It is the season of election primaries in Nigeria. The drumbeat of General election 2015 is getting louder. The various actors have not disappointed us in any way. Each day you check the daily news on every platforms, one is not in short supply of who is joining which party or who Is vying for different posts. Nigeria’s Politicians are at their best. Political language and lexicons with water basket promises are here in excess.
Over the years, Politicians have perfected their act while the electorate had remained lukewarmed as usual. Those who are well informed will rather meet at joint with boys, discuss issues analytically and go home to sleep. The poor and Illiterate majority who are looking for daily substituents allowances are more active. When we observed many of the delegates who are participating in election primaries, they are majorly the ordinary citizens many of whom are not well Informed in policy making process or sound intellectually in the area of governance.
The educated and well informed members of the society have forgotten that there is little they can do after primaries are done. Even if they suddenly wake up, many times they do not, they will be left with not many choices outside what the party presents as candidate for election. Nigeria citizens though now well informed now when compared with the last decade had not changed much.
Check the numbers of people lining up at Independent Electoral Commission offices across the country to collect their personal voters’ card (PVR), which the electoral umpire has failed to produce and give out, one finds out many on the line are not the regular people who are well informed and can analyse issues well. In the majority are those who see their voters’ card as meal ticket. This is a shame to many of us who do not need a bag of rice to make informed decision on who to vote for.
But what we can not take out of these election primaries is the fact that people now know candidates must be well grounded with the grassroot. Political Parties have discovered it is becoming impossible to rig election now. So they work hard on getting candidates with enough grassroot support. Unfortunately, the negative side of this is also there. The grassroot, which is made up of uninformed, illiterate and hungry people do sometimes vote on sentiment instead of real issues that can aid development.
We have seen people choosing ‘a criminal’ over candidate that can promote all round development just because the former can provide bread, a small bag of rice and a sachet water. This trend also is making the activities of political godfathers to become a major factor. Many political godfathers have their ears and feet on the ground. They do not wait until election time to distribute, donate a few stipend around since they know it is an investment with greater yield. With these ‘little investment’ they hold the souls of their captives, potential electorates, in their hands.
So it becomes easy to psychologically manipulate them in favour of their preferred and anointed candidates during the primaries. To an uninformed observer, the process will appear clean, fair and free, but it is obvious like a Nigeria adage says ‘there is an element under the water that is influencing the drumbeat which sea creature dances to’. Let us take the case of Lagos State gubernatorial primary elections in both the All Progressive Party and People’s Democratic Party as case study. There are several aspirants competing for the number one job in the state. One good thing though is that many of them are qualified professionals but we can not say same in terms of personal integrity and character of many. It was initially suggested that they should both produced concensus candidates which many aspirants were opposed to. So they gave all of them an open ground to go to the grass root and test their popularity. But despite all this, there was a rumoured endorsement of some of the candidates by their party political godfather. People believed one of the All progressive party’s candidate, Akin Ambode, has the blessing of a strong political godfather within the state who is also influential at the national level. While many of the aspirants in the party also claimed closed affinity, the body language of the godfather and a frontline Royal father in the state is enough to show Akin Ambode would win the primary. Which he eventually did.
At the People’s Democratic Party’s platform, there were equally good candidates professionally and with track records. We have the likes of Dosumu, Senator Muslim Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence who was flaunting his association with President Jonathan and who assumed that would help him get the party ticket. We also have the likes of Jimi Agbaje, a pharmacist, who had contested for the state number one job before in 2007 but did not win. Jimi Agbaje is liked by majority of enlightened minds in Lagos. His former attempt at the state’s top job was rated high.
Jimi Agbaje moved to People’s Democratic Party was strategic. He was said to have gotten the backing of a godfather, Chief Bode George whose relationship with Senator Obanikoro was rumoured to have hit the rock. Senator Obanikoro thought his popularity and relationship with the President would pull the shot in his favour. Today he had discovered the pendulum will always swing in favour of the godfather. While we must acknowledge also, the godfather’s influence on Jimi Agbaje might have been based on the face value, that the party need a clean and well favoured candidate to unseat the incumbent party, but it is clear, without the backing of the godfather, it might have been a great task to accomplish.
At the national level, many supporters of President Jonathan Goodluck had snuffed life out of other contenders by supporting his party’s sole candidature for the office of the President. The opposition party, All Progressive Congress, on the other hand had chosen the option of the poll to pick from its Presidential aspirants when the option of concensus candidate failed. Despite the influence of one of the Presidential candidate’s wealth, the element of the godfather support for one of the candidates was obvious. At the end of the day, the body language spoke volume than money.
Now the battle line is drawn, the option of the Nigerian informed electorates, who had been inactive is now limited. The party had spoken. The dice is cast about whom they want the electorate to vote for. The question is, will the equation have been different if educated electorates had participated in the primaries? What is even the guarantee that Nigeria so called educated electorates will even participate in the final outcome of who becomes their President and Governors?
As long as this attitude continues, the godfathers will always have their ways. The change Nigerians desire may have to wait for a long time.