Direct Primaries: A Panacea For Good Governance In Nigeria

By Ogwezzy Richardson –

In a democratic setting, every citizen has the right to participate in the electoral process. The essence of it is to ensure the emergence of popular candidates. The candidates have the capacity to represent the people in elective offices with integrity.

In Nigeria, past administrations have adopted indirect appeoach of primaries in selection of candidates for elections. The indirect mode of primaries requires the selection of delegates who in turn chose candidates to represent the party.

The National Assembly’s approval of the report of conference committee for the electoral Act Amendment Bill that states that all political parties must adopt the direct primary method.

Some political parties and individuals said the process (Direct Primaries) is capital intensive. Yes, it is expensive because anything good does not come easily.

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Direct primary is deemed one of the best ways of selecting credible candidates for elections in developing countries like Nigeria. This is because it gives every registered party member the right to select candidates of their choice.

Direct primary gives the people at the grassroots a sense of belonging by providing unlimited access to their representatives.

It creates an avenue for the people at the grassroots to air their views concerning what they(their candidates) will do if elected into offices.

In the indirect mode of primary, candidates only concentrate on the delegates for the election.

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To a large extent, most of the candidates often play a key role in picking the delegates. The delegates that emerged in the indirect primary may not be a representative sample of the people, because they are politically handpicked to represent.

This is why political office holders waste constituency funds in empowering executives who often translate into delegates. Good governance may be far-fetched in our dear country.

The political office holders believe that even when they did not do well while in office, they will still recycle the same party stooges as delegates to secure their stake in future elections.

‘A school of thought’ hinted that direct primaries would make candidates identify the members of the electorate who did not vote during the election.

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The argument hinges on a show of hatred and immaturity to party politics. In the civilized world, an immediate family may emerge as candidates in different political parties without breeding hatred.

Unfortunately, we have not witnessed this in Nigerian politics. The idea that, if anyone feels direct primary will bring hatred between the candidates and the electorates, it becomes imperative for candidates who have ambition for contesting elective positions to imbibe the good democratic culture and embrace peace at all times whether as a winner or a looser.

Apart from that, the direct primary can be done by open ballot or open secret method. By this, if the fear of identifying the electorate during the primary election is suspected to create political violence, then an open secret should be adopted.

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From available statistics, the adoption of direct primary in Nigerian politics will be one of the options to emancipate her people from the shackles of bad governance.

This is done by allowing all registered party members to take an active part in the electoral process right from the outset, that is, from the primary to the main election.

If Nigeria’s government is operating a democratic governmenthatch emphasizes the government of the people and by the people, it will therefore be very necessary that all citizens in the country participate directly in the electoral process to select credible representatives at all levels.

The agitation for the adoption of direct primary suffered setbacks because many political office holders felt they have a firm grip on the party executive and on whoever emerged as delegates.

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As such, it will be easy for such candidates to maneuver them and succeed at the primaries. The party executives and potential delegates are equally in support of the indirect mode of primary because of their ulterior motives.

The masses who are neither candidates nor delegates are left as helpless, passive, on-lookers or followers in a system that ultimate power ought to rest on.

In a decent democratic culture, the masses have the power to make and unmake their leaders. But in our situation, only a clique of self-desiring, greedy and heartless political actors bestride the “narrow world like a colossus “ while the masses wallow in abject penury and deprivation. This is the archetypal tragedy of our democracy.

Direct primary is innovation and a change in the right direction. But change is the most painful thing in human nature. It comes with its challenges and a tendency for us to make sacrifices. Let us embrace this change because it will return power to those who possess the ballot papers, that is, the masses, and ensure good governance, purposeful representation, and comprehensive overhauling of democratic architecture.

Let us, therefore, embrace positive change with sincerity, courage, and optimism.

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