Imposition of candidates by godfathers and ‘owners’ of political parties has cost political parties easy victory; political leaders fortunes, while the handpicked candidates have suffered unexpected humiliating defeats. Signs are, from the recent elections and party primaries, some political leaders especially in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) have not learnt their lessons from previous consequences of deliberate imposition of candidates and impunity.
The failure of leaderships of parties to strengthen internal democracy and the spirit of fair play has become a clog in the wheel success of political parties in Nigeria. The failure or success of a party in an election is partly decided right from the process of electing its flag-bearers for various elective offices.
Right thinking party leaders who revere party supremacy work hard to give every candidate interested in an elective office the opportunity to test his or her popularity from the grassroots via party primaries. Candidates who emerge from transparent party primaries are always popular and can easily get votes without hustle while handpicked candidates most times appear lackey and clueless even during campaigns. Moreover, they most times lose elections with devastating result.
Often times, handpicked candidates, who by providence, win elections end up turning their backs against their godfathers and also perform poorly in office because they lack zeal and do not have masses’ interest in their thinking.
A major negative consequence of imposing candidates is that the godfathers end up losing followers, long term political fortunes and become berated in public view when their candidates fail.
Imposing candidates also hurts the system. A political analyst Prince Oliver Okpala said “The spate of imposition across Nigeria political parties dampen the morale of members. It is a practice that is capable of shaking the belief of members in their party and in its internal mechanisms. It is a direct affront to democracy which reduces the game of polities to a process of sheer selection, godfatherism, favouritism and particularism. No doubt, this is a total threat to our fledgling democracy”
Party leaders and presidential hopefuls like President Muhammad Buhari, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Sule Lamido should stand firm and help their parties to produce popular candidates through free and fair primaries especially at their local bases. This will close avenues for intra party fights and bad blood among disciples while also strengthening their local and national outlook.
Serious political leaders desiring to make strong impact in the 2019 politics and beyond should have learnt their lessons from the 2015 elections. Despite their masters’ vast war-chests, incumbencies, sterling performance and the unexplained Buhari tsunami, most handpicked candidates, especially governorship flag bearers suffered humiliating defeats- because they were not products of popular choice.
The 2019 battle ground in most states of the federation, especially some northern states will be very interesting and highly competitive, because majority of the people will not vote just for political parties or godfathers but candidates. So, many non-performing governors will hope opposition parties handpick candidates, as this means they have an unpopular opponent thus boosting their chances of keeping their seats.
The 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections were won and lost because of the power of incumbency and political and financial war-chest. The 2015 elections was won and lost solely because of popular discontent and supremacy of peoples’ votes. However, most candidates that were imposed lost the elections. Performance, internal party democracy and popularity of candidates will determine who gets what in the 2019 election.