At the heart of Nigeria`s leadership crises is the failure of its electoral system to live up to the expectations of citizens.
This failure which stains both men and institutions has been largely responsible for the legion of leeches that has found its way into Nigeria`s public offices since 1960.
From councilors and chairmen in local governments, to governors and legislators in the States, to the government at the centre, which is also Nigeria`s central problem, leeches stampede Nigeria`s public offices, sucking life out of the country. From public infrastructure, to public health to public education, their grotesque fingerprints leave marks that even unborn generations will bear.
Elections in Nigeria used to be elaborate experiments in rigging. The circus of 1999, the jamboree of 2003 and the shenanigans of 2007 all happened under the watch of the Peoples Democratic Party. The farce of 2011 completed the Party`s ruthless assault on Nigeria`s electoral democracy.
Defeat followed in 2015 and again in 2019 with the APC engaging in electoral brigandage with no compunction whatsoever.
Over the years, like snakes shedding skin, Nigerians have gradually shed their electoral naivety. Each election has shown an electorate with a thicker skin.
For instance, Anambra State has consistently proven a banana peel for those whose expertise is plundering ballot boxes. On November 6,2021, ballot brigands tallied another sour experience in the State to add to previous humiliations suffered in a State that best personifies the defiance of the Igbo spirit.
INEC which over the years has contributed in no small measure to shredding its own reputation has also grown in resilience, showing with each election that it can hold its own even in the face of relentless assaults from anti-democratic elements.
Because free and fair elections are the veins and arteries which pump blood into the heart of democracy, whenever issues that affect elections crop up, Nigerians now know to sit up and take notice because playing the ostrich opens the gates to all manner of political vermin as has sadly been the case in Nigeria.
Now, an Electoral Amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly awaits the President`s assent. It is reportedly drawing angry opposition from those for whom the chickens will come home to roost once the bill is signed.
A key introduction of the bill will be direct primaries by which registered party members will be able to vote for choice candidates from the stage of primary elections as opposed to the indirect mode of voting through delegates which give Nigeria`s grasping kingmakers and godfathers too much power.
Decidedly, they are rattled by the audacity of the amendment. They see in it the shears which will shave off their hairs and airs. Under the proposed amendment, a nonagenarian party member from a remote ward will have the power to determine the candidates of her party at elections. This unprecedented permutation is giving Nigeria`s avaricious kingmakers and godfathers who include many governors and former governors bouts of incurable insomnia.
Selection of candidates used to be their province and playground. Over steaming cups of imported coffee in their expansive living rooms expensively appointed with public funds, they used to decide who lived and who died a political death.
From the boys who slept in their living rooms and did all their bidding in an exhibition of distorted loyalty, they used to choose those who would be political kings.
From the earth of foxes who call them ogas out of pathological sycophancy and promise them monthly returns once in office, they used to select their stooges. Now that the equalizing power of the law is about to level the playing ground, sleep has abandoned them.
They will continue to lose sleep for a long time because Nigeria`s democracy is on an irreversible march to full and forceful realization. For many years, marching in lockstep with their political parties, they murdered the sleep of Nigerians.
With 2023 breathing down our necks, the governors, many of who are themselves masters of political dark arts are in a frenzy. But what are the permutations, and what is salutary for Nigeria`s democracy?
The governors about to round up their first terms are desperate for another while those who are concluding their second terms are desperate to determine their successors. There is a lot of desperation in the air.
For many of them, the provision of democratic goods to those who elected them has taken the backseat. Now, they are afraid of direct primaries. But why? They are terrified of the day when those at the grassroots will find the confrontational directness that enlivens democracy.
Should those who have pillaged Nigeria`s dwindling resources for many years now be heard to say that Nigerians should not have a direct say in the foundational processes of governance?
Shall those political parties which have sponsored the greediest plunderers of Nigeria`s commonwealth now be heard to say that direct primaries would be too expensive for them? They now have an opportunity to judiciously apply those stolen funds to strengthen internal democracy within their parties.
Nigerians had watched in stunned horror as the legion of leeches at the National Assembly farcically torpedoed the proposed electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission under the amendment bill.
In a classic case of crying more than the bereaved, the legislators wailed that the country was not ready to electronically transmit election results. Meanwhile, INEC maintained it was ready to do so.
There is neither perfect elections nor perfect electoral systems anywhere. However, a resilient electoral system which is the spine of a resilient democracy is one which readily adapts to positive changes supported by sound legal frameworks that guarantee respect for the choice of the electorate.
It is thus telling that an amendment that is poised to make Nigeria`s democratic process more transparent is finding strident opposition from those supposedly elected to serve people.
Nigerians do not need to look too far to see who their enemies are.