Across the length and breadth of Nigeria currently, one will not be out of place to say the country has caught the election bug. Wherever you turn to, North, South, East and West, is inundated by political activities/electioneering ahead of the General Elections next year. Permutations are ongoing, political arithmetic computations are being designed by “political geniuses.”
Aligning and realigning of interest are also ongoing and the usual suspect’s; ethno-religious considerations and sentiments are already at play. The electorates, as if waking up from slumber, are besieging INEC offices nationwide to collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). Hence the electoral umpire INEC is mulling an extension of PVC registration.
Already, presidential candidates of political parties have emerged. Nigerians are now faced with a pool of candidates to choose from that will hold the reins of government for 4-years (at least) come 2023. Other electoral positions such as governorship, federal and state legislatures are also up for grabs so to speak and many of the candidates are perfectly poised and sure of themselves.
Going down memory lane, after a long spell of military rule, Nigeria’s democracy was restored on 29th May, 1999, marking the current Fourth Republic. Indeed, Nigeria and Nigerians were full of expectations that democracy has come to stay, since its interruption in December 1983. In many parts of the world democracy has become an accepted form of governance and a country’s failure to practice democracy is often frowned upon.
However, Nigeria’s democracy continues to be faced with recurring challenges, among which are the imposition of candidates by godfathers, money bag politics, and party indiscipline, triggered by lack of internal party democracy within political parties. No doubt, the consistent undemocratic culture displayed by political parties since the return to civil rule has contributed immensely to the challenge of democratic consolidation in Nigeria.
The conduct of political parties is vital for democracies to thrive. It is argued that democracy only strives when it is founded on strong and well-organized political parties with well-defined structure and culture. Many have argued that for any political party to be relevant in a democratic system, such party must imbibe the values of internal democracy.
In Nigeria, it is a well-known fact that political parties lack ideologies and are simply conduits to political office; hence the prevalence of “cross-carpeting”, or if you like, defection. This phenomenon has become a common feature during every election cycle in the country. A few of them have already taken place, and more will follow in the days, weeks, and months to come.
The Special National Convention for the Presidential Primary of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has come and gone but leaves in its trail hope for deepening internal party democracy. For a party that was formed before the 2015 elections to wrestle and win power from a party that had dominated the country’s political landscape since 1999, the Presidential primaries was indeed a litmus test for it.
Many predicted doom for the party ahead of the presidential primaries. They figured that since President Buhari, the “glue” holding the party together, having finished his two 4-year tenures, an implosion of the party was imminent. The APC seems to have disappointed such people since it didn’t implode or disintegrate as predicted by nay sayers at the end of the convention. Many political observers have even opined that the convention remains one of the best in the country’s intra party democratic history.
Over 2,000 delegates participated in the primaries to elect its presidential candidate for the 2023 elections. If you were in Abuja during the period, then you would know how agog the FCT got, hosting the delegates. Access roads to the venue – Eagle Square – were blocked, hotels in and around the FCT was fully booked while artisans used the opportunity to erect banners of the aspirants around the routes to the venue.
A total of 23 candidates jostled for the party’s ticket at the convention that was held at the Eagle Square. After much last-minute politicking and eventual voting, former governor of Lagos State and chieftain of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged victorious, securing a total of 1,271 votes. His closest challenger, ex-minister of transportation Rotimi Amaechi got 316 votes while Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came third with 235 votes.
The process was largely transparent and importantly democratic. The convention had all the trappings of democratic tenets. Delegates were allowed to vote for their preferred choice in a very peaceful, transparent and clean manner that was shown on live television, devoid of ethno-religious and sectional sentiments.
In the aftermath of the convention, the move by the victor – Tinubu to personally visit other aspirants that contested with him with the message of “APC won” is already bringing all members together and unity within the party.
At the venue of the convention, some candidates decided to throw their weights behind other candidates and quite a number of them supported the eventual winner. Many have faulted this. However, this is not uncommon in intra party elections. In fact, during the Democratic Party presidential primary election in the US in 2020, some candidates such as Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar stepped down, boosting the chances of Joe Biden who emerged victorious.
Before the primaries also, the issue of consensus came into play. Consensus is a legitimate process in a democracy but that is only if it is achieved in a free, transparent and non-coercive manner. All members, not just a few self-appointed stewards, should get the chance to deliberate and arrive at the consensus candidates. Perhaps other political party members didn’t get this chance, the issue of consensus was jettisoned and the ballot box became the ultimate decider.
Democracy is designed to ensure that the will of the majority prevails in choosing who leads them as well as how they are led. When the majority of members of a party determine who leads that party by giving all members a chance at having any say, the democratic process has succeeded. Thankfully, this was the case at the APC Special Convention. Instead of the imposition of a candidate, an actual election was held where all candidates got to test their popularity.
Without a shred of doubt, internal democracy is the bedrock of the survival of any democracy. Party primaries should be transparent. Those saddled with the responsibility of conducting election should be willing to conduct free and fair election, even within political parties. If there is no internal democracy, we are not likely to have a free and fair election because the political parties themselves have not demonstrated transparency in the conduct of their primaries.
APC did well in showcasing democracy at its finest with the vote that led to the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. So, while Nigeria just marked its Democracy on the 12th June, Africa’s biggest party, the APC, marked its very own D-Day on the 7th and 8th of June 2022 when party members participated in a convention that produced the flagbearer of the party for the 2023 Nigerian general election.