Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Issues in PDP Legislatures Demand for Automatic Tickets

Dr Mohammed Haliru Bello, Deputy National Chairman of PDP earlier in the year promised that the party will give all its political office holders automatic tickets. The party promptly debunked this position saying that the party chieftain was merely expressing personal opinion. On July 1, 2009, Senate President, David Mark made a formal demand for automatic tickets for the 87 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senators to facilitate their return to the red chamber in 2011. Mark made the request at a dinner he organised for the members of the National Working Committee of the PDP in his Apo Legislative Quarter. He decried the high turn over of Senators after each election and rationalised his demand on the basis that the move would ensure that legislative experiences already gathered by the present crop of lawmakers are not wasted. In his view, the serving senators have proved to be reliable, competent and knowledgeable, and therefore merit automatic tickets. PDP had reiterated its earlier position that nobody will be given automatic ticket among all its elected public office holders as doing so will negate the party’s constitution particularly article 17 (A-F).
In spite of the donouncement by the party, the issue has been a recurring decimal. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in an interview published in The Guardian of Thursday, July 23, 2009 justified his support for the move. He was quoted as saying: “Nigeria has the highest turnover of parliamentarians in the world. And when you send people to seminars, trainings, workshops and they sit in parliament from year to year and at the end of the day, they don't return, those monies are wasted. We are thinking that as much as possible, as much as our system can accommodate, we are going to ensure that we reverse this trend. A situation where about 80 per cent of our senators don't return is not healthy for our system.” PDP executive council in Anambra State has also come out to say that the reason why the State’s parliamentarians in the National Assembly called for the composition of caretaker committee in its place was because it refused to give in to the demand of the legislators for automatic ticket for the 2011 elections. Aftermath of the defection of Governor Ikedi Ohakim to PDP, Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, said the best way to reward his colleagues at the Assembly for their steadfastness and belief in the PDP was to give them automatic ticket in 2011 general elections.
That the issue of automatic tickets is becoming recurrent in PDP is a dress rehearsal of what to expect when the candidate nomination process will commence in the last quarter of 2010. The question is, why are politicians and political parties in Nigeria aversed to elections? Though the request for automatic ticket is a legitimate demand with some merits, however, it is largely self-serving and undemocratic. For instance, how does this request help to promote internal party democracy? Party primaries is a time-honoured principle of representative democracy. It is a known fact that PDP had never kept faith with this process as more often than not the guideline set by the party for the party primaries are observed more in breach. Now that our parliamentarians are directly and indirectly canvassing for automatic tickets for 2011 elections, what they are covertly saying is that there is no need for party primaries for the next general elections
I dare say it is only in the sight of the Senate President and probably his party members that the Senators have done wonderfully well to merit an automatic ticket . I as a Nigerian and many compatriots do not share the belief that our National and State Assemblies have exibited sterling performance. To my own mind, their acts leaves much to be desired as they are more interested in endless and meaningless probes and oversights than in their primary function of legislation. A recent newsreport showed that 14 members of the House of Representatives have been there since 1999, yet two third of them are mere bench warmers as they neither move motions, sponsor any bills or play any active role in the parliament. The age of Methuselah has nothing to do with the wisdom of Solomon; it is not how long a member stays in the legislative chamber that counts but his or her impact while there.
The other issue in the request is the apparent disdain of the proponents for the party’s zoning principle. It is a known fact that the PDP and indeed many communties have zoning or rotation formula which they follow in order to ensure that no geo-political zone or community is marginalised. Automatic tickets will be tantamount to breach of formal and informal agreements that have been reached by people of different zones and communties and this will be counter productive for PDP as it might lead to exodus of its members who will be aggrieved by that decison to alternative platforms.
All said, PDP might be unwilling to give anyone automatic ticket because doing so will deny the party huge revenue source. It would be recalled that in 2006, apart from the N10,000 each all aspirants had to pay for Expression of Interest Form; Presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives aspirants paid N5m, N1m, N500,000 respectively as nomination fees. There were about 28 presidential aspirants who obtained the PDP form in 2006 and thousands of other aspirants; this is goldmine for the party which it will not want to lose. Party members who are eying being elected party delegates to the congresses and conventions will also not be in support of any endorsement of automatic ticket for any elected office holder as this will mean loss of revenue for the delegates and party chieftains who trades party tickets and award it to the highest bidder irrespective of the party’s electoral guidelines.Matter of fact, automatic ticket is against democratic ethos and an ill-wind that will create more problem not only for PDP but Nigerian polity. If indeed our parliamentarians had done well then they should have no fear contesting the party primaries. Their experience and stewardship while in office should stand them in good stead for victory not only at the primaries but also at the general elections. Should they lose due to the application of zoning formula, they have 53 other registered political parties to move to in order to realise their ambition. It would be recalled that Senators Uche Chukwumerije, Gogwin Satti and Patrick Osakwe won on the platform of PPA, AC and Accord Parties respectively when PDP denied them its ticket for 2007 elections. Alternatively, if the proposal for independent candidacy is passed into law before the next candidate nomination exercise, they will have addtional platform to stand alone and contest.