The decision of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to use direct primary election as the mechanism to elect the flag bearer of the party for the governorship election on the 22nd of September in Osun this year should be seeing for what it is – a celebration of democracy.
The proclamation is a reinstatement of what a political party should be. It is a reinstatement because they are not reinventing the wheel here; on the contrary, it is a commendable throwback to a more edifying era which was truncated by the military incursion into Nigerian politics.
From the establishment of the first political parties and formations well over a hundred years ago, political parties were owned and directed by a mass membership as to how to protect their interests. They diligently attended ward meetings (the ultimate grassroots mobilizing mechanism) and faithfully paid an affordable party dues to oil the administrative and campaigning tools of the party.
Before the incursion of military rule, direct involvement of the party membership as a whole was the method used to approve the candidates of the party. To qualify to contest in a ‘shadow election’ (what we now call primaries), a contestant had to meet the rigidly set requirements as to attendance in party meetings at the ward level and up-to-date payment of statutory dues. This of course was non-negotiable and there were no wavers. For this reason, even the premier of the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had to make frequent trips to network with his constituency in Ijebu-Remo from the regional capital Ibadan to attend ward meetings in order to meet the eligibility criteria.
The time is certainly overdue to take the party back to grassroots ownership. The discredited ‘delegates’ system is an odious reflection of the military’s top down approach. It is, and cannot but be corruption propelled and fuelled. It effectively hands over to a selectocracy the right to choose candidates and sidelines the diligent, hard-working activists of the party.
This is not and cannot be the way to build political parties which ought to constitute the bulwark of democracy. For a democracy is only as enduring as the constituent political parties who should act as its central pillars. For this reason, all real democrats must not just applaud this sensible overdue re-establishment of democracy, we should revel in it. Once again, the State of Osun blazes a commendable trail.