I must point out ab initio that these are mere projections, albeit based on the analyses of facts gleaned from the current realistic political actors, processes, and environments. They do not represent the objective political realities of the future. There may be deviations and minor differences between these forecasts and actual events in the future, but I am bold to state that the differences may not be significant.
You could call it premonitions, dreams, forecasts, or revelations. I have a clear guesstimate of possible scenarios that will shape our political future and help us understand better what will most likely happen before, during, and after the 2023 elections in Nigeria. I have untangled the scenarios into four different periods or eras because the 2023 elections would be more of a process than a panoply of events. The first era under projection is the congresses and conventions of the two major political parties, which will lead to the emergence of the party executives who will midwife the party conventions that will produce the presidential candidates. The second era will be the party conventions/primaries, where the candidates who will fly the flags of the different political parties would be selected. The third era is the campaign period and the elections proper. The fourth era would be the post-election period, involving the many dramas played by the gladiators who win or lose. The different periods or eras are being viewed from optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic prisms.
In the three-part article series that will appear in this column within the next three weeks, I will share the different scenarios I saw in my “dreams” and the implications for the future of our country and its development trajectory. Each week’s article will develop each of the eras mentioned above and explore the possible scenarios, given the existing political actors, environments, and realities. Although we agree that the future is unknown and a day in politics is like a thousand days elsewhere, the pattern and critical trends emerging can help politically discerning persons decipher and navigate the future, pre- and post- the 2023 elections.
I must point out ab initio that these are mere projections, albeit based on the analyses of facts gleaned from the current realistic political actors, processes, and environments. They do not represent the objective political realities of the future. There may be deviations and minor differences between these forecasts and actual events in the future, but I am bold to state that the differences may not be significant. History does not suggest that anybody can predict future political events with precision, as there are constantly intervening variables. These scenarios will map political scenes and help people to make sense of the unfolding political permutations and intrigues that would follow in the next few months.
The congresses and national conventions of the political parties in Nigeria to elect party officers, especially those of the two major political parties, are usually intricate, tense, ding-dong affairs, which are full of intrigues, horse-trading, alliances, and betrayals. In recent years in Nigeria, the national conventions of the major political parties have been about power blocs and dress rehearsals in the battle for presidential tickets, rather than the desires or ideological leanings of individual delegates.
The substantial nexus between democracy and party politics means that the congresses/conventions set the tone for the future of political parties and invariably that of the country, when any of them is elected to power. The degree of the democratic process applied in electing party officials and the quality of these officials determine the party’s organisational capacity, resilience, inclusiveness, and commitment to democratic rules.
For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the congresses/national conventions to elect party officers would likely indicate what lies ahead for democracy in the country and perhaps the sustainability of the entire Nigerian entity. Supposing the two parties continue with their lack of internal democracy, the imposition of party officials and the permission of vested interests to keep exploiting the narrow ethnic, geo-regional, religious, or other primordial considerations of their representatives to gain ascendancy in the party. In that case, they may invariably be singing the nunc dimittis for the parties and, by extension, democracy in Nigeria.
The first step towards the congresses is usually the selection or election of delegates for the congresses/ national conventions. Each of the political parties has carefully laid down procedures on how delegates are chosen or elected. But in most cases, influential party leaders who are connected, officeholders, the rich and powerful, manipulate this process to their advantage. We have seen instances where officeholders and governors literarily appoint all party delegates and officials, instead of the party men and women electing officials. This anomaly gives enormous powers and undue advantage to officeholders, and party leaders, especially the governors, and makes the congresses/conventions look more like coronation events, rather than the elections of party leaders.
The second scenario is that key leaders of the parties, very often potential candidates and those with connection to major power brokers, due to their economic powers or perceived influence, will hijack the political processes in the name of arriving at “consensus” or the “preferred slate”, and these would lead some governors to revolt.
In most cases, the party leaders elected or appointed are a pointer to who would become the presidential candidate, senators, and members of the House of Representatives, at the federal level and governorship candidates and legislators at the state level, and from which zones these leadership positions will rise from. It means that having been elected, a party’s leaders make it a duty to ensure that their sponsors and preferred aspirants become the party candidates, either by hook or by crook. This is often the root of the internal conflict in political parties.
For the two major political parties’ congresses/ national conventions, I foresee internal implosions if they continue with the culture of the imposition of candidates and the lack of internal democracy in whatever guise. The two major political parties will be holding their national conventions to elect new party executives by the last quarter of 2021/the first quarter of 2022. Three possible scenarios will play out in the APC and PDP. The first scenario is that governors, due to their powers of patronage, access to state purses and collegiate arrangement, may hijack the process and put together executives that will serve their interests or aspirations, to the exclusion of the major political actors. There will be a high level of rumbling among the different power blocs and different potential aspirants within the parties, most of whom will lose out.
The second scenario is that key leaders of the parties, very often potential candidates and those with connection to major power brokers, due to their economic powers or perceived influence, will hijack the political processes in the name of arriving at “consensus” or the “preferred slate”, and these would lead some governors to revolt. For instance, in the PDP, a rich South-South governor may lead one bloc, while a former presidential candidate may lead another bloc and some other governors would lead a third bloc. The APC may witness the emergence of three power blocs, one led by politicians with solid connections to the presidency; another by a rich, powerful former governor of Lagos State, and the third being the majority of governors elected on the platform of the APC, jostling for control of the party’s soul.
The third scenario is that the parties would allow for transparent popular internal elections, leading to the emergence of acceptable candidates who will best represent the interest of the party’s grassroots and are in tune with the parties’ ideologies. This scenario is the most unlikely. Unfortunately, we do not have a culture of internal democracy, which is the primary factor leading to persistent intra-party conflict, so I do not see the third scenario playing out.
Further analyses of the scenarios above indicate that the emergence of the first and second scenarios means that a power bloc or two will lose out, and, by extension, their chances of surviving as candidates in 2023 are almost nil. Any power bloc that loses may leave the party to look for other platforms to pursue their interest. The above may provide the basis for new internal party conflicts and many court cases to address the perceived injustices arising from the non-conduct of proper congresses.
Meanwhile, the party officials who will emerge from the congresses/conventions will owe their loyalty to a few persons within a clique and may not command the respect of the majority of party members. This anomaly will be the first sign of party implosion before the 2023 elections. Two pertinent rhetorical questions jump to mind: With no transparent internal democracy in the parties, what are the implications for democracy and party politics in Nigeria? What will be the implications of a sudden implosion of the parties on our political landscape?
If we must get it right in 2023, if the political parties will be vital to the strengthening of democracy and our democracy is to continue to thrive, the signpost would come from the conduct of the party congresses/ conventions this year and early 2022. All the political actors must ensure that parties conduct their congresses with utmost transparency and integrity.
One may postulate with a high degree of certainty the following surmised circumstances: First, the earlier the congresses and conventions occur, the more likely the major parties will splinter before the 2023 elections. Second, positioning the geopolitical zones that will produce the presidential candidates will be vital in deciding the area the national chairpersons of the respective parties will come from, and even the future of the parties, since there is an apparent North/South divide. Third, both parties may encounter one common problem: They pathologically have no respect for their own rules. Fourth, the parties do not have the institutional resilience to survive upheavals among their key stakeholders, as the parties are weaker than their principals. Fifth, crises will define the party congresses/conventions season, while the judiciary will preside over the mayhem with potential risk to the judiciary’s reputation.
I advise that the leadership of the parties should do everything possible, as provided in their respective party constitutions and guidelines, to have transparent congresses/conventions that substantially reflect popular sentiments. Doing this will strengthen the parties and, by extension, democracy.
Whichever scenario plays out, the emergent party leaders from the congresses/conventions, no matter the imperfections of the processes that brought them in, should ensure that all uphold the rules and tenets of the parties in all subsequent primary elections and conventions. Their allegiance should be to their parties and the country and not to any vested interest or whoever was instrumental in their emergence as party officials.
As the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), empowered by law to monitor the congresses, should be firm in enforcing the rules and more proactive in the performance of their duties. They should ensure that the congresses follow the guidelines enshrined in the constitutions and bylaws of the political parties. INEC should never be a tool used in manipulating the outcome of congresses, as may have been the case in the past.
The Nigerian judiciary has a role to play in the process. In the book How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, one of the conclusions is that bad politics and polarisation weakens the judiciary and media more than anyone can imagine. Post congress litigations in Nigeria have seen contradictory rulings and pronouncements by courts of coordinate jurisdiction. These poor judgements convolute the system and leave the reputation of the judiciary in tatters. The judges should rise above pettiness and brigandage. The National Judicial Council should ensure that no judge gets away with judicial rascality.
If we must get it right in 2023, if the political parties will be vital to the strengthening of democracy and our democracy is to continue to thrive, the signpost would come from the conduct of the party congresses/ conventions this year and early 2022. All the political actors must ensure that parties conduct their congresses with utmost transparency and integrity. For herein might lie the fate of our democracy and the republic.
Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert.
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