Let me begin by thanking Olorogun Stephen K. Dieseruvwe for inspiring this piece with his Facebook post of Saturday 11, August 2018 under the title: “DIRECT PRIMARIES: THE MOST DEMOCRATIC WAY OF NOMINATING POPULAR AND SELLABLE CANDIDATES FOR ELECTIONS.”

The purpose of education is not in acquiescence but to liberate the mind to challenge established norms that prevents society and humanity in general from reaching their potential. Kudos therefore to Olorogun Dieseruvwe, a party insider for speaking out against this ill from within. More conscientious and right thinking people like him are needed in politics.
The post under reference took its premise from Section 87 of the Electoral Act (2010) as amended which provides as follows:
(1) A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act
shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.
(2) The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the
various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.
(3) 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.

Olorogun Dieseruvwe went on further to argue in the post that “Direct primaries empower ordinary party members to pick candidates for elective offices, rather than leaving such decisions to only party insiders. This in all honesty, is the most democratic and all inclusive ways of nominating candidates, thereby avoiding impunity by a few members and alienation of the majority of party members.” He went further to enumerate reasons Direct primaries should be adopted by all political parties over indirect primaries as a way of building a more enduring democracy as follows:
– Gives every party member the opportunity to be involved in the nomination process;
– Promotes popular participation;
– Promotes true democracy;
– Reduces the intimidation of delegates, bribery and other electoral malpractices;
– Prevents monetisation of the nomination process;
– Curb the imposition of candidates;
– Avoids the defection of party members, due to imposition of candidates;
– Helps to mobilise members; and
– Makes the party more popular.
He concluded his argument by saying that “As true democrats, we should always strive to entrench true democratic principles.”

Whereas the electoral law says at Section 87(2) “that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by DIRECT or INDIRECT primaries”, it is not surprising that political parties in Nigeria have adopted the second option -INDIRECT PRIMARIES – for selecting candidates to put forward for elective positions for reasons that are not too hard to fathom. Since political parties form the bedrock of the democratic system through the quality and calibre of candidates they put forward for election, the result has been far from salutary on our body politic.

Indirect primaries remains the bane of internal democracy within our political party system and is the major cause of upheavals within parties and the body politic which continues to pose threat to peace and good governance. Because godfathers and money bags can hijack the system, popular candidates with the peoples interest at heart are manipulated out of the selection process. Added to this is the method of selecting the delegates, by the political parties which gives undue advantages to those already in government against those who are outside government by the conferment of the status of STATUTORY DELEGATES on a select group which most times add up to be the majority of the number of approved delegates.

This is the method that has firmly planted control of the political parties in the hands of the state Governors and elevated them to the status of emperors who can do no wrong. It is a practice that ensures that a bad and ineffective government in power stand no chance of being voted out through party primaries, because most of the statutory delegates, are often appointed officers of the incumbent government or elected officials whom the governors had handpicked and imposed for elective positions earlier. In this wise, a bad government in control of a large party will always most likely perpetuate itself in power or impose its cronies and collaborators in office once its tenure is done. This is what explains the situation where we have had to endure the recycling of same old politicians who have failed the nation from one regime to another.

This is the situation that continues to see to the decline of the quality of representation at all levels of governance because the godfathers always and do pick those candidates who, if not for imposition, will never have the dream of attaining their awarded positions, so they are ever grateful and loyal to their benefactors and willing to do anything at their behest. This is the situation that has turned our politicians to chameleons who can change parties without scruples once assured that the “structure” in the new party will assure them automatic tickets. “Party structure” in this sense having no recourse or regard to the majority of party members who should be the voice and strength of the parties but the anointed delegates of the indirect primaries system who are all the cronies of the governors and godfathers who made them. This is why political leaders speak as if they own the parties, because they have the party delegates in their pockets. This is why Party is Supreme is nothing but a mere slogan to give a false sense of importance to party officials and members. But most importantly, this is the practice that has shut out and continues to exclude credible persons from accessing the electoral system and participation in politics. The reason why godfatherism is promoted over the will of the people. The reason why mediocrity reigns over meritocracy and the reason why the will of the people will never count in our electoral process.

Nigeria’s problems are legion, but the time has come for us to identify them and solve them one after the other. Participatory democracy is crucial for national development and the way and manner that political parties are allowed to pick their candidates is a key foundation. Political parties to be truly representative must be publicly owned and popularly driven and not some private estate of some governor or godfather without the peoples interests at heart.
Let us therefore return the parties to their real owners – the members, by removing the practice of indirect primaries for selecting candidates for elective positions from our statue books. If we do not get the foundation right, the building will always be shaky and may even collapse on our heads.

The dilemma of our situation is that we cannot say, let us leave political parties to their whiles because at the end the only options available to us to vote for are the candidates they present for election. Besides this, participatory democracy is nothing without a people driven opposition which is represented by political parties.