By Tonnie Iredia
Nigerians below age 30 are obviously not old enough to know about the wonderful ruling party of the second republic known as the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The elderly may also have forgotten much of the exploits of that party. But it has been the most miraculous of Nigeria’s political parties more notoriously famous than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that could not manage its ‘victories’ at the polls.
Apart from the 12-two-third strategy by which the departing military administration packaged the NPN to power, the party had two other unforgettable political “achievements”. First, its candidates at any election were declared winners in centres where voting did not even hold.
Second, in several states ‘captured’ by the party during the 1983 governorship elections, results were announced even before the then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) could conclude the counting of votes cast during the same election.
Both FEDECO and the Sunday Adewusi led Police were under the party’s strict control. No one discussed funny issues like party supremacy in its days; rather it was taken as given. Not even the President could look directly into the eyes of the National Chairman let alone to pocket him as it has become since the PDP days. So, NPN remains the wonder party of all times.
Of recent however, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) seems set to meet the NPN record. Last week Saturday, the party established its invincibility in the local government elections held in Benue state by securing 100% victory- a feat higher than the chicanery of the war-lords of the first republic who won election by kidnapping opposition candidates.
According to John Tsuwa, Chairman of the Benue State “Independent” Electoral Commission (BSEIC) the APC won ALL the 23 chairmanship seats as well as ALL the councillorship positions in the election. What this suggests is that all Benue voters belong to or prefer the APC.
As normally happens with cooked-up matters, Tsuwa was unable to provide figures to back his declaration of winners. How the APC achieved its smooth-sailing victory despite ample protests of insider electoral abuses within the party also remains inexplicable.
In Makurdi Local Government Area, where there were six chairmanship aspirants, five of them stormed the office of the Deputy Governor, Benson Abnoun, to protest the imposition of one Mrs. Justina Audu as the APC chairmanship candidate. The aspirants told the media that although they all purchased forms for the contests and appeared for the screening exercise, they neither saw any primaries nor knew the criteria used to pick a candidate
Meanwhile the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), umbrella organization of all registered political parties and associations in Nigeria, has rejected the process and the outcome of the Benue election describing it as an “unprecedented rape of democracy and rubbishing of every tenet of free, fair and credible election at the local government level”.
The CNPP in a statement by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, while demanding for its cancellation, observed that “the process was tailored by the Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) and the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and Governor Samuel Ortom to produce APC Chairmen in the state irrespective of the people’s choice.” Thus, for the CNPP, no local election took place in Benue on Saturday, June 03, 2017.
Benue APC did not appear to have done anything new following a rather smarter performance by its Yobe State counterpart during the local government elections held in the state last December. The party reportedly won all the 17 chairmanship seats as well as all the 178 councillorship seats. By not conceding any seat to any other political party the APC in Yobe state probably satisfied the party’s vision. Unlike Benue’s funny results without figures, Mohammed Jauro Abdu chairman of the Yobe State Independent Electoral Commission (YBSIEC) announced that out of the 1.2 million registered voters in the state, 999, 700 voted representing about 78.99% of the total votes.
Again, there is nothing spectacular about what the APC states of Benue and Yobe have done. Far back in 2013, Adams Oshiomhole in Edo used a bogus electoral body to capture the chairmanship of Esan North East Local Government Council. That was an election whose outcome was determined 100 kilometres away at the Government House in Benin while the contestants, the media and election observer were still awaiting the collation of votes at the Eguare Primary School Uromi – the designated location.
Why are our local elections so bedeviled? I was still reviewing the poser in my sub consciousness last Sunday when I stood directly behind Peter Obi former Governor of Anambra State, waiting to board a British Airways flight to London. I was immediately reminded of his tenure in which there were no local government elections until the tale end-January 2014. My memory was refreshed with a comment by one election observer that in one Local Government Area- Awka South, supervising presiding officers and the results sheets got missing.
Painfully, the pattern of the conduct of local election everywhere has been the same. Each governor begins by employing delay tactics to institute the framework for the exercise. Then he appoints a caretaker committee to hold the forte until some funny characters are assembled to make-up an electoral commission that is to serve as umpire in elections.
Electoral commissioners are expected to be neutral referees who have never been involved in partisan politics, but in Nigeria many of them are well known to have functioned at one time or the other as officials of the ruling political party or their relations or fronts. Having so arranged the situation, it becomes easy to conduct an election in which the ruling party “sweeps” the polls.
So, Benue APC did what its national body can’t really frown at. Will Plateau and Lagos, two APC states that are currently warming up for council elections not do same? After all, during the uncommon PDP tenure in Akwa Ibom State; one state official posted local government election results on the internet before the electoral body was done with the collation of results which in the end turned out to be the same as the official results!! Who says the NPN is not still alive?