By John Araka
Today, all the state capitals will be bubbling with the so-called delegates of the PEOPLES Democratic Party, PDP, who will be filing out to elect their governorship candidates. The All Progressive Congress, APC, will also be doing their own at the weekend.
In fact, the whole of this week is being taken over by the primaries of various political parties to beat the deadline set for them by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Most of the primaries are indirect. That makes the use of delegates inevitable.
So, ordinarily, this week should be devoted to the celebration of a crucial step in Nigeria’s democratic process.
Unfortunately, this is not to be. Reason: the whole process of selecting
delegates is a glaring travesty of democracy. Most of their voting does not reflect the positions of their constituencies. Rather, they often vote according to the selfish motives of their political godfathers.
I have carefully observed the whole electoral processes of the past few weeks. Precisely, in the PDP, First of all, the party conducted elections at all the ward levels, most of which were really no more than mere formalities to rubber stamp predetermined delegates.
These so-called elected delegates, were mainly the core loyalists of some political bigwigs. They have no minds of their own on political decisions. They are mere conduits that strictly carryout their ogas’ directives. They are the ‘yes sir’ boys and girls who have been on the monthly pay rolls of their political bosses for years. They would, therefore, rather die than disobey the self- serving orders of their benefactors.
These mentally enslaved party members, who have been robbed of their personalities and self- esteem, may be because of poverty, greed or ignorance, are the ones assigned the crucial democratic responsibilities of selecting our political leaders, come 2023.
The season of parties’ primaries, is often misconstrued as the time for the bumper harvest of the fruits of corruption by the delegates and their leaders. They enjoy a sudden cash boom through corrupt and crafty manipulations of the aspirants. That is exactly what is playing out in the past weeks till now. They will organise several fora ostensibly for the aspirants to market themselves. This will be at ward levels, local government levels, state level and various leadership platforms.
Every meeting is really no more than a veiled device to extort humongous amount of money from the aspirants. The extortion is beautifully coloured as ‘kola nut support’.
All aspirants to the State Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives, the Senate, Governorship and even the Presidency are held at the jugular. They have no choice. They just have to play ball. That has unfortunately been the political culture which has dangerously deteriorated, particularly in the run up to next year’s general elections.
A night before any primary is the night of mind boggling bribing of delegates and those in control of their voting pattern.
For instance, since PDP is conducting its gubernatorial primaries today, most of the delegates and their godfathers will be smiling broadly to the banks. The same is true of all the big political parties. This is mostly evident in states where there are stiff competitions.
In the ongoing primaries, there have been clear instances in which delegates were mindlessly bribed in millions of naira each. This may sound incredible, but it is very true. The evidences are common knowledge all over the place.
In the PDP’s Senatorial primaries of last Monday as well as those of the State Houses of Assembly/House of Representatives a day before, I was reliably told, by several sources, that some aspirants, particularly those sponsored by Governors, gave more than three million naira to each delegate. In fact, at a stage some high- ranking delegates started rejecting naira because of its valuelessness. They openly demanded for dollars, instead. And of course, some of the well- loaded aspirants responded appropriately. Then, the dollar rain started to the admiration of the delegates, who knew what the exchange of dollars will give them in naira terms. It is heart-rending that the future of Nigeria is up for sale to the highest bidders. This is coming at a time when our economy is comatose, direly in need of a messiah like Lee Kuan Yew, who ingeniously transformed Singapore from a miserable third World country to a prosperous first World nation.
Rather regrettably, most delegates of APC and PDP, seem not to be interested in the quality of the persons they elect as candidates. They would not care voting for certified armed robbers, kidnappers or drug addicts as long as the money is right. What a shame. What a deleterious price to pay for corruption. That our country has degenerated to this abysmally low level of money politics should be blamed on APC which charged a whopping N100,000,000 as fees to obtain a presidential nomination form. Surprisingly, 28 Nigerians, most of them public servants, were able to effortlessly pay that humongous amount, which is more than the six year’s legitimate salary of a Nigerian President. What further evidence do we need to confirm the humiliating ranking of Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International?
The total monetization of our electoral process will only worsen the already very bad corruption index of our country and the current deplorable standard of living of our highly impoverished people. The delegates of all the political parties still have a window of opportunity to ensure that they vote for quality and achievement- driven candidates in their remaining primaries. Their ogas, who are probably more enlightened, should chest out and give patriotic directives to them on the right candidates to vote for. Candidates who have what it takes to move
Nigeria to the next level. Doing otherwise, will be seriously detrimental to the future of our children and grandchildren. Certainly, no sane person wants an expensive immediate gratification at the expense of our future national development. So, let patriotism rather than greed and avarice guide their voting henceforth.
• Chief John Araka, FNGE, is the Chairman of The Trumpet Editorial Board