In a nutshell, it is the ‘Con’ aspect of the ‘Census’ of opinion that explains the popularity of consensus type of primaries which is subject to manipulation by vested interests who had hitherto engaged in fraudulent election practices via ballot box snatching and stuffing; writing of results with hijacked sensitive and critical election result sheets before elections are conducted ; and abduction of election umpires such as returning officers who are placed under duress to append their signatures to the fake results , sometimes at gunpoint, to subvert the will of voters.
The foregoing perfidious acts were the hallmarks of previous electioneering processes and the factors responsible for the mooring of Nigeria’s political ship in shallow waters, instead of sailing in the ocean of political evolution, as it should, after over sixty (60) years of independence continuous practice of a democratic system of governance, back-to-back since 1999.
But following the recent improvements in the process of political leadership recruitment, arising from the reform of the electoral process that was last reviewed in 2010, culminating in the electoral act 2022, as reflected by the introduction of technologically driven electronic elements in voters’ accreditation and voting processes, such as the reliance on BVN, BVAS and electronic transmission of results from polling units to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC database, the aforementioned vices that enabled rigging that negatively impacted election outcomes have been effectively eliminated. And, just as the benefits of the positive values in the electoral reforms are about to be reaped, the process that is the most amenable to manipulation, which is election the consensus process, instead of direct or indirect primaries, is currently the most attractive to politicians for exploitation with magnetic force and in a manner that bees are attracted to honey, butterflies to nectar and monkeys to banana. While the PDP convention was conducted via consensus, it is on record that only the position of the secretary of the party was contested through an indirect primary as the candidates for that position failed to be persuaded by party leaders to step down for one or the other. Similarly, the APC convention was basically a carbon copy of the PDP one. The only exception is that more offices were competed for by the candidates who exercised their rights not to step down for ‘anointed’ candidates, rather, opted to slug it out via balloting.
My understanding is that the number of positions in that category is in excess of ten (10). As things currently stand, political radars and indicators suggest a consensus process would most likely be the preferred option for the conduct of primaries by both the ruling party at the center, APC, and the main opposition party, PDP. Clearly, owing to its susceptibility to abuse, the consensus method of producing candidates by political parties for general elections would most likely be brought back to the drawing board for further improvements during the next round of electoral reforms, very likely in the lifespan of the tenth (10th) assembly which commences after May 29, 2023. The aim would be to make the votes of the majority of party members count, in order to further confer integrity on the process of electing public officers in our beloved Nigeria, in pursuit of our quest for the practice and entrenchment of liberal democracy, which we have for too long been craving in our clime. Hopefully, that would be in addition to the introduction of electronic voting, voting by mail, and diaspora voting which are further improvements that would make the process more transparent and boost the quality of our electioneering process. And it is likely that in the course of the next political dispensation, (2023/27) the lack of financial resources to fund direct and indirect primaries and the frightening level of insecurity in the north that could expose voters in the north to the risks of attack by terrorists, bandits or outlaws, which are the factors cited by president Buhari for rejecting the proposal by the National Assembly, NASS for direct primaries to be the sole process of producing candidates by political parties, and the reason for consensus candidacy becoming the favorite option for current political actors, would have abated as our economy might have rebounded and the sordid state of insecurity in our country would have also recorded improvements-all things being equal.