By: Amir Abdulazeez
The primary elections of Nigeria’s two strongest political parties, the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) might have come and gone, but the dusts raised by the exercises across various states of the federation are yet to settle. As things are currently going, it is unlikely that the primary election appeal committees of both parties will adequately or significantly settle these dusts so much that it will amount to a major change of the status quo.
Petitions, accusations, allegations and counter allegations from different aspirants may have to be settled by the courts as INEC’s deadline for accepting nominations from political parties has elapsed.
For better or for worse, these nomination processes by the two biggest parties have taught us some lessons, some of which were so funny to the extent that one occasionally finds it difficult to differentiate between Nigerian politics and comedy. From the expected and usual to the bizarre and unexpected, here are some of these things are;
Aspirants Only Unite After Losing Primaries;
This year’s elections have seen a lot of contenders for different positions with some states having from between 10 to 15 gubernatorial aspirants in one party alone. Ideally, one expects all the aspirants to have one major goal, that of using the office they are vying for to better peoples’ lives and the only differences between them should be in methods and approaches to achieving that goal. In the pursuit of their mandates, they differ very much. While some are craving for free and credible primaries, some are clamouring for zoning, some want automatic tickets while others are waiting for anointment. However, once the primaries are over and the ‘winner’ emerges, the defeated aspirants will for the right or wrong reasons gang up and suddenly unite under one agenda, call for fresh primaries. Aspirants with hitherto no connections or even sharing animosities, suddenly become partners searching for justice. A lot of PDP Gubernatorial Primaries have resulted in such scenarios with Yobe, Adamawa, Kano and Imo been typical examples. The APC has a similar case in Gombe.
APC Is Merged but Not Integrated;
From early to late last year, the ANPP, ACN, CPC, APGA Faction, nPDP and others merged to form the APC with some coming after the party’s formal registration. However, the recent primaries in some states showed that they didn’t really merge; the only glued or fastened together. In many states, there was rancour over what they termed ‘marginalization of legacy parties’ or ‘scheming out of non-legacy parties’, etc. in other states, candidates were ‘allocated’ based on legacy or merging parties. A senatorial aspirant in Kano State only remembered that he was a former ACN member after he lost the primaries. One of the reasons he gave why the primaries should be annulled was that ACN was marginalized in the state.
Consensus Is More like Coercion
The issue of consensus candidate is not new in our politics, but it was practically kicked off this term by the PDP and President Jonathan. PDP undemocratically barred anyone from contesting against the president, despite the fact that nothing suggests that Jonathan will not win the PDP primaries with a landslide against whoever decides to contest. Although a convention was later organized to ratify Jonathan’s candidacy, we also learnt from that convention that all this while, the PDP National Chairman and Secretary have been in acting capacity.
Furthermore, most candidates who were claimed to have stepped down base on consensus arrangement, later turned back and kicked against the consensus arrangement, citing coercion, threat and potential injustice for their withdrawal. In Jigawa State, the former Deputy Governor of the state emerged as APC gubernatorial candidate through consensus, only for one of the other aspirants to make a u-turn and insists on primaries. That aspirant won, but the earlier consensus candidate did not participate in the primaries.
There is No End in Sight to Godfatherism and Nigerian Governors are Simply Unstoppable;
Godfathers, most of who are governors have continued their dictatorial trend of dominating politics left, right and center. Governors’ favoured aspirants are winning primaries with ‘ease’ and by the governors forcing themselves as senatorial candidates; they are now well positioned to take over the Red Chamber in 2015. Meanwhile, the abysmal performance of deputy governors in primary elections continues. It is safe to assume that no less than 90% of Deputy Governors covertly or overtly nurtured the ambition of flying their party’s flags, but only two (Kano and Ebonyi) succeeded, others failed woefully.
Simply put, success in Nigerian politics is fast becoming an impossibility without a godfather. Even the mighty Buhari had to rely on Tinubu’s support to be sure of victory.
Nigerians Have No Stake in Determining Flag-bearers;
The most popular aspirants usually lose in the primaries, leaving voters to elect between whomever candidates the party primaries produce for them in the general elections.
Early this year, APC embarked on a massive membership drive promising Nigerians that they would be given the opportunity to choose their leaders through direct primaries. However, since after the enormously successful membership registration exercise, the party began to systematically distance itself from that promise, until it eventually settled for what it called ‘modified indirect primaries’. That arrangement has seen only 6,008 delegates select a Presidential Candidate for more than 170 million people.
PDP’s case is even worse in all ramifications as about 3000 delegates were made to vote for just one contender. Also, 21 delegates were alleged to have determined the PDP gubernatorial candidate for the whole of Yobe State. We also learnt, especially from the PDP primaries that delegates may be different from voters and that it is not the voting that matters, but the counting.
Jonathan is Focused on His Ambition;
It is clear that Jonathan is strictly focused on his ambition, leaving little or no room for distractions. This is evident, going by the fact that most of his men failed to clinch the various tickets they contested for. With the exception of Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers), none of his former ministers managed to scale through the PDP gubernatorial primaries and events suggests that Jonathan did little to help.
Despite being part of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet, some ministers like that of FCT simply refused to participate in the PDP gubernatorial race probably due to lack of encouragement from the President. It looks like Jonathan did not take sides directly and didn’t get involved much in PDP state primaries, probably as a pay back to his sole candidacy or to avoid any move that could backfire. Internal revolt is the least Jonathan would want at the moment.
APC is PDP’s Waste Basket;
A rough estimate suggests that between 60 to 80% of all successful APC candidates at all levels are either former PDP members or those who left the PDP recently.
Many aspirants joined APC from PDP within days or hours and went ahead to clinch gubernatorial tickets. Akwa-Ibom, Kebbi and Benue states are typical examples. It would be interesting to see if APC would complain if these guys keep to tradition and later re-join the PDP after they win.
The other twenty or thirty something remaining political parties are no more than anyone’s waste basket. Only few of them conducted meaningful and visible primaries with most of their notable candidates emerging after crossing over from other parties.
It Is Possible To Contest for Two Posts at a Time;
This phenomenon practically began with Tambuwal who was eyeing both the APC Presidential and the Sokoto State Governorship Tickets. Media reports suggest that he has obtained nomination forms for both positions. However, he later settled for the governorship.
Kwankwaso and Rochas successfully executed what Tambuwal only attempted. They may not have broken any law, but their actions are simply insulting on peoples’ sensibilities. It was very much clear that Kwankwaso was eyeing the Kano Central Senatorial Ticket even as he was vigorously pursuing a clearly predictable presidential contest. Kwankwaso made sure that his in-law, former Personal Assistant and current Commissioner clinched the Kano Central APC Senatorial Ticket and after he lost the APC Presidential Primaries, the ticket was relinquished to him, just as one’s personal property would be returned to him when he comes for it. Rochas practically did the same by apparently asking his commissioner to take custody of the Imo APC Gubernatorial Ticket for him before he collected it back almost on the very day he lost the presidential primaries. One wonders how APC allowed that without any query so far.
Being Running Mate Is More Difficult That Being Candidate;
Vice president Namadi Sambo’s seat was under threat for much part of their second coming with Jonathan. It was clear that in the past 2 years that some Northern PDP Governors were not eyeing the Presidency but the Vice Presidency which made Sambo’s position looked insecure for some time.
Similarly, the choice of Buhari’s running mate gave the APC’s top hierarchy a tough time with meetings running into marathons. Before succumbing to religious propaganda which probably necessitated the emergence of Professor Osinbajo, they had to seriously contend with more than 7 names with Amaechi, Oshiomole, Tinubu and Fashola among them. The APC VP slot was fiercely contested to the point one thought the party would organize a fresh convention to elect a VP Candidate.
Similar scenarios played out in some states where Gubernatorial Candidates had to determine their Running Mates on INEC candidates’ submission deadline.
2015 Elections Would Not Be Free and Fair;
Going by the controversial nature by which many candidates emerged; one has every reason to be pessimistic about the General Elections. Many unpopular incumbents had forced themselves through the primaries and are probably hell bent on rigging themselves through the General Elections.
President Jonathan for example who has one of the poorest public ratings in Africa currently and whose eligibility to contest is still controversial, must be very conscious of this, and he wouldn’t have decided to contest if he was willing to allow a free, fair, smooth and credible election to take place. The way he emerged as PDP’s sole candidate only adds possibility to this assumption.
Furthermore, with many primaries of both parties dominated by money sharing, coercion of delegates, rigging, do-or-die attitude, winning-at-all-costs and winner-takes-all phenomena, one only has to wonder the extent to which candidates that emerged from such processes would go in trying to win at the general elections.
With INEC being handicapped by the Electoral Act from fighting candidate imposition, refusing to accept flawed nominations or even properly checkmating rigging, anything can happen in 2015.
Mallam Amir, the President of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI) can be reached through [email protected]