Samuel Bayo ArowolajuSaturday, March 15, 2014
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sing a consensus approach to picking a candidate for a general or any election should not be so problematic. But the problem is when you find party leaders who should be unbiased umpires being on the pay roll of aspirants or their sponsors, or when members of executives of the parties taking monetary or vehicular gifts from aspirants or their sponsors. Then how can they, like Caesar's wife, be above board. In those situations, not only is conscience and hearts sold; transparency, integrity and objectivity are traded-on items of virtue.

There must be transparency, free accessibility and level playing ground for all who cares to show interest without been encumbered by draconic conditions that is seen as against the principle of open electoral franchise like the payment of Eleven Million Naira (N11 Million). Poll tax or any form of monetary considerations has long been abolished as conditions for franchise. If we are charging aspirants so high, for party forms, how much are we expecting the electorate to charge the candidates for their votes? We should start to deemphasize the place of money in our politicking. What is the outcome in Anambra state where the PDP collected the same Eleven Naira from their aspirants? It was avoidable disaster and electoral failure for the party!

Rather than setting monetary standards for electoral issues, there are better political and value standards from which the parties, aspirants, candidates, the electorate and the generality of the people can benefit from. Rather than deliberately placing unnecessary hurdles on the ways and aspirations of the aspirants, we should add value to the whole process that produce a candidate that is capable of bringing electoral values and victories to governance and the party.

It is a fact that individuals don't contest elections in Nigeria but political parties do. Therefore, the whole process should lead to producing a candidate that would win the next election for the party, whose flag is flown by the candidate. Then, the criteria for selecting a candidate should emphasize on those virtues and values that drive a candidate toward achieving that winning goal. To this end, the political party should be the sole determinant of who flies its flag. The following are examples:

Ability to win election: The cardinal goal of a political party is to win an election. This is easily factored into the electoral history of the aspirants. An aspirant who has repeatedly contested and lost elections should not be preferred to the one who has the winning historical capacity. Or an aspirant in whose constituency the party has never won an election will be more risky to present for election than those whose constituency has always been a safe seat for the party. This will be in tandem with the views of the President, His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan that an aspirant for a governorship election should be able to deliver his local government. This can easily be measured by the performance of the party in each of the aspirant's local government in the last governorship election and the electoral history of the aspirant him/herself. So, very critical and crucial a criterion is the performance of the party and the aspirant in the last gubernatorial election in the ward, constituencies and local governments of the aspirants.

Loyalty to the Party: This is very sacrosanct. This can easily be measured in the number of years the aspirant has been in the party without deflecting to another party and returning to the party. Aspirants who only return every four year to contest elections may not be the best option for the party. A man who ran away from his house when the roof is leaking in the rain should have no place to return to after the rain. How do we compensate such a man and leave behind another who endured the rain, to mend his roof and put his house in order. Simply a man who has shown ten years or more dedication and loyalty to the party deserves the ticket of the party more than those who runs in and out at will. If the platform had been destroyed before he came back, there would be nowhere to come back to and run for an election.

The Aspirant: Who is this aspirant in the eyes of the electorate and the party? His personality, his character, credibility, strength, weakness, experience in previous positions held if any at all and other personality profiles of the aspirant that would make him acceptable to the electorate or not. The position for contest is the governor of a state and not the MD or CEO of a company. So, political management experience here should carry more weight than business management experience. For instance, the very germane questions may be: does the aspirant have experience in the executive, legislative, judiciary and party arms or departments of government? We have governors who are very brilliant, aristocratic, and with sound business management experiences but who cannot relate amicably with the legislative arm or who alienated himself from the political party that made him, thereby causing disaffection and crisis in his own government.

Ability to defeat the incumbent: I shy away from saying ability to confront the opponent, which really is what is necessary in winning election. No army general wins a battle by only perfecting his defensive mechanism at the expense of a strategic attack. In all ramifications, the aspirant to be pick must be everything equal to if not better than the incumbent or the opponent to make any meaningful impact and win an election without a run over.

The above are just some of the criteria that are very crucial and the 'cannot do without' for a successful process for picking a candidate for election using a consensus approach. Money is essential only if it will lead to picking the best and not when it scares the best aspirant away. Unfortunately money is fast replacing the ballot in Nigeria both in inter and intra party political contests. We now found governors in poor states borrowing money to have reserves to fund elections. Otherwise what is the sense or rational for a governor budgeting a whooping Ten Billion Naira (N10Billon) just for the day of election for what they now call See Money and Vote (SMV)? By this, party agents are strategically place on the day of election to identify and pay voters who voted for their party. Payment ranges from N1,000 to N5,000 or more. This is the amount of money that is more than spent on Education or Health and other capital projects in four years.

I am a democrat, yet, I make bold to say that the political parties in Nigeria should use more of consensus approach to selecting their flag bearers than the corrupt, unethical and do or die so- called primaries. Primaries in Nigeria are the most unfree and unfair elections and the major source of political corruption. Imagine aspirants who cannot meet their immediate family needs going to borrow to buy party intention forms for Eleven Million Naira (N11 ml.). That is serious!

To those leaving outside Nigeria, and especially in the US, please forget for now, the vibrant campaigns and debates you see in party primaries here, In Nigeria it is not delegate primaries but money primaries. To your surprise, the money is fast changing from Naira to Dollar primaries, which has become the cause and source of many crimes like drug trafficking, kidnapping, bunkering or crude oil theft. What kind of democracy is where you find just one drug baron funding a whole regional election and where he is not a candidate? I am told that primaries are won not by the best candidate but by the highest bidder, where delegates including special or elected ones suddenly get rich quick by selling themselves to the highest bidder (and often time multiple buyers) like rams and turkeys at Ileya and Christmas festivals.

This is also the source and cause of many in-fighting at state executives and national working committees of many political parties because many party officials even at ward levels are in the pay rolls of aspirants and even the opposition. This is where you have aspirants who do not work for their money being able to pay as much as N500, 000 per delegate for a day's job of voting; thereby spending billions for elections. With the level of poverty on the streets of Nigeria now, very many delegates or voters will easily fall for that. After all, 'where is conscience and integrity when am hungry', they will tell you.

By extension, this is the major cause and source of corruption in governance. Haven spent so much to get to the office, the next and best thing to do is to get their Return on Investment as soon as they settle down to looting without working. Where you see them work, you see them executing projects that can easily and quickly hide their loots. You will therefore see why the cost of governance is too high in Nigeria.

My suggestion. Jettison the primaries, set acceptable objective criteria through an independent political consultant in which even aspirants will be able to help in objectively scoring themselves without bias and therefore picking the best candidate. Money does not matter anymoreafter all, it is the political parties and donors who fund the actual general elections.

Dr. Bayo Arowolaju is a political analyst and consultant based in United States of America.