Direct, indirect and character primaries in Nigeria

God The Almighty created the earth and gave it to the children of men. He planted a beautiful garden and installed man to be fruitful, multiply, replenish, subdue and dominate the earth. He simply required man’s obedience and character to live in prosperity and enjoyment all the days of his life. Man let it down from the start and chose the path of sinful living, rebellion and disobedience against the very Being who created him. If man can rebel against God himself, how much more can he rebel against one another in a spirit of greed and selfishness. Initially, God in his wrath destroyed man because of sin. After careful consideration, God decided that the best approach to bringing people to order on earth was to establish a human government and to delineate the attributes of the people who will be established as rulers over them. According to Romans 13:1-2, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power except from God: the powers in place are ordained by God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will receive damnation for themselves”.

It was not surprising that obedience to laws and strict punishment as a deterrent to disobedience were God’s main concern in his relationship with man. He knew that anything less than this results in anarchy that will lead to the eventual destruction of man by man. To direct the affairs of men on earth, God has decreed the attributes of rulers who should be placed over the government on earth which He has established. Exodus 18:19-21 sums it up succinctly: “Hear now my voice, I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: be for the people with God, that you may bring causes unto God: and you shall teach them the ordinances and laws, and you will show them the way in which they should walk and the work they should do. Moreover, you shall provide out of all the people capable, God-fearing men, truthful men, hating covetousness; and set them above them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. It’s the technical definition of character, which means the ability to do the right thing when no one is watching. To be covetous means to be corrupt, greedy and to be inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions or the possessions of others. The Common English Bible version summarized these attributes thus: “You should also seek among all the people able persons who respect God. They must be trustworthy and uncorrupted. Establish these people above the people as officers of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifty and tens”. Even God desires able and competent men of character to rule Nigeria so that we may have peace and prosperity in our country. He warned that when men who possess these qualities rule the people, they will rejoice, but when men who lack these noble qualities are in power, the people weep.

Nigeria is a beautiful country blessed by God whose only problem is having characterless men running its affairs. We have plenty of crude oil, but we can’t even meet our export quota given to us by OPEC to increase our income. We can’t even refine enough oil for domestic consumption, 64 years after we first discovered oil in our territory, but we have continually exploited people because of high oil prices. We have abundant deposits of iron ore, but we cannot mine them to make the iron we need for our industrial revolution for about 42 years after the construction of the Ajeokuta Ironworks in Kogi. The list is endless, but there is no area where this perfidy is more pronounced than in the area of ​​the internal democratic manipulation of political party primaries. Political party primaries are so important in Nigeria because of the lack of independent candidacy in our electoral process. The arena where the fortunes and prospects of men of character are destroyed and prevented from giving the best to Nigeria is in the primary elections. The Nigerian people are being denied the opportunity to vote for these men because if they can be stopped in the primary elections, they will not even be on the ballot to contest the general elections. This is why Nigerians should take an interest in what is happening in the internal process of parties choosing their leaders. They should start resisting party attempts to rig the general election by rigging their own primary elections and imposing a fait accompli on the people.

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Commend the 9th Session of the National Assembly for its patriotic efforts in listening to the voice of Nigerians and the President in allowing the choice of direct, indirect or consensual method of primary elections in parties choosing candidates for their elections. The National Assembly has spared itself the blame of the political class according to which the misfortune and the crises of their parties come from the fact that they have been forced to adopt a particular mode of primary election, in this case, the direct primary election method. The option of the consensus method in the amended law is also commendable. Consensus simply means unopposed. Legislators have shown ingenuity in the amended election law by qualifying or clarifying the meaning of consensus in the law as meaning unopposed. If an aspirant is unopposed, it means that no other aspirant is willing or willing to contest the election with him. If some candidates have expressed an interest in contesting and have been allowed to run, it is common sense that the party claiming to have resigned for any candidate should prove that their decision was voluntary. The insertion in article 84 of the law that “when a political party is unable to obtain the written consent of all the authorized aspirants for the purposes of a consensus candidate, it falls to the choice of the primaries direct or indirect for the appointment of candidates to the above-mentioned elective positions” is commendable. This is intended to prevent the bullying of aspirants into involuntarily stepping down for any sponsor’s preferred candidate.

Also state our belief that the president will or should sign the amended electoral law to cleanse and promote best practices in our elections because he said he would sign and because we believe he is a man of his word who will keep his words. Remaining imperfections in the Act can be corrected by amendments. However, our problem in this country is not our laws, it is ourselves. The two-party Ekiti gubernatorial primary elections exposed the leadership problem in Nigeria. The APC adopted the direct primary, while the PDP adopted the indirect primary, but both ended in avoidable controversies.

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The National Assembly has given as one of its reasons for adopting the direct mode of primary election the authoritarian influence of governors in manipulating the indirect election of delegates. But a closer look at the two-party Ekiti gubernatorial primaries showed that all contenders accused current and former governors of manipulating both the direct and indirect modes of primary election. The problem is no longer in the mode of primary election but in the character of the practitioners. The truth is that governors dominate in both direct and indirect primary election modes. They have resisted the imposition of the direct primary mode because they know that non-current governors or other powerful forces can use the instrumentality of the direct primary to outsmart them in the contest for the office of president. The truth is that there is no such thing as a genuine direct primary election today in Nigeria. Anyone who is the national or state chairman of a political party can write or endorse any result of their preferred candidate and impose the candidate on the party. But it will be harder to do with Indirect Primary. There is no doubt that the indirect primary can be manipulated with a lot of incentives, but the process can be managed to produce an acceptable outcome because it is done in a centralized arena under everyone’s public gaze. The direct primary process to date is simply unmanageable due to the lack of an acceptable universal register of political party membership, the cost of recruiting and retaining poll workers in all wards of the state by all primary aspirants and the cost of securing voting arenas due to our precarious security situation.

In Ekiti, seven of the eight gubernatorial hopefuls withdrew from the gubernatorial primary election conducted in Ado Ekiti, alleging that those the election committee appointed as presidents and returning officers were loyalists of Governor Fayemi and the gubernatorial aspirant and government secretary, Biodun Oyebanji. In short, they accused the governor of rigging the direct primary election in favor of his preferred candidate before the primary election had even taken place. Ironically, the majority of the accusers, like Senator Opeyemi Bamidele and Hon. Femi Bamisile, are current members of the National Assembly who until then believed the direct primary would protect them from manipulation of the process by incumbent governors. In the PDP, the former president of the party in Ekiti, Olabisi Kolawale, was declared the winner of the indirect primary election held in Ado-Ekiti. Reports said he won because he had the backing and backing of former Governor Ayo Fayose. Senator Olujimi withdrew from the indirect primary contest for governor, alleging gender bias and manipulation of the voter list for the primary to her electoral detriment. She pointed out that the party’s national leadership had refused to lead her local government’s congress, which statutorily left her with fewer delegates for the primary election. It also meant that the primary election was rigged against her before it even took place. The most intriguing aspect of the PDP primary election was the case of a former governor of Ekiti, Segun Oni, who conceded defeat to the winner as soon as the result was announced only to recant after sober reflection for declare the election flawed and shameful. He took it a step further by abandoning PDP altogether.

There is one thing missing from this process and it is certainly not the lack of laws, it is the lack of character. Whenever no one watches politicians in Nigeria, they do the wrong thing. The people must redouble their vigilance both during the primary and legislative elections to safeguard our nascent democracy. Eternal vigilance is the price to pay for the maintenance of democracy.


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