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APC And Its Struggle With Presidential Primary

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The Insight by Lateef Adewole

It is no longer news that the main opposition party PDP has successfully organised their presidential primary convention. And that the maverick political big fish, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the primary, with a landslide, in a keenly contested election. PDP has once again, demonstrated what the party still has going for it; the resilience and robust organisational capacity.

I have always said that warts and all, PDP has remained a true political party in all sense of it. It is the only party that is not built around one or few people, such that the dispositions of such “owners” determine the existence of the party. By 1998 when it was formed, many of the founding fathers and members who were part of it, have died. Many have retired from politics. Many others have left the party, prostituting from one political party to another. In fact, apart from some politicians who are not too many, nearly all important political bigwigs in the country have had a stint in PDP, at one time or another.

Most of all other existing political parties are populated by people who have been involved in PDP at one time or another, including the ruling party APC. PDP has gone through the ups and downs, many turbulent times that had it almost collapsed but still survived, including an exit of a former president who publicly tore his party card, former vice-president who left the umbrella, many former and sitting governors, senators, house of representatives members, state legislators and so on, left the party, yet, it survived. I do not think there is any other party in Nigeria with such capacity.

Yes, the presidential primary of the PDP that took place last week; 27 and 28 of May, might have been the worst monetised primary in our history, and shamelessly publicly too. At some other primary at states, we heard of how aspirants who bribed delegates have gone back to demand for their money and gifts like cars, after they lost. Such was a brazen exhibition of corruption that is going on since the primaries began generally. This is not peculiar to PDP alone. However, as for the presidential primary election, PDP has set the bar as to how democratically and transparently elect their candidate. It was well applauded.

Since Sunday, all eyes have been been on the ruling party APC, with regards to their own presidential primary, which was supposed to have been conducted on 29 and 30 of May, but was later postponed to Monday 6 and 7 of June. After previous changes. Why did they continue to act like a confused people? The kind of intrigues going on within the party is unprecedented. To get aspirants screened was a tug of war. They kept shifting the dates but eventually saw it through on Wednesday, the outcome of which is out there now with ten yet-to-be named aspirants disqualified.

Some years ago, I wrote an article titled: “When will APC become a true political party?”. It was at a time they were doing their party congresses in 2018. The party was torn from the middle in many states. I posited that the party is built around two major personalities; President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Both of them have been the rallying point of others. Their involvements have kept the party together.

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However, the same two titans do not seem to be on the same page for some time now, especially since the later declared his “lifelong ambition” to step in the shoe, not on the shoe, of the former. All the scheming, intrigues and shenanigans, happening within that party are believed to be orchestrated just to outwit the later. Why?

While everyone was anticipatory of who is likely to win the presidential primary of the APC, in a free, fair and credible process, with series of permutations going on, an unexpected controversial statement emanated from President Buhari on Tuesday that threw spanner into the wheel. It has generated a lot of debates.

He had meeting with the state governors under the APC when he made the statement. He was quoted as demanding that the governors support him in making his choice of a successor. What did that mean? The implication is that there may be no real contest. This seems to becoming the tradition in APC, especially at the highest level. Few months ago, when it was time to choose national officers of the party, many party members obtained forms for various positions, traversed the country on campaigns to solicit for votes of the delegates, only for consensus to be forced on the aspirants. There was no single post that was contested.

At the state and regional levels, nearly all the offices were filled by consensus. While consensus is actually part of democracy but what is democratic in many consensus we see in our political parties today? A consensus requires that stakeholders in any events agree, through negotiations, compromises and horse-trading, by giving up on their aspirations for a particular position and adopt a single candidate. This is expected to be voluntarily done.

By the new amendments to the electoral acts of 2022, such a consensus arrangement requires that all other aspirants who agreed to such consensus must indicate so in writing. Each and every one of them, that they agreed to it. In the real sense of it, this is a tall order. We all knew that the national assembly deliberately inserted that section to check the overlording of many political godfathers, especially the state governors, who are fond of impositions.

In Nigeria, the governors are the Lord of the manor. They reign supreme in their states and rule with absolute powers, except ofcourse Lagos State. Once any governor gets to office, he seizes all the machineries of power like party structures. He influences the state executives of party by ensuring his own loyal people emerge as the state officials. Subsequently, anything that needs the party executives to decide, he gives order as to what must be done.

So, when elections are approaching like this time around, he uses such influence to manipulate the process in the favour of his preferred choice, whether as his successor, or into other elective political offices like the state house of assembly, house of representatives and the senate. It is such imposition that the amendment tries to cure. Even when any governor or godfather wants to impose a sole candidate, he has to go through a primary election if he cannot get other aspirants to agree and put such in writing.

Oftentimes, governor’s anointed candidates still win since the party structures, which produce the delegates, are in his pocket. At least, it relatively curbed their unbridled use of power to impose candidates on the rest of the aspirants without giving a damn. Although, they still adopt many other tactics. The use of subtle blackmail, settlement and force sometimes, by coercion of the aspirants still rife.

Such is not as easy at the federal. That was why the opposition party PDP must have gone through the whole hog in electing their presidential candidate last week. That demanded vigorous engagement with delegates from all the states of the federation and FCT. Although, it all boiled down to dollars. The level of monetary inducements reportedly witnessed at the presidential primary were previously unseen.

If all we heard were true, where delegates were bribed with as much as 50,000 dollars, just for a single vote, then, we are in a bigger mess than anticipated. That is a whooping N30 million. Delegates became the latest millionaires in town without working for it. It was another section of the electoral amendments that made that possible, possibly as a result of negligence on the part of lawmakers for committing such error of omission.

Section 84(8) that excludes the statutory delegates was a gross error. Who are these statutory delegates? They are serving and former presidents, serving governors and deputies, national and state assembly members, LG chairmen and their deputies, ward councillors, party chairmen in all LGAs. Many of these are experienced politicians with institutional memories of the party, and national body politics, who will be in better position to choose more objectively, a candidate who will ably represent the choice of the party members.

Like the charade that happen in the dollar bazaar of a primary, it would have been more difficult to sway many of these people with some wads as they are not that “cheap”. Also, the number of delegates will be higher that bribing them may be too costly for any aspirant. Efforts by the national assembly to remedy the error at the last minute failed because the president refused to sign it immediately as they thought, but rather referred it to the Ministry of Justice for legal advice. They were also victims as they could not vote at the conventions. A court in Kano just ruled against it yesterday, permitting statutory delegates to vote in primaries. Will APC work with that? Time will tell.

Now that Atiku is the candidate of PDP, the leadership of APC has been thrown into needless confusion as to who to elect and how to go about electing such person. It is no secret that given the capacity of each aspirant on the platform as far as political influence, reach, network, resources and sagacity are concerned, no other candidate beats Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is shoulder above others. When a match for Atiku is also a critical factor, he ticks the box. All that the leadership needs is sincerity in their pursuit. Next to him is the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. By virtue of the office he currently occupies, he is in a vantage position to do well in the main election, even against Atiku.

However, from feelers from the party hierarchy, and the body language of the president, it does not seem they want either of these, especially Tinubu to clinch the ticket. Reason for such is still unknown. Rather than employ full democratic process to execute such plan, they have been looking for shortcuts through the back door to attain such end. An indication of such first appeared in the nomination forms which included an already prepared voluntary resignation letter by each aspirant in support of a consensus candidate. Each aspirant is required to signed the letter under oath for its authentication.

By that, an anticipatory consensus candidate will have no legal encumbrance as imposed by electoral laws even if he was imposed, as such already signed letters will be deemed to be used to fulfil the required condition, even if the aspirants disagree. I cannot independently confirm if any or all the aspirants signed it. It must be foolish for anyone to do so, in my opinion.

So, with the president’s request to be allowed to determine his successor, who is supposed to be the person to take over from him, controversy was generated. A successor can only emerge after a presidential election must have been held and the winner validly declared by INEC in a free, fair and credible election, which involves more than only the APC. Are we missing something? Was the president speaking in riddles? Are we working from the answer to the question? All these have agitated the minds of many Nigerians, especially the opposition party members, many of whom looked forward to trouncing APC and removing them from government.

To many APC members who are aspirants or supporters of aspirants, it was not funny. Only those who think they are the possible preferred candidate of Buhari were comfortable with such statement. Those who feel it was a ploy to outwit them disagreed totally with it. After all these months of travelling across the country by the real contenders, not the pretenders or jokers, spending time, energy and money, campaigning and wooing delegates, how can the president throw all that away with a fiat of solely choosing his successor, the APC candidate preferably? That will be undemocratic. Moreover, the serious aspirants will never simply agree to step down for another without testing their popularity.

Tinubu has been on fire. He, being anticipatorily the most probable aspirant to win in a fair contest, could not stomach his disenchantment about schemings against him. He was blunt but factual in his recent outbursts, with regards to his singlehanded enormous contributions to the APC formation and the enthronement of President Buhari in 2015. And he was absolutely right. He then queried why attempts are being made to deny him his own chance.

Looking at more valid reasons that the APC leadership might be considering in choosing a candidate that could defeat Atiku, beyond any other sentimental, sinister objectives, Asiwaju is the strongest. But the sentiment that only a northerner candidate could achieve that is balderdash. Firstly, it is ludicrous and an assault on the sensibility of the southerners to think only northerners are capable of winning elections.

Secondly, it was previously inconceivable by many of us to think any region would attempt to keep power to themselves in perpetuity, when there is an unwritten understanding of a power rotation between the north and the south, under democratic dispensations. Military interventions which never observed such tradition, were aberrations, as they usurped power illegally. But a legitimate democratic government, no way!

It is such balance of power rotation that has kept Nigeria reasonably stable. Anyone who conceives disruption to such arrangement is an enemy of the country. Definitely, other cheated half of the country would not take such enslavement lying low. It was in the spirit of such understanding that the south, led by the same Tinubu and others in 2015, mobilised to support Buhari, a northerner, against their own south brother, an incumbent president Jonathan.

It was also in the same spirit that all candidates who contested the 2019 presidential election on the two main political parties were northerners as the southerners believed it was the right thing to do. How come the political leadership of the country is trying to change the goal post in the middle of the game? How can the north expect that the south should accept another northerner to continue to rule the country after the eight years of President Buhari? That will be unacceptable.

The PDP that enshrined rotation of the presidency of Nigeria between the north and the south in their party constitution have observed it more in breach. They have betrayed those southerners who have remained faithful to the party even when many other bigwigs were jumping from one party to another over the years. The flimsy excuse that Buhari is not of PDP is rubbish. Buhari, a northerner, has been the president of Nigeria in the last seven years. Is PDP hoping to govern a different country?

In all, for the good of the party APC and its continous existence, it is advisable that the party leadership should allow the aspirants to test their weight in a free and fair primary election. Whoever is able to win, just like in the case of PDP, would have shown his or her capacity to win the presidential election too, provided the needed party supports will be truly made available, with sincerity from the leadership and followership, especially from the northern part of Nigeria.

With what the north has been subjected to in particular in the last seven years, they were supposed to be the first to reject any other northerner at this time, demanding that another person from the other region be tried to see if their situation can get better, as far as insecurities are concerned. Or, are they only interested in power for the sake of holding it rather than for the betterment of the citizens? This is the crux of the matter. It is immoral and unjust for another northerner to take over from Preaident Buhari, a northerner, after eight years, irrespective of the party. It is unacceptable!

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole.

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