The Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, on Thursday, advocated staggered or phased primaries by political parties to deepen the country’s democracy.
Ekweremadu made the submission at a forum on credible electoral processes organised by the FCT branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja.
The forum has as its theme: “Credible Electoral Process in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects”.
“By staggered primaries, I mean, for instance, holding primaries in different states on different dates for presidential aspirants.
“This has been an enduring practice in the USA. In Ghana also, primaries are often phased countrywide in recent times,’’ he said.
According to Ekweremadu, such idea will assist in the efficient utilisation of resources , including managing security agencies, monitors from the Electoral Management Body (EMB) and enhancing better scrutiny of candidates.
He said that the idea would also help in achieving higher transparency and better management of the primaries.
Ekweremadu calls for the idea to be replicated for gubernatorial primaries where the primary election would hold in different local government councils on different dates.
He said that the idea “is however not a constitutional or electoral requirement but an initiative by political parties to promote ease of management and transparency of processes for the emergency of their candidates”.
The Deputy president of the Senate also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to work on a time frame of every election that would accommodate the conclusion of litigation before the substantive election.
“Early primaries allow the candidates enough time to raise adequate campaign funds for the bigger contest and avail candidates and their parties’ sufficient time to campaign in every part of the constituency or country and sell their manifesto.
“The people are also in a better position to initiate and define national conversations and debates about the identity, direction, defining ideologies, manifesto, and character of the candidates and political parties.
“In Nigeria, primaries are rushed, campaigns are shallow, and conversations are mundane, while some parties and their candidates shun debates outright.
“In such circumstances, the electorate are unable to sound candidates out on their mouth-watering campaign promises, especially how they intend to fulfil them. The people realise their mistake after such candidates assume office.
“Pre-election litigations also constitute serious impediments to the electoral processes. Early primaries will help the judiciary to conclude all pre-election lawsuits,’’ Ekweremadu said.
Also speaking, Mr Oluwole Ossaze-Uzi, the Director of Voter Education , INEC, called for attitudinal change among Nigerians to guaranty credible election in the country.
According to Ossaze-Uzi, to bring about a credible election, the electorate must change their mind toward certain things.
“Democracy does not buy some issues we try to inject into our electoral system, political history has opened windows of prospect, the introduction of card reader device has helped us to improve our electoral system not minding the challenges with it.
“Legal impediment, social impediments are all man-made, we need to change our do-or-die attitude during the election; outright bribe of voters is a big challenge to Nigerian election, it is an offence.
“Lack of internal party democracy is also a big challenge to the electoral process in Nigeria, all these must be corrected to make progress, ‘’ he said.
The Chairman of the FCT branch of the NBA, Mr Ezenwa Anumnu, attributed the present challenge in Nigeria’s electoral system to lack of technology to put the process on the right track.
According to him, “if the technology is deployed to assist the country’s electoral system, it will reduce the challenges confronting the system.”
Anumnu called for more voter education and engagement of stakeholders in the country’s electoral system to achieve credible election.