This letter to party delegates for the 2023 conventions to choose candidates reflects on the choices that delegates hitherto made.

Dear Party Delegate,

Permit me to write to you o the consequences of making the same mistakes that delegates made in 2014 and 2018. I beg you in the name of everything you believe in to be careful how you vote for aspirants in your forthcoming party primaries convention.

Simply put, those delegates are the major reason that Nigeria is in bad shape today! They are the reason why so many things have gone wrong with our country. I don’t have to enumerate what has gone wrong but ask yourself one question. Am I better off today than I was four or eight years ago? Am I safer?

Dear delegates, rather than blame past governors and presidents, those to censure for the way things turned out are the previous delegates. At federal and in many states, they allowed themselves to be cajoled and accepted bribes to select and present party candidates sponsored by governors and those who showed up with pots of money. The candidates they selected went on to win the general elections. Then they became either a curse or a blessing to their states.

Our people live in unimaginable misery and hardship in states where we installed bad characters as governors. Yes, we can blame the governors for lack of imagination, poor capacity and selfishness. But what about the delegate majority that chose and imposed them on us to vote into office? Shouldn’t we say a word to them for throwing up candidates without morality and competence over good and capable ones? What they did was to make it difficult for us, the voters, to choose by presenting a line-up of poor capacity candidates.

The action of the 2014 and 2018 delegates had far-reaching consequences. We immediately felt the impact before, during and after the general elections. Before the elections, we came down with a terrible disease known as voter apathy. There are three major symptoms of this disease that everyone of us can recognize.

The first symptom of this civil rights disease is voter alienation. Voters became indifferent and lost interest in participating in subsequent political activities. We sadly realized that we the voters are not the ones choosing who should rule us. Rather, it is you, the delegates, that are empowered by law to help us separate good aspirants from bad and thereafter presented to us to vote for whoever you selected, good or bad.

After evaluating the line-up of candidates and how they emerged from your parties in 2014 and 2018, we the voters became further disillusioned. Some of us began to grumble that the political system is not working for Nigeris. Most of us now believe that it is fruitless to attempt to influence it. The way our electoral laws were crafted leaves us at the mercy of you, the party delegates.

We got tired, another symptom known as Voter fatigue. Voters became tired of being cajoled to vote for the not so good and many of us consequently stayed home on election days. Poor turnout of voters in federal, state and local government elections in Nigeria became recurrent. Since 1999, less than 15 percent of registered voters have bothered to vote in state and federal elections. Voter fatigue set in after series of disappointments with voting exercises and because delegates ambushed us with terrible candidate choices.

There is a third symptom of voter apathy but this has nothing to do with delegates. This symptom reflects in poor management of the logistics of voter registration and actual voting. Logistics challenges make it difficult to register, review, and collect voter cards from the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Our question to you, dear delegates, is this: How do you, as a delegate, recognise the good candidate to select for us to subsequently vote for? There are three major criteria to guide you in making this first choice. One is perceived experience and capacity of the aspirants. What did they do previously, and with what impact? Another is their understanding of voter challenges and a plan or blueprint to deal with them. Are they coming to the convention with a well thought-out plan on how to help us surmount the economic hardship we currently face? What is their plan to secure us from robbers, kidnappers, cow rustlers and marauders, and insurgents? A third is to look at who is sponsoring each aspirant. Are they state-sponsored or self-sponsored?

Consider the influence of the sponsors in the process. Where we have a governor that has shown capacity to deal with voter challenges, we can trust him to recommend a successor who may do well. However, if delegates are dealing with a bumbling governor who wants to “anoint” a candidate to succeed him, alarm bells should ring. Similarly, when the anointed comes to the primaries without a specific plan that shows an understanding of what voters are suffering now and how to help them deal with issues and challengers, the red lights should be flashing to halt them.

The man or woman to select for us voters is therefore the person with capacity and experience, who comes with a clear and workable plan to deal with voter issues and challenges. Godfather sponsor should not be the primary reason for choosing, even when he is a good governor or moneybag.

I write this letter to you because, since 1999, sponsors a.k.a godfathers have come to dominate the leadership selection process. It is so bad now that governors see this as a right to choose successors. In Enugu State, for example, proponents of this idea brazenly call it “a right” and “a tradition.” To enforce this “right” or “tradition” Nigerian governors and godfathers deploy bags of money, a horde of hired writers, and a gang of thugs to emotionally and physically wear down delegates. But dear delegate, do you know that the sponsors are doing it out of fear!

It’s true that, at this moment, their hearts are pounding, their blood racing. Note however that as I said before, there are good sponsors who will be desperate to install successors with capacity and pedigree. I doff my hearts to those. I also wish and pray that Nigeria will throw up more of these blessed sponsors. We saw and appreciated their efforts in Borno and Anambra States, to give two examples.

Regrettably, Nigeria is the way it is today because majority of the sponsors are nothing short of political bandits. They use three canes to whip delegates into line: hired writers, thugs and bags of money. Hired writers confuse us all by often claiming that white is black especially on issues of godfather “rights” and “traditions.” Pots of money, given to delegates as increased allowances or outright bribery at convention ground, softens you up and blindfolds you to vote for their candidate. Thugs are selected and inserted into ward executive and local government council to put the fear of man into delegates. By their calculation, all of this will influence, buy or enforce “loyalty” to the “anointed” candidate.

Dear delegate, allow me to conclude with two things that most of you do not know.

One: what you’ll be doing on the convention ground has absolutely nothing to do with the boss. Rather, it has everything to do with you, your family and children, and societal wellbeing. Think about this: the mistakes that delegates made in 2014 and 2018 are the reasons why a bad omen has enveloped Nigeria. The delegates selected and presented us with leadership that made our economy worse, society more unsafe, citizens more frightened. By their action, ethnic, religious and political groups became more divided than ever before.

The results of poor delegate choices are the dire consequences we face today. We can identify increased armed robbery and banditry, escalation of kidnapping incidents, stepped up insurgency, and separatist agitations. To the list can be financial fraud, advanced fee fraud, and forced economic migrations. All of this are happening now because 2014 and 2018 party delegates chose the best of the worst and ambushed us to vote for them to mislead Nigeria and its constituent states.

Two: there’s actually no difference between some of the political sponsors and highway bandits. Bandits use money they extort to take care of people in their inner circle and to buy more weapons to force more money out of the pockets of their hapless victims. Similarly, political bandits use public funds (our money) to take care of people in their immediate circle and to buy thugs, hire quack writers and give delegates enveloped to follow “tradition.”

But dear delegate, do you know that sponsors struggling to enforce the “tradition of anointing” successors are carrying out an immoral and illegal action? It is immoral because they are using stolen funds to snatch your future, mess with the destiny of the nation, and complicate the future of youth. Equally, it is illegal because the law empowers only you, the party delegate, to select capable and experienced persons to help over 70 percent of our people who continue to live in abject poverty. As delegates, the governor, the President and every moneybag selected to vote at the convention each has a single vote. Thus, they won’t outvote thousands of delegates from the wards if they were determined to vote for change.

Sponsors cannot stop setermined and committed delegates who choose to help themselves and their families by selecting a god-fearing person to contest the general election. They are doing everything they can to make you vote for a continuation of the situation in which Nigeria finds itself. If you’re happy with the way things are going in the country and your state, vote to show it. If you’re not, vote to show it. As you journey soon to the convention ground, recognize that the fate of Nigeria is in your hands.

You have a choice to make. The choice before you is to support a god fearing and capable person who will look after your interest and ours from 2023. Or to choose someone else even when you feel in your heart that he will look after the interest of those who sponsored and mortgaged him to come to power. In making this choice, kindly note that you are free to collect money from anyone that offers to you.

Do not reject their money offers. Chances are that it’s your money anyway, stolen by the sponsors and saved for the purpose of confusing you to vote for another bandit. Their envelop is useless money; it won’t last for more than a month. But if you make the mistake of 2014 and 2018, the consequences will remain with Nigeria, your state, and your family for another eight years. May Almighty Allah and the Great I Am guide, protect and direct you with His wisdom as you journey to the convention to help your family, your state and Nigeria survive the harsh reality of the moment which delegates inaugurated in 2014 and 2018.

Ogbuagu Anikwe

Letter to 2023 Party Delegates