In the past few days, political parties in Nigeria have been conducting primary elections to choose candidates for various offices across the country. After postponements and counter-postponements, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has held its national convention, and the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) has begun screening of its presidential aspirants. As expected, there have been more than a few issues at multiple levels which the parties will now work to resolve.
A troubling trend, which is not exactly new, is the broad-day institutionalization of bribery that followed the primary elections. At all levels of government, frightening amounts of money were reported to be freely shared by aspirants to the delegates in the hours preceding the exercise. The social media was awash with reports of how some unsuccessful aspirants tried to recover their money from the delegates who failed to vote them. There was a report of how at least one candidate in the North used juju to recover nearly all his money.
Ahead of the PDP presidential primary election, tens of thousands of US Dollars were said to have been shared by the top contenders among the delegates. One account claims Atiku Abubakar paid $20,000 (12 million Naira) to each delegate, Nyesom Wike $15,000, with Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal each paying $10,000. Excluding other aspirants, this brings to $55,000 the money each national PDP delegate is rumoured to have received. Little surprise, then, that the exercise returned Atiku Abubakar, the highest bidder, as the party’s presidential candidate. Multiply that figure by 774 which was the total number of delegates and see how much was put in.
What is, perhaps, more troubling, is the attitude of common Nigerians to this shameful display of Nigeria’s nakedness. Rather than condemn the practice strongly enough to take punitive actions at the ballot against the process and its outcome, most Nigerians are cheering it like a football game. A few with social media access are running analyses based on no particular set of values or clear pathway to the nation’s future, satisfied merely with appearing to be connected to a particular candidate. All attempts by their more thoughtful countrymen to alert them to the danger of auctioning Nigeria’s presidency, are falling on deaf ears.
Sadly, among this population cheering Nigeria on her way to Golgotha are millions of young countrymen whose schools have been closed for about twelve out of the last eighteen months. Millions of others with paper qualifications have been unemployed in the last one decade of their lives. Others are employees who have worked harder, gotten promoted and earned higher pay in Naira, but their new “higher” pay is able to buy only a fraction of what their former “low” pay could buy one decade ago. In summary, they spent the last decade working harder and climbing higher in their careers in order to earn less than they earned when they started.
Our hatred for this system that hawks our collective future ought to be so unanimous that even without the Electoral Act insisting, all parties would have eliminated it on their own from the primary elections. But for now, our hatred is against the truth – against those that urge us to eliminate the delegate system and say bye to delegates who make merchandise out of the poverty of their countrymen. As long as this hatred for truth remains, genuine national development will remain a mirage, and our generation will pass without it.