The Favours Wike Did Us – By Anthony A. Kila
On a personal note, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is not my kind of politician. To me he is too colourful, too brash and I don’t even like that his moustache that vaguely reminds me of Adolf Hitler’s fuzz. That said, those who like Governor Nyesom Wike’ says he the real grassroot person and I just read and write. Good for him. Luckily for the Governor his style works: He does not need to bother of what I think about him. I don’t vote in Rivers State and he is not contending for national office. His style got him elected and he still one of the most influential leaders in his party if not the country.
Regardless of our party affiliation and ideological inclination, we must agree that as the host Governor of the recently concluded and fiercely contended elective convention in Port Harcourt, Governor Wike has done us all some favours which are worth reflecting on. Although Premium Times tell us he has apologised, it must be said that many of us do not like the way he dealt with his bid for having the convention hold in his Port Harcourt. That is part of what makes his style unpalatable to us.
All that said, we must however thank Nyesom Wike for one big favour he has done us: A transparency that forces to reflect on the essence and nature of delegate voting. In a country where politicians are unnecessarily obsessed with late night meetings, innuendos, duplicities and under the table opaque deals, Wike had the courage to let us know where he stood before and during the PDP presidential primary election. Some, I learnt found him too courageous, that is their business. The truth and a fact we ignore is the essence and the rationale behind some of the processes we follow.
Contrary to general assumptions and practices, the vote of a delegate is not a personal vote, rather it is vote delegated to an individual to be casted on behalf of a constituency. Part of the main essence of delegative democracy in the good sense, (or liquid democracy as some scholars prefer) is that it allows candidate to test and confirm their ability to convince their own party that they have support across the country and within various constituencies. It is also a means of knowing what an aspirant stand for before concluding he or she is fit to be a flag bearer.
The accepted epitome of presidential system with delegative democracy is the United States, in that system, primaries are carried out across the country state by state and when they say an aspirant has won a state what such aspirant wins are delegates. The won delegates will then vote for the aspirant for which they were elected at the convention. The key here is that delegates go to the convention with a mandate. Ordinarily, these delegates cannot change their mind to vote for someone outside the delegates their States voted for. Another thing to note in the American system is the fact that elected party leaders like Governors and Senators come out to declare who are they will be supporting at the primaries and they canvass for them. They do it in form of endorsements and even become surrogates that speak for their candidates.
Let us now juxtapose that with the Nigerian system where delegates go to conventions with no mandate and no responsibility to anyone. We don’t even know who they are nor what they want, talk less of why they vote for who they are going to vote for. This lack of clarity and accountability is one of the main causes of the gross scale of vote buying and other forms of corruption with which our primary elections are festered. It is my very considered opinion that the similar forms of malpractices affecting our direct and general elections have their origins in the opacity of the delegative election operated in the primaries.
These considerations will be blatantly incomplete if we do not pause to remember our legislative chambers across the country where it is a common practice to suspect and assume that money changes hands for bills and budgets to be passed. Let us imagine a system where we all remember that legislators are reminded that their votes in their various assemblies are not personal but, in the name, and for the sake of the constituencies. Let us imagine a system where legislators are evaluated based on the quantity and quantity of their votes, with clear and easy access to their intention and rationale of voting.
With his clear and publicised declaration of vote and endorsement of one of the aspirants for the for the position of presidential flag bearer of the PDP, Nyesom Wike has shown us an example of how modern delegative democracy should work and a chance to reflect on what is wrong with the system we are running now. Though Nyesom Wike’s preferred candidate did not win the election, the method used most be commended. Like others in all other parties and like legislators in assemblies, those leaders and delegates of the PDP that did not declare their voting intentions need to reflect on the role of delegates in a delegated democracy.
As for us, as citizens and observers, it is our duty and, in our interest, to ask all delegates, be it to party conventions or legislative offices to declare and publicise their votes. Knowing why and how a party delegate or a legislator votes will allow us better judge such delegate and evaluate if and how our positions and interests are represented and interpreted.
Because Nyesom Wike declared his vote and position, no other aspirant would have tried to entice him with money. Imagine if other candidates had done so. Naturally delegates and leaders who want to double deal and perhaps vote in a way that they might not be able to defend or explain will not want to declare their votes. We are watching.
Join me if you can on twitter @anthonykila to continue our conversations.