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Automatic ticket and democratic elections

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Our votes should be cast for political candidates who realise that our voices are relevant in the scheme of governance and that we deserve recognition.

The first step in losing an election is to impose a candidate on the party by way of automatic ticket, especially, at the presidential level. Once that is done, the party becomes divided and unwittingly sends a message that it is undemocratic and unwilling to play by the rules.

The imposition, naturally, generates deep rancor and acrimony. The infighting sends signal to the electorate that the party can’t be trusted with vote. While the party leadership may be satisfied, the electorates are disgusted.

The imposition of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the sole candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last 2015 presidential election against the will of many in the party was one factor that paved the way for the dismal failure of the party at the polls. I thought that other parties learnt their lesson from that bizarre experience but alas, it seems that no lesson was learnt.

I have brought out this experience against the backdrop of the plan by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to grant automatic ticket to the incumbent president and perhaps the state governors and lawmakers in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.

There is nothing wrong if a party desires that a certain candidate should be their flag bearer in an election but that choice should follow laid down democratic process otherwise it is authoritarian.

Besides, it is an open invitation for intra party acrimony. As I said earlier, the PDP tried this in 2015 and failed. The APC ought to learn a lesson from that.

The repeated refrain of a free, fair and credible election would have no meaning if from the outset some interested aspirants are edged out in favour of others. Good enough that the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has opposed the idea of automatic ticket for anybody.

Election rigging starts from the primaries within parties. Blocking interested aspirants in favour of some others is tantamount to rigging. Democratic norms demand that every interested aspirant should pass through the crucible of party primaries to be a legitimate and democratic choice.

Nigerians are tired of having unfit individuals imposed on the polity to govern against their wish. That explains why the entire country is in a pitiable state. As each election presents fresh opportunity to elect new leaders who are expected to change the ignoble state of affairs in the country, parties (if they’re patriotic) should learn from the past mistakes and desist from imposing candidates on the electorate.

The people know which president/governor has performed well. It is not the party secretariat that should say. By the way, the constitution did not state that every president/governor must serve for two terms. Only those deemed fit by the people to have merited it by virtue of their performance may have the chance for another term. It is the people that should decide.

Denying fresh aspirants the opportunity to contest for whatever reason makes the elections to be contentious, as those denied would most likely work against the party. If the elections are going to be free, fair and credible as the sing song goes, then every interested person should be allowed to try at the primaries. Otherwise, the elections could as well be regarded as having been rigged from the outset – since some people are allowed to contest while others are disallowed. There is no fairness in doing that.

Some governors serving under the platform of the ruling APC recently endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term. According to them, there is no candidate better than Buahri to fly the party’s flag in the 2019 presidential election. That means the party has problem if only the president is credible.

Buhari’s endorsement was made during the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja. The governors said that they believe that Buhari’s integrity, coupled with his performance since 2015 remain unbeatable.

Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong said that all the governors have unanimously agreed to work for the President’s re-election.

He rhetorically asked, “Do we have any other person that will challenge the President again? Whatever you call it, as far as we are concerned, we have one President and that is the ticket we will fly.

But in a sharp reaction, Buhari reportedly rejected the move by the APC governors to blindly endorse him for the 2019 election.

Buhari’s media adviser, Femi Adesina, in an article he released shortly after the meeting titled, ‘PMB: Just like the mills of the gods,’ claimed that his principal personally rejected the motion to endorse him for 2019 during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He insisted that it was Buhari himself who signaled to those in attendance that the meeting should not talk about his 2019 ambition.

Adesina’s clarification corroborated with the contrary view expressed by Okorocha, who stated that there would be no automatic ticket for Buhari.

Since the APC governors strongly believe in Buhari and have good reasons to stand with him in 2019, they should let him go through the party’s primaries, where they would unanimously select him and make their choice democratic.

Going by the contradictions that often trail the issue of automatic tickets, it is not clear what exactly the APC intends to do at its primaries. Is it going to conduct a thorough screening of the aspirants and reject or re-nominate them based on concrete, clear and undisputed achievements or is it going to award them automatic tickets as being speculated?

There is nothing wrong in a governor who has done well from being re-nominated for a second term to enable him complete outstanding projects. But everything is wrong if parties would just anoint anyone simply to achieve selfish ends.

Ebonyi State PDP Governor Dave Umahi, portrayed selfish inclination by saying that because he is seeking re-nomination for a second term he has no choice but to endorse Buhari. Those remarks amount to trading with Nigeria for selfish interest.

I strongly believe that it is in the national interest if the APC and indeed any other party to field candidates that have peoples’ support. If the election were conducted in a free and fair manner, such candidates would certainly win. If Buhari is the peoples’ choice, then, there is no need to entertain fear.

At any level, the people know whom they want and they would vote for him. The votes of the governors matter mainly at the primaries and it is in their own interest to choose a popular winning candidate.



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