Opinion

Politics Of Everyone Matters

By Raymond Bemseer Magen

The politics of inclusion; of consultations; of participatory democracy; of majority will and minority say. The politics that recognizes that everyone is a stake holder. One gets the sense, these phrases are dedicated to throwing more light at the caption.

It’s strange that, at the height of the national clamour for free and fair elections, political parties, to varying degrees, seem to carry on as though they are insulated from such clamour. The arrogant posturing however, fails to recognize legislative efforts at taming the prevalence of unrestrained malfeasance that’s seemingly a given at party primary elections – especially in the states.

Hitertho, an avalanche of court verdicts have stood against one who is of another political party, questioning in court, the manner of emergence of a candidate in another party. Locus standi and meddlesome interloper, quickly became popular phrases amongst us lay men, as judges took turns to base dismissal of petitions on those grounds. Party lords went to sleep in the the mistaken belief of perpetuity in status quo as it were.

Thankfully, there are a number of interesting verdicts of court, now allowing so called third parties to sue and even go on to win such cases when proven. Only yesterday in Cross River, a Federal High “Court ruled that APC has locus to challenge the nomination of the Labour Party candidate. It held that, as at the time Labour Party submitted its register to INEC, the Labour Party Senatorial candidate for Cross River South Senatorial District, Rt. Hon. Daniel Effiong was still in the PDP, contesting for governorship ticket.” David Mzer.

Clearly, this forces the hands of dictatorial party men to be more observant of the laws and rules governing party exercises. Having hopefully dispatched the issue of locus standi and meddlesome interloper, let’s pointedly dwell on the party with the most court cases against it by her own members, in Benue State. It’s the easiest guess for any Benue person on what party is referred to here.

The court is the last hope of the common man. The last resort. Before that, there are a host of possible interventions and avenues for ventilation of grievances in compliance with the doctrine of ripeness.

When party aspirants eventually head to court, it’s not only that they were simply dissatisfied with the manner of conduct of party primary as it relates to the laws governing such exercise. While that is usually the remote cause, it’s often the case that, the absence of sincere mediation, the dismissive posturing from the perpetrators or beneficiaries of such malfeasance, the refusal to do the right thing where the time is available, are mostly the final motivating factors nudging one in the direction of the last resort.

For instance, just after the purported APC primaries in Benue State, folks close to those who call the shots in APC, went on a social media rampage name calling everyone genuinely hurt by the process and who had dared to air their misgivings.

In contrast, at the Government House occupied by Governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP, the Governor kept holding meetings with ALL PDP aspirants. Many of them, I didn’t even know were in the race for any position. Still, they matter and because they matter, they were always invited for meetings that included dialogue towards accepting the verdict of the zoning committee while recognizing their right to disregard same and contest in a party primary by the rules. Today, the party‘s gubernatorial candidate is spared the worries of party primary opponents distracting him with court cases. Does that mean there were no misgivings. Hell no. But a substantial compliance with the laws as well as recognition of the value of each contestant, helped the healing process.

In fact, after one of those meetings, I read one of the best gubernatorial ambition concession speeches from Benue State (that I have ever read), by Dr Paul Orhii who, in a well written concession speech still found time to point out legitimate reasons for grievance, offered valuable advice and yet accepted the verdict of the zoning committee and of the party’s leadership. That concession speech, as I now remember, is second only to the one Elder Myke Gbe and myself wrote for Rt Hon Emmanuel Jime in 2015. Hehe. It wore finesse, that one!

In essence, everyone matters in politics. And especially if you have not done the right thing, you disgust everyone you have hurt when you carry on as though it’s incumbent on them to fall in line as though you are God. To disparage a genuinely aggrieved aspirant, is to dare them to do their worst. They will draw full motivation on course to doing their worst! Today’s injured aspirant is better afforded the assurances of accessing justice than was the case in the past.

From a lived experience, I can relate to the hurt, personal, psychological and financial, that a rigged primary election can have on someone. I once ran for the office of Chairman of my Local Government and did so by seeking the APC ticket. The disregards for party and national laws was without shame nor restraint. In the end, all of us but one, was assigned tears dropping numbers as the votes we got. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when you saw what was allotted you.

In a high stakes election, one that has some of the state’s finest jostling for a ticket, more tact and less imposing attitudes are needed. Some of these aspirants have built a certain political estimation of worth in the eyes of strategic allies across the country. You will then, add mischief to fraud by doling out funny figures for them even in their supposedly strongest catchment areas just to make a caricature of them? You are aiming at more than a lose for them at that primary, you are seeking to end their political careers as well. That infuriates any victim. But you won’t stop, you ask them to go to hell. No, they will go to court before going to hell!

Ironically, these party lords end up magnifying their victims by the extent of injustice meted on them. People with merely a miniature of chance for victory, become entitled and capable of damage they couldn’t have done in a free and fair primary election.

Clearly, most party men and women in Nigeria seem wired to force their way regardless of the rules and today’s complainants could be tomorrow’s perpetrators of same or worse malfeasance! Our hope remains the courts. If we can’t by ourselves do the right thing, let the courts call our bluff and continue to do so with unflinching consistency that then forces a regards for the laws. Lessons must be learnt. Lost opportunities must be blamed on the perpetrators and a culture of doing right entrenched so that more good people can come into politics and have a decent shot at occupying public office.

Magen is a Principal Special Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom.

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