THE primary elections which took place earlier in the month across political parties in preparation for the 2019 general elections into legislative and executive positions in Nigeria, may go down in the country as the most acrimonious ever.
ONE wonders if party primaries have now become wars, rather than be a conversation among brothers. It has become a place where cudgels, machetes, axes, are freely used as instruments of fear by sponsored thugs, leading to injuries, hospitalisation, death and destruction of properties as they unleash mayhem.
THERE are reports of deaths, gun shots, use of machetes, and mobbing of the participants of primaries in various states of the federation.
VIOLENT confrontation and gunshots reportedly marred the senatorial primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party in Makurdi, Benue State, with 10 persons reportedly injured and twenty vehicles badly damaged.
IN Gombe State, thugs destroyed the ballot boxes in the gubernatorial primary of the APC. In Rivers a grenade was thrown into the state party secretariat.
IN Delta State, heavy shootings disrupted the House of Representatives primaries for Aniocha/Oshimili constituency of the Peoples Democratic Party.
IN Ebonyi State, the primaries of the All Progressive Congress Party (APC), ended with three persons confirmed shot dead and properties worth millions of naira, destroyed by suspected political thugs. This is apart from the individuals who sustained varying degrees of wounds. Six vehicles were also set ablazed.
IN Lagos State, 84 persons suspected to be political thugs were arrested, for perpetrating violence at the primary elections.
IN Anambra State, at the Ekwulobia Township Stadium, venue of the APGA Anambra South Senatorial primary election, a gunman attacked the venue, with delegates running for their dear lives, with proceedings disrupted.
VIOLENCE in our electoral processes maybe consequent on the bread and butter politics practised in Nigeria where personal interests of politicians, rather than service to the people, takes centre stage. Because if it is about service to the people, violence would not be part of the equation.
BUT part of the blame also goes to the leadership of political parties , who are blindly partisan and to the nature of our politics. When the time draws near for party primaries to be conducted, politicians cross-carpet to parties where their aspirations could be better actualised, and this often generate friction as the loyal party members would have been waiting in the wings to grab the same ticket, a situation which could heat up the polity.
PEOPLE have a do or die attitude to political offices, and with that all manners of schemes and subterfuge are perpetrated in a bid to assert their will on others or express grievances are displayed, since internal party processes are distrusted, or completely disregarded.
THE flashpoints for this war-like fierce struggle at the primary election of the political parties are states or probably places where the governor at the end of his two-term want to install a successor, with resistance rising up against that within the party. Cut throat contention may ensue between the governor and those who want to throw off his political yoke.
ANOTHER reason that can be deduced for the friction that was experienced in the primaries is the fact that some legislators are out of favour with the party hierarchy but still interested in recontesting in their various constituencies.
AND there is the over monetisation of the political process, whereby aspirants sell their properties to raise the amount needed to prosecute election. This immediately raises a red flag and creates a condition where the desperation is king and anything goes, including violence towards realising an ambition.
SADLY enough, politicians through this ignoble display of mayhem have lost a window of opportunity to give a positive projection of our democracy to the international community. While we seek to attract more foreign direct investment into the country, the spate of violence witnessed in the country at the various primaries of the political parties are sending the wrong signals to the international community, which might further stifle our economic development.
It goes without saying that intra party violence does not portend well for the coming elections 2019. It will also draw the peace loving people and women away from the political processes, which would be a great disservice to the nation. And the political process cannot be described as free if marred with violence, which removes fairness from the political processes and lays a wrong foundation for the development of our democracy.
There needs to be a reversal of this trend of rancorous primaries. Everything must be done to dissuade people from self help. All violence related to election, in Nigeria should stop and it starts with the party primaries.
A solution canvassed in some quarters is to have INEC take over the conduct of party primaries. However, if the political parties that are supposed to run the nation and states are not capable of conducting their own internal affairs, able to bring together varying interests under the same roof and resolve issues amicably, with strict adherence to their own rules, how can they be trusted to handle the whole nation of state or constituency as the case may be?
Nevertheless, INEC should have a way to sanction political parties when their activities are marred with violence just as Football Associations fine football clubs when such occurs.
Political parties needs to develop ideological identities. In that case ideas take centre stage and positions do not go to the highest bidder or one in the favour of the party hierarchy or that can command the greatest violence.
The Hope calls for a full expression of internal democracy in the parties to create a level playing field for all.
Politicians should learn to play the game by the rules, canvass ideas, rather than look for money to grease pockets. Jostling for political positions should be about marketing your ideas, which would on the long run translate to development. We need to be awakened to this.
The Nigerian police also need to investigate all incidents of violence with both the perpetrators and sponsors brought to book to serve as deterrence. The police must assert its authority and not treat those who encourage violence and carry the same out with kid’s glove.
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