The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Aliyu Adams Oshiomole, recently declared that the party’s primary for the forthcoming Osun governorship election would be done through direct elections. Speaking at the end of the National Working Committee meeting, Oshiomhole said the use of direct primary would prevent corruption and monetisation of the process. Interestingly, what Oshiomhole declared is in line with the provisions of the APC constitution, which provides explicitly that the party can adopt either the direct or indirect primaries. There is no contesting the fact that the adoption of indirect primary as tool for the selection of party flag bearers has contributed in no small measure to the increased monetisation of party politics.
This method, which ensures that only select party delegates converge to elect flag bearers, has over the years been abused by some vested interests with widespread allegations of money exchanging hands for the delegates. The indirect primaries are controlled, in most cases, by money bags, most of who have greedy and often times, personal interests they want to protect. More worrisome is the fact that because the power to choose who flies the party’s flag under the indirect primaries is vested in the hands of the delegates, the outcome of the system may not necessarily reflect the will of the majority of party members. In the ensuing instigated confusion, public will is known to have been defied with manifest cases of bribery and corruption of delegates, prolonged deadlocks, bitter factional struggles, bargaining and trading of offices for the support of delegates.
All these and many more contributed to the general conclusion that the indirect primary may well be too remote from the party members, and that its results may not fairly represent the judgment of the rank and file of the party. Since the reinstitution of democracy, political parties had adopted indirect primaries that produced delegates many of whom appeared unfit for the otherwise responsible duties they were called upon to discharge.
Expectedly, there is always the concern about trading of votes, purchase and sale of delegates, disorder and tumult in conventions and the frequent betrayal of trust by the elected delegates. Perhaps, these concerns and many others formed part of the reasons for the call for the adoption of direct primary so as to give all card- carrying members of a given political party the opportunity to determine who flies the party’s flag at whatever elective position.
Interestingly, the ruling APC may have decided to yield to this proposition. Distinctively, the direct primary has the potential of deepening democracy because it expands the frontiers of involvement since all members of a given political party will have the opportunity to participate in the process that will lead to the emergence of a flag bearer. Indeed, such a process will contribute immensely in increasing the scope of choice and participation of the members to elect their preferred aspirant.
Perceptibly, it reduces or eliminates some sharp practices like unnecessary inducement of delegates by aspirants with deep pockets or their sponsors just as it helps to provide level playing ground for all aspirants. Without doubt, it will promote free, fair and credible elections at the primary stage and importantly help in engendering transparency, cohesion, belief in electoral system and growth of democracy, not only at the party level, but in the whole electoral system.
However, the envisaged process will be run by humans with its attendant shortcomings which includes the fact that it will make the whole process of producing a party flag bearer more cumbersome. Those against it say that as with the general election in Nigeria, the process could be easily manipulated given the fact that there is no acceptable register of party members. They averred that any election conducted under such a process could be easily engineered to suit particular interests. The tendency for manipulation is even more aggravated by the fact that the logistics to conduct a state-wide direct primary is doubtful.
But these concerns notwithstanding, we are of the view that in the overriding interest of, and in line with the need to strengthen internal democracy by weaning it from the dangers of excessive monetisation, there is the need to adopt direct primary. Democracy is all about participation and nothing engenders participation like inclusiveness. Adopting primaries by delegates ab initio excludes some party members. Direct primary is good as it will contribute to deepening the nascent democracy, hence, it should be encouraged and adopted by all political parties.
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