Ojo Madueekwe writes that the primary of the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress and the People’s Democratic Party reveal a scary trend that Nigerian politicians are opposed to reforms
Last week’s badly conducted party primaries by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) point to the wider issues of control and disagreement within the ruling party and the main opposition party.
Except for their presidential that was devoid of rancor, primaries for the national assembly and governorship positions were riddled with irregularities. Officially, while President Muhammadu Buhari is APC candidate for the 2019 presidential election, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar will fly the PDP flag.
Meanwhile, here are some of the headlines that sum up the primaries: ‘APC Governors meet Buhari, protest Rancorous Primaries’; ‘NWC Panel Dissociates Self from Ongoing APC Primary in Lagos’; ‘Imo APC declares Chairman of Guber Primary Missing’; ‘Ogun: Osinbajo, Amosun Meet as Oshiomhole Vows to Resist Pressure’.
Reported events from the PDP primaries were no different from those of the APC: ‘One injured as Gunshots Rock PDP Primaries in Makurdi’, ‘Party Disowns Purported Election held in Kogi East’; ‘Hoodlums Destroyed Result of Adamawa PDP Primaries’, were some of the headlines.
In a desperate scramble for their party tickets, politicians from both the APC and PDP – as if cut from the same cloth – demonstrated a penchant for subverting their party rules and unwillingness to submit themselves to reform.
There have been attempts by chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to reform the party; a self-acclaimed progressive party that champions change in slogan but in character and principle has acted no different from the PDP they often criticise.
The first recorded mention of the new direction party primaries were to assume under Oshiomhole’s leadership was during his declaration to vie for the APC chairmanship, where he told members of his party present that the indirect primary was “susceptible to manipulation, abuse and corruption”.
On assumption of leadership, he moved to “return APC back to its members”. His solution was the direct primary as against the delegate system (indirect primary). The ‘APC Change Governors’ were unhappy with this reform because it took power away from them.
From the time of the PDP – and now APC – governors had always had the final say in what happens in their state party leadership. Overtime, as this practice continued unhindered, party supremacy was appropriated and governors became supreme leaders of their party both at the state and national level.
When the new APC leadership under Oshiomhole decided on charting a new path for the party through adopting the direct primary, it must have known that there was going to be strong resistance to what had overtime become corrupt traditional practice amongst politicians across the various political parties.
Whether in the APC or PDP, state governors are obsessed with controlling what happens in their state, especially it pertains to their party’s internal politics. This desire to control the process is why the APC governor’s cowed the party into jettisoning the direct primary approach for their preferred mode, the delegate system.
This freedom to choose became a tool for division and settling political scores. Though it was more evident in the APC than the PDP, both party primaries were plagued by the same issues of violence, parallel primaries, vote buying and state governors desire to hijack their party’s electoral process. One can say that the primaries in the APC and PDP were scripted from the same playbook.
In adopting a mode of election, all the major actors in the APC states opted for the one they felt would favor them. While many governors or their anointed candidates had their way, others like Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos were not lucky. Party leaders in the state disqualified him using the direct primary.
Other states where the governors still controlled the party structure opted for the indirect primary approach. For the rest whose control seemed insecure, getting their anointed candidate the party’s ticket was almost impossible.
In Imo for instance, it had to take violence, a week of political horse-trading and cancellation of the primary for the APC National Working Committee (NWC) to declare the immediate past Chief of Staffj to the Imo state governor, Uche Nwosu, its candidate. An initial parallel primary had produced two candidates.
For the Zamfara state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, he had to resort to threats in an attempt to prevent members of a committee inaugurated by APC NWC from entering the state to conduct a fresh primary after the first was marred by violence.
“I, Abdulaziz Yari, governor of Zamfara state, head of government and security, I am saying that the committee sent by Oshiomhole to come and do a dirty job should not dare come into Zamfara state… We are ready, including myself, to be taken to the graveyard tomorrow,” Yari had threatened.
Oshiomhole’s decision to reform the APC using the instrumentality of the direct primary approach in choosing members to represent the party in the coming election, has set him on a collision course with the APC governors.
A report by a national daily (not ThisDay) claimed that nine APC governors met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday October 4, with intention to “regain control” of party structure in their individual states, having “been deprived of their powers to influence political trends in their states.”
Although, and, because of the mode of primary election adopted by APC, there were more incidences of parallel primaries and violence during the entire process than was witnessed in the opposition PDP, nevertheless, the APC as a party has shown more willingness to reform than the opposition PDP.
For fear of backlash, the PDP stuck to the old way, using the delegate system in choosing its candidates for next year’s general election. Also, where the APC (in consideration of the millions of Nigerians with hearing disability) employed a sign language interpreter during their convention to adopt Buhari as the party’s candidate for the 2019 presidential election, the PDP did not.
As both parties assume a campaign mode, and the desire for the APC to retain power threatens their first term, it appears the reform initiated by the party will take a backseat. As Nigeria heads to the poll, political analysts expect APC governors to use their influence to negotiate more power for themselves in exchange to deliver their states for the APC.