By Valentine Ayika, Esq
The Laws Regulating Primary Elections
Elections, both primary and general, in Nigeria are regulated, majorly, by the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is the body Constitutionally empowered to organise and supervise general elections. The body is also vested with powers to monitor political party congresses/primaries.
By section 87 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010, the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for various elective positions shall be either by direct or indirect primaries. The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, by its Constitution adopted the indirect primaries which implies that only a selected few, in form of an electoral college, votes to nominate the party’s candidates.
This electoral college is comprised of the state and Local Government officers, 5 principal officers in each of the 326 wards, 3 adhoc delegates elected at a congress from each of the wards in the state and the automatic delegates. The automatic or super delegates are members of the party that are occupying or that have occupied certain elective positions in the party or at the state or national levels.
For Anambra state the state, Local Government and the 5 principal officers were part of the ward executives elected during the party’s congresses in 2017. Since then there has been lots of litigations challenging the outcome of the congresses which has given rise to factions within the state chapter of the party.
The battle for legitimacy by the different factions necessitated the institution of various suits at different courts which unfortunately have given numerous conflicting judgments on the matter. It is on record that there are 4 judgments on the same subject matter by 4 different courts of coordinate jurisdictions. The recently elected adhoc delegates for the governorship primary election got entangled in the controversy as the actors in the processes that led to their emergence may have been affected by any of the judgments.
Worthy of mention at this stage is that by certain provisions of our Constitution, electoral laws and guidelines for general elections some activities in the chain of events that leads up to the general election are time bound in that specified periods for certain activities or deadlines for particular stages of the election processes must be complied with. For example the INEC guidelines for the 2021 Anambra Governorship election the prescribed for 1st July 2021 as the last day for primary election while the last day for submission of names and particulars of candidates by political parties is 9th July 2021. Any omission or noncompliance with any of these dates disqualifies the political party from fielding a candidate in the election.
The Party’s Enabling Law
PDP had notified INEC of its intention to conduct primary election on the 26th June 2021 with statutory and adhoc delegates as contained in its Constitution but confronted with the conflicting court judgments, their far and near implications coupled with the unchangeable deadlines within which the party must conduct its primary election and submit the particulars of its candidate, the party was left with limited options.
Among the few options was the dissolution of the executive committee, discarding of the use of the adhoc delegates the two groups haven been affected one way or another by the said conflicting judgments. In the midst of the dilemma the party invoked section 31 of its Constitution which allows it to use automatic delegates as a last resort.
Incitement Of The Delegates
Expectedly, the constituents of the electoral college who had looked forward to the primary election would be upset for been excluded eventually. This said, the question now is, who should they be angry with or at whom should their anger be directed? One of the former aspirants in the primary election, has been inciting the delegates against the party leadership and the candidate of party through a narrative that their exclusion was deliberate and unjustifiable.
The narrative is totally wrong and packaged for selfish interest. For a particular former aspirant stories from the grave vine has it that he wants to decamp to another party. So his antics and ultimate goal is to convince the former delegates through his concocted narrative and incitement to decamp with him since he has no political structure. A desperate attempt to reap where he didn’t sow.
Who Is To Blame
Coming back to the question, at whom should the delegates direct their anger. The answer to the question lies in the event that prompted the party to opt for automatic delegates against the earlier planned use of statutory and adhoc delegates. As stated earlier the decision was occasioned by the conflicting Court judgments. But the suits that brought about the conflicting court judgments were instituted by some members of the party. The initiators of these suits and the courts are to be blamed for the party’s last minute decision to use super delegates for the primary election. The situation was so dicey that the party had to take the difficult and unpalatable decision in order to avoid a subsequent voiding of its primary election. So the party did what it has to do to avoid been caught up in the web of the conflicting Judicial pronouncements.
The Way Forward
The way forward is for the party leaders at different levels, the stakeholders and the candidate to, as a matter of urgency, convene meetings of the delegates to explain to them the real reasons for the last minute decision to exclude them from the primary.
As the saying goes problem discussed is problem half solved. The dissolved delegates must attend the meetings with open minds, they should not direct their anger at the party or the candidate. Especially at the candidate who, as public information has it, went the extra mile in his quest for the dissolved delegates to be part of the event.
The delegates should not hold grudges for too long and against the wrong persons as by so doing the party may not do well in the general election. Among others, they need full information on the future plans of the party and how they will participate in the whole processes leading up to the general election.
Though Valentine Ozigbo, the party’s candidate, has the onerous responsibility of leading the post primary unification drive of the party, a venture which he has commenced in earnest and with all sense of sincerity and purpose by way of town hall meetings with the former statutory and ad-hoc delegates of the party soon after his victory.
It is also incumbent and desirous of all the leaders and stakeholders of our party at all levels to put in all possible efforts to reorient, reinvigorate and redirect the sense of belonging and loyalty of these party foot soldiers to work together towards achieving our common goal. At the end of the day, a victory for the party is a victory for all of us. Let us remember that if we fail to work with common intent and purpose we will fail and when we fail the greatest losers will be the present and future generations of Anambra State.