemingly abound and available are actually already filled, surely, that is a recipe for desperate and destructive political agitation, more so as, those leadership aspiring candidates have to purchase millions of naira worth of non refundable expression of interest as well as application forms. Within the context of Nigeria but most particularly the People’s Democratic Party, the Right of First Refusal is one big fraud, as party members are encouraged to pay and participate in a process for the aspiration to positions that are not readily available.
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