13th January, 2015
By Joe Onwukeme
As part of the electoral requirements before elections, political parties through their delegates conduct primary elections in all the states to elect candidates that will represent their parties in all the electoral posts in the general elections.
Delegates played various roles in the recent party primaries which were marred by wanton irregularities across the federation. The delegates became semi gods, they went for the highest bidder. Those who ignore them do so at their peril. It was a case of “he who pays the piper dictates the tune”.
To be a party delegate is now a “venal enterprise” for youths. It is the most lucrative business one can venture into. Before now, party delegates were duly elected, but recently a lot of things have changed, Its has gotten to the extent that people who are not registered members of political parties and who have no business in party affairs are now the ones choosing who will represent us at the party level, while the majority of the card carrying members are left out of the exercise. Party delegates are no longer true representatives of the people. The desperation of our politicians to win elections by all means has made the selection of party delegates a charade.
Politicians such as state governors are not willing to clean out the Augean stables any time soon. They made sure their anointed candidates were elected into almost all elective posts in the just concluded party primaries in their states. Delegates, mostly made up of venal youths, were practically handpicked by agents of state governors in various wards before primary elections were conducted. In most cases, the delegates were lodged in best hotels few days to the primaries, while their feeding and transportation allowances were taken care of. After the exercise they were rewarded financially.
All over the federation, it was stories upon stories of how party delegates were heavily induced to vote in favour of anointed candidates.
In a particular venue in one of the South south states, the delegates were induced with dollars to vote for an anointed candidate, but the out of favour politician who is an incumbent lawmaker paid twice the dollar equivalent in naira to the delegates to beat the anointed candidate. It was a case of highest bidder takes all.
Some where in the North, it was a different tale. There was a story of a particular contestant who after inducing the delegates to vote for him, lost out in the party primaries. After the exercise, he was reported to have ordered the delegates that participated in the party primary for a refund of the money he gave them before the election.In some states, especially in the ruling party, out of favour politicians boycotted the scheduled party primaries. When they realized it won’t favour them, they mobilized youths and every available persons on the streets to the venue of their scheduled elections and conducted impromptu parallel elections. At the end of the exercise, parallel candidates emerged as substantive flag bearers for their party.
This is not the best of times for our democracy. The cash-for-money votes is awakening the political consciousness in our youths. Some delegates claimed they paid large sums of money to their local government agents to be selected as delegates while others lobbied their way to the ward congresses before they were chosen as delegates. It has become appallingly obvious that the fastest and quickest means to make money before the general elections is to become a delegate. This precipitous acts of state governors in imposing their candidates has robbed off many politicians. While the politicians that failed to clinch their parties’ tickets are still counting the cost, the delegates that participated in the exercise across the federation are enjoying their cash. The decline in our economy didn’t affect their cash for votes income at all. Most of them were on spending spree in the last yuletide season. The largesse was large enough for some of them to acquire new cars and other necessities of life.
The party delegates and the anointed candidates are two sides of the same coin, both were used to achieve a purpose. The end might have justified the means for these desperate politicians at the moment but may work against them in the long run. The implications might be disastrous, some aggrieved members are already in court. The good and bad news depending on your divide is that most politicians may win the forthcoming elections but may not last in their offices as the courts may remove them in favour of the aggrieved aspirants.
The godfathers, mostly made up of state governors, are yet to come to terms with the fact that godfather and godson politics to a greater extent don’t really work in Nigeria. The outgoing governors are in a better position to tell us how long godfather-godson relationships in their various states lasted.
The cash-for-money votes might have empowered the party delegates financially but one of its consequences is that at the end, politicians that have nothing to offer may end up winning elections and the change we have been crying for will remain a mirage. Now party primaries are over, all politicians contesting for political posts in next month’s general elections should get ready to give a good account of themselves and expect the unexpected. Nigerian electorate are wiser now. You can lead a horse to stream, but you can’t force it drink water.
•Onwukeme, an Idealist, is a social & political affairs analyst. •Email: [email protected], Twitter: @unjoeratedjoe