Who is the right candidate?
The ‘right person or candidate’ concept is not the concern of democracy! Come along with me.
In his polarities of democracy theory, Dr, Benet William hinged on critical theory to let us know that though democracy has the potential to resolve human oppression, that can only happen if adequate attention is paid to issues that have been wrongly classified as problems, which are actually dilemmas that have to be managed.
Rooted in the polarity management by Barry Johnson, two distinguishable are relevant to categorizing any issue as a dilemma.
One, it should be an ongoing difficulty, and second, there are two interdependent poles that you cannot solve one and neglect the other. In essence, any issue that has a solution will not fall within this realm.
William believes that if those ten poles he identified and broken into five polarities are well managed, then democracy could deliver on the reduction substantially the human oppression. For instance, you can not fix justice and neglect due process and vice versa.
Back to the idea of the right person or candidate.
The focus of democracy is to ensure that the majority of the people are adequately represented at all possible levels of governance. It thus derives its legitimacy from the concept of majority. So, suppose an individual or group of individuals are elected by a majority (at least 51%). In that case, that person has the legal and moral authority to represent the people.
There are some twists to the concept as well.
For ease of conduct, geographical locations are delineated into constituencies (ridings in Canada) to aggregate people’s will within that confined area. Though most of the delineations can be arbitrary, as they are not frequently reviewed and adjusted for demographic changes, it remains the second and potent layer to the concept of majority. It is why Clinton won the popular vote (majority of the overall population but did not win most of the constituencies) but cannot be declared the president-elect.
Another unique twist is the different configurations under presidential and parliamentary systems, respectively.
Under the parliamentary system, such as in Canada, the party with more seats form the government. There could, therefore, be a minority government or a majority government. It is deemed a minority government if the party with the highest number of seats does not get up to 51% of the seats. (Liberal in Canada has been the case in the last two elections).
However, if the party with the highest number of seats also has at least 51% of the seats, it is deemed a majority government. Under the majority government, the ruling party, under normal circumstances, can always get its legislation passed with little or no friction. Under the minority government, the main solution is to get into an alliance with other parties to get to the 51% threshold probably.
There are instances where some legislation can pass through bipartisanship arrangements.
Under the presidential system practiced in the USA and Nigeria, the candidate that won most of the constituencies becomes the president-elect.
Some other issues are specific to Nigeria’s situation: the spread of votes. I believe it is relevant that whoever wins must have at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of states of the federation, which translates to 24 states currently.
By simple arithmetic, if a candidate scores 70% of the vote, let us say in 20 states and less than 25 percent in the rest 16 states, the candidate may not succeed in that election. If another candidate in the same election scores at least 25% in, say, 26 states, even if the candidate has less number of votes than the first one, such may be declared the winner.
Before you scream, that is not fair; note that this is the nature of the game.
In the presidential system, the focus is on the candidate; in the parliamentary system, the focus is on the party, and the number of seats won.
The politicians, including their strategists, understand this game better. At least, it is assumed they should.
It is the main reason they will try to convince or confuse the electorates with whatever they think will shift acceptance to their sides to garner as many votes as possible.
Let us not forget that the essence of adult suffrage is anchored on the principle of freedom of choice.
There is no morality or lack of it in a voter preferring a particular candidate to the others. It is within the prerogative of choice. No one is compelled to see ‘reason’ with anyone regarding the candidate to vote for.
During the “operation wet e,” nicknamed the “wild wild west,” there was some level of forcefulness. Even at that, the people devised some means to counter it.
“Bo rowo mi, oori inu mi, Demo ni mo wa” (if you see my hands, you cannot see my mind; I support the Democratic party). There are stories behind that. People were forced to signify their support for a particular party forcefully. In the face of threat, they identified with the party but voted for their choice at last.
Therefore, in the contest for the highest office in the land, nothing like the right person, the best candidate exists within the intent and purpose of democracy.
Then what is the solution?
It is not a problem. It is a dilemma.
You do not and cannot solve a dilemma; you can only manage it.
In the polarities of democracy, two principal actors were identified. The tradition bearers and the crusaders.
The tradition bearers opt for maintaining the status quo of inherent fears. The crusaders yearn for better days to elevate their yearnings and aspirations, especially in oppressive circumstances.
Nevertheless, there are inherent dangers between the two groups.
Each group is looking at the upsides of what favors them. Though there are downsides to each of the poles, each polarity consists of two interdependent poles with four quadrants of upsides and downsides across each divide.
Whichever group focuses on the upsides that favor it and neglects the other upsides and downsides for both sides, even if victorious, may soon run into unimaginable crisis.
If the crusaders win and alienate the tradition bearers, they will become a new set of ‘tradition bearers’ struggling to consolidate the new power. If the tradition bearers win and cement the status quo, the agitation of the crusaders will become louder than ever before.
What has democracy done to address the issue?
One means has been to insist on tenure limitation and call for regular elections, where people can vote for or against any candidate they desire.
Will that throw up the right person for the post?
That is the ongoing difficulty and the dilemma of democracy we may continue to manage. Who knows, it may be “till thine kingdom come.”
Again, the right person or candidate is alien to democracy.
At best, mobilize support for your choice by convincing or ‘confusing’ them to accept your choice, though they also have the right to reject your overtures. The beauty of it is that whatever you make, no matter how it turns out, you will be satisfied that you freely exercise your right.
Market your candidate. However, remove labeling the right person or candidate as that does not exist in a democracy.
Oluwadele, Ph.D., is a chartered accountant, author, and Public Policy Scholar based in Canada. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org