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Direct Primaries: How far can a candidate go in buying votes?

By Omeiza Ajayi

Nigeria’s rising cost of politics have for several years become a source of concern with the 2015 general elections reported in some quarters to have gulped over N1 trillion.

eikit election
Ekiti State Governor, Chief Ayodele Fayose voting at St David Polling Unit today at Afao Ekiti

This figure includes the “core cost” of the election, that is, what the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC spent on the polls and what the nation’s political parties and politicians spent on the elections.

The recent governorship election in Ekiti state and the attendant issue of open vote buying has again brought to the fore the issue of money politics in Nigeria, with fears that the 2019 general elections could be for moneybags alone, with Nigerians not been able to vote candidates of their choice.

To this end, the ruling All Progressives Congress APC wants to demonetize its own processes and has therefore adopted direct primaries in picking its flag bearers, starting with its governorship primary elections in Osun state.

National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had on assumption of office disclosed of his preference for this mode of picking candidates and hence after series of meetings of the National Working Committee NWC, the party finally arrived at direct primaries.

Governor-Elect, Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, displaying his Certificate of Return during the presentation ceremony at INEC office, Ado-Ekiti….on Wednesday

APC had in the past, laid claims to having no fewer than 12 million members, a claim that has often been disputed by rival partisans. What this implies is that for future elections, especially for its forthcoming presidential primary election, millions of its members, as opposed to a few thousand delegates, would be voting to determine the party’s standard bearer.

While this will present logistical and financial challenges for the party, the system however presents the party members the power to reset Nigeria’s leadership recruitment process.

Direct Primaries for Osun

Speaking on the new system, it is aimed at stopping impunity and putting moneybags where they belong.

“We have decided that in order to ensure popular participation, and to deepen democracy in Osun State, in line with the provisions of our party constitution which allow for either direct or indirect primary, we have resolved that the governorship election primary in Osun state will be conducted on the basis of direct primary.

What that means is that every card-carrying member of our party will participate in the process of nominating the flag bearer of the party.

This for us, is the most democratic way to conduct elections and is in line with what our critical stakeholders from that part of the country want and we are quite happy to oblige. The whole idea of that is that the more we allow our party members to participate in the process of nominating candidates, we will remove the issue of corruption or monetizing the processes of nominating aging candidates, in addition to the fact that party members will have a sense of ownership of the outcome of the exercise. We have also decided to nominate a panel that will be chaired by the Governor of Zamfara state who is also the chairman of the governors forum. We have no doubt that no one can compromise him and will approach this exercise in line with the spirit and letters of our constitution.

He will be assisted by four others who will work with (him to ensure that this direct primary is conducted hitch free and the outcome lay a foundation for popular mobilization of the Osun electorates.

“Our slogan is change, but we have not changed from bad to worse. We have only changed from a situation where only few delegates determine who flies the flag of the party, to one in which all party members have a say and can participate actively. Our democracy has to grow and our constitution allows for this process and I am proud that the people of Osun state are ready to go the whole hog of allowing party members rather than allowing party caucus to determine who flies our flag. I think that is more democratic.

“We see in America how party leaders go from one state to another as voting goes on even before they come back to the proper election and I think the beauty in that is those members have a sense of ownership of that person and therefore we have a duty to mobilize for that person so that he wins. We are not deterred by a particular approach but we are doing this in line with the wishes of the real stakeholders in Osun state as we know them”, he had said.

We don’t want direct primaries in Osun —APC youth

Ahead of the test-run of the process in Osun, youth leaders across 30 Local Government Areas in the State have kicked against it.

The implication is that except the issue is debated and approved by the National Executive Committee NEC of the party, a body which comprises party leaders from several organs of the party, there could be more resistance from other states in the days to come.

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For a start, the Osun youths, under the aegis of Forum of APC youth leaders said the  party should go ahead with the delegate (indirect) system to pick the gubernatorial candidate as was   done in Kogi, Edo, Ondo and Anambra States. “Our position is that the party should go ahead with the delegate system to pick the gubernatorial candidate as done in Kogi, Edo, Ondo, and Anambra States and  recently  in Ekiti State”, they said.

Some of those who signed the petition were Ibraheem Wasiu, Ogunkunle Lukman and Fasusi Phillip among others.

Nigerians can’t  be bought, says

ACF Scribe

Secretary General of the Area Consultative Forum ACF, Elder Anthony Sani has also weighed in on   Tue brazen monetization of the nation’s electoral and political space.

To him, it is easier to buy delegates, rather than buying party members or going ahead in the general elections to attempt to buy the electorate.

Primary elections to elect candidates through delegates can be bought because the delegates are few. But direct primaries by all registered party members is not vulnerable to money politics. So, if APC can adopt direct primaries where all party members can vote, it will reduce the influence of money bags, thereby doing away with plutocracy, so be it.  It is not easy to buy hundred thousands of people during general elections. Vote buying is effective during primary elections through delegates who are few”, he said.

According to him, the direct primaries would “encourage Nigerians to take charge and determine the direction of our democracy through judicious use of their democratic rights so that the ensuing winners will be accountable to the voters and not to money bags”.

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