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Nasir El-Rufai: Reform of Political Party Primaries in Nigeria

Nasir El-Rufai: Reform of Political Party Primaries in Nigeria

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Published by elrufaidotorg
This paper on reforms to political parties' primary elections in Nigeria was presented by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai on Jan. 25, 2012 to the Alliance for Credible Elections.
This paper on reforms to political parties' primary elections in Nigeria was presented by Mallam Nasir El-Rufai on Jan. 25, 2012 to the Alliance for Credible Elections.

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Published by: elrufaidotorg on Jan 31, 2012
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BY:NASIR AHMAD EL-RUFAI, OFRCongress for Progressive Change, AbujaWEDNESDAY, 25TH JANUARY, 2012
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I thank you for inviting me to this august gathering in January. I appreciate yourconcern for the tragedy that befell my humble self and family at the twilight of last yearwhen my beloved daughter, Yasmin suddenly passed on.The theme of this discussion is centered on the
Reformation of political party primariesin Nigeria
. It is worthy to note that the focus is timely considering that 2012 and nextyear is a period when issues of political party candidature and elections into the office ofgovernors in at least five states of the country are at front and centre.Before dwelling on the nucleus of the discussion, there is need for us to elaboratelydescribe some of the elements profound in the tenets for political primaries viz-a-vizelectoral processes in Nigeria. Important to note are: What is a political party? And whatdo political party primaries represent? How can the primaries system be refomed?
Political Party 
A political party could be defined as “…An organisation of voters formed to influence thegovernment
s conduct and policies by nominating and electing candidates to publicoffice”
.The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, gives primacyto political parties as the veritable platform for constituting political leadership. TheConstitution provides thus:
“…No association, other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or to the election expenses of any candidate at an election.” 
Sections 222 & 223 of the Constitution elucidate further on the criteria for the formationof political parties and the rules through which they (parties) must be run. While section225 of the Constitution lays down the portal for the financing of political parties; section224 explicitly requires that the aims and objectives of political parties must be inconformity with Chapter II of the Constitution which contains provisions relating tofundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy. Although it has beenargued at some quarters that provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution are ordinarilynon-justice-able except when raised in relation to other specific provisions of theConstitution, the requirement of section 224 mandating a conformity with the chapter is
Black’s Law Dictionary, 8
Edition, page 1197.
S.221, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.
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an exemplification of the fact that the crucifix of good governance remains strictly with aproperly constituted political party which would in turn constitute government at alllevels.
Political Party Primaries 
What political party primaries entail are detailed in the provisions of the Electoral Act2010
, as amended. The Act classifies political party primaries into two: Direct andIndirect.The direct primaries involve a process whereby all aspirants are given equal opportunityof being voted for DIRECTLY by registered members of the party
. This direct primariessystem is the practice in the United States, where registered Republicans, Democratsand even Independents vote directly for aspirants, or in caucuses in a minority of states.In this primaries system, aspirants appeal directly to voters and their preferences ratherthan party apparatchiks.This is the most democratic system of candidate selection, and makes the membershipof the party the truly supreme organ of the party
. Sadly, as a result of the penchant ofour political leaders to micro-manage the primaries, this option is hardly ever adopted bythe parties because of the possibility of the process getting out of the control of the
political god-fathers
.Indirect primaries on the other hand, simply connote a delegate conference at variouslevels at different dates with a possible grand finale at a specified date. This is theoption most favoured by political parties in Nigeria and it is the groundswell of politicalintrigues resulting in bribery, intimidation of delegates and ultimately swapping ofcandidates with the plethora of court cases that have characterized our political culturein recent times.Perhaps because of the susceptibility of the indirect primaries to manipulation by partyleaders, the Electoral Act specifies a detailed procedure for the implementation of thesystem
. Indirect primaries give party apparatchiks more leeway to determine outcomesof electoral contests and encourage the imposition of the will of the party leadership onthe membership.
Electoral Act 2010, S. 87
Ibid, S.87 (3).
Only our party the CPC attempted direct primaries in the 2011 election cycle, and had to abort it due to the absenceof an accurate and reliable membership register.
Ibid, S.87 (4).

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Sir May God continue toguide you in all your undertaking in life Ameen Thanks for your encouragement to the teaming populace of our great nation (Nigeria)

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