by Ogu Bundu Nwadike
Going by the timetable set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the stages in the conduct of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, the list of party candidates for respective elective positions must reach INEC before end of October 2018. That means that the primary election in the various political parties that will participate in the elections must have been conducted and concluded. That sounds like a long time away but in real terms it is just about the corners. Time waits for nobody. Time flies.
However, the various parties are at liberty to hold their primary election at any time they find convenient. For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State, for instance, has scheduled its gubernatorial primary elections for September 21, 2018. It is believed that the party would beat the deadline set by INEC. At least five aspirants will be lining up for the primary election for the party’s standard bearer. These will include His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha (CON), Prof. Jude Njoku, Senator Athanasius Achonu Nneji, Senator Samuel Anyanwu and Chief Chukwuma Ekomaru. The declaration and inclusion of new aspirants is not yet ruled out. This is Nigerian politics. There is still time.
Certainly, because of the usual plural number of aspirants presenting for each elective position, determining a candidate is statutorily subjected to the role of party delegates system. This is the system whereby some elected party executives at all levels are authorized to cast votes and elect a candidate for each elective to fly the party’s flag at the general elections. As I have posited in a previous essay, party delegates are designed to be very crucial and quintessential in the electoral process. This has been explained to imply that the eventual outcome of an election is, in many respects dependent on the role played by the party delegates. That is clear enough because the party delegates are statutorily looked up to generate the corpus of the people that will steer the ship of the nation after the general elections.
There has been a plethora of attitudes of the masses to the roles played by party delegates before eac primary election before each general election. Indeed, more people than not nurse poor and even negative attitudes towards the party delegates. They are accused of aiding and abetting bribery and corruption by colluding, collaborating, conniving and conspiring with aspirants in a practice that has been severally described as cash and carry. The double-edged reasoning is that while some people vilify party delegates for coercing aspirants to bribe them heavily some others blame them for not remaining on the solid ground of honesty and integrity which forms the basis for assigning the very critical and crucial task of electing the country’s potential leaders.
It is quite easy to agree with the argument that the party delegates should be men, women and youths that value honesty and integrity over and above financial and material inducements that colour their decision of the future leaders of the country. But the story so far has been unfavourable to party delegates. Many people see them as doing more harm than good to the nation’s fledgling democracy. In fact, some people have recommended the elimination of the party delegates system and replace it with a more reliable system that is not bribery and corruption prone. But fact is that for the 2019 general elections, the party delegates will be deployed. It therefore calls for the devising of strategies for checkmating the anti-social acts that has portrayed party delegates in a bad light. I believe that it is better to strive and strike a match instead of groaning about the darkness. We must seek solutions instead of waste efforts by worrying about problems.
In an earlier write up, I advised the relevant electoral authorities consider randomly electing party delegates from among party members on the same day and the same venue for the primary election. This is similar in a way to what obtains in some advanced democracies like the United States of America. As I often aver, if it can work there it can work here if we really want to eliminate negative inputs and attendant negative outputs. And as they say, it is not rocket science. With a good modality, the ugly practice of bribery and corruption between and among political office aspirants and party delegates can be eradicated. We can get it if we really want. Only it requires a genuine will to stop any form of stories of bribery and corruption in that aspect of the electoral system.
The concern many people and I express about the need for honesty and integrity among party delegates is supported by the castigations heaped on the delegates as if they are common criminals or malevolent masochists that cause tears while feigning to be causing joy and happiness. Somebody swore that there is no party delegate that is not guilty as charged in the issue of bribery and corruption. I really do not believe that all party delegates are 100% corrupt to aid and abet the pollution of the electoral system with bribes from inadequate and insecure aspirants. However, since the majority of the members of the society are strongly convinced that it is the case with delegates, the need then arises for them to deliberately and consciously review their attitudes and begin to show the respect for honour and integrity that is expected of them.
I will encourage party delegates under the unction of my essay here to surprise themselves and pass the test of honesty and integrity by resolving not to demand or accept any bribes from aspirants, no matter how enticing the bribe may be. There is sense in personal display of honesty and integrity. It accords the person the inner feeling of satisfaction for doing the right thing. Many a party delegate have lost their lives to dare-devil aspirants that, after losing the election, go after the delegates demanding a full refund of bribes or pay the supreme price. It is our history that some delegates have been assassinated without notice, at the instance of the aspirant they collected money from. Some other delegates have been forced to leave town for eternity because of the bribes they demanded and or received from aspirants.
Whichever way it is looked at, money from aspirants is not worth dying for. No matter the amount, it will sooner than later be spent. The risk attendant to bribes from aspirants makes accepting it meaningless and useless. The party delegates must always bear it in mind that only one aspirant out of the whole will win a primary election for a specific elective position. Each party delegate can cast only but one vote. Collecting money from more than one aspirant automatically sets the delegates life at risk and jeopardy. Therefore, I would once against admonish party delegates to imbibe the culture of honesty and integrity and jettison politicians’ bribes. That will add value to their inner man as well as help the country in raising only leaders that became leaders by assessable merits.