The 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria has been a complex journey for Nigeria and for Nigerians. In many cases, the nation has slid backwards, and voting irregularities were as vast as the sands on the beach. Underage voters still roamed and voted freely in Northern Nigeria, some as young as 9 years old, in the full glare of videos and photos shot on cellphone and movie cameras.
Massive inflation of votes was acknowledged by INEC, especially in Northern Nigeria, where the votes tallied exceeded the number of registered voters. In some Southern cities, thugs either snatched ballot boxes, or disrupted voting in cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt. Other major voter irregularities including illegal thumb-printing of ballot-papers were recorded in both the North and the South. These are credible evidences of an election gone awry.
To crown it all, Rivers State now claims the infamy of being the most violent state in the nation; and also a state where even people at the level of Governors, ex-Governors, and Ministers, essentially act like thugs on the street. This is a shame and it is not acceptable.
PDP & the Road to Hell
The serious electoral malpractices during the presidential election are ordinarily weighty enough to warrant a highly meritorious case against the declared winner, Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the biggest impediment PDP and its hierarchy now have, is that they are not approaching equity with clean hands. According to news reports, the PDP’s presidential candidate’s henchmen are being picked of the shelf one after the other, as they make feeble attempts to challenge the presidential polls. The weighty allegations against Atiku’s men are pursuant to recent or new corruption charges; including money-laundering related or unrelated to the elections.
These above scenarios are rendering PDP efforts to assert their rights, and challenge the purported winner very feeble. PDP is not equitably ready to challenge this presidential election with the force of conviction and political righteousness, which would be required in this effort.
The unfolding situation is an opportunity for PDP to look inwards, and to the future, for severely necessary reforms, toward a future presidential election in 2023. The PDP Delegate system of selling the presidential ticket to the highest bidder, regardless of the flaws of the candidate must stop. Political leadership requires more of “character” than money. The people of Nigeria are quietly realizing that Nigeria is not for sale. We are ready for an election based on “Character”.
Reforming APC and PDP
Both PDP and APC must reform and open up their Primaries to “direct” primaries, and also adopt only token nomination fees, so as to conform to best practices in other successful Presidential-style democracies worldwide. In the US, filing fees for presidential elections must not exceed 20,000 (twenty thousand) by law. For governorship elections, filing fees range from 25 to 200 dollars.
In successful presidential-style democracies like the US, Presidential Primaries are opened up to all party members, to vote on candidates of their choice; thus testing a candidate’s national acceptance. Most times, these primaries are arranged on a state by state basis, leading to election of a nationally acceptable candidate for the general election.
From all indications, Nigeria is by default fast becoming a two-party state, featuring the APC and the PDP. A two party state could work, where illicit buying of delegates, is stripped from the party primaries; this is the future for both the APC and the PDP.
The APC and PDP primary systems are long overdue for reform; and whichever of these two Parties first opens up to reforms, and allows for free and fair primaries, where new and untainted candidates can emerge, stands a much greater chance of winning the next presidential elections in 2023.
Buhari’s Potential Democratic Legacy
President Muhammadu Buhari must consider it as his enduring legacy to very seriously encourage and influence his Party and others, to begin the internal revolution of reforming the internal democracy of the various Parties.
As things stand now, Buhari does not have any legacy to bequeath to Nigerians, but if he pushes for the Party internal democracy reform, he would have secured his own place as an African statesman. Buhari needs to start this process now, before age and other factors slow him down beyond measure.
A word is enough for the wise.
Okey Samuel Mbonu is a new-generation leader and Strategic Advisor based in Abuja & Washington, DC. Mbonu earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Washington DC and was an aspirant for the Nigerian Presidency in 2019. Mbonu also previously served as Commissioner, Housing & Community Development in the State of Maryland, US, as well as Executive Director of the NAL Council, Washington, DC.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.