Politics: Winners take all syndrome dangerous — Jonathan

Goodluck Jonathan

…Says trend makes women participation difficult

…Says judiciary shouldn’t select political leaders

…Failure of the local governments’ greatest failure

By Chris Ochayi, ABUJA

Former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan said, yesterday, that winners take all syndrome in politics has made the Nigerian political environment a very tough and dangerous option.

Dr Jonathan, who spoke as a guest at a youth foundation programme hosted by the founder of TOS Foundation, Osasu Igbenedion in Abuja, regretted that the scenario even made politics very difficult for women to actively participate.

He lamented that “political parties are desperate to win elections and as such will want to field the male candidates for elections at the National Assembly, Governorship and presidency where the winner takes all syndrome is the practice.

The former leader, while speaking on the factors affecting women participation in the country’s politics and governance, added, “Nigeria political environment is very tough and because of this option of the winner takes all, it is a very dangerous option. People feel that on the average, men are stronger in terms of struggling to win these elections.”

According to him, “They believe that considering our political environment, something that has not yet been sanitized properly, that it is easier for men to play more rugged politics with all kinds of night meetings. They felt that men can do better.

“So political parties are not very willing to send women, not that they don’t allow the woman because they pass through the primaries but since you must win elections to take advantage of the numbers in terms of proportional representation, political parties are not very willing to send women.”

The former President also noted that undue intervention of the judiciary in the selection of government leaders in the country is not good for the growth and development of the nation’s democracy.

He said, “In Nigeria today, the judiciary select political leaders and this is not the best. The ballot papers should be the basis of selecting political leaders. If it is the judiciary that will select, it means that we are not yet there.

According to him, “You commended me for the number of women that were in my government at the centre at that time. Yes, it is true.

“But the Nigerian political environment because of this option that the winner takes all, it is a very dangerous option and people feel that on the average the men are stronger in terms of struggling to win those elections.

“They believe especially in our own political environment that has not been sanitised properly that it is easier for men who are more rugged. So, political parties are not very willing to send women, not directly that they will not want to send women because they pass through the primaries.

“So during the primaries, women are at a disadvantage. I know that I personally tried to increase the number of women in the national parliament as a President but I didn’t succeed. But the appointive positions that was in the hands of the President.

“I remember sometimes I threatened the Governor: ‘if you don’t give me a woman I will come and pick a woman from your state. In that situation, they will reluctantly give me the name of a woman. Because the governors themselves want men that they believe will be political assets.

“I remember in the 18th Century in Britain when they were just struggling to come up one economist wrote a classical essay with the title: ‘planning for our grandchildren.’

“The government took that essay seriously and they began to think differently. It is not planning for somebody who is already waiting to die to survive. Somebody waiting to die can die but the younger people that are coming up are those that will change society.

“So a government needs to face the young people and women and this is the segment of society that appears to be marginalised to some extent.”

He said, “From my little experience in politics, as a deputy governor I was in charge of local governments in Bayelsa State. Of course, I moved up to become the President.

“The greatest failure we have in this country is the failure of the local governments. The local government system has failed and we must admit it. Whatever we intend to do, one key area we must consider is the local governments. If the local governments are functional then it is easy.”

According to him, “To contest elections you need money for logistics but the problem we have in Nigeria is the one that is used negatively. Money is used to induce some actors, that is the negative aspect.

“Otherwise you just need some money but then in Nigeria compared to other African countries we spend too much money in politics. Probably we need to review our laws because I have observed elections in quite a number of African states.

“So many African State, like Tanzania for example, during the campaign a candidate does not need to print his name on a pen or a matchbox and give to somebody. They say that you are inducing the electorate. It is against their laws.

“But here, if somebody is contesting elections there will be trailer loads of rice with faces of people who are candidates and they are given to people. You are inducing the electorate and ordinarily, our electoral laws suppose to abhor that and if you do that you should be disqualified from contesting that position.

“So, those are the things that make our elections a bit expensive. But as younger people penetrate the system I think things will begin to change and that is if the young people are willing to make a difference.

“We want the young people who get into offices to make a difference so that Nigerians will believe that yes, these are digital generation and they are doing better than the analogue people.”

He said, “The issue of the judiciary I don’t want to make a comment but one thing as a politician, let me reiterate what I have said somewhere that in Nigeria today, the judiciary selects political leaders. It is not the best.

“The ballot papers should be the basis of selecting political leaders. If it is the judiciary that will select, we are not yet there. It is delicate but I have made a public statement before and I will always make it.

“I am not saying the judiciary is not doing well, But I mean our laws should suppress the idea of the judiciary in returning a candidate. If a candidate that won the election is found wanting, that election should be annulled and a fresh election conducted.

“The ballot paper must decide who holds any office from counsellorship to the presidency and that is democracy. We must regret that sometimes our elections are too violent in Nigeria.

“I think in Africa we are among the top countries with violent elections. Even for party primaries, you see people going to break doors, windows, scatter ballot boxes and so on.

“You hardly see it in other African countries and when we behave that way, of course, we are now giving the powers to the judiciary to decide who becomes the Governor, Senator and House of Representatives member. I believe that as we progress maybe we will get over that.”