The 2023 general elections are starting to reach the stage where the political heavyweights will be separated from the pretenders, with political parties electing their candidates in primary elections nationwide.

The presidential ticket is without a doubt the biggest prize, and political parties have to elect their candidates by June 3rd 2022.

How the presidential candidates are decided

There are three ways political parties nominate candidates: direct, indirect or by consensus. 

Direct primaries allow all card-carrying members of a party to vote for the candidate in an election. It’s like an in-house version of the general elections. But this process is rarely used by political parties in Nigeria. 

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The consensus process involves the party adopting a candidate without an actual election. This candidate is anointed above others eyeing the ticket, but the other aspirants must sign a written consent and endorse the candidate.

Unlike direct primaries, indirect primaries don’t allow every card-carrying member of a party to vote. Instead, that task falls to a group known as delegates. 

Who are these delegates?

In the Nigerian political system, there are two types of delegates: ad hoc delegates and statutory delegates.

Statutory delegates are usually party members who are current or former occupants of elective legislative and executive positions, as well as political appointees and certain elected officials of the party. These delegates are very powerful, but they were — apparently — mistakenly left out of the drafting of the new Electoral Amendment Act signed in 2022.

Delegates will determine Nigeria's next president

Lawmakers have sent an amendment bill to President Buhari to correct this, but he hasn’t signed it yet. As it stands, statutory delegates won’t be involved in the 2023 process.

And now to the main star of the show, the ad hoc delegates. 

Ad hoc delegates are those that are elected at the local government level of a party to, for example, vote for a presidential candidate at a national convention. Think of it like if each household elected a representative to help them vote on election day. 

These delegates are elected at congresses organised by the party. Each party is free to define the rules for the number of delegates that can vote for its candidates. For example, the All Progressives Congress (APC) elects three delegates from each of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas as well as six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). This leaves the party with 2,340 delegates to elect its presidential candidate.

The 2022 Electoral Act has crowned ad hoc delegates as the stars of the 2023 general elections.

Delegates will determine Nigeria's next president

What’s a delegate worth?

The conversation around delegates usually revolves around how much money they can finesse out of aspirants trying to curry their favour to win tickets. They’re right in the middle of the dollar rain that descends on the political scene when it’s election time.

Delegates will determine Nigeria's next president

It’s not so far-fetched to see why this is so. Delegates are the kingmakers in Nigeria. Their real worth is that they’re really the ones who’ll determine Nigeria’s next president before millions of Nigerians can even vote in 2023.

So, if you know anyone that is a delegate, hail them properly. All power belongs to them…for now.

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