Episode 107 Blog – 10th June 2022 IDEAs issues in the just-concluded Primaries season

Before delving into the issues for discussion today, Ayo corrected the wrong information conveyed by her interview with Honourable Patrick Ikhariale in Episode 106, where they had wrongly discussed the APC primaries as if there was to be only one delegate per LG, whereas it was in fact 3 delegates per LG.

She then turned to the review of the primaries, saying that her interest had risen after the PDP primaries, which had produced some interesting results.  She spoke about the impact made by the withdrawal of Peter Obi from the PDP, and his emergence on the platform of the Labour Party with all the other aspirants stepping down for him, through to the drama of the APC convention.

She said that she noted that with the PDP and the APC, the actual mechanical process of the delegates casting their votes by secret ballot was very transparent, and referred to a clip circulating on social media which took a short clip of a mistake being made in the counting of votes at the APC primary election, but failed to show that when attention was drawn to the mistake, the counting of that aspirant’s votes was restarted from ‘1’, saying that this was how misinformation took hold.

Ayo said that while the mechanical process of voting in the primaries could therefore be said to fit the requirement for Integrity (the ‘I’ in IDEAs), there were serious questions about the personal Integrity and Ethics of the participants, whether they were participating as a delegate or an aspirant.  She said that those of us outside the process hear so many stories which almost take on a life of their own, noting how we think that the activities in parties other than the one we support are suspect, but easily accept what happens in our own party as above board – citing the way that aspirants stepped down for others in more than one party.  Ayo wondered whether we were saying that there was no room in Nigerian politics for people to do things simply because it’s the right thing to do?  Is there no room for delegates to vote for an aspirant simply because they think that aspirant is the best candidate for their party?

The last IDEAs issue – Accountability – is raised by the aspirants making speeches before the primary elections: are the issues offered in their manifestos for being a candidate going to be translated into their parties’ manifestos?  She referred to the way that President Buhari had disowned his party’s manifesto when he came to power, and that made it difficult for people to hold him Accountable for the promises in the APC manifesto.  She advised that such things should not go unremarked if voters wanted to hold those elected into office Accountable, even if identity factors such as ethnicity and religion, age and experience were also relevant.

Aghogho asked which of the methods used for the primaries had the most Integrity.  Ayo said that she had not seen any of the parties conduct direct primaries, but recalled the APC primaries in the run up to the 2019 elections and the fantastic figures cast – 2 million in Lagos, another 2 million in Kano and so on which had no scintilla of Integrity in them.  Although direct primaries were not tested in this electoral cycle, don’t necessarily have a lot if Integrity.

With regard to indirect primaries, the Integrity is there on the day of the election, but what we don’t see is whether delegates are induced: do they get something before or after the primaries to cover their “expenses” or “other inconveniences”?  Unfortunately those of us on the outside can hardly get to see what is happening – we are just recipients for all the stories and rumours.  Ayo referred to the discussion with Hon. Patrick where she had asked whether the vote followed the inducement, or the compensation followed the vote, citing understandings about different styles used to let delegates know that at some point they would be rewarded in one way or another.

She said that for parties who had a serious chance of winning elections, it seemed self-defeating for delegates to vote purely on money without any assessment of the electoral power of their main candidates, because that electoral viability was also important for the ‘coat-tails’ effect for candidates down the line, so she felt that while not discounting the possibility of inducement, we should assume that the delegates were not stupid.  However, for some other parties, it might be a different matter, and Ayo said that she’d been trying to read between the lines of Professor Kingsley Moghalu’s tweet after his unexpected loss of the primary election of the African Democratic Congress.  Delegates in such parties might think that they don’t have much to lose since their party wasn’t expected to win the presidency anyway, but she advised that it was a short-sighted approach if they wanted their party to have relevance in the scheme of Nigerian politics.  For example, when Peter Obi joined the Labour Party, it was obviously common sense for other aspirants to step down for such a hugely significant vote-getter, and even the stepping down of the candidate produced by a rival faction of that party did not have to be ascribed to only inducement or threats.  She mentioned in passing that it would make sense for those factions to try to resolve their differences even without waiting for the courts.  Ayo said that in some parties, such as the AAC, Omoyele Sowore was the raison d’être for that party, so it was natural for him to again emerge as its presidential flag bearer.  She noted that some had chosen to remain in their ‘small’ parties and try to grow them, others had opted to join ‘major’ parties.  She said that even down the ticket delegates would know how to recognise potential vote-getters, reminding listeners that even before the current surge in PVC registration, barely half the registered voters cast their votes in elections.  Therefore if a potential candidate could bring in voters who were not invested in the system and get them to come out and vote, then political parties might go for such candidates, although she recognised that some were still stuck in the old ways of trying to keep down the numbers, as many in civil society had observed.

Ayo ended that the narrative of people buying and selling votes was prevalent, especially when it came to indirect primaries, but that it was imperative not to make it the only narrative, or to just assume that because people were saying it, it must be so, because to do that would be to normalise it and bring us to a situation where people were no longer ashamed to be seen or caught buying and selling votes, and that risked making it the defining feature of our politics.  She decried the way that the EFCC was parading openly at the venues of party primaries, saying that that was just for show, because even the naïve would know that money was not going to change hands openly at such places.  Rather they should be doing covert operations and monitoring people’s bank accounts!  If half of the stories of bribery were true, bringing some of those responsible to book might have a salutary effect and make buying less normal and something that people needed to hide, because that would help to eradicate it from our polity and make it more likely that we could build up Integrity and reinforce personal Ethics.  In this vein, Ayo felt that Pastor Tunde Bakare’s saying that he was satisfied that he got no votes because he didn’t bribe anybody was also unfortunate because there were ways of trying to persuade delegates to vote for you, and to speak as though once you didn’t bribe anyone you would not get delegates to vote for you was to normalise a situation that ought to be abnormal.

She ended by wishing listeners a Happy Democracy Day, and urging them to remember that Democracy is about them, not just about those for whom they voted.

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