With the party primaries coming up this week, BIYI ADEGOROYE writes that the political parties must ensure internal democracy in the exercise to avoid pre- and post-election litigations which almost crippled the 2019 p
The scheduled commencement of the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) later this week, have set the stage for the 2023 elections.
Already, in conformity with the timetable set by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) the political parties have concluded their screening last week ahead of the primaries. In all, the presidential race comes across as one of the most overcrowded one in the history of the country with 23 aspirants who have obtained nomination and expression of interest forms and screened on the platform of the APC.
Similarly, out of the 17 contestants on the platform of the PDP, 15 have been cleared. Top among the contestants on the platform of the APC are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun and Governors Kayode Fayemi, Ben Ayade, Dave Umahi, Abubakar Badaru and Yahaya Bello. Others are former Ministers Ogbonnaya Onu, Rotimi Amaechi, Emeka Uwajuiba, Godswill Akpabio; Senator Ajayi Boroffice, Sani Yerima, former Governor Roachas Okorocha, Pator Tunde Bakare, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Uju Onneye, Ikenobasi and Tein Jach-Rich.
They have all been cleared by the David Mark-led screening committee and ready for the primaries.
On the platform of the PDP are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate Presidents Ayim Pius Ayim, Bukola Saraki, former governors Peter Obi, Ayodele Fayode, Governors Nyesom Wike, Aminu Tambuwal, Emmanuel Udom Bala Mohammed; Sam Ihuabuwa, Mhammed Hayatudee, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen and Olivia Tandi. This motley of aspirants across the political parties, most of whom have been described as unserious, at all levels have toured various states in the country, holding consultations and meetings with delegates, selling their agenda and canvassing for votes.
According to the delegates list, four delegates are expected per ward in all the 2,322 wards spread into the 74 local governments in the country. This is true of both political parties, as they prepare for the governorship election in 28 states. From all figures released APC, 145 aspirants were cleared for 28 governorship seats, 340 senatorial candidates were cleared for the election, 1, 197 for House of Representatives and 2, 822 for state houses of assemblies.
However, while the screening have been carried out by most of the parties and the primaries are underway, one issue that begs for attention is the need to conduct a free, fair and credible primaries, as the bedrock of acceptable election and emergence of leaders who could salvage the country from its current state.
The INEC has already warned the parties to avoid shady primaries capable of giving strain and stress to the political parties, election umpire and courts in the months ahead. Lack of internal democracy has been the Achilles heels of the parties in the time past leading to pre and post-election litigations. The position of INEC, articulated by Yahaya Bello, REC, FCT was evidently informed by the litigations which greeted the outcome of the 2019 elections.
About four years ago, INEC contended with about 1,689 post-election court cases having been joined by various litigants since the party was present at the primaries and also conducted the main elections.\ While power play and a fusion of lots of other factors are currently affecting the primaries, observers believe that the nation may as well be on the verge of another catastrophe, as a result of the outcome of the exercise.
A top politician who was a delegate at one of the previous primaries said the critical national event hardly produces the best. “It is not a place where nationalism, patriotism, competence and national unity come into play in determining the emergence of any leader at all levels, rather the interest of the political class,” he said. To him, while the movements and national tour by the aspirants might have the veneer of subtle campaign and solicitation of votes, it has strands of money politics disbursement of bribes to the delegates, most of whom have not scruples.
Another prominent politicians who does not want his name in print said primaries are like bazar where funds are shared to obtain votes. “Look, the delegates are already raking in millions from the aspirants who have been touring the states, even while the delegates make up their mind about who to vote for.
“I can tell you the delegates, like many Nigerian politicians have no scruples, no commitment to national interest, but their personal pockets. But the climax is the D-Day at the national congress when they will milk the aspirants and still vote their choice. The outcome will shock you, even the prominent contenders in the South-West will not smell it,” he said. Fillers indicate that contrary to the demands of the governors, both political parties will pick their candidate form the North, for strategic reasons. When PDP picks its candidate from the North, APC will also follow suit and that will seal the fate of the likes of Asiwaju Tinubu and other core contenders for the post.
“The theory is that no presidential candidate from any part of the country can win the election without the support of the North, and for strong religious and ethnic reasons, if any party picks a Southern candidate, he stands to lose the election to the candidate from the North.,” another source said.
A member of the National Working Committee of the APC told Sunday Telegraph that Nigeria is going down the drain because the primaries of both parties will produce two Northern candidates of Fulani stock – Atiku and Lawan from the North-East, to one of whom will emerge as president in 2023.
“Go and note it down. When PDP picks Atiku, APC will respond with a candidate from the North-East and the most prominent of them is Senator Lawan. That will set the tone for the emergence of a Fulani president for another eight years- and you know what that means, an odious development which will create more problems and agitation in the country. “It will further exacerbate the call for restructuring because it would mean that some sections of the country would have been marginalized for too long, but the rest of the country would not pay attention to that,” he said.
In a recent interview with Sunday Telegraph, Hon. Oladimeji Fabiyi the Director Support Group and Event for Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organization, said Atiku’s chances keep growing on a daily basis after he polled 12 million votes in the 2019 elections. To him, what we should be talking about in the PDP is how to win elections.
“One thing you must first accept is that every aspirant in my party the PDP is eminently qualified but let me tell you that even in a beer parlour, there is seniority. You can’t compare someone drinking beer of N400 and one drinking Champagne.
Even shoes have sizes. Where Nigeria is today requires somebody who has the capacity to help PDP win an election.
“Secondly, somebody who can turn around this country, who understands the dynamics, who has the experience, who can unify this country because our major challenge is the unity of this country. When Atiku declared, he talked about five things: unity, security, economy, education and devolution of powers.
These are germane questions that are begging for answers today and Atiku as a unifier fits into the bill of what Nigeria needs at the moment. We can’t miss it.”
But the South-East has insisted on producing the president in 2023, stating that Nigeria’s continued unity is contingent on it. Recognizing that the South-East has not produced a President of the country since 1979, the leaders called on both the PDP and the APC to consider the history and unity of Nigeria by ensuring that an Igbo man is elected president next year.
Former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, implored delegates at the parties’ presidential primaries to vote for Nigeria’s unity. “Delegates at the primaries should vote with their conscience, vote for the history of this country, knowing that a decision taken today should have the stabilization of the country in mind.
Hence they should ensure that the South-East as a significant part of the federation produces the next president in the general interest of unity, equity and justice because an injustice to one is an injustice to all. It is only a matter of time.
“We are doing this not for self-aggrandizement or to promote sectional interest, but in the interest of unity of our country, to enthrone justice, equity, fairness as founding cornerstones for building a federation where no one is oppressed as we say in our National Anthem.” Contextualizing the issue, the Chairman of the Contact and Mobilization Committee of a group selling zoning to the South- East, Dr. Ferdinand Agu, said the matter is not about the South-East but Nigeria, because certain decisions must be taken to keep the nation together.
“Nigeria has a formula for sharing everything- revenue and all as designed by the Aboyade panel and the Okigbo panel and they are informed not only by numbers but also by sensible compromises, and the story is not any different when it comes to power sharing.
“Zoning was first done in Nigeria in 1979 when the presidency was zoned to the North and eight aspirants, including Shehu Shagari, Maitama Sule and the rest joined the race until NPN settled for Shagari. Nigerians should remove the false narratives about the Igbos or number of votes recorded for the ruling party in 2015, arguing that it is about the nation’s political stability.”
However, observers believe that by virtue of their poor showing in the last weeks, most of the contenders are either shadow aspirants or are positioning themselves to be Vice President Top among them are Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Prof. Ben Ayade, Prof Emeka Nwajiuba and Senator Ken Nnamani. Others are Ahmed Sani Yerima, Mrs. Uju Ohneye, Ajayi Borifice and Dimeji Bankole.
A source said: “While the likes of Tinubu, Atiku, Osinbajo and a few others were touring most of the states, visiting delegates, Where has Oshiomhole or Ahmed Yerima been to? Have you seen Okorocha or Ken Nnamani consult anybody?”