IDEAS RADIO SHOW EPISODE 5 Party Primaries: Debo Adeniran

IDEAS Radio 10 October 2018

Rotimi Sankore: Welcome to Countdown 2019 NG on Nigeria Info 99.3 where we feature all the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 elections.  Remember, you can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019ng, and myself, Rotimi Sankore @RotimiSankore.  You can also tweet at us using the programme handle, my handle or the station handle @NigeriaInfoFM.


Our big topic today, both on the IDEAS segment of the programme and on the second half is the Party Primaries.  What happened during the party primaries? Many questions about the party primaries.   Different political parties utilised different variations of the primary system to elect or select candidates.  We are going to be talking about those.


With us in the studio is today is Ayo Obe, Legal Practitioner and democracy advocate.


Ayo Obe: Good afternoon Rotimi.


RS: Ok.  And you can follow Ayo Obe on Twitter @naijama


AO: And you can also follow the IDEAS segment of the programme on @ideasradiong.


RS: Okay.  Alright, we’re going to have a guest on the telephone.  Tell us, Ayo


AO: Yeah, Rotimi, as you know, the last week we talked about one particular party’s primaries, and how they tried to deal with the issues of Integrity, Ethics Accountability in their own method of selection of candidates.


But today,  I think we want to have a more broad look at what’s going on, or what went on in the primaries because of course, the primaries season is over.

So our guest today is the Executive Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, and he is Debo Adeniran.


RS: Okay, so Debo will be joining us on the telephone shortly, but for the first issues that we’re going to be taking, including with Debo, what method of primaries fits more with Integrity, Democracy, Ethics and Accountability?  What are the pros and cons of each method?


There are the Direct Primaries where every member of the party votes directly for the party’s candidate.  There’s the Indirect primaries which Nigeria has been more familiar with, it’s called the Delegate system.  And then there’s the Consensus candidate, and also, a very awkward one, but which many parties have used, including the ruling party, the Sole candidate or Affirmation where the party just affirms and says :This is our candidate and we have confidence in the person.


So while we are waiting for Debo Adeniran to join us by telephone, Ayo and I will talk about these four options.


AO: I think Rotimi that, I think that when we look at the issue of sole candidate, we need to understand that the way the ruling party priced the cost of even…


RS: … the nomination …

AO: … becoming an aspirant for their party ticket …


RS:  … at 45 million naira …


AO: … at N45 million, it’s not surp … I wouldn’t so much call it as ‘affirmation’, as everybody else who has a N45 million going spare  probably felt that they had better use to put it to than to put it up against someone who was obviously or most likely to win, at least within that party.  So I think that’s one thing that, it wasn’t so much affirmation as that there was only one candidate, so …


RS: Ok, we have Mr. Adeniran now.  Hello Mr. Adeniran.


Debo Adeniran: Yes, yes.


RS: So you are live on 99.3 with me Rotimi Sankore and with Ayo Obe


DA: Okay.


RS: So Ayo, please go ahead.


AO: Yes, so Debo, thank you very much for joining us on the IDEAS segment of the show.


DA: It’s my pleasure.


AO: What we’ve been trying to assess is: which of the various methods of getting a candidate  is most likely to throw up, or to put the  issues of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability into play.  You’ll have heard Rotimi and I, we were just discussing whether the APC really had just a, an affirmation, or whether the way that they had priced their  own nomination forms at N45 million meant that only somebody with money to burn would think of going up against someone who was, an incumbent President, who was most likely to become the candidate.

But you may want to comment on whether that speaks well for Accountability and Ethics.  But we also had the issue of consensus candidates …


DA: That’s right.


AO:  … where people were busy stepping down all over each other for the race.  We had the question of direct primaries and indirect primaries.  Now while some argue that direct primaries are more democratic, it’s a question whether they are equally supportive of the issues of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability.  But we also see that the indirect primaries have their issues.  Would you like to comment on some of these methods?


DA: That’s right, thank you very much for having me.  First and foremost, the way political parties are run in Nigeria, it’s like an …  to bamboozle people while getting favoured, those candidates that are favoured by party leaders into, I mean, to contest elections by hook or by crook, not by the choice of the membership of political parties.  Yes, we believe, at our own level, we believe that direct primaries is democratic, could be more participatory.  However,  most of the direct primaries that are held, even by the ruling party, are done without authentic membership registers, and there is nothing to prove that the numbers of those who registered were the same number of those who voted in those elections, meaning that it couldn’t have been fair on some of us who, I mean, or on who, or whoever the sole elected will govern on.  If membership of the parties are involved, in the real sense of the document, and we would be so sure, as a matter of fact, we can wish who are apolitical,  could even … on who we think would be a good  candidate for the position that is being considered,  but when you do not have party registers, you do not have those who are actual members, we do not have means of verifying authentic, you know, cards …


AO: On that point Debo, I think that one thing that we, one thing that has baffled many people, particularly with regard to the APC, and of course, we have to remember that it’s not only for the presidential position that we have primaries.  But it was very noticeable that while in Lagos State, it was said that 1.9 million people voted to affirm the incumbent President Buhari as the candidate, when it came down to a very hotly contested – or at least, it was supposed to be hotly contested – gubernatorial  election, it’s been difficult to get the actual numbers of those who participated in the, in those elections, certainly to the extent of being able to say whether 1.9 million people voted, whether some of them voted for the person who emerged as winner, or whether some of them voted for the person who is the incumbent Governor.


RA: Well the officially declared result is less than one million for both candidates.


AO: This is the problem.  I mean, it does speak to your issue of the inability to have an authentic list of the electorate in that particular selection, or that particular …


DA: Absolutely.  But what they did in Lagos was a kind of a coronation actually.  It was not a primary election by any standard you can think of.


AO: Are you talking about the governorship, or the presidential, or the senate …?


DA:  The governorship.  The one for the presidential, nobody actually knows when it took place.  I mean, and whatever number, figures they are bandying around … figure.   But for gubernatorial that they claim happened, you know those national working committee members that are supposed to be the supervisors, to oversight the process and the conduct of those primaries, were actually not there, they were coerced to adopt what was done behind the scenes, and I’m not even sure that the  members of the INEC, representatives of the INEC were part of that election.


AO: Well, we do know that where INEC says that it was not part of the primaries of a party, when it was invited for primaries and the primaries did not take place, INEC has said that the party involved, in which case we’re talking about the Zamfara primaries of the APC, that as far as they are concerned they have not held primaries and will not be able to present candidates.  So, it is possible for us to expect that if INEC was not, did not participate, then it should be able to say so.


But what I’d really like you to speak to Debo, is the question of these different methods of choosing candidates.  The methods themselves, how open are they to charges of corruption?  And then, the selection of candidates.  I mean, we had some parties that did written examinations for their prospective candidates and so on.  To what extent do you think that  parties are really paying attention to the idea, or  to the necessity (as some of us might think), of getting candidates who will really be able to stand up under the scrutiny of Integrity, Accountability and Ethics?


DA: Ayo, Ayo I believe that the best way we choose the candidate is through direct primaries where we have  authentically verified and confirmed by the participants, I mean, the members of political parties.  There should be a way of verifying or the authentication of the membership, just like accreditation.  However what happened in Lagos didn’t pass through that system.  You know, you just line up.  In fact, it was on record that there are some cases where somebody could just come and say that nobody would be allowed to put a particular candidate in this place.  That shows that it wasn’t democratic.

Now, I think what is needed, what we should do now, is to advocate that every party, and every membership card should be such that it would carry a chip that can be confirmed by the card reader, and when there is extra highly supposed to be heard, all of these accreditation should be done the way that INEC does its own accreditation.


AO: But don’t you think Debo, that that would put an extremely high burden on parties.  I mean, you’ve been talking about what happened in Lagos , but let’s not forget that there are  several political parties that are in this race, and they don’t all have the kind of resources that the ruling party, or the former ruling party have, and this could be a very big burden on them.


DA: Ayo, this is why, that is where monetisation of electioneering has its origin, and government should be ready to foot the bill, of even party membership cards, okay?  It doesn’t have to …  Once you register a political party they should be ready to verify their membership and to give, to present, they should have a superintending authority


AO: You see Debo, I’d like to …


RS: That’s a lot to ask of INEC


AO: Yes it’s a lot to ask of INEC, but also, I think there’s a risk, don’t you think there’s a risk of parties being turned into basically government parastatals, and …


DA: No, it is not because we are already, I mean, because government is registering political parties, and once they fulfil the conditions for registration of a political party, it means that they are qualified for whatever subvention government is supposed to grant political parties.  And since one person should not be allowed to belong to more than one political party, it means that all of those conditions will be streamlined, their registers will be streamlined and would be controlled.


AO: Sorry, is it a regulation that one is not entitled to belong to more than one political party?


DA: This is a regulation …


AO: What happens to the safety net that many politicians, or the parachute that many politicians who have been unsuccessful in one place …


DA: It is not officially …


AO: Yes, but they may have, yes, but when parties have regulations about the length of time one has to have been a member, if you don’t maintain dual memberships you could find yourself up the creek without a paddle!


DA:  Well, we are just talking about what should be the ideal.  The situation whereby somebody can belong to more than one political party should not be seen as being ideal, because it will give room for fraudulent electoral you know, kind of party malpractices.


AO: Well, the Constitution gives us freedom of association.  But I’d like you to, you’ve talked about your desire for direct primaries.  To what extent do you think that indirect primaries upholds or diminishes the virtues of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability?  Are they immune from it?  Are there ways of insulating them from the corruption plague, charge?


RS: Especially taking into context what we know about the delegate system.


DA: That’s right.  You see, delegates system denies the people of their right to choose, because the delegates can be quartered in a posh hotel, and be coached …


AO: Sorry, aren’t the delegates themselves elected by the members of the party?


DA:  The process of determining who a delegate is, is also questionable, in the sense that some of them got to positions, or the elective positions through means that are not so clear, and all of this will give them a better advantage over other members.


RS: Sorry Debo, if I may chip and clarify.  The point Debo is making there now is that there are delegates that are not elected, but are automatic delegates because they are Governors, Senators, House of Rep, Local Government Chair, Councillors…


AO:  That’s what they call in the US ‘Super Delegates’.


RS: Yes, Super Delegates, and many parties here use that, especially the two parties that have been in power at the federal and state governments.


DA:  Yes.  Now, so these Super Delegates who are there to represent the interests of those who sustain them in power, and that is the reason why it is difficult for us to, I mean, it is difficult for those delegates to play, you know, in the direction dictate, that is dictated by the generality of membership.  But if it is direct primaries, you can hardly determine what direction the voting pattern will go.  Then, you cannot quarter all the members of a political party in a hotel with a view to bribing them, or coercing them into voting towards a particular direction.  It has happened in one smaller political party, where everybody, I mean, was allowed to make, to enjoy his own right of choice, but in some bigger political parties people were dictated to, that  they don’t have to queue behind certain people, I mean, those who use delegate system, they gave advance information on who to vote for and how to do the vote, in such a way that it would look credible, when they knew that a lot of manipulation had taken place, and there are number of states that experienced that, and that means that it’s not the choice of the political party.


You know, the problem political parties have in Nigeria is because they don’t have particular ideology, and this is why we are advocating that before a political party is registered, INEC should ensure that there is a clear cut ideology.


AO: The thing is Debo, with …, the reality is that every political party has to sign up to Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution, and basically, that means that they have to all to promise that they are going to provide food, education, shelter and so on.


But we’re coming to the end of our segment, and I’d just like you to discuss a little bit about, because we, in some political parties, what we just heard was that somebody has “emerged” as the candidate, and I just wonder whether, in the end, if a party wants to be sure that it puts up a candidate who embodies the ideals for it, of Integrity and Accountability, somebody whose Ethics are seen as commendable,  isn’t that really, it may not be the most democratic, because sometimes the people who are popular don’t necessarily embody those ideals, so how do we strike that balance?


DA:  That is why I say that we have to look into the guidelines for registration of political parties.  It may be that we should recommend that candidates should not just emerge.  Candidates should be affirmed, even if he is the sole aspirant for that position, and you have to be, the affirmation has to be done in the open, not that somebody will know that nomination will close tomorrow, and will make himself or herself the presidential candidate.  Not that somebody had enough resources to register a political party, even when all of  the conditions for registration were not verified, and make himself the chairman of the  political party, and make himself the presidential candidate, and nominated, and nominate those who will run for other political offices because he could afford to fund their campaign.  So it is the rule that if you, and that is [inaudible] is pending for our future elections, and that is the only way by which we can hold people accountable for their performance in the office.   If they don’t provide what they promise, then we should be, I mean, Nigerian people should ask legitimately, when they ask the question, look, this is what you ought to do, and that is why I’m talking in terms of ideology which should be part and parcel of the conditions with which  political parties are registered.  It doesn’t matter how much agitation somebody has made …


AO: Well Debo, I have to, because we have overrun our little segment here, so I want to thank you very much.  Definitely the issue of party primaries and whether they just put the issues of Integrity, Ethics and Accountability aside, and then the candidates now come out and start burnishing their credentials in that regard, I can’t say.  We’ll have to examine that a little bit further.  But thank you very much Debo Adeniran …


DA: Thank you very much for having me.


AO: … the Executive Chairman of CACOL, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership.  Thank you very much.  Rotimi, back to you.



RS: Well, some very interesting points made by Debo Adeniran there, but what he was saying about candidates should be affirmed in the open, I wasn’t quite clear what that point means, because the affirmations that have been done, parties presented people and said, we are affirming this person’s candidacy,


AO: I think in the end,


RS: … and it’s not quite clear, especially those that “emerged”, I mean, there have been lots of jokes about how did they emerge?


AO: They are all Athenas, they sprang fully formed from the head of their fathers.  But to be serious, I think it’s a problem, because sometimes one is not able to, one doesn’t have the resources for a popular contest in that way within a political party, and that’s why you find that some of the smaller parties, they tend to be formed around a particular person and then that person becomes the candidate.  It’s not that others are prevented from contesting, but that it’s basically known that this party is formed for the purpose of making this person the presidential candidate.


I think that when we get on to the other side of the campaigning issue, then we’ll be able to see the extent to which being the only big fish in a very small pond will equip one to be able to withstand what happens when you want to govern, because, speaking as somebody who remembers the case of Balarabe Musa who was elected governor of Kaduna State but he did not control his State House of Assembly.  He could not even get his commissioners confirmed by his, by the House of Assembly.  So there are dangers on both sides if you haven’t really got a solid organisation fielding candidates at every level.


RS: As you’ve pointed out, there’s an even bigger danger, that even the very best of people could emerge as President, from any party, but if  they have zero or low or influence in the National Assembly, things could just become ungovernable, as, in fact, Balarabe was impeached by his own House of Assembly.


AO: Oh yes, he was impeached and removed!


RS: Yes, even though he was popularly elected on the platform of the PRP, Peoples Redemption Party.  So, it’s  a big lesson for a lot of candidates today, regarding not just winning tickets and contesting elections, but if you are the only candidate and you don’t have enough candidates in the National Assembly or the House of Assembly, you could be in serious trouble.


AO: I think a lot of people are looking to the situation as it happened in France, with President Emmanuel Macron.  Of course he was an established politician, and most of the people that – many of the people I should say – that we see running have held political office  in one way or the other.  But having emerged as, having won the Presidential election, he then put out a call, “En Marche!  We’re on the move, we’re on our journey, come with us”, and asking for candidates!  You can’t do that in Nigeria unfortunately.


RS: Thank you so much Ayo Obe.  Okay, so stay tuned.  On the second half, we’ll continue the discussion and hopefully take your comments on the party primaries.  Three minutes.


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