FOR the sake of a happy ending, we begin with the bad news; good for Anambra and Nigeria somewhat but bad for democracy! The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Professor Charles Soludo, has emerged the elected governor in the just concluded Anambra State gubernatorial election, dogged by procedural glitches, temporary suspension of result announcement, and rescheduled election in Ihiala Local Government.
Anambra has a national record for the lowest voters’ turnout in Nigeria. It is bad news for democracy, when it turns out that only an active minority delivers the majority vote to elect government. Anambra has a total population projected at about 5.5 million, of which the adult population (age above 18 years) is estimated at 60% (about 3.3 million). The eventual total registered voters were put by INEC on the eve of the election at 2,466,638. The eventual total accredited voters were a pathetic 253,388; about 10% of voters, with 90% choosing to ignore the exercise! With Prof Soludo getting 112,229 out of the total valid votes of 241,523 (rejected votes being 8,108), less than 4% of the adult population of Anambra, and less than 5% of the total registered voters have produced a Governor! That is appalling for democracy indeed.
The low voters’ turnout cannot be entirely blamed on the state of insecurity in the State; the turnout in the 2017 election when things were far better was just 22%. Same applies to Nigeria as a whole, where there has been a consistent decline in numbers of voters’ turnout since 1999, with the voters’ turnout in the 2019 general election being the lowest in Africa, based on percentage of adult population and registered voters, according to a report by Dataphyte. These are bad omens for “government of the people by the people and for the people.” When eventually all confidence is lost in democracy to produce good governance and development, your guess is as good as ours on what citizens will recourse to for the guarantee of their rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The good news, however, is the ray of hope offered in the just concluded APC National Caucus Meeting presided over by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo at the behest of the President. Democracy begins with internal party democracy. Once gotten wrong at that stage, the eventual flow till the general election follows the same undemocratic patterns. Elections today suffer from all kinds of manipulations and suffocation, chief amongst which is heavy monetisation and material inducements. In a situation of widespread poverty and ignorance, where the entire purses of the states are in the pockets of the governors to spend virtually as they please, the outcome of delegate elections of political parties where the governors are stakeholders are better imagined. We are all living witnesses to the open secrets of the PDP National Convention of 2019 in Port Harcourt, and the proceedings of the last gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State that produced the return of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, as governor for the second term.
If candidates and governors who believe they have done well and are popular are afraid of general membership vote within their parties, what manner of popularity then are they laying claims to? Reportedly running helter skelter, lobbying devils and angels to prevail on the President to reverse the happy choice of direct primary option, the governors involved are merely confessing their unpopularity and revealing their anti-democratic credentials. Democracy is going through dire times in Nigeria. Parties, when they are not the ruling party, open up and vigorously canvass membership, only to become ruling parties and close up membership (now that there is a “national cake” to be shared). Even when the ruling party courageously and commendably called for new members and revalidation of old membership, the exercise was fraught with clique-ism bothering on cultism: cards were in short supply and hoarded away, made available to only devotees. Still, no display of the final membership register is done throughout from Ward to State Congresses. How a transparent general election by all registered member will happen without a credible membership register remain a mystery. Meanwhile, the struggle by contending forces will now be how to doctor the list or how to prevent certain members, while only allowing certain others and even non-members, to decide the direct primary elections.
Indeed, the fault does now lie with our stars but with us. Any democracy is in the end a reflection of the character of the people, who allow society to be lorded over by the elites of such peculiar character. Nevertheless, it is cheering that, in principle at least, and for now, the ruling “progressive” party seems to favour direct primaries for its upcoming intra party elections.