By Adeoba Adeleke
South West is preparing for epic battle starting with Ekiti and Osun states in 2014. Of the two, surest bet for the Peoples Democratic Party is Osun where the state governor Mr Rauf Aregbesola is set to go the way of Chief Bisi Akande. But some lazy politicians are already working to throw spanner in the rolling wheel of victory.
The issue is there are silent agitations for the anti-democratic option of consensus to pick the party gubernatorial flag bearer. The same set of politicians behind this move were soundly beaten in the party congresses to elect leadership of the party at all levels. If a free and fair congress was held to elect party executives and the party was reunited after that, why should we be afraid of party primaries to pick our governorship candidate?
Democracy is a game of numbers. If you are politically weak as to be defeated in party leadership contest, why should we reward a set rejected by the electorate through a bogus consensus? If consensus is now adopted, what become of the group that emerged victorious at the party leadership contest? Attempts at fostering consensus in this context constitute an unacceptable threat to the democratic choice of party members at the last leadership contest.
Secondly, primary is a means of deciding the candidate choice of party members through their delegates. Consensus on the other hand confers power to determine a candidate on a clique of electorally weak politicians who have been rejected though the ballot by party members in the last leadership contest. Hence, a candidate selected through consensus cannot represent the will of party members. The consequence is that such candidate will be denied maximum support of the party`s rank and file in general elections.
Thirdly, consensus is antithetical to the rule of internal democracy which even the electoral commission is out to enforce. Rancor and acrimonies are results of lack of internal democracy. When a free and fair primary is conducted, winners and losers find it easy to reconcile and plot strategies for general elections. Real democrats are not scared of primary. In fact, primary is a test of a candidate fitness for general elections.
Fourthly, consensus encourages complacency and political inactivity. Campaigns during primary energize party base and indirectly market the aspirants to the voting public. A consensus candidate does not sweat nor is he tested in the rigors of competition. The consequence is he enters the race with a dull party base and in this case, with a base that voted against him during recent party leadership contest.
Contrastingly, candidate who emerges through a properly conducted primary has the advantage of an energized party base who accept that their choice is eventually the flag bearer. Winning the general election is thus no longer the task of the candidate alone but that of the party base who voted for him as the flag bearer. No party wins election when her members are unhappy with an imposed candidate under the guise of consensus.
Fifthly, why is primary put in the party constitution if it was not meant to be respected? The party constitution is clear and those seeking the guber tickets should be prepared for primary. In any case, whoever is afraid of primary is not fit to aspire to run for office at the general election. The reason is, he is at heart a dictator or an opportunist. He who wants to deny party members a say in the choice of their party candidate cannot and should not be trusted with the destiny of a state.
It also needs to be stated quite forcefully that the primary should not just be held but should be free and fair. In Osun PDP, the slogan is rigging is worst than murder. Team send to Osun to conduct the primary must provide level playing field as any attempt to rig the contest will be severely resisted. Here the national leaders of the party may want to excuse any officer with interest in Osun on the ground of bias. This is natural thing to do as nobody should be allowed to be a judge in a matter in which he is a player.
Another observation is that the fear of primary leading to factionalisation is unfounded. If it were so, how come Osun PDP is the best and the most harmonious in the South West despite holding competitive congress? States which adopted consensus in leadership choice are today deeply factionalized. Primary does not led to crises; it is imposition through consensus that breeds bad blood.
On last note, let me say the PDP is on the road to retaken Osun state from the Lagos boys. But we must watch it. Consensus will destroy rather than advance the party’s bid for a win. By favoring political dullness to activism which primary represents, consensus will weaken the PDP in the battle against A C N.
Victory against the Lagos boys in 2014 is assured once party members are allowed to vote for their flag bearer in the election. Any other option may spell doom for the party in 2014.
Adeleke, Ede, Osun state