By Josephine Babatunde
As the governing party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, goes into the critical process of choosing from the different aspirants, the candidates to fly its flag in the coming general election, there is need for eternal vigilance. It has to be so because the raison d’etre of any political party is to win popular elections, form government and implement its policies for the greater good of all. And to win any election, it is imperative for any serious political party to select credible party members with the highest chances of bringing electoral victory as its candidate for any election. This is why the process of selecting or electing party candidates in a primary election is very critical for the outcome of the general election.
This is really the first primary election that the APC is organizing in the saddle of power at the centre and it is important that the party gets its act together and do the right thing. Luckily, APC just needs to look back to 2015 and see what happened to the behemoth that ruled the country for sixteen years; how the party was roundly rejected by the Nigerian people, due to its impunity and lack of justice in choosing and imposing candidates on members. Luckily, Adams Oshiomhole, the chairman of APC, is a very good student of history and has been leading the line to fight social injustice from the front. He therefore understands full well the sensitive nature of the job at hand.
I listened to Oshiomhole the other day admonish the state chairmen of his party on the need to be fair to all aspirants in the conduct of the primaries and it was quite reassuring. That the APC Chairman reminded his counterparts at the state level to be courageous and refuse to succumb to the suffocating and overbearing influence of their state governors is, perhaps, the most patriotic statement to come from anyone in leadership position in our country this year.
For those who understand, state governors remain the greatest threat to our democracy. They are such a big threat because they daily undermine internal democracy in their different political parties. And the quality of democracy within the political parties determines the quality of democracy in the entire country. State governors, and of course Oshiomhole is a former governor, treat their states including their political parties as their private estates with all its implications for democracy. Since 2003, most state governors have determined candidates for the various offices in their respective states: they hijack the power of party members to determine who fly their flags as governorship candidates when they are on their second term; they decree who the senatorial candidates are; and, handpick candidates for House of Representatives.
These emperors care less about the suitability and popularity of their arbitrary choices with the electorate whose right it is to decide at the polls. Only recently, one APC governor on national television ruled that as he was going to the Senate, he had decided where governorship aspirants should come from his state and threatened anyone who thinks otherwise to “dare him by picking the nomination form”. In Imo State, for instance, the state governor, Rochas Okorocha, has already ruled that his son in-law, must replace him as governor whether the electorate like it or not. This kind of despotic remarks ought not to be made even in a hush-hush tone in a democracy. But what do people like Okorocha care even if their unpopular ambition imperil the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari from securing the much-needed twenty-five percent of the votes in their states?
Oshiomhole is certainly not fighting the governors in APC who are party leaders in their own rights. But he is rightly letting them to understand that the interests of the country and the party supersede all other interests and that is why he is asking state chairmen to stand firm and defend the constitution and manifesto of their party in the conduct of the primary elections in their various states. Whichever mode of primary election that has been approved for the states, Oshiomhole is therefore asking all party men and women to play by the rules and allow internal democracy to throw up a candidate that can win popular votes for the party in the general election. In this era of electoral integrity under this present INEC, only credible and popular candidates are sure to win a free and fair election.
Another issue, so far, in the APC primary elections is the news of the disqualification of two cabinet ministers from the governorship race by the APC screening committee. To be sure, the minister of communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu and the minister for women affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan were disqualified from contesting for APC governorship ticket in Oyo and Taraba states respectively. The party disqualified Shittu for dodging the mandatory National Youth Service (NYSC) while Alhassan was disqualified for apparent disloyalty to the party. These two cases further reinforce APC’S claim of being a morally upright party. That both politicians beat the system to be appointed ministers is another matter entirely but to further reward them with the party’s tickets would be unforgivable and certainly will have consequences at the polls.
Speaking on Senator Alhassan who had previously declared her loyalty to an opposition presidential aspirant, Oshiomhole put the facts as they are: “…You cannot be a member of APC and be a card-carrying member of another party; but when you have a situation where it would appear, based on what you know and based on what I know, that someone is probably APC in the daytime maybe for the purpose of retaining certain offices, and they are PDP at heart”. And Pronto, Senator Alhassan sent in her resignation letter as minister and as a member of APC. She has already joined the United Democratic Party (UDP) on which platform she wants to contest the Taraba governorship election. And, as for Shittu, media reports have indicated that he is ready to be mobilized for the mandatory national service.
The Oshiomhole leadership has, evidently, demonstrated political will and courage that have been lacking in the APC. This Oshiomhole is certainly not naive. He is indeed a party leader with great foresight! He is expected to tackle other issues that arise with equal commitment in the interest of propriety in the party and not minding whose ox is gored in every circumstance.