Nascent! Is that how we want to continue to describe a democracy of about 19 years? I have observed that Nigeria’s politicians are quick to tag the nation’s democracy 'nascent' at every opportunity just to absolve themselves of the burden of acting responsibly and according to the dictates of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
It is also often used to explain away the irregularities that mar electoral activities, as if that should make their actions okay. But guess what? It is not. Nineteen years is a long time.
After every four years, it is expected that the nation’s democracy grows, but between 2015 and now, it has been wobbly, with politicians throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever they like in a bid to acquire power. The last few elections have been characterised with inducements in all forms, with vote buying topping the list.
The most recent embarrassment to the nation’s democracy is the charade called primaries held across the country by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for its National Assembly and governorship aspirants. For a party that rode on the Change mantra to seize power from former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, the show it has put up so far leaves much to be desired. From Kaduna State to Zamfara to Lagos to Adamawa to Imo, there were all tales of imposition, opposition and altercations.
Before the commencement of the primaries, the party adopted direct primaries, a method which was supposed to give all party members opportunity to elect candidates but because it did not go down well with most governors who were bent on returning or installing their preferred candidates, they kicked against it and rather than maintain its initial position, the party bowed to pressure and made a U-turn. It said each state could decide what mode of primaries it wanted to adopt, leaving room for all sorts. And as was expected, many states opted for the Indirect primaries, where a select group of people who have been appointed delegates decide who flies the flag of the party. And even where they adopted the direct primaries, such as in Kano State, the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, was unopposed. This method is a great disservice to the masses, as they are left with very limited choices. As if that was not enough, in Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a member of the party, who is known as The Leader, a title that is, by the way, alien to the constitution of the party, decided that the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, would not return in 2019, and once he made his position known, everybody that mattered in the politics of the state fell in line. It didn’t matter what the people felt. The Leader had spoken!
Though several allegations have been made against the incumbent Governor Ambode, I would say there are all afterthoughts and they would not have come up if The Leader had not decided to remove him from office. And even after several postponements, just while the APC in Lagos State was concluding the primaries, there was a message from the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, insisting that the exercise was illegal as it did not approve it. But after weighing its options and fully cognisant of the danger of getting on the wrong side of Asiwaju, only a few months to the general election, the national body reversed itself and accepted Babajide Sanwo-Olu as its candidate for the governorship election. The case in Imo State was like a Nollywood movie, except that it was real and the future of a people and state was being tampered with. We had a situation where the chairman of the state electoral panel for the APC, Ahmed Gulak, announced Hope Uzodinma as the governorship candidate of the party and the secretary of the same panel announced Uche Nwosu, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s in-law, as the governorship candidate, thereby resulting in the production of two candidates for the same position. Gulak also alleged that the governor attempted to kidnap him. He alleged that some members of his 12-man panel were abducted by the governor. Following the development, the National Working Committee of the party suspended the primaries, disbanded the Gulak panel and announced that both results from the state were fake. After another election, which was boycotted by the Hope Uzodinma group, Uche Nwosu emerged as the governorship candidate. These developments neither portrayed the party in good light nor as one that was ready for an election. In the first place the party should have called to order the governor, who long before now endorsed his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him.
The governorship of a state is not a family affair and the governor had no business insisting on who occupies the office after him. Also, for a man who failed to pay salaries for many months, who in fact performed woefully, to be allowed to determine the next governor is short-changing the people of the state. This is because if he can go as far as he did to ensure that Nwosu emerged as candidate, there is no telling what he would do to ensure that he wins the election next year.
In faraway Zamfara, the case was not different. In fact, it is worse, because this is a state that has suffered a lot in the past three years. First of all, it was a serious case of Meningitis, which the governor blamed on the sins of the people and then there is the frequent attacks of bandits on innocent men and women. Governor Abdul Aziz Yari can be easily described as a colossal failure. How then can this man who was hardly ever around each time bandits attacked his people be allowed to have a say in who becomes the next leader? Why should an absentee governor; a man who ruled from outside the state deprive the people of an opportunity of good leadership when his tenure is up? But that is what Yari did. He insisted on choosing who succeeds him and people to occupy all the other elective positions. Of course, this did not go down well with other stakeholders in the state, especially his main opponent, Senator Kabiru Marafa, who wanted the seat. In fact a few days to the governorship primaries, the governor was quoted as saying, in Zamfara, “it is fire for fire”. With the crisis in the state and no group ready to back down for the other, the APC was unable to hold a congress to produce a candidate before the deadline by INEC elapsed and ended up limiting the people’s options. It is very unfortunate that politicians use their interests and ego to decide for the majority of the people who for years have continued to bear the brunt of poor leadership.
The battle for Kaduna-Central also made headlines as the governor, Nasir El-rufai, wanted Uba Sani to replace Senator Shehu Sani, who is also seeking a second term in the Senate. The battle for the seat is still not over, because though the national body of the APC is insisting on Shehu Sani, Governor El-rufai is still insisting on Uba Sani. Other states also experienced different issues and complaints have trailed the entire exercise. The icing on the cake was the presidential primaries. At the affirmation event held in Abuja last Sunday, the party announced that over 14 million persons voted to make President Muhammadu Buhari its candidate for next year’s election. How a party that mouths integrity at every given opportunity came up with that figure is still mind-boggling. Many people are wondering if that figure was thrown around to prepare the masses for the figure it hopes to cook up in 2019. The nation cannot continue like this. It is not okay for a group of people to tell Nigerians that they will do one thing when voted in and then do another. As the general election approaches, it is important for Nigerians to be careful of fake promises. The good thing is that we have tried the two major parties, the PDP and APC and we have seen what they are made of. Therefore, people should be able to make informed choices. The excuse that certain things should be overlooked because our democracy is ‘nascent’ cannot hold. Every action should be rewarded accordingly.