This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
On Saturday, 5th May 2018, the Ekiti state All Progressive Congress (APC) gubernatorial primary election was suspended following the outbreak of violence. Political parties usually host primaries in order to decide which candidate to field for a particular national, state or local election.
What’s this about?
The primaries, which took place at the Oluyemi Kayode stadium in Ado Ekiti was to select the candidate that would represent the APC for the governorship election in the Ekiti state election slated for 14 July 2018.
The suspension followed allegations that the electoral process had been compromised. Some of the participants accused the delegates who appeared loyal the to the former Governor of the state and Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, of manipulating the process.
The delegates who claimed electoral malpractice became violent, leading to snatching of ballot boxes and commotion. It has been reported that the disruption was carried out by those working with two candidates; Babafemi Ojudu, a former Senator and Bimbo Daramola, a former Member of the House of Representatives.
The chairman of the organising committee, Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa state, was unable to call the primaries to order and eventually announced the suspension after a closed-door meeting with the 33 aspirants.
There is a familiar trend with Nigerian primary elections as political parties struggle to keep their candidates in check ahead of elections.
In September 2015, Bayelsa State conducted its primaries for the APC governorship seat in Yenagoa. It was also nullified due to alleged manipulation of results.
According to the results, Timipre Sylva pulled out 726 votes to defeat Timi Alaibe, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). In the fallout of the election, other candidates claimed the process was hijacked and interrupted by the presence of thugs.
In the end, Timi Alaibe, later made way for Timipre Sylva by withdrawing from the race, although he eventually lost the December 5th election to incumbent Governor, Seriake Dickson.
What should we take from this?
The last Nigerian elections were under the stewardship of the well known Professor Jega, who gained the respect of many Nigerians during the entire electoral process. This has set a new standard for Nigerian elections.
That being said, the current ruling party is yet to match this improved level of operational efficiency and organisation, particularly when dealing with its internal primaries.
However, INEC was not involved in the state primaries elections, so it is not yet possible to extrapolate about what will happen on a national scale. However, the current pattern is less than satisfactory and calls for an improved focus on smoothening such pre-election processes.
In addition, the incumbent Governor Fayose has openly indicated his strong intention to have a successor from his party take over after his tenure ends in October of 2018, setting the scene for a very heated election between the APC and PDP. Where political parties are not able to unite behind a candidate following its primaries, factions may spring out, causing the Ekiti governing party - the PDP - to take advantage of a divided house and maintain its ruling run.
As the state inches towards what looks like a potentially tense election, Nigeria's political parties would do well to set the right standards for the 2019 elections next year.