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Party primaries and need for internal democracy

The ‘war’ in the various political parties in Nigeria especially the two leading parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the recent past over who bears the party’s ticket in the 2019 elections may have come and gone, but the accompanying acrimony and ill feelings may take a long time before it can subside.

The interest generated by party primary this time around may seem very unusual, as political party primaries in the past had been a very low key internal party affairs, decided mostly by godfathers or cabals, who actually control the outcome of state congresses where delegates gather to pick the supposed preferred candidates to stand elections.

But the interest in the primaries of the various political parties this year may not be unconnected with the decision of the ruling APC to throw its doors open for each state to choose their mode of primary as enshrined in the party’s constitution.

As a result, some states chose the direct primary option, similar to the option A4 option that was used in the June 12, 1993 election that was contested by the late Chief MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) that was later annulled by the then military President, Ibrahim Babangida, even when Abiola was believed to have won the election.

Other states however chose the indirect primary option, where delegates gathered at a congress to pick their flag bearers.

Though, leadership of the parties in each of the states had the prerogative to chose their preferred option, many members of the party in some states had a head on collision over the decision of the party to choose either of the option as some said they would prefer the other option.

The confusion, infighting and crisis generated by this decision of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC is still lingering as many people lost their lives and others sustained various degrees of injuries as a result of clashes at the wards and local governments during the voting process.

Also, hundreds of members of the party from some states, including Nasarawa, Kano and Niger states, stormed the APC national secretariat in Abuja on Monday, blocking the gate and holding the leadership and staff of the secretariat hostage while protesting the outcome of the primary in their various states, alleging that instead of primary, what was done in their states was imposition.

Responding to the contentious issues, Oshiomhole inaugurated a five-man appeal committee to consider petitions arising from the party primaries conducted nationwide.

The appeal committee which is headed by former governor of Edo State, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, also has Hon. Mike Ugwa (Secretary), Alhaji Musa Gwadabe, Bashorun Reuben Famuyibo and Alhaji Abdulrahman Adamu as members.

Some other aggrieved members of the party, perhaps furious over the way and manner the primary was handled in their states, as some aspirants were even said not to be aware of venue of the primary, and angry that after being made to pay such exorbitant fee for the nomination forms and yet are treated that way, are said to have approached the courts seeking to nullify the primary.

This development is not by any means limited to the APC, as other parties, even among the newly registered ones also had some very serious crisis following their primary, leading to factionalisation in some cases.

Though the outcome of the primaries in many states especially among the APC members have generated many clashes, even with some deaths, it is our belief that the decision of the party to allow each state the free hand to chose a mode of primary most suitable for it is a welcome development, because as they say, politics is local and there is no way the national leadership will know what is best for each of the states under its control.

We are of the opinion that direct primary mode of picking party candidates in the country remain the best option for the country if Nigeria hopes to catch up with other politically advanced countries and develop along modern democratic practice.

It is our hope and belief that other political parties in the country will borrow a leaf from the APC and have the boldness to hold direct primary in picking their candidates in subsequent elections.

This position is not to say that we are not aware or that we are not concerned about the many undemocratic actions of the various stakeholders, as we can say for a fact that in some polling units where people queue to vote,

party officials who do the counting awards scores in thousands even when everyone around to vote are in their hundreds, but we believe that it is a process that will improve with time.

It is also our belief that those approaching the courts to seek redress should have a rethink, as party primary is purely an internal affairs of the party and as the Supreme Court had held in its decision that the party has a right to run its internal affairs in manners it deem fit.

We will therefore appeal to such aggrieved persons to approach the appeal panel of the party to express their grievance and it is hoped that with the calibre of persons on the panel, justice will be served and if that happens, it will be a pointer that such exercise will be better done in the future.

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