- May 25, 2022
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Category: Legal Explainer
The Electoral Act 2022 provides for the modes of electing candidates vying to hold public office under the platform of their respective political parties and monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This could be by indirect primaries, direct primaries or by consensus (Section 84(1) and (2)). Of course you know that intra-party elections (election among members of political party) for determining the flagbearer of a party is known as primary election.
By direct primaries, registered members of the party are given the opportunity to vote at designated centres in various wards for the purpose of determining the party’s flagbearer. Thereafter, special conventions or congresses shall be held to ratify the candidate with the highest number of votes. Section 84(4)
In indirect primaries, voting is by delegates elected by members of the party to vote on their behalf. To elect the delegates, congresses are held in several wards across the country. When elected, these delegates will now be in a position to vote for aspirants at the primaries at a designated place within Nigeria. The law expressly states that a political party that adopts indirect primaries shall clearly outline in its constitution the procedure for democratically electing delegates who will vote at the convention, congress or meeting. Section 84(5)-(8)
Political appointees are not eligible as voting delegates or aspirants as contained in Section 84(12). However, this provision has been a subject of litigation and the Supreme Court is expected to make a binding interpretation of the provisions soon.
By Section 84(9), the flagbearer of a political party may be determined by consensus. In which case, there will be no need for any internal election. For a consensus candidate to emerge, the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position must be secured, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.
Note, all the cleared aspirants must consent in writing. Not majority, but all. The Electoral Act states that if one person declines consent, then the party must revert to either direct or indirect primaries.
Political parties must comply with the statutory provisions, otherwise, the candidate of any party that fails to comply may not be included in the elections.
Any aspirant aggrieved with the outcome of the primaries may approach the Federal High Court for redress. But the Court is not empowered to make any order of injunction to stop any primary election or general election from holding. The aggrieved party may still get redress notwithstanding. Generally, courts do not interfere with the internal affairs of a political party. However, where there is a breach of the Electoral Act, the courts will step in to do justice.
Why Delegates hold the aces
The current political wave in the country points to the fact that the major political parties seem to have adopted indirect primaries through the delegate system. Consequently, aspirants have been on the move to woo delegates. Like a pretty lady wanted by many suitors, delegates enjoy the luxury of the great feeling of being special and wanted. A handsome man with hands bearing “gifts” definitely has a chance, but his success might depend on the “romantic” prowess of his other competitors who may equally be endowed. When the battle gets tough, stronger forces may come on the line, with “close family members”, “friends” and “connectors”, capable of commanding great influence, sticking out their necks. Whichever it swings, delegates hold the four aces and political aspirants have all the work to do.