Ladies and gentlemen, the election season is here again; only that this time, it’s coming a few months earlier. In two months time, all political parties would have done and dusted their primary elections. This was not the case in 2014 leading up to the 2015 general elections. This time the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC thought it wise to begin early. They thought it wise to end the electioneering in the early weeks of March 2019. To be fair, Attahiru Jega’s INEC could have finished early. But politicians had another idea, using insecurity as subterfuge. Even so, this time, INEC has done well to fix timetable for the next dozens of electoral cycles. Here is hoping that politicians don’t get in the way.
This is why I urge President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly sign off the electoral act currently before him. Of course I expect that due diligence must have been done to forestall any issues that may show up after the ceremony. It is also to afford the National Assembly ample time to probably go for a veto should the president decline knowing that time is of essence since it is likely laws may be breached that may affect the legality of some aspects of the electoral process should the hold-up persist. Also, since INEC has formally issued notice for elections and primaries have been scheduled for September and October, it is important that the bill becomes a law so that it can properly guide the conduct of those primaries. We do not want laws that work from the answer. Again, politicians are the ones outing clogs in the electoral wheel of progress.
So the primary season is a very important milestone during elections. This is the time that individuals who wish to occupy public positions present themselves to various parties for consideration as flag bearers of their parties. It is whoever these parties turn up that the rest of us get to chose from. There is no two ways about it; the primary season is perhaps the most important stage in determining the trajectory that any democratic society is headed. This is even more so in a country with dominant political parties. One thing is for sure, if anyone wants to make any impact in next year’s election, that person ought to be of the All Progressives Congress, APC or the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The rest of the parties are to all intents and purposes empty shells. Much as I do not like the PDP, however, recent defections to that party has bought it more time, otherwise it was on the throes of death.
People may deceive themselves, however, it is only the PDP that has the muscle to challenge the APC in national elections. The remaining 89 political parties are there to make up the numbers. I am not unaware of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA who continues to be popular in at least a state where it runs the government but that is the much it can do. It may be popular in the minds of people, but lacks the gumption to push for national politicking and victory. The rest of the parties are briefcase parties. Well, someone told me that they are laptop or ipad parties. This is because they exist only online where they entertain Nigerians with all sorts of “great” ideas on how to move Nigeria forward, without moving their parties beyond virtual presence. This is like the story of the man who sells books that reads: “how to become a millionaire in six months”, whereas the seller has no transportation fare to go home. “Physician heal thyself”!
Our democracy is evolving. For good or ill, one of the parties wants to conduct direct primaries. It may not be the best but it certainly builds a form of transparency and accountability into the system. We as citizens will do well to continue to push parties to keep changing their ways and means. It gives a good public relations leverage. It makes for good optics and shows the parties and their managers are not deaf. Everyone wants a sense of belonging in political engagement such that people are interested in party primaries even where they are not members. It depends on the kind of image or narrative you want people to internalize. Let the primaries begin and let the politicking evolve. In a society where politics breaks the biggest news, it is still my wish that as many people as possible join party politics and participate at the lowest level. It is by being members that we can influence the choice of candidates or be the candidates ourselves.
It is my wish that nothing compromises the timetable as announced by INEC. We should learn to follow schedules no matter how tight. Our ability to cross the line in whatever situation signals our determination to succeed against all odds. In this, I will urge the PDP to adopt a flexible strategy in conducting their primaries. That is where they have a lot of combustible possibilities. Their presidential primary will be a true test. With the outcome of that process turning out good, it will have a calming effect on how they manage the election proper of all the tiers of government. My interest is really to have a good and well fought contest next year. I do not want a walk over. PDP should have a non rigid process. If they should go for it; if not, try another primary type. In all, money will play a starring role from next month. Bribery is a crime in Nigeria; we do not need to pass a new law for that. The police should do its job.