By Halilu Zakaria
It has been some time since the All Progressives Congress (APC) attempted to host the primary election for House of Reps Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). I use the word attempted because it is no longer news that the election was a sham. What was initially well conceived to improve the democratic process and minimise candidate imposition has now created greater room for election fraud.
AMAC had 14 aspirants on the APC platform running for the House of Representatives. From the onset, the state was preparing to run an indirect primary election. Barely 24 hours before October 6, the final date set for the House of Representatives primary election, the direct primary option was imposed on the APC FCT chapter by the national election panel during a midnight meeting. Party delegates and members protested the decision to hold direct primary. Even the APC FCT chairman Abdulmalik Usman stated publicly several times that he could not guarantee credible elections if direct primaries was imposed.
It would appear that they were set up for failure. Imagine Team Nigeria spending months to practice for a football game and then comes the major match and basketball is announced as the game of the day. Before now, aspirants had spent their time and resources courting delegates with the hope that it would be an indirect primary election. The election committee, headed by Benjamin Imeogu, insisted that the directive was from the top and direct primaries was non-negotiable.
According to the guideline set out at Kapital Klub on October 5, accreditation was to take place from 9am-12noon and voting was to commence from 1pm. The APC membership register was last updated in 2014 so the number of registered APC members in the FCT was inaccurate. To maneuver this major concern, the election committee and FCT EXCO decided members will use PVC or membership slip. It was also decided that the ward EXCO members (chairman, secretary, woman leader, youth leader) would identify if the PVC holder was from the ward.
October 6, 2018, same day as the APC National Convention, was the new date set for the primary election. All the October 5 guidelines were set aside. Accreditation did not take place. Voters stood in line for hours under the sun in vain. The primaries did not take place in, at least, 80 per cent of the 22 wards in AMAC/Bwari. And where it held, it was characterised by widespread voter intimidation, banditry and confusion. In some cases, the venue for the polling unit was arbitrarily changed up to four times to disrupt the process. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff or agents of candidates were nowhere to be found in most locations.
Election results were written in favour of the highest bidder, with INEC officials serving as accomplices in the worst case or at best overlooking the blatant vote trading. To cap it all, the number of voters in the results that were written was inconsistent with the number of registered voters in the wards. In Bwari for instance, 401,000 votes were recorded for an aspirant against 161,000 total registered voters. So incredulous were the results that the committee refused to publicly announce it. It is important to note that the result sheet being shopped only has the signature of the chairman of the electoral committee and does not bear the signature from the polling agents or the secretary of the election committee.
At a time when the APC ought to be demonstrating leadership and setting the pace for internal party democracy, the party is losing ground on the basis of lack of transparency. APC has also demonstrated that it doesn’t care for political inclusion of youths. Recall that last May President Muhammadu Buhari signed the #NotTooYoungtoRun bill into law. The bill which sought to promote youth political participation and inclusion by increasing the number of credible young people in elective positions also had a clause for independent candidacy. The independent candidacy clause was included to ensure that young aspirants can run on the strength of their popularity without getting entangled in the undemocratic process of the major political parties.
Because the independent candidacy clause was removed, young aspirants chose to pitch their camp with other youth-friendly political parties that will give them a platform. Even though Buhari signed the #NottooYoungtoRun bill into law, and touts it as one of his “gifts” to young people, it remains to be seen that the President’s party supports youth inclusion beyond lip service. Following from the deadline given by INEC to host party primaries, several young aspirants have emerged from political parties like the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and other fringe parties such as the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
The FCT House of Representative primary election for the APC remains inconclusive because elections did not hold. All eyes are watching and other political parties are making their calculations. At a time when the political climate has peaked, and people are keen to elect proactive credible leaders, the ruling party has to identify a consensus candidate whose track record is as stellar as its reputation to ensure that it stands a chance to win the election in 2019.