PDP'S BUNGLED PRIMARIES
The controversial primary election for the selection of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Bayelsa State has come and gone. But its outcome is still reverberating. Weeks before the election, the political atmosphere in the state was charged.
The plan to exclude the Governor of the State, Timipre Sylva, from the primary election was at the heart of the matter. While Sylva claimed that the screening committee of the party had cleared him to stand for the elections, the PDP felt otherwise.
At the end of the day, the party's leadership disqualified him from the race for reasons that were neither clear to Sylva himself nor the public.
The development has left a lot of nerves frayed with many people feeling and believing that President Goodluck Jonathan was behind the travail of the Governor. The ill-feeling has been deepened by the fact that the man who emerged as the candidate of the party, Henry Seriake Dickson, a member of the House of Representatives, is believed to be Jonathan's anointed candidate.
The intrigues and bad blood that attended the primaries are most regrettable. But the situation was worsened by the fact that PDP was said to have defied a court order in the frenzy to hold the primary elections. Governor Sylva, obviously disturbed by the plan to exclude him from the exercise, had gone to court to seek injunction against the election. But the primary still held in spite of the court order.
Besides, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is supposed to monitor the exercise as required by law could not do so because of the court order. As it stands now, PDP is embroiled in a battle of legitimacy over the conduct of the primary elections. The development in Bayelsa state is most unfortunate. What has taken place in the state is a mere travesty of what democracy represents. A major problem with our politics is the absence of democratic ethos. We practise democracy in breach. It is this unfortunate state of affairs that led to the clamour for electoral reforms.
Fortunately, President Jonathan has embraced the spirit of the reforms and has put in place institutional framework for its actualization. Regrettably, what has taken place in Bayelsa State does not offer any hope. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The impression it leaves us with is that we are paying lip service to democratic governance. If the president who is preaching electoral reforms can be in the vanguard of the charade that took place in Bayelsa State, it then means that we are not committed to the reform agenda.
As the biggest political party in Nigeria with the highest number of elected office holders nationwide, PDP's failure to show good example is dangerous for the growth and survival of democracy in Nigeria. We had thought that after the modest success that we recorded in the last general elections, our approach to electioneering matters will continue to improve steadily. But that hope has been dashed.
PDP has, unfortunately, demonstrated once again that it is not yet prepared for internal democracy. Imposition of candidates is still the order of the day. With this set-up, it will amount to a pipe dream for anyone to expect the real elections to be free, fair and credible. If the PDP cannot conduct its internal elections transparently, we then can imagine what will happen when it squares up with other political parties in an election.
We decry this relapse into electoral brigandage. We urge PDP to begin now to wean itself of this dangerous attribute. The leaders of the party should embrace the spirit of the on-going electoral reforms and work towards credible electioneering process. President Jonathan as leader of the party has a big role to play in this regard. He and other party has wigs should show good example.
It is not late for PDP to cleanse the mess that it has foisted on Bayelsa State. It should begin the process of fence-mending and reconciliation immediately. Above all, it must ensure that the outcome of the primary election in the State is not encumbered by court orders.