direct primaries

IN passing the contentious Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the National Assembly took two decisions which have gone down well with the people as they will promote our democratic practice and enhance the search for better quality leaders, especially in the 2023 general elections.

The first of these is restoring the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct elections without the unconstitutional interference of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and the National Assembly as earlier proposed by the Senate.

The direct transmission of results from the polling booths by the INEC will cut off rigging antics such as post-election violence, ballot snatching, thumbprinting of votes in the private homes of politicians and minimise falsification of results at the collation centres.

The second laudable decision was making the adoption of direct primaries for all political parties mandatory. Though some have argued that lawmakers opted for this to save themselves from the tyranny of the governors who benefit from the indirect primaries, direct primary is a level-playing ground for all political office contenders.

It gives power back to members of political parties to choose who will stand for them at the open elections contested by all registered political parties.

It forces the elected leaders, including the leaders of political parties at all levels, to reckon with the membership of their parties rather than ride roughshod over their yearnings and aspirations. On the other hand, indirect primaries are less expensive, easier to control and less violence-prone.

Ordinarily, political parties should have been given the power to decide which option is best for them. Most of the major parties have always preferred indirect primaries because it favours already elected leaders. Leaving it open is not much of an option since the incumbents always prefer indirect primaries which perpetuate them in power.

The imperative of searching for people-oriented leaders in the elections ahead overshadows the convenience of incumbent leaders and political godfathers. We must give power back to the people and enable them to hold those they put in power to account for their stewardship. Indirect primary promotes civilian dictatorship and arrogance of power.

It has stunted democratic rule at the state and local government levels. Governors are like emperors when it comes to political control and the handling of state and even local government finances.

Direct primaries will enhance the democratisation of the subnational units where the people live. Let us give it a try. In this regard, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to ignore the desperate efforts by some governors and leaders of his party to persuade him to once again reject the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which is now on his table. He should sign that Bill into law pronto.

He should leave our democracy better than he met it.

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