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Anambra and the primaries of blood and mammon – Part 2

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A voter drops ballot papers into a ballot box during an election in Nigeria.


Given the orgy of violence that characterized the party primaries across party lines, I believe that the time has come now for all stakeholders in the insurance sector to develop a new life insurance policy package, that will henceforth secure the lives of all those participating in primary elections, as it is clear beyond any shadow of doubt whatsoever, that the party leaders do not desire to get the people involved in the choice of candidates.

The other dangerous implication of the combustive party primary elections is the fate of the 2021 governorship election, the outcome of which we can very well now begin to predict, going by our experiences so far, from the primary elections. If a leader has succeeded in manipulating the outcome of a primary election to be able to foist his candidate upon the party, willy nilly, such leader, being well aware of the likelihood of a revolt from the people, would do everything possible to manipulate the general election, in order not to be disgraced ultimately. This is one of the forces behind vote manipulations, ballot snatching, alteration of election results and outright rigging of elections. This is because if the election proper is free and fair and is based purely on the choice of the people, then all the impunity of the primary elections, would be squarely dealt with by the people, at the general election.

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If what we have witnessed so far in the primary elections of the political parties is anything to go by, we can as well begin to prepare for the explosion to come, in November. These party hawks and godfathers, these party cabals and political dealers, would do all in their powers to retain the status quo and return their preferred candidates in the general election. This is why it has become necessary for the legislators to think up a workable procedure for the conduct of party primary elections, in such a way as to guarantee the involvement of party members in the choice of candidates, through the secret ballot system. In our present situation and experience, asking party members to openly queue up behind a candidate not supported or endorsed by the godfather is like throwing the child to the lion to devour. People should be allowed to vote according to their conscience and conviction, not out of fear or intimidation or persecution, as in that wise, the freedom of choice has been hindered, meaning that the true candidate may not emerge, afterall.

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These Primaries of Blood and Mammon put intense pressure upon the judiciary, especially the courts, which have been faced with the appropriate method of dealing with the impunity of party leaders in regard to the electoral process, over the years. The legislators have however so often tinkered with the electoral act, to protect the candidates from undue substitution, leading to the famous decision in the Rotimi Amaechi v. Celestine Omehia case. The problem then is that no matter what the courts do, politicians would always want to manipulate the system and have their way, all the time. Since legal principles are based upon facts and the legislations, it would seem that we are yet very far from an enduring solution, except politicians accept to play by the rules. And since politicians have failed to put their leaking houses in good order, and INEC itself has failed woefully to enforce its own guidelines for the conduct of primary elections, the courts should in appropriate cases assert their powers, by overturning all proven acts of impunity and brigandage and help rid our nation of Primaries of Blood and Mammon.

I say in appropriate cases because we cannot and should not tolerate the very ugly situation whereby the Courts would be seen as endangering democracy with flippant orders and counter-orders, especially if that would help to truncate the free choice of the people. It is said jokingly without proof, that in some States, politicians have prototype orders of injunction, already signed, which politicians keep in their portfolios, waiting for the right occasion and all that is needed is to insert the names of the parties. Even though there is no proof of this, the fact that people have the view that it may at all happen, is worrisome. The judiciary cannot turn itself into a trap for democracy or else we are all doomed. That said, the National Judicial Council and the Nigerian Bar Association should take up the cases of those involved in any malpractice, as recommended by the Court of Appeal, so that impunity is not given the chance to reign in our body polity.
Concluded
Adegboruwa is a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

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