By Dr. Solomon Edebiri JP MON As we draw very close to party primaries in the country, aspirants aspiring to various political offices have intensified their campaigns for delegates' votes. For Presidential aspirants, it is interesting to see them travel from state to state soliciting votes from delegates. Governorship aspirants travel from one LGA to another; the same applies to those aspiring for seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Those seeking elective positions in the state houses of assembly travel from ward to ward, acquainting party members and delegates with their manifestoes, and inundating them with their suitability for the office. Solomon Edebiri This is the beauty of democracy and the sanctity of party politics. Irrespective of the political party one belongs to or the mode of primaries to be used, party members, through democratically elected delegates, have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice whom they believe give the party better winning chances at the general election. Most often than not, these candidates may not be the most educated, handsome or outspoken but may have presented a manifesto that appeals to the conscience of the delegates and, by extension, the people. When fairly conducted and delegates allowed to exercise their right of choice, primary elections enable the emergence of a candidate with broad acceptability, thereby aiding party harmony and increasing winning chances for the party at the general election. In this most critical democratic process, the party leaders are expected to show love and acceptability to all aspirants, play a fatherly role, and ensure an even field for all to play. Should a party leader have a vested interest in any aspirant, such a leader should be diplomatic and practically keep mum about it to forestall insurrections that may negatively affect the credibility of the party and put a bar on the freewill of delegates. It, therefore, becomes sacrilegious for party leaders to publicly adopt an aspirant and shut the doors against others. It casts a bold shadow of doubt on the credibility of the primaries when conducted. Even in a consensus arrangement, the Electoral Act and party constitutions stipulate that all candidates must accept the decision, followed by a voice vote affirming the consensus decision. The Electoral Act demands the written consent of all aspirants not favoured by the consensus decision. Painfully, I have watched the open adoption of some aspirants by party leaders with public pronouncements over the last few weeks, thereby shutting the gates on other aspirants. This is unhealthy and portends serious danger to internal democracy within the party. The action pierces a dagger in the process, demeans its credibility, breaks down the walls of confidence and trust, incapacitates the chances of choosing the best by the people and puts a tough strain on the chances of the party at the general elections. In time past, we have seen the negative effects of this type of action, breeding animosity amongst the aspirants and their supporters and increasing the level of uncertainty as to whether other aspirants will support the candidate at the general elections. The general elections will not be decided by party leaders and members but largely by people who are not members of any political party. This group of people forms over 85% of the voting population and will be looking for the best candidates from across the parties. These persons are seated at home, carefully watching how the various candidates will emerge from each political party. Party leaders should therefore be mindful of the future of their various political parties and should also look beyond their personal interests and gratification. Conspiracies that do not favour the larger spectrum of the people should be discouraged in all ramifications. The seed of hatred sown amongst aspirants due to illicit adoption of aspirants can be avoided by opening our hearts to all. We must create a platform where whichever aspirant emerges represents party members' collective will and choice through a transparent, fair and unquestionable process. We must create a situation which promotes the 'no victor, no vanquish' stance so that everyone can work together in the greater battle ahead for the party. Delegates on their own should also grow beyond the "na so our leader talk" tradition, which has stagnated party politics over the years. Delegates themselves should be convinced of their choice aspirants and cast their votes likewise, not this 'adopted' style throwing various parties in the country into chaos and confusion. Our political parties must fight this cankerworm, bedevilling our democratic system for years. It is time to wake up and surmount this gargantuan monstrosity. There will be no need for the primaries if party leaders have endorsed and adopted a particular candidate and shut their doors on other aspirants. This, I consider a public execution of other aspirants. Every aspirant deserves a fair chance, equal opportunity, firm love of party leaders, and a free and fair process in the party primaries. It is only when this is done that our winning chances at the general election would increase drastically since the battle will be fought by all. I hope and pray we learn.