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Published On: Mon, Dec 8th, 2014

PDP contentious primaries: Election or selection?

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ADAMU-MUAZUBy Ochiaka Ugwu

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) federal and states legislatives primaries were held last week in all parts of the country with controversy featuring prominently in most states especially states controlled by PDP. Political observers who monitored the exercise jointly concluded that it was everything but fair. Most contenders described it as a charade which comes short of expectation of a good democrat.

On the other hand, many political watchers have said that lack of internal democracy in Nigeria political parties is a threat to the country’s nascent democracy given their experiences in the just concluded contentious PDP primaries. PDP party primaries throughout the country clearly show that the ruling party is not operating within norms of democratic principles. The PDP for the last 15 years has purposely refused to get it right preferring manipulation of the entire process and imposition of unpopular candidates just to satisfy some godfathers. It has failed to open up the horizon to all their party members who are eligible and want to run for office in their party primaries. Some candidates were imposed on the party without election and due process. Some of the candidates allegedly won through so called consensus option forced upon unwilling candidates.

Most of the governors assuming the position of emperors have exceptional sway over their state party machinery to the point of coercing delegates to vote for a particular candidate. Delegates that cannot be trusted by the so called leaders were locked out of the congress venue thereby disenfranchising them in the most dehumanising way. These governors high- handed approach over their state PDP establishments has made it difficult for democracy to take root at the state and local level. House of Assembly members who disagree with their state governors always find it hard to get nominated for another term. They cancelled delegate lists of Local Government Areas where the delegate appears to be too independent even though they are suppose to vote according to their conscience and reality on ground. All Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants who were identified with one god father or the other won re-election. It means that for you to win any election in

the party that touts itself as the biggest party in Africa cum black world, you must have a godfather that will manipulate the process in your favour. Those without godfathers were either outlawed or disqualified out rightly.  The godfathers went as far as going outside the political spectrum to handpick would be candidates.

A case in point is Enugu State where internal democracy was thrown to the dog and irregularity promoted to high heaven. The race for the primaries was keenly contested between those loyal to the incumbent governor, Sullivan Chime and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. The duo, before now have been embroiled in a war of supremacy over who controls the party’s machinery in the state. Ekweremadu was said to be backed by President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP headquarters. Most aspirants who could not warm themselves to any of the camps were left in the cold as they have no godfather to cling on.

Upon this polarisation, the primaries were marred in confusion as some results have not been released up till now and even released ones are still being contested by the electorate.

It was also reported that PDP Federal Constituency primary election in Lagos State did not begin early in many venues. The election that was slated to start for 8 am was said to have started at about 3p.m. in many of the venues due to late arrival of materials which was a mistake well calculated. It is a calculated attempt to frustrate party men and women who trooped out early in the morning to vote in their choices candidates, many of whom must have left in anger after a long waiting to attend to other activities.

A total of 58 aspirants contested for 24 PDP tickets for the House of Representatives for Lagos State. Of the number, five were reported to be returned unopposed, according to the party’s Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr Taofik Gani.

it was gathered that the primaries was so disorganised that even the officials of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that were to monitor the exercise lamented the whole contest as one of them, Mr Victor Enenche from INEC headquarters, Abuja, regretted openly that the primary had yet to commence in good time.

“We were told that the PDP official bringing the election materials was still in Abuja waiting to board a flight to Lagos. We came all the way from Abuja and have to remain here to give a report of the event, “he said.

Apart from Enugu and Lagos States, there are protests around the country because some voters feel that their vote did not count. There was protest in Delta State because some PDP members are alleging that most candidates were imposed on them by the party big wigs. They also alleged that same thing happened in 2011 primary which led to most members casting a protest vote just to get back at the party. Lack of internal democracy is not peculiar to Delta PDP alone in these primaries. Some PDP members are accusing the Bayelsa governor, Seriake Dickson of openly favouring his preferred candidates with state machinery. It was even held that one of the finest senators from Bayelsa State, Heineken Lokpobiri may not be making it to the upper legislative chambers this time around. He may be replaced by a preferred candidate of the governor since their relationship has waned over time. If the preferred candidate of the governor is better than Lokpobiri, is not suppose to be left for the people to decide? If he is more qualified than the current senator, is he not supposed to test his popularity in an election?? He should be allowed to run against Senator Lokpobiri and so be it if he wins. Same thing is happening in other states. So what happened in PDP primaries is cronyism, god-fatherism and nepotism which have taken over the party as it squares to slug it out with other parties in 2015.

However, Nigerians in their numbers have chorused that they want parties that should allow best candidates to carry their party’s flag in a general election if they really care for their political party and the generality of Nigerians. To stem this tide of imposition of candidates in our electoral system and to restore internal democracy to Nigeria political parties, INEC as an unbiased umpire should take over all elections in Nigerian as soon as possible, at least for major political parties like PDP. All party registration should be done on party basis. For example, when a prospective voter goes to register, they need to identify their political party affiliation. INEC should register them as member of that party. They can register as independent or non-affiliated if they choose not to identity with any party. Voters should be able to change their political party affiliation anytime by simply going to nearby INEC office to change their voter card. On the day of the primary election, only registered members of each party should vote in the primary. Whoever wants to run in their party primary will pay required fees to INEC not political parties and stand for election. That way, every candidate will have the opportunity to run. Defeated candidate will be more likely to accept the result unlike what we have now. With INEC at the helm of party primaries, godfather will be eliminated in Nigeria politics over time. This is how primary and general election is conducted in advanced democracy like United States.

But be it as it may, the contentious PDP primaries held all over the country was a sham and a rape on democracy as the best candidates did not stand better chance of winning party primaries. It was a top-down selection process which has being the method of PDP long ago.

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