As the major political parties brace up for their primaries, BIYI ADEGOROYE articulates issues that should dominate discourse in the on going leadership recruitment efforts in order to save the country from the precipice
With the June 4 deadline for all political parties to submit the names of their candidates for various positions in the 2023 elections, all the parties now have the herculean task to pick their flag bearers.
According to the adjusted timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the presidential and National Assembly elections are now scheduled for February 25, 2023 to be followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly poll on March 11. The political parties have between April 4 and June 23 to conduct their primaries and to ensure the resolution of disputes emanating therefrom.
This is expected to give ample time to prepare to for the polls as the commencement of campaigns for National Assembly and Presidential election is September 28, 2022, while that of Governorship and state Houses of Assembly is October 12, 2022.
Already, the governing party has rolled out its timetable for the conduct of the primaries – May 17 for the House of Assembly in the states of the federation, May 19 for House of Representatives, May 21 for the Senate, May 24 for governorship and May 30 for presidential primaries.
In the APC which has insisted that the South should produce the next president, its presidential aspirants like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Chief Dave Umahi , Governor Yahaya Bello, Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi, Godwin Emefiele have shown remarkable zest for the post with tours, consultations and are getting set to purchase of forms any time from April 22.
For the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) Saturday, April 23, 2022 is the Ward Congresses to elect three-man Adhoc delegates, one of which must be a woman, Friday, April 23, 2022 Local Government Congress to elect one national delegate per local government area, Thursday, May 5, 2022 publication of delegate list.
Other dates are Saturday, May 7, 2022 State House of Assembly primaries, Thursday, May 12, 2022 House of Representatives primaries, Saturday, May 14, 2022, Senatorial primaries, Saturday, May 21, 2022, governorship primaries, Saturday, 28 and Sunday, 29, May 2022 presidential primaries and Tuesday, May 31, 2022 presentation of Certificate of Return to winners.
The 37-man panel on zoning headed by the Governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom failed woefully to reach a consensus, despite the fact that zoning is an indelible component of the PDP constitution, to zone the presidency to the South, like the APC.
Article 7 (2) (c) of the PDP Constitution states: “In pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of the party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate executive committee at all levels.”
Argument canvassed, though considered by many politicians as jaundiced, were the fact that since 1999, (23 years) the North has produced the presidents who served for about 10 years while the remaining number of years were covered by presidents of Southern extraction- Olusegun Obasanjo, (eight), Umaru Musa Yar’dua, (two years), Goodluck Jonathan (six years) and Muhammadu Buhari who is rounding off his eight years.
Though torn apart by the labyrinthine problems of inability to reach an agreement on consensus candidacy – a position supported by Aminu Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed, Bukola Saraki and Mohammed Hayatudeen, power shift-friendly group, Governors Nyesom Wike, Okezie Ikpeazu, Seyi Makinde and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and free contest counterpart, Atiku Abubakar and Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, PDP is nonetheless ready for the presidential primaries which though may turn out a fierce one.
At the last count, over eight aspirants, including Atiku Abubakar, who is taking a fourth shot at the presidency, Senator Bukola Saraki, Nyesom Wike, Pius Ayim, Peter Obi, Aminu Tambuwal and Dele Momodu have either bought the nomination and expression of interest forms or are about to do so.
Having thrown open its presidential ticket for the election, observers believe that the PDP has stirred the hornets by being insensitive to the mood of the nation, especially the agitation of the South-East to produce the president, having suffered a kind of denial since 1999, when Dr. Alex Ekweme took at short at it.
The closest the region has gotten to the presidency was with the emergence of Ekweme as Vice President in 1979. Others argued that by throwing open the contest, the party either pandered to the influence of Atiku Abubakar and or showed indifference to the fact that a president of Northern extraction at this stage is untimely because a northerner is leaving the presidency in 2023.
While APC’s position jelled with many of the political class, to the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze came hard on the PDP, a party the South- East is positively disposed for its freewheeling action, stating that the party has committed political suicide.
The Preident-General of Ohanaeze worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor, described the action as political hara-kiri, (suicide) adding that “Such unscrupulous violation of the zoning principle that has been well entrenched in the PDP constitution simply changes the rules of the game in order to deprive Ndigbo the opportunity to produce a president for Nigeria.”
While zoning has been on h cards all the while, primaries some have argued that the current moves should lay sound foundation for good governance in the country. Good governance has been an issue of major concern to people of all sorts over the ages globally because of its impact on social, economic and political development, even as bad governance has been a major source of worry.
No wonder the United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP), has identified striving for rule of law, transparency, equity, effectiveness/efficiency, accountability and strategic vision in the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority as parts of its components.
Besides, good governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised, and includes how governments are selected, replaced, government’s capacity to formulate and implement policies, provide public services and earn the respect of citizens, institutions that determine economic and social infractions.
Good governance is a critical means of providing sustainable development, reducing poverty and promoting peace, equality and social justice, therefore, Kofi Annan, a onetime Secretary General of the United Nations, described good governance as the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development.
This is the more reason the current primaries should be of interest to Nigerians across the political parties. It has been observed that one of the major setbacks or clogs in the wheel of the country’s progress is pathetic leadership. No country has ever risen beyond the capacity, vision and mission of its leaders.
As the leadership recruitment process continues, beyond the issue of zoning is the capacity and capability of the aspirants to lead Nigeria out of its current socio-economic and political quagmire. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the country today is grappling with the vexed issue of national security, nepotism, factionalization around ethnic or religious lines.
The economy is at the lowest ebb with over 90 per cent of its income spent on debt servicing. The country’s education sector is bear collapse even as unemployment, infrastructure, industries are in palpable states of flux. Beyond raking billions from sales of nomination and expression of interest forms, in largely predictable primaries, national interest should form the priority of the political parties.
In developed climes, this is a stage for robust debates on the plans and programmes of the aspirants, whose credentials should be of interest to party members and the electorate, but in Nigeria, attention is focused on influence and other primordial interest at the expense of nation building. Will the primaries be any different from the past where delegates where the tickets were sold to the highest bidders?
It could be recalled that in the past primaries, due process, ability to deliver and competence were obfuscated by the big pockets of the contestants, most of who doled out at least $5,000 to each delegate. Like the electorate who sold their votes for N4,000 apiece, the nation now knows better that such action was tantamount to selling their future.
Has Nigeria learnt anything from history? Reminiscing on events preceding 2015 and 2019 elections where academic qualification, competence and blueprint for national development were declared inconsequential should enable Nigeria not to make the mistake of the past.
For instance, how many of the aspirants have been able to articulate their programmes for the development of Nigeria? What are their unique selling points?
Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu emerge early on the radar last year, lamenting the daily diet of killing, terrorism and collapsing national economy, positing that Nigeria’s future is dependent on the emergence of visionary, competent and inclusive national leadership .
He decried what he called the “reckless foreign borrowing,” and promised to “deliver results on a Four- Point Agenda in four years (4 by 4), codenamed SWAG – Security for all Nigerians and Nigeria’s territory;
War against poverty: skills, jobs for our youth, and an innovation economy, accelerated education and healthcare reform; Good governance: inclusive, transparent, effective and accountable.” How many aspirants have succinctly diagnosed Nigeria’s problem in that manner and made workable prognosis as their developmental strategies?
Similarly, the likes of former Governor Peter Obi have proven to combine comparatively younger age with competence and track record of performance, but these hardly appeal to the delegates at the primaries. Weighing on the issue, Dr. Ifeanyi Osuoza, PDP Spokesman in Delta State said the woeful and stagnating performance of President Muhammadu Buhari, in the last seven years, has left Nigeria with a real leadership problem as we approach the 2023 presidential election.
“The real challenge for Nigerians now is to elect a candidate who possesses the qualities of a leader that will pull the country out of the quagmire which the outgoing administration plunged our country into. “We need a President with Integrity, an innovative leader who will develop and implement an outside-the-box plan of action to tackle the myriad of problems facing the country, the most challenging of which are economic and security.
“We an honest, self-confident, courageous, visionary President who would be candid enough to tell Nigerians the true position of things at all times, seek partnership and collaboration with the best solution providers and most importantly, entrench a unifying leadership that would ensure uniform development and a peaceful, harmonious co-existence amongst all the diverse components of the country.”
Former Military President of Nigeria, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) insisted that Nigerians should vote for a candidate in his/ her 60s as the next president of the country.
The president said the task before any Nigerian president is enormous, hence the need to vote for a leader with mental capacity, economic knowledge, and physical strength.
He said on Arise Television that apart from the age and capability that Nigeria’s next president should be someone with good links and vibes with the people that can easily use his connections to make things work for the citizens.
“If you get a good leadership that links with the people and tries to talk with the people; not talking on top of the people, then we would be okay. I have started visualizing a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.
“That is a person, who is very versed in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in his 60s.”