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Concluded Party Primaries: A Perspective and Matters Arising

02 Nov

Compiled by: Mr Lazarus m., Miss Jerume Uneje, R.A. Hwande Esq and S.P. Ozobulu Esq.

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If democracy is the government of the people for them and by them, as the popular adage goes, then it is the nexus in the democratic process. Elections are central to the deepening and sustainability of the democratic system of Government anywhere in the world. It provides Citizens with the opportunity to vote in or out any leader of their choice at all levels of Governance. In the election sub-sector of Democracy and Good Governance, elections are not an event but a process. There are three phases in the electoral cycle. They are the pre-election, Election Day and the post-election.

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Currently, we are in the pre-election phase for the 2019 general election and many activities have been carried out and are still being conducted by various stakeholders. The just concluded party primaries held between Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, October 7, 2018 were legally the responsibility of the different political parties to carry out under the supervision of INEC.  Section 85(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended makes it mandatory for political parties organizing congresses, conventions and nomination of candidates to give 21 days’ notice to INEC to enable the commission to observe the process.

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So how did the Political parties fare in the conduct of the just concluded party primaries? Lawyers Alert will attempt to X ray the general conduct of political parties with focus on the major political parties from 3 basic perspectives. These will include adherence to deepening of democracy and its values in the electoral process in Nigeria, Gender equality and respect of Women Human Rights and respect of the electoral Act 2014 and other legal issues thereto.

Globally, elections are intended to deepen the culture and practice of democracy. Political parties are expected to abide by the norms of the electoral process in fielding aspirants by providing a level playing field, equal opportunity. They are expected to be transparent, accountable, provide a participatory process that will throw up the best candidates from which the electorate can then choose. Was this achieved in the recently held primaries?

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In fact, the just concluded party primaries were colored by a range of malpractices as alleged by affected aspirants. Cases included vote buying, violence, intimidation and threats, tampering with the delegates’ list and candidates’ imposition among other forms of anti-democratic acts which were recorded across all parties in different states of the federation. The primaries became warfare, as the power brokers and aspirants seeking tickets turned venues of the intra-party poll to a theatre of war, with the attendant injuries, loss of lives and property and palpable tension. Internal democracy and lobbying were substituted with Machiavellian antics and the reign of impunity and terror.

In Zamfara State for example, the entire election was marred by violence and intra party crises with 2 sets of results brandished by two factions of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Media reports suggest that the INEC has since barred the party from fielding any candidate for the forthcoming elections. So, what happens to all the Aspirants that spent time, money and other valuable resources? What happens to the wishes of the electorate willing to express their franchise under the APC in Zamfara? What will happen to the growth and deepening of democratic values in that State?

The People’s Democratic Party Presidential Primary Elections held in Port Harcourt is also alleged to have been characterized by vote-buying and intimidation. An aspirant purportedly flooded the venue of the party’s convention with so much foreign currency that local parallel market operators opened temporary offices at the venue. At the end did the winner get voted in or did he simply purchase his victory at a price? These are questions.

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APGA, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, was anything but “progressive” in the conduct of its primaries. News reports suggest that certificates handed over to the wrong aspirants are to be recalled. Indeed, the party chairman is said to have apologized to party members explaining that the sudden fame enjoyed by the party caused a rise in some of the confusion that unfolded.

The Social Democratic Party, SDP, had its own share of drama as young politicians who opted for the platform in hopes of avoiding the scheming associated with the big 2, APC and PDP, soon found themselves facing equally unsavory circumstances. In Benue state. the party is said to have allowed itself to be bought over by a certain big wig in who was not welcomed in the first party he defected to. The party has also been accused of not holding any ward congresses whatsoever and merely imposing officials on the party.

There was also the issue of imposition of candidates by Political Godfathers. For example, our investigations reveal that in Benue State under the All Progressives Congress (APC), no primary election took place for the State Assembly. The party big wigs picked and chose the candidates dear to their hearts regardless of how the delegates or the electorate felt.

In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress (ADC), among others, the story was not too different as protests against the manner of primaries and alleged imposition continued to resonate across the states where the parties have strongholds. From Gombe to Benue to Oyo, stories of aspirants threatening fire and brimstone over the primaries abound, with some even already defecting to other parties.

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Aggrieved political actors across the six geopolitical zones are not giving up over the perceived high-handedness meted out by the top echelon of influential party elders, doing all they can to salvage “the situation.” Ironically, among the ranks of those involved in subdued anger and frustration in the party are a couple of state governors whose preferred choices as likely successors or anointed candidates for other levels of Grade A contests were frustrated by more powerful forces in Abuja.

As it stands, the questions political observers are now asking are: how do the dramatis personae intend to douse some of the ignited flames? What is the shape of the things to come ahead of the general elections? Considering the unnerving discontent at various levels of the power strata, will the general elections still be a battle of the 2 Titans, APC and PDP or will the discontentment in their ranks give the up-and-coming parties a much-needed boost?

The 2019 elections promise to be a thing of awe…though not necessarily in a good way.

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