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No Automatic Tickets

THE Senate is into a dangerous curve that could upturn gains of democracy in the past 10 years. It is sparing nothing to ensure that it achieves its aim, no matter what harm it does to democracy.

Senate President David Bonaventure Mark heads the venture that places the selfishness of 87 serving senators of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, above the interests and aspirations of millions of other Nigerians.

Mark asked the PDP National Working Committee to grant automatic tickets to 87 PDP members in the Senate. The PDP dominates the 109-member Senate, leaving the remaining 22 members for other parties.

His argument for this move is that the senators have gained invaluable experience, and that experience could be lost if they do not get automatic tickets to serve beyond 2011.

Mark rated the 87 senators as “reliable, competent and knowledgeable”. Are they not the same senators who have failed to legislate on matters that could improve the welfare of Nigerians?

Lots of enervating consequences lie ahead for democracy if this move succeeds. Mark did not say how he would again ensure the electorate returns the special 87 senators. Or do the votes not count anymore? The PDP National Chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor said the request would be considered.

More danger lies in the fact that the proposal could be a PDP strategy to ensure that all senators join PDP. Nothing would make most senators happier than the assurance that they would not bother with primaries in 2011.

Politicians are too desperate to remain in power that they would jump to the party that can perpetuate their hold on power. PDP is making that offer. There is no clear legal position on elected office holders crossing to other parties.

A constitutional provision that supports carpet crossing, in case of disputes within a party, has been grossly abused. In any case, there are enough crises within the political parties to meet this tiny legal requirement times over.

Marks’s request would only be the beginning of a disastrous decline for democracy. The House of Representatives could adopt it, same for the various State Houses of Assembly and of course, the Executive. This would foreclose opportunities of other aspirants staking their interests through primaries.

What is democracy without choices? How self-serving can senators get, if all they think about is how to perpetuate themselves in office? How many terms would the special senators serve before others get a chance? What experience would new entrants have?

In democracies like the USA, this situation is dealt with through the mid-term elections, which ensure that not all legislators run for elections at the same time. Yet, they go through their party primaries.

Legislative experience is important, but it is insufficient reason to inject unfair, selfish, and illegal values into democracy. Automatic tickets would save elective offices for a few, who once they consolidate their hold on power, can legislate themselves into perpetuity – it will hurt our democracy.


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