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How delegates are likely to vote at the primaries

How delegates are likely to vote at the primaries

AYODELE OKUNFOLAMI argues that whether direct or indirect, delegates will not go against ‘party interest’

Barring any last minute change to the Electoral Act that could alter the timetable and schedule of activities for 2023 general election, all registered political parties are expected to have conducted their party primaries to nominate their flagbearers for the national elections by 3rd of June 2022. Not only should these primaries have been done in accordance with their individual and respective party constitutions, but all disputes also arising from those primaries should have been resolved. The electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission on its part, has remained firm and uncompromising on the calendar.

Some political parties have begun conducting the primary elections for lower tier elective seats. However, watchers and the electorate are more particular about who the political parties nominate as their presidential candidates.

Unlike the general elections where the entire voting population cast their votes for their preferred candidates, political party primaries is an intermediary electoral process in which political parties do the selection to pick their individual flagbearers for corresponding positions. Not a few aspirants have indicated their interests to vie for elective positions on the platforms of their respective political parties. They have been travelling around lobbying delegates of their parties. These lobbying becomes more intense as the major political parties have opted for the indirect primary option in which their fate is in the hands (or thumbprints) of a couple of delegates who have been (s)elected in different electoral ratios by the political parties to choose their flagbearers. The way these delegates will cast their ballot should be of concern not only for the aspirants but also to the overall electorate.

What bothers the delegates, who are mainly politicians, may not necessarily align with the expectations of the nonpartisan citizen with a voter’s card in his wallet. The purpose of political parties is to control government and so what is in the mind of the delegate is to pick candidates that will end up winning the elections. Knowing that what sustains them is power and money, they enter their various conventions and congresses with the mind of electing candidates that will win. Contrary to the average voter’s expectation, electability of an aspirant supersedes his eligibility.

An aspirant may be coming to the contest with his street credibility based on his history of past performances, mentions on social media and high percentages in opinion polls, although these gains the aspirant attention, it is not enough. The delegate doesn’t follow the aspirant on twitter, he follows his godfather. He doesn’t watch the aspirant’s interviews on television, he watches the body language of his principal.

Opinion polls matter less to them. First, Nigeria has always been very unscientific in its approach to things and that won’t change suddenly because of elections. Moreover, the social media where these polls mainly take place is typified by multiple accounts and dubious credentials. Also, the delegates know the demography of respondents to these opinion polls. They are mostly urban, young, southern, diasporic, and historically don’t account for the votes that brings them in. Politicians focus more on the voters register and voting patterns and not on the volume of social media trends. The memory verse is, “Elections don’t take place on Twitter”.

Manifestoes don’t also influence delegates. As aspirants are traversing the nation wooing these electors with generic promises of what they would do if elected, the delegates in turn respond with generic promises of their support. But the truth is this, after the aspirant is escorted out of the state, the delegates are told to vote in accordance with the dictates of their sponsors. In a few states, the host governors have openly welcomed the aspirants and publicly declared that they vote only the aspirants the grand power broker endorses. That is why delegates may not even know who to vote for until they get to the venue of the convention.

When the only thing an aspirant brings is a retinue of past performances that is all about himself, delegates become suspicious. When the aspirant’s campaign team is mainly of people outside of the political fraternity, delegates fear they would be edged out of an eventually technocratic government. That is why some of the aspirants spent so much to buy the presidential nomination forms despite lacking the political clout for Aso Rock. It was a way of paving their way into positions for themselves or their proxies in the next administration and to remain relevant in political circles.

Ethos plays a very important role in the decision of the delegates. Besides voting based on reciprocity for previous political leverage or anticipation for future, delegates are looking for a leader when they vote. The eventual winner becomes the leader of the party. They want somebody they can respect and be submissive to. Don’t forget, our democracy is still highly gerontocratic.

Does money play a role? Not really. Yes, money would be shared at the conventions. We are hearing those delegates may be going with as much as ten thousand dollars this time around besides the millions of naira they might have received along the way. It is scary but it is true and one wonders where EFCC is at times like this. Our politics is not only monetized, but also monopolized in the hands of some political oligarchs. Explains why politics supersedes economics. The fear of the consequences of not voting according to the principal’s script is what prompts the delegate not just what made his pocket bulge. Unfortunately, whether direct or indirect, party primaries are structured in such a way that the vote of the delegate is not secret. In other words, there is no way out for the delegate to go against “party interest”.

Had our political parties been ideologically driven, instead of all the inanities that takes the delegate into the primaries, he would be choosing candidates whose political programme parallels with his. It is this lack of principles and morality that continues to erode any democratic gain we have earned. It is high time our politicians collected their parties from bullies with state resources who only manipulate them for selfish reasons so that the perceived will of the overall electorate will be reflected in their choices. The delegate should be reminded that he too is a victim of the misgovernance.

Finally, Nigeria politics can copy the American system whereby political campaigns are independent governance. This way, state resources won’t be used for politicking. Lobbying groups would be contracted to run campaigns and other extra politicking activities so that political positions and contracts won’t be used to reward campaign faithful.

The electorate too should stop being docile. The youths especially should channel their social media and road show energies into votes so that political parties will take them serious when they do their primaries.

 Okunfolami writes from

Festac, Lagos

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