BY ADEMOLA YAYA
DEMOCRACY is so popular that a child in the cradle knows its meaning; one doesn’t need to undergo formal education to comprehend it. It is the government of the people – government of the majority of the people. Simply put, democracy is the choice of the majority of the people against that of the minority. In a democracy however, there are processes that must run before the eventual choice of the majority. These processes are the foundation upon which real or fake democracy is nurtured and built. In this circumstance, the searchlight beams at the political party internal democracy or intra-party democracy. This is the level and method of carrying along party members in the deliberations and decision making within the party structures. This becomes important as democratic decision within the party, backed by the party constitution, electoral and Nigeria laws is the bedrock upon which genuine democracy is built. Hence, the political party primary election becomes the fulcrum as it is the process with which political party members choose their preference as their candidate for the forthcoming general, local or by-elections.
However, in most political parties, especially the major ones, aspirants who eventually become candidates of the parties for local and general elections are not always the choices of majority of the members; they are mostly choices imposed on the majority by a very few leaders and cliques within. Popularity, character, ideals and idea of the party etc which are supposed to be yardsticks for choice by the party leaders and members are thrown into dustbin for imposition because of pecuniary gain, more often. Consequently, the candidates presented by the parties are products of manipulation and imposition which is antithetical to virtues and rules of democracy. From conception, therefore, democracy conceived in political parties’ wombs has been balkanised; its delivery will be stillbirth. For example, returning delegates to both APC and PDP National Conventions to elect Presidential Candidates for 2023 general elections came back to their respective states with millions of naira with some paid in dollar denominations. Although EFCC was present at both conventions, it was all “the more you look, the less you see.” These returning delegates are not angels; they live in communities with the people. People have seen them buying cars and renovating their houses from the proceeds of the conventions.
Yes, by the virtue of their rich experiences, leadership and elders in a party are better placed to see leadership qualities from the rank and file members. These qualities could be nurtured and such personalities could be strongly recommended for elective positions in government. If the majority accept, it’s fine but if not and there are members who are seeking same positions, there must be primary election to determine the party candidate for the position. The practice in most political parties, especially the so-called progressive party, is leadership and clique forcing their preferred choices on the throats of the majority and refusal to have reconciliation with the aggrieved members who are the majority. Interestingly, they will sell intention and nomination forms to everybody at prohibitive rates and promise to conduct primary where more than one person are contending for position, only to crudely and undemocratically scheme them out and impose their choices without blinking an eyelid. They have turned political party into a criminal enterprise to deceive, steal and rob the people of their genuine choices, collective resources and inheritances. This undemocratic tendency is more pronounced in the states where the so-called almighty governors hold sway.
This has had a trickle-down effect on the electorate who may not necessary be members of any political party but now demand gratifications before voting in the general elections which the politicians are willing to give without being prompted. What else should be expected having been presented unpopular candidates by the parties which has left them no better choice? Except in a situation where independent candidature is operating, the electorate vote political parties in local, general and by-elections while their candidates are beneficiaries of the votes. As long as this trend continues, the best and most popular candidate will not emerge and consequently, the best dividend of democracy will elude society.
But the rank and file party members must be prepared to slug it out with these political merchants legally and politically. The 2022 Electoral Law dealing with political parties has envisaged parties leaderships manipulation and imposition and has adequately taken care of it in Part V, Section 84 (1,2,3 &4) : “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission. The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus. A political party shall not impose nomination qualification or disqualification criteria, measures, or conditions on any aspirant or candidate for any election in its constitution, guidelines, or rules for nomination of candidates for elections, except as prescribed under sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137,177 and 186 of the Constitution. A political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party and shall adopt the procedure outlined….” In fact, Sections 8 and 9 state, “A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate. Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions.”
Based on the aforesaid, these political vampires cannot be bigger or stronger than the laws of the land. Members of political parties and especially the aspirants have nothing to fear; they must take the bull by the horn to rescue their party from anyone or group within the party who attempts to compromise internal democracy which the constitution and 2022 Electoral Acts have guaranteed. Internal democracy within the party must be jealously guided as it is the only oxygen with which democracy can survive and deliver dividends to the people.