Come February 2019, Nigerians will be offered yet another opportunity to exercise their civil rights – to vote candidates of their choice into elective offices. The political parties would have concluded their internal election (or selection, as is currently the case in most political parties) process and thereafter, presented their candidates to the Nigerian voting public to vote for who they want in the legislative and executive (state and federal) offices on offer.
I am concerned that we may have gotten our goal for our democratic process misplaced. The main purpose of a democratic process is to enable us put into elective offices citizens we believe are of great vision, courage, character and ambition, to entrust them with the apparatus of government for our development.
The focus is always on having the right person in office and though credible election is a means to achieving the goal, it is not the goal itself. Credible elections have several examples of producing incompetent leaders as seen in some developed nations with centuries of democracy currently facing serious crises. Over the years, these countries (like us) have emphasised the electoral process and not the candidate process, which is the problem.
When we consider the enormous task confronting us as a nation and the limited resources to address these problems, there is an urgent need for focus to not be limited to the elections phase of the democratic process but also the phase that produces the candidates.
The question then is how do we ensure credible candidates are presented to the electorate at elections?
Become a Party Member: This is the first step to participating in the process that determines the party candidate. Party membership is so crucial to ensuring the quality of leaders we produce in our political scene is excellent. We cannot continue to sit back and allow the membership of our political parties to be dominated by people of questionable character.
A key reason why people with the qualities needed avoid politics and do not contest elections is because they don’t see the majority of the political party members as people of like minds. This has to change urgently and if we don’t like the setup in the main political parties, we can start new ones with like minds. This urgent appeal goes particularly to the class of citizens we call the Technocrats. It is time they lead political parties, not just get invited to serve in a government.
This is so crucial because members of a political party can influence the party leadership, party candidates, party policies, party members in government and most certainly, the destiny of the nation. The change we seek in our government must first happen in our political parties.
All of the leading political parties in Nigeria can be changed through more Nigerians becoming members of these parties. Only then can credible people be attracted or nurtured and supported for elective offices.
When a motor park tout or a secondary school dropout is a party member, you can also expect other touts and dropouts to be attracted into the party. The end result will be touts and dropouts standing for elections and/or determining who stands for elections. The reverse is the case when we have more educated and enlightened Nigerians in good number.
Party Leadership: Advocating mass involvement of Nigerians in political parties should not only be limited to just party membership. We have to become actively involved in the party activities up to the point of becoming a party leader at federal, state, local government and ward levels. It is not just our political offices that need visionary leadership but also our political parties. In fact, I believe the visionary leadership must first be seen in a political party before it is seen in political offices.
The key essence of participation in the leadership of the party is to ensure the protection of party policies; ensure efficiency and transparency in the party’s organisation and activities; encourage and sustain internal democracy; develop, model and mentor future party leaders; attract more like minds to the party; and provide effective monitoring of party men and women in political offices.
Party Primaries Process: One of the key benefits of our getting involved in our political parties is the opportunity to participate in the party primaries from the local to the state and federal levels.
If we remember that it is the party primaries that will determine the candidate we will vote for at the general election, we would appreciate how important it is to participate in this process. One of the main reasons why credible people lose party primaries and become discouraged (not to mention the rest of us who see the situation as hopeless as a result) is because of the questionable characters who populate our political parties and as such become the delegates that vote at the party primaries.
We also witness the lack of internal democracy in our political parties because these sort of members do not care about their right to choose a candidate but believe that the party leader is wise enough to know what will be good for the party at the elections and in the political office. They are just content to receive money from the candidates.
Our democracy will only grow when party members are allowed to assess, deliberate hard enough and then decide which candidate to vote for in the party primaries. Our participation will encourage this within our parties and this will enable credible candidates win primaries more easily thereby providing the voting public the best materials at the elections
Mobilisation of Others: When more Nigerians get involved in our political parties, we will experience the mobilisation of many more Nigerians of like minds, especially the younger generation.
Mobilisation should not be limited to adults but also Nigerian youths in secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Nigeria as a nation would also benefit immensely when men and women in their twenties already have proven leadership experience through well mentored programmes.
The result will be credible candidates and since youths are the core group with innovative ideas, their active involvement will lead political parties to innovate and offer our nation leaders with new approaches to solving national issues.
One of the main reasons why ‘godfatherism’ exists and thrives in our political parties is the lack of quality party members and it is the influence of these godfathers that dissuades a lot of qualified people from joining the political parties.
We are more than them, so let’s join in and liberate our political parties because if we don’t, they will continue to run our political parties and the government of our nation. We have seen where it has gotten us so far.
We cannot afford to see our political parties as something outside our realm of control. If we can start up an association or group and make it run successfully for years with numerous activities, then we can easily join a political party, get involved in its leadership and all party activities that will produce credible citizens at elections.
With participation of more Nigerians in our political parties, we can shift the focus of our politics to ideas on how to position Nigeria in a fast changing global economy.
We must act now to ensure that come 2019 (and beyond), our political parties and the quality of candidates would have changed significantly for the better.