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Directed primaries

By   /  September 17, 2018  /  No Comments

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It is the best of ideas. It is the worst of ideas. Whatever it becomes, depends on whether the best or the worst of us triumphs. I prefer the concept of direct primaries to what is now called the indirect primaries.

The concept of the direct primary comes with all that we desire in a contest of unequal people, especially when we want the best. Contests don’t always give us the best, but they hand us a result, depending on who the judges are and what they like. Merit is not always king, even though we should covet it. The direct primary should give us merit – though it might not – , but it is the best option of popular persuasion. That is why it is the best of all options.

The indirect primary is called the caucus option in the United States. In that case, a few well-organised persons or groups, or sometimes a mighty individual, stirs a select few to pick a candidate. Even in the United States, only a few states follow that option and they include Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, et al. Obama edged out Hillary because of his sway over the caucus system in some key states. Here in Nigeria, the indirect primary holds on to the thesis that the delegates represent everyone, and they vote to represent the will of the majority of the party.

It calls to mind the concept of indirect rule introduced by the British to characterise their system. History teachers have taught it for many years. But in my class at Ife, Professor Tunji Oloruntimehin blew it to shreds. If you are at the top of the hierarchy, and you appoint those at the various levels to make decisions as agencies of your architecture of governance, does that make it an indirect rule? That will make a CEO an indirect boss of the cleaner. The British tried to purify themselves by differentiating their style from the French assimilation policy.

The term was a dubious language of self-exculpation. The British did not want to take responsibility for their tyrannous follies. In the East, they appointed warrant chiefs who could do their biddings. They accepted the chiefs and kings around the country that did their biddings and flushed out those who did not. The phrase indirect rule calls to mind what philosophers, especially literary thinkers, called rhetoric of discourse. The French man Michell Foucault led the gang of those who warned of this linguistic treachery, especially in his classic work, Madness and Civilisation.

Language is the source of strength, deception, ambition, failure, the rise and fall of civilisations. Some leaders have chosen words that healed a nation and ruined them. Churchill mobilised the English language to battle. Hitler turned the German into the blood and thunder of Jewish pogrom. The Roman Emperor Nero swept crowds of Christians into inferno. US President Roosevelt stirred the hopes of his country during the Second World War when he said the only thing they should fear was fear itself. Bill Clinton’s words, “I feel your pain,” turned the tide of his polls fortunes. Jonathan’s shoe comment revved up pathos of electoral finality.

Indirect primary is the wrong use of language. When they say indirect, they are saying the majority of the people are voting indirectly through the few. It is one of the great deceptions of democracy. Just like when a people are asked to vote lawmakers who represent them in the parliament. The few become oligarchs. They come as refined, but they are like a bear in a beauty queen’s gown. In Nigeria, the indirect primary is often the diktat of one man. They sometimes swear them to oaths, and some of them bring it into a mystical realm, with broths and rites of juju coming into the fray. Where were the majority when the occult darkness was playing out? They should not be called indirect primaries but directed primaries.

Not that the direct primary is altogether innocent. But it is less prone to individual manipulation. The one who will turn the majority vote will have to use more subtle vibes. The master in this age is Donald Trump. He has revived through the twitter handle the old ways of the political crowd. Political historians have argued that the death of the industrial age had cancelled the concept of political charisma. In those days, a man could mount the podium like Cicero, Hitler or even Churchill, and touch the popular breast with the blue flame of his rhetoric. With technology, television and radio, it was thought that the era was buried. Even Internet, with its capacity to demystify, worsened the prospect of the demagogue. But Trump tweeted himself into Neanderthal charm. Duterte, Erdogan, Orban, and even the provocateurs of BREXIT brought back the 19th century with its screaming crowds and lusts. We only hear the mute hollers on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. In those days, we had charisma in flesh and blood. Today, charisma is digital. The former yielded Hitler and Mussolini, the saw-dust Caesar. The digital one has given us Trump, et al. The crowd, whether online or offline, is the same through the ages, neither wise nor foolish, but subject to the impulses of a few powerful men.

German political theorist Hannah Arendt said representation would not happen again after the Greek era when politicians spoke direct, without even the microphone filter, to crowds and achieved the closest to heart-to-heart connection. Arendt, the author of the Origins of Totalitarianism and The Human Condition, did not acknowledge that even the Greeks thrived on slavery and women lacked the franchise.

In the so-called indirect primary, the strong man holds unquestioned sway. Imo State APC is a good example with Okorocha. In the direct primary, the strong man has to show extraordinary acumen and must flatter the secret hopes of the majority to prevail. The options are clear.

The good news is that we have begun the conversation, and it augurs well for our battle against the strong man in our politics.




I lost her, forever. I remember the song from years ago, Sweet Mother. I hear it now, its haunting, undying notes. I just returned from vacation, and it is the sour taste of her death that overshadows me. Salome Omotemevo Omatseye, passed on at a young age of 75. She died because of medical negligence. Her state worsened suddenly even though she had complained of some pains a few months back. It turned out they had been treating her for something else. When it was detected as cancer it had metastasised and was irreversible. Even a medical hospital she was rushed to while I was away had no bed, and they treated her in a car. She was moved to another prominent hospital more interested in excuses to collect tons of money than treatment. She died in a third that found the same result charging less than a tenth of the second hospital. I don’t want to name a hospital because the practice is universal in the country. Remember Gani was misdiagnosed by the best hospital money can afford in Nigeria.

Salome was not perfect, but she raised me. When I was in Government College, Ughelli she accompanied me every year from Ibadan to Orogun, her home village, and escaped death on her return in a fatal accident near Ore. At one time when I was ill, we arrived the old Bendel State at night in a squall of rain, and the roads were so bad, the transporter dropped us in the middle of nowhere. I can still hear the panic in her voice as we walked miles on marshy roads near midnight to find a village to pass the night. She feared I would expire that night. It was from her I learned the abc and 123 when she was a seamstress during the civil war.

May the Lord bless her spirit!

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