The Incredulity Of Automatic Tickets For Politicians
Clearly there is no gainsaying that we are in an electioneering period, even though the general elections are just a year from now. Of course, the party primaries will most likely be held this year.
Some weeks back it was rumoured that All Progressives Congress (APC) was luring incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers to decamp with the promise that they will get automatic tickets with or without primary. In other words, the lawmakers were guaranteed that they will get the party tickets for their respective seats without fear of opposition.
This past week, it appears as though it is a tit for tat when again our sources stated that PDP was trying to do the same thing, not just to get new members, but also to get their previous members that decamped to APC to return back to the fold and prevent other members from decamping to APC.
We will assume for purposes of this diatribe that it is true. Additionally, we will not address the apparent touchy issue of whether outgoing governors have been promised that they can choose and anoint their successors, and even receive their own tickets for the juicy senatorial seats if they remain loyal to their party (or jump ship when the opposition “calleth”). That will be for another day when we discuss “Outgoing governors and the Ubiquitous Desire for the Senate Seat.”
For all intent and purposes, the Nigerian brand of democracy is young. However, after almost fifteen (15) years of the return to democracy, many Nigerians are worried that we may be engaged in “forward regression.” Without arguing about whether we are practicing true federalism or not, the point remains that the average person does not have anything to show for the decade and half of civilian rule. The so-called elusive “dividends of democracy” has not trickled down to the masses. When the average village woman treks down to the polling unit and stands in line under the scorching sun to exercise her right of suffrage, wants to believe that she has been given credible choices.
Are these four major parties offering lawmakers automatic tickets?
The problem with giving automatic tickets is that it denies people choices. Furthermore, it forecloses competition. More importantly, it is a clear violation of the Electoral Act and unconstitutional. For clarity, the pertinent portions of Section 87 of the 2010 Electoral Act states: “(1) A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold
primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.
(2) The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective
positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.
(3) A political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are
given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.
(4) A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate
shall adopt the procedure outlined below:
(c) In the case of nominations to the position of a Senatorial candidate, House of
Representatives and State House of Assembly a political party shall, where they
intend to sponsor candidates:
(i) hold special congresses in the Senatorial District, Federal Constituency and
the State assembly constituency respectively, with delegates voting for each
of the aspirants in designated centres on specified dates.
(ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be
declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant's name
shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the
candidate of the party. “
The era of imposition of candidates is over. Any party that wants to win a free, fair and credible election must ensure that they have contestable primaries. The beauty of democracy is the presentation of candidates to the electorate by each political party, who have gone through a credible election (not selection) process in their own respective parties. Unless a party involves just a husband and wife, then we should expect a spirited and keen contest for their party tickets. This will also aid the electorate in evaluating the flagbearers that emerge from the primaries.
In the last election, there were candidates who did not get their party nominations and decamped to another party to pick the party's ticket. As should be expected, none of those candidates stayed with the party they used to get elected. A prime example is Delta State. As at last count, no member of the State House of Assembly or Federal House of Representatives that was elected under an opposition party is still with the party. They have all decamped, leaving the “used” party in shambles. Many of the candidates were actually selected or hand-picked because they “used” party believed that these newcomers will help them defeat the ruling party and as a result many of their genuine party members were relegated to the background.
So, any party that encourages other party members to decamp on the basis of the promise of automatic ticket, is bound to be dumped again when the exigencies no longer exists. A prostitute when faced with two “customers” will always go for the higher bidder and will dump that higher bidder for another. The highest bidder always knows that “money for hand, back for ground.”
This political prostitution or gymnastics cannot help our democracy. Through the race wide open to everyone – both incumbents and neophytes.