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Nigerian News » Politics


Should independent candidacy be restored?

Posted 1 wk ago
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Committee on Restructuring has recommended independent candidacy. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the argument for and against the proposal. 

It was his first baptism of fire in politics. In 1955, Abraham Adesanya, a fresh law graduate and a household name in Ijebu-Igbo, unfolded his ambition. As a member of the defunct Action Group (AG), led by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he sought the House of Assembly ticket to represent the old Ijebu Igbo Constituency. Party elders asked him to hold on, promising to give it to him in 1959. Adesanya refused, saying that he was popular.

He hurriedly left the AG and contested as an independent candidate. Despite his popularity among the electorate, he lost his deposit at the poll. He retraced his steps to the party and he was later elected on its platform in 1959. Twenty years later, Adesanya became a Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) senator from Ogun East.

The same scenario played out in Akure, the headquarter of the old Ondo Province. Akinola Aguda, the first indigene of Akure to become a lawyer, wanted to represent the constituency in the Western Regional House of Assembly. He decided to run as an independent candidate against the AG and National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) candidates, contrary to the advice of his friend and colleague at the bar, Ayotunde Rosiji. The people of the constituency rejected him at the poll.

In Ijebu East Constituency, Oluwole Awokoya, the former Minister of Education in the defunct Western Region, sought re-election into the House of Assembly in 1955. The AG, having rejected his ambition, drafted Solanke Onasanya into the race. When Awokoya lost the ticket to Onasanya, he decided to contest as an independent candidate. He lost at the poll.

But, at Ibadan, it was a different ball game. A prominent chief, Samuel Odulana, contested for the House of Representatives as an independent candidate in the early sixties. Then, the AG and NCNC)/Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) were locked in a battle of supremacy in Ibadan. Lana, as he was fondly called, won. He became the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the late Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Many years after, Odulana became the Olubadan of Ibadanland.

Independent candidacy is not new. There was room for it under the parliamentary system in the First Republic. Across the constituencies, there were some independent candidates who either won or lost during the regional and federal parliamentary elections. However, majority of them were aggrieved defectors from major parties who wanted to ride to power on the strength of their individual popularity within their constituencies.

Following the adoption of the presidential system, independent candidacy was abolished in 1979. In the Second Republic, the ill-fated Third Republic and since 1999, the practice has become old-fashioned. To be an elected councillor, member of the House of Assembly, Representatives, Senate, governor and president, membership of a political party is compulsory.

Opinion is divided on the agitation for independent candidacy. What has motivated critics to clamour for the restoration of independent candidacy is the perceived politics of exclusion by party leaders and elders in major parties. Internal democracy in the political parties has been a major bone of contention. In their view, if there is room for independent candidacy, the fate of certain aspirants and candidates will have to be determined directly on poll day by the electorate.

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