By Owei Lakemfa
THE knives are out in the political arena and they are being used quite liberally in the name of internal party democracy and primaries. They are all sorts; table and bread knives, blades, and quite often, concealed daggers. The preferred knife of the more sophisticated party leaders, is the stiletto, made quite famous by the Italian and American Mafia. Some of the party bigwigs, to explain their blood stained hands simply use the scalpel claiming to be carrying out surgical procedures.
The wounds are so deep that some may never heal. In some instances, political ambitions, friendship and internal democracy, are simply killed. There are of course, a lot of flies in the arena hopping about as ‘candidates.’
Understandably, most of these internal fights are in the two dominant political parties; the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and its predecessor, and aspiring successor to the throne of Pontius Pilate, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. However, most of the fights and political murders are in the ruling party which in our politics of ‘ winner-takes-all’ has the custody of our coveted national cake. So the APC attracts the most fights, casualties and flies.
The PDP presidential primaries had too many heavy weights. Surprisingly, it recorded very few casualties and the losers even congratulated the winner, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku.
However, this was on the surface; there are some who rejected the outcome. The PDP generalissimo in Ekiti State, His Excellency, Peter Ayodele Fayose threatened to quit the party because his group lost. He cried: “We have no regret aligning with Governor Wike to support Governor Tambuwal for the presidential ticket and no apologies either.” It is likely that Governor Tambuwal’s loss at the primaries is just an excuse for Fayose to once again, change parties. With his likely rejection by the APC, I don’t think he should go to the Labour Party where he once stomped. He should aim higher, perhaps go to the zenith; the Zenith Labour Party where former Governor Olusegun Mimiko holds court as presidential candidate.
Actor, Kenneth Okonkwo was ready for a street brawl with whoever was not in support of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC. He praised them to high heavens and described some who disagreed with him as: “ignorant and satanically motivated persons (an)army of ignorant and wicked men.” He insulted the Senate President, House of Representatives’ Speaker, governors and other politicians who decamped, claiming: “They left APC for PDP because they wanted to grab power.” Then, when he decided to contest the APC gubernatorial primaries in Enugu State, he was not even allowed to buy the N22.5 million expression of interest form. With that, he changed his tune: “ I regret joining the APC, a supposed political party, turned a cult group; a party of rogues.”
Okonkwo was luckier than my friend, the respected Professor Pat Okedinachi Utomi, a whiz kid who left high school at 15 and was in 1983, at 27, Special Assistant to then President Shehu Shagari. Given his long involvement in politics, governance, academics and business including part owning a bank, he seemed a very good choice when he aspired to be President. But he shelved that and decided to step down to run for governor of Delta State which he said needs urgent rescue from the poverty-inducing PDP government.
Utomi, a well-connected national and international figure is also known to be a close friend of power in the country as well as an ally of national leaders of the APC. So he paid the N22.5 million to buy expression of interest form and looked forward to healthy primaries on his way to clinching the party’s gubernatorial ticket. But the real politicians in the party taught him ‘Politics 101,’ the basic course in politics. He narrated his experience: “While I was still looking for the venue of the APC gubernatorial primaries, a friend called to tell me that the election had been concluded and a winner has emerged. APC is fraudulent and occultic.”
Perhaps, it is in defence of casualties like Professor Utomi, that the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha Buhari twetted: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on Election Day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices.”
In Ogun State, there were serious battles over the imposition of preferred candidates and those who were not favoured. As we know, in Rivers State, the APC gubernatorial elections went beyond knife fights; guns were used long before and during the primaries. The party in the state is split and matters are in court. Imo State is more intriguing. Governor Rochas Okorocha’s troops lost the APC Ward and State elections, but they were annulled. Their opponents claimed they won the subsequent gubernatorial primaries. Okorocha’s troops claimed no primaries were held but went on to announce they had won the same primaries. In new primaries, the Okorochas claimed victory while their opponents used the courts to annul the results.
Politics in Kaduna State deserve a University Chair. Governor Nasir el-Rufai had in May, declared the three Senators from the state as useless, and told the populace: “if they (the Senators) come to Kaduna, shave their heads and beards. They have shown that they are bastards, they have no origin, therefore, it is important to tell them that they did not originate from this state.” Five politicians including incumbent, Senator Shehu Sani were listed as APC aspirants for the Kaduna Central Senatorial primaries. They quibbled over whether the primaries should be direct or indirect. Then, it was announced that Shehu Sani had been returned unopposed or had been handed an automatic ticket. His rivals held their primaries and declared Uba Sani, a Special Adviser to Governor el-Rufai as the party’s candidate. Shehu Sani and Uba Sani are two of the most vibrant and resourceful political activists from the state. Having fought with them in the trenches against bloody military misrule, I feel a sense of personal sadness.
Perhaps, a set of primaries the APC collectively will regret is that in Zamfara State. The national APC had sacked the party executives at all levels and announced new primaries for governorship and legislative primaries. But Governor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari threatened his national leaders: “There is going to be bloodshed tomorrow if the election is held in that way and I’m the one to provide security for the peaceful conduct of the exercise.” As a result of the intrigues, the party may have no candidates in the general elections.
All these are just intra-party battles; the 2019 inter-party elections promise to be far tougher. Ultimately, the real casualties are we Nigerians whose resources are the cause of the bloody electoral wars.