ORDINARILY, a primary election ought to showcase the culture of discipline and organisational ability of a political party. This is because a political party represents an aggregate of persons with a shared disposition, aspiration and affiliation and the members appreciate the fact that primaries constitute a critical phase in the democratic process and ultimately the overall national development.
But more often than not, party primaries in the country are characterised by heightened political tension in the country because of the idiosyncrasies and untoward tendencies in the conduct of major actors, their surrogates and supporters, as well as their admirers on the party fringes. The impunity in undermining the fundamental rules and regulations of a contest, with far-reaching implications for the larger society, has, at different times, snowballed into carnage and other forms of wanton damage. In most cases, the raison d’etre has always been the alleged deliberate attempts by some powerful and influential members and caucuses to subvert the process of free choice exemplified by primaries. Rather than allow legitimate party members to decide who would emerge as standard-bearers, the political godfathers and kingmakers conspire to circumvent the rules of the game by anointing candidates, thereby stoking the fire, as witnessed in the Lagos State chapter of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in the past two weeks during which a number of persons were feared killed and many others injured.
The ugly trend calls for deep and sober reflections, especially now that the tempo of politicking is rising ahead of the governorship elections coming up in Anambra State on November 18 and in Osun and Ekiti states next year, before the 2019 general election. A party’s primary election ought to be a fascinating exercise and experience, given all the niceties associated with free, fair and just contests. And the cardinal rule here is the existence of a level-playing field devoid of political undercuts, all forms of shenanigans and backstabbing by godfathers with the ulterior motive of subverting the course of popular choice. We strongly believe that it is a travesty of democracy and justice for individual party members or caucuses to equate themselves with the party itself and determine to call the shots at all times and on all matters, including the choice of candidates for electives offices. Such an unorthodox practice can only pave the way for an implosion as some unrestrained members could resort to self-help after they have exhausted all legitimate means of seeking redress to no avail, whereas such mechanisms can never be really exhaustive since competent courts of law exist for redress where and when necessary.
Political leaders must demonstrably internalise the philosophy and tradition of internal democracy towards guaranteeing a vibrant political culture. On the other hand, aggrieved party members should not foreclose their fate to the ambivalence, corruption and indiscipline of a few party buffs. They should always explore the opportunities provided by the conflict resolution mechanism of their parties to seek redress and avoid unnecessary loss of lives and property when tempers rise unimaginably because of the inadequacies of a few corrupt leaders.
Political stakeholders in the country must discard the mentality of winning at all costs and in all contests if their ultimate aim is to deliver good governance to the vast majority while advancing the cause of democracy. Finally, all the leaders and their supporters who perpetrated carnage during the recent primary in Lagos and elsewhere must be brought to justice to serve as a deterrent to potential troublemakers. Various camps in political parties usually recruit external forces to fight their cause and inflict colossal bodily and mental damage on the citizenry. This is why the individual reports of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies that play supervisory roles during party primaries should come in handy.