Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nigeria: Parties’ primaries: Victors and victims

Virtually all the political parties in Nigeria have been conducting their primary elections to pick standard bearers for various elective offices, since last week. While the All Progressives Congress, APC, had its national convention to elect its presidential candidate yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is today locked in a conclave at the Eagles Square in Abuja to affirm its sole candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan. The results as they pour in have been shocking as many big name aspirants were completely humbled while quite a few other unknown aspirants had their ways cleared for them. OBIORA IFOH, WOLE OLADIMEJI, TORDUE SALEM, ROTIMI FADEYI, OMEIZA AJAYI and UBONG UKPONG bring out the hypes and intrigues that characterised the primaries.

In every contest, it is expected that there will be winners and there will also be losers, but in Nigeria, elections usually come with high expectations with virtually every player aiming at the top prize; the ticket. In so doing, many aspirants are left with bloodied eyes and in some other cases; the battle may have just begun. The end points in most cases are usually the courts and the dispensation period almost to eternity.

To escape from these political landmines, most political parties use different methods to produce their candidates, some adopting Direct Modified Primaries, DMP, like the APC has done, while in some cases also, sole candidacy and endorsement appear to be the option as witnessed in the PDP presidential primaries.

PDP primaries and its fallout

By the end of today, the PDP would have completed its primaries that culminated in the endorsement of President Jonathan as its sole candidate in the February 14, 2015 presidential election, through the national convention where 3,073 delegates are billed to formalise the process with a yes vote for Jonathan.

However, PDP’s ward congress and the subsequent party congress that facilitated the emergence of the delegates to the party primaries which produced candidates in all the elective position including state Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and governorship were severally flawed with irregularities and massive electoral fraud.

There is virtually no state that reports of such manipulation did not present itself, but the leadership of the party has insisted that it should be seen as internal party matter, which it believes would be amicably resolved before candidates’ names are submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Party leaders have been battling to curtail the protests by disgruntled aspirants who are complaining of being short-changed.

In Oyo State, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala earlier this week dumped the party for the Labour Party, LP.

The Adamawa State chapter of the party led by Governor Bala Ngilari insists they will boycott today’s national convention in protest against the Abuja primary where former chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, was picked as candidate in spite of the assurances by President Jonathan that he would look into their grievances.

Eleven governorship aspirants in Kwara State vowed to prevent what they called the imposition of Mr. Dele Belgore as candidate, while in Ogun State, governorship primaries went ahead despite the directive by the National Working Committee, NWC, not to hold the congress. It insisted that Gboyega Isiaka, who was elected at the congress, must be the candidate.

In Imo state, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume said that votes were awarded to deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who was declared the winner with a total figure that is in excess of the approved delegates’ number. He vowed to upturn the election.

Musiliu Obanikoro, in Lagos State, insists that Jimi Agbaje did not win the election while Sokoto State deputy governor, Mukhtar Shagari, who got only one vote, said that the delegates’ list used was alien to him and that the result of the congress cannot hold.

In Bauchi, Dr. Ali Pate, who lost governorship primaries has kicked against the results. This was as 22 out of 23 governorship aspirants in Akwa Ibom stormed PDP national headquarters on Tuesday claiming that they were out-rigged.

In Ebonyi State, incumbent Governor Martin Elechi may be defecting alongside his numerous supporters, including the immediate past Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, to the APC after a combined efforts of the former governo,r Sam Egwu and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim virtually ran him out of town.

In Enugu, parallel congresses produced Senator Ayogu Eze and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as governorship candidates of the PDP.

In a dramatic twist, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, believed to be sponsored by former Delta State governor, James Ibori, picked the ticket after defeating Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s anointed aspirant, Tony Obuh. Uduaghan himself had less than 48 hours to the primaries stepped down his senatorial ambition for the incumbent senator, James Manager, a development that has left many pundits bewildered.

The results from primaries for the Senate saw over 30 current senators from the PDP denied return tickets. Prominent among them were: Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, who had petitioned the national secretariat, but who House of Representatives member John Owah-Enoh, who defeated him for the Cross River Central ticket, described as “he is a bad loser”; and Uche Chukwumerije.

Though, all the first term PDP governors with the exception of the Adamawa governor, James Bala Ngilari, were returned unopposed, Senate President David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekweremmadu, were handed fresh tickets in style to suggest that the PDP will want a status quo at the Senate leadership to remain.

In Abia State, only one out of three senators, Enyinanya Abaribe, was lucky to be returning while both Chukwumerije and Nkechi Nwogu were shut out in what they said was not the wishes of the electorate.

Barring any change in plan, the Bayelsa State PDP faction loyal to the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, will move to APGA as virtually all federal lawmakers loyal to her, including Senators Clever Ikisikpo and Heineken Lokpobiri failed to clinch return tickets.

Former members of the House of Representatives, Hons Aliyu Wadada from Nasarawa State, Wole Oke from Osun State and the deputy chairman, House Committee on Information Communication Technology, ICT, Tajudeen Yusuf, were among those that won the last Saturday PDP primary.

Other member such as Hon Nenna Ukeje-Elendu, chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon Sunday Adepoju, Hon Nkiruka Onyejiochia, chairman, House Committee on Aviation won their seats

While the old members are staging come back to the House, new politicians are trying to upstage the present lawmakers, as Hon Tajudeen Yusuf, representing Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu federal constituency of Kogi State defeated his opponents to clinch the ticket to return to the House the second time in February 2015 polls.

APC primaries and its fallout

APC, the nation’s main opposition party, held its primary elections nationwide for those vying for the positions of state governors as well as those seeking elections into the National and state Assemblies and with the ultimate, the presidential primaries held yesterday.

The primaries which held in all APC controlled states produced candidates that are going to slug it out with the candidates of other parties in the 2015 elections.

While the party gave automatic tickets to its first term governors, there were stiff contests for the tickets of the party in other states where governors would have completed their two terms and preparing to leave office in 2015.

All the first term governors, Abiola Ajimobi, Ibikunle Amosun, Abdulaziz Yeri, Tanko Al-Makura, Ibrahim Gaidam and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Oyo, Ogun, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Yobe and Kwara states respectively, got automatic tickets for a second term in office.

However, in other states, the gubernatorial tickets were keenly contested, producing winners who will slug it out with other candidates from other parties in the 2015 gubernatorial election.

In Lagos, where incumbent Governor Babatunde Fashola would quit office next year after serving two terms of four years, a former Accountant-General of the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, emerged as candidate.

In Kaduna State, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, emerged as the flag bearer of the party, while Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal emerged as APC gubernatorial candidate in Kaduna.

The assumed anointed candidate of Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje Ganduje emerged as the winner of APC gubernatorial primaries.

In Plateau, former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Simon Lalong emerged as the candidate of the party, he defeated four other opponents in the primary elections including Dr. Elijah Maina, Professor Emmanuel Garba, Senator Dangin Vinken and Solomon Dalungwho

A former Secretary to the State Government, SSG, in Akwa Ibom state, Umanah Umanah, got the ticket of the APC to contest for the state gubernatorial seat in the 2015 election while chairman of the House of Representatives committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Dakuku Peterside, was unanimously adopted by the Rivers State chapter of the APC as its sole candidate for the governorship elections.

In Taraba State, Aisha Alhassan emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC and will be the first female candidate of the party.

Those who also emerged as gubernatorial candidates of the party were former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bello Masari, Katsina; deputy chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Army, Senator Bindow Umaru Jibrilla, Adamawa; Chief Chinenye Nyerere Anyim, Abia;, Inuwa Yahaya, Gombe and Mohammed Abubakar, Bauchi.

Others include Olorogun Otega Emerhor, Delta, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger, Okey Ezea, Enugu and Inuwa Yahaya, Gombe State amongst others.

Tinubu’s overwhelming influence in the primary elections

Former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is regarded as one of the powerful national leaders of the APC with influence in many of the appointments and elections within the party. F

or instance, in Lagos State, regarded as the commercial nerve centre of the country, Ambode, believed to be Tinubu’s anointed candidate emerged as the standard bearer of the party, defeating a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr. Olasupo Shasore, who many believed was propped up by and preferred candidate of Fashola.

Ambode defeated 12 other aspirants in the result of the gubernatorial primary election in the state, and was believed to have had the influence of Tinubu who had assumed a powerful position in the political affairs of Lagos State, the South- West and the Southern region of the country,

It is also on record that Tinubu was instrumental to the election of Fashola as governor of the state who is presently serving his second term of four years with the support of Tinubu.

Just like Tinubu was able to ensure that Fashola, who was his former Chief of Staff succeeded him as governor, the APC leader also made good use of his influence by making his wife, Oluremi, a senator.

Many other appointments and elections in the state had the backing of Tinubu one way or the other, while he was also busy spreading his tentacles to many other parts of the South to ensuring relevance and involvement in the affairs of the region.

Although there were reports of bad blood between Tinubu and Fashola, regarding the gubernatorial primary election in the state, the report had been denied by both sides. They both claimed that their relationship remain cordial and intact.

In the midst of the controversy, Tinubu had to come out with a statement that he was not angry with Fashola and that they have cordial relations which is very intact.

In the same vein, Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Lateef Ibirogba, who spoke on behalf of Fashola maintained that there was no problem between the governor and Tinubu.

However, with APC National Convention, there is no doubt that the influence of Tinubu would also come into play in the choice of its presidential candidate and other positions in the party just as he did in the choice of the incumbent APC national chairman, John Odigie- Oyegun and the sizeable number of the present NWC.

Buhari’s factor in the North

Former Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari has won the hearts of many Northerners, since he joined party politics in 2003.

As a former governor of North-Eastern State, which comprises of Adamawa, Borno, Gombe, Bauchi, Taraba and Yobe states, he took charge of flushing out the then raging Maitatsine uprising, led by Musa Maikaniki.

His exploits in the war against the insurgents, was so impressive, it has won him an enduring adulation of the people of that area in particular, and Nigerians in general.

The appreciation of his military leadership and his political asceticism, has been rewarded in three presidential elections he stood for.

In 2003, he got a resounding support from the North, and has continued to enjoy that support, despite his believed low financial base. He even won more state in 2011, under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in states like Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Taraba, Niger, Plateau, Kwara, Zamfara and Yobe States.

Like Tinubu in the South-West, Buhari is believed to be instrumental to the choice of many governorship aspirants in the North, such as the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Masari in Katsina and former FCT Minister, El- Rufai amongst others.

The Buhari phenomenon is expected to hold strong, until the close of elections in February when a President would have been elected for the country.

Fall-out of APGA primaries

All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons. Like its bigger brothers, the PDP and APC, APGA has stoked more controversies as a result of the poor handling of its primary elections.

Foremost, the election could not hold November 4 due to the fierce resistance by members who felt short-changed.

APGA leaders in Anambra State were said to have tried to use the wrong delegates’ list which is far different from the original list of the delegates that emanated from the ward delegates election.

Delegates had on the said day converged on the venue of the election as early as 8am but the panel did not come around until it was almost 7pm. Rather than settling down to the business of the day, they allegedly brought out a “doctored” delegates’ list, a development which caused tempers to flare.

One Awka chief was rumoured to be behind the attempt to use doctored lists as the angry party faithful nearly beat him up.

In the end, the election was never conducted. Consequently, most of the party women said they would not mind protesting naked just to ensure that the right thing is done.

In some places, Labour Party, LP, members were said to have been included in the APGA delegates’ list for the election. It was gathered that the LP members whose names were included in the list of delegates for APGA primary were led by the state LP chairman, Engr. Sam Oraegbunam, who is still in court with his party challenging his removal as chairman over alleged financial misappropriation and high handedness.

Curiously, Oraegbunam is the Campaign Coordinator of Mr. Ferdinand Dozie Nwankwo, brother in-law of Rivers State governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amechi, whose clearance by APGA to stand for the primary is reportedly generating bad blood between the Presidency and the trio of Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, his wife, Ebelechukwu, and APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.

When it finally conducted its state House of Assembly primaries on December 3, the election was postponed in nine constituencies of the state.

LP primaries and its fallout

Despite the exit of Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the only governor on the LP platform, the party is still making waves and creating problem for the big parties in some states. Evidence has shown that the party is still to be reckoned with as the 2015 general elections is approaching.

The party, till date, no doubt remains an underdog in the political firmament as 2015 general elections approach and the political gladiators are warming up. The recent defection of Mimiko too, was seen by many as capable of dealing a big blow to its popularity among the populace especially within the last six months.

But recent developments in Oyo LP, after Mimiko’s exit and in some other states, especially with what is coming up from the party primaries, suggested that the party may be up to something promising and glaringly unpredictable in the political chess game of the 38year-old Pacesetter State.

In states like Ondo, Oyo, Anambra, Ekiti and Delta, the situation was not the same as some politicians in the party are full of optimism that the party would definitely make inroad in the 2015 election.

In Oyo state, with the declaration of former governor Otunba Alao-Akala, who has the control of a majority of Ogbomoso voters in his kitty, it is believed that the state could pander to either of the big parties or better still to the underdog party, the LP.

And with the official entry of a former SSG of Oyo, Sharafadeen Abiodun Alli, into the governorship race on the platform of the LP, the contest may as well be a hot one.

In Delta State, 23 governorship aspirants collected form to contest for LP gubernatorial ticket. Out of the number, eight returned their forms; three were disqualified, leaving five aspirants to contest the primaries. But four of the contestants later withdrew and had accepted to work with veteran politician, Great Ogboru, as the sole candidate for the primaries of the party.

Primaries’ fallout: Flash point and security challenges

Security breaches and threats to lives of candidates have been viewed to be one factor to watch out for and nip in the bud, as political parties continue to produce their candidates at various levels ahead of the 2015 general elections.

At the risk of sounding suggestive, it is a known fact that crises are often part of the fallouts of elections at all strata in the country with the end result being violence that often threatens the security of the winners and the society.

Chances are that losers of the primaries, their loyalists and other disgruntled fellows within the system could instigate violence to score some political points or even see how to destroy the entire process for selfish reasons.

Equally, lives of the candidates may be at risk of assassination, abduction, or even their family members to distabilise and cause them psychological and emotional stresses.

It has severally been argued that politicians are good at doing anything to secure electoral victory and as such, it is not out of place to check all attempts to rob the successful candidates of their victory using violent, ungodly and unlawful means.

As such, it is expedient for flashpoints and untrusted aspirants to be watched closely by security forces to moderate the activities and actions around them.

Apart from doing the needful to secure the candidates, there are worries over how candidates in some volatile areas would carry on with their electioneering activities. The level of insecurity in the areas would likely pose serious challenges to their campaigns and rallies.

What mode of campaign would be adopted in places with curfew, how would the parties and candidates hold rallies there and identify their supporters, how would they choose areas for rallies in the midst of security problems? These are some issues that have come up to be considered in the journey to 2015, especially given the insurgency in the North East.

Certainly, in view of the emergency rule in those areas, politicians and political activities would be highly moderated by the military, which is interested in the peace than the politics of the areas.

The parties also need votes from Gwoza, Damboa, Mubi and other troubled areas in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, but the question is whether they will freely go to those places to canvass for votes.

The military has not been able to come up to say which areas are safe or unsafe for political activities.

Director of Army Public Relations, DAPR, Brig-General Olajide Laleye, had last month at a press briefing said that the Army could not say which areas are still under the control of Boko Haram.

By implication, the military is unsure of safe and unsafe areas, especially in North East, as attempting this could be suicidal, since terrorism is an unpredictable issue.

The National Mirror

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