Consensus or Imposition: Democracy Loses at APC National Convention

“Imposition of candidates ensure that the imposed candidates don’t have to sell their ideas to the people they are leading…”

The national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress was finally held on March 26 after being postponed repeatedly for months. New leaders were chosen by the party to steer the ship of the most important political party in Africa’s largest democracy. While you might be forgiven for thinking these leaders would have been chosen via a democratic process, the process we saw on March 26 was anything but democratic.

Democracy is designed to ensure that the will of the majority prevails in choosing who leads them as well as how they are led. But when a few powerful members of a party determines who lead that party without giving all members a chance at having any say, it is clear that the democratic process has failed. And that was what happened on Saturday.

Instead of holding an actual election where all candidates will get to test their popularity, the bigwigs in the APC, led by President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors, decided to go for “consensus.” Consensus is a legitimate process in a democracy but that is only if it is achieved in a free, transparent and noncoercive manner. All members, not just a few self-appointed stewards, should get the chance to deliberate and arrive at the consensus candidates.

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What happened at the convention was more akin to imposition where candidates and members were essentially forced to accept the “unity list” prepared by the bigwigs of the party. While some candidates did accept the situation albeit grudgingly, we know many candidates were forced to step down. Olusegun Dada, Mary Ekpere-Eta and Adebayo Shittu, the candidates for the posts of National Youth Leader, Women Leader and National Secretary respectively, were obstinate in their reaction to the imposition. Their anger is understandable, especially when you remember that all of them paid N5million or more to procure nomination forms for an election that would not happen.

Some defenders of the jamboree of March 26 have compared APC’s conduct to the way the Democratic Party in the United States conducted its 2020 primary election when candidates  Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar stepped down to boost the chances of Joe Biden. What these defenders don’t realise is that both Buttigieg and Klobuchar got a chance to participate in the primary process in several states before they stepped down. None of the candidates on March 26 even had their names on any ballot.

Secondly, while some candidates stepped down for Biden, others like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did continue the process until there was no way for them to win before throwing in the towel. In the end, Biden was elected by his party by only 51% of the votes unlike the 100% “scored” by the new APC leaders. If Nigeria is trying to copy the electoral democracy as practised by the United States of America, we should try to imbibe some of the principles that guide their own processes.

For the sake of our society, it is important that every element of the process that leads to the selection of leaders at the political party level and in general elections is conducted with fairness and democratically. Imposition of candidates ensure that the imposed candidates don’t have to sell their ideas to the people they are leading and therefore would lack popular mandate to marshal support for their vision. We all have a stake in how political parties run their affairs as the culture they encourage have a direct impact on the quality of candidates they present for general elections. The APC and other political parties must ensure strict adherence to real democratic principles in their processes.

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