By Sufuyan Ojeifo
It would have been against rationality to have expected that the primary elections of the All Progressives Congress, APC, would be crises-free. The processes of choosing standard bearers for the various elective offices at all levels are not always as easy as they come.
They are emotive as witnessed in the APC where political decisions have trumped the economics of exorbitant fees for nomination and expression of interest forms. That is what the just-concluded nomination processes especially in the APC and, by extension, the other political parties have evidently validated.
Political interests either converged in consensual rapprochements or clashed and diverged in conflicting contests for tickets.
Such interplay of interests, understandably, could not but produce intensely cooperative or fundamentally divergent positions and ripostes. This was particularly witnessed in the primary elections of the governing APC.
But to be clear, the scenario has become so pervasively characteristic that even mushroom parties are not insulated from it. At least, one or two of the promising small parties that were just registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had their shares of crises and conflicts in the process of selecting their presidential candidates.
And, of course, the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, just like the APC, recorded myriad cases of parallel congresses across the country that produced two candidates for the same positions. Both the APC and the PDP, with the preponderance of such cases, must be presently enmeshed in the process of mediation to take advantage of the window for substitution of candidates to bring their partisan contestants and candidates into alignment with the resolution of the contending issues and the parties’ final decisions.
But, interestingly, the disagreements over outcomes of primary elections are much more pronounced in the APC, granted that they are manifestations of a much deeper malaise that ramifies the administration of political parties. Intra-party scrambles for tickets have been a constant feature that has continued to put to test the political savvy and managerial capacities of party leaderships at different intersections or dispensations.
The situation in the APC in which the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has become a butt of attacks and commendations, all at the same time, explicates the intricate dynamics involved in distilling, accommodating and validating political interests and candidatures of those that have passed through the mills of primary elections, which success is not essentially only about the outcomes but also about the processes and their integrity.
In reinforcing the integrity of the processes, other factors are considered to align with the overarching interests of the party and the political interests of the president. The Oshiomhole-led national working committee, NWC, has been exerting itself to moderate the interface between politics and economy in the ratification of the choices that are thrown up through the conduct of the primary elections.
It was clear from the outset that the process would be characterised by disagreements and protests. Even the decision by the national executive committee, NEC, of the party on the mode of primary election to adopt was challenged and rendered dilatory by some governors in the promotion and defence of their entrenched selfish political agendas and interests.
Consequently, a process that would have uniformly been conducted through direct primary election from the presidential down to the state legislative seats became diverged under the tension of goals and objectives. The party had to ratify the use of both direct and indirect primary election modes in seventeen and nineteen states respectively for the same set of nomination processes.
Significantly, the decision did not obviate the potential troubles. It only quickened and aggravated them. Interests that were holding the short end of the stick kicked and resorted to self help by submitting themselves to parallel congresses where they adopted the mode of primary election that appealed to their fancy.
However, the NWC ensured that it threw its weight behind electoral panels that it mandated to conduct and/or monitor the primary elections in the states. The exercise was largely successful, so it seemed; but some aggrieved parallel primary election candidates who did not enjoy the recognition of the NWC are already in court.
The power to submit the list of candidates to the INEC is legally vested in the national chairman and national secretary of a political party that seeks to participate in the election. Clearly, Comrade Oshiomhole’s NWC has the final authority to which the INEC defers except otherwise directed by the courts.
In about five states where the political interests of the governors clashed with the interests of the party and the president, the NWC had inserted its powerful wedge to arrest the avoidable drifts to the odious. Apparently irked that the party leadership was guiding the processes along a trajectory that was discounting their interests, the governors of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai; Imo state, Rochas Okorocha; Ogun state, Ibikunle Amosun; Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu; and, Zamafara state, Abdulaziz Yari jointly met with President Muhammadu Buhari to register their complaints.
The crux of the complaints bordered on the decision by the party to run the processes sans the whims and caprices of the state governors. The party leadership decided not to act in cahoots with the state governors especially where their decisions were considered to be unfair, unpopular and capable of costing the party victory in the general election.
The second ground on which the party discountenanced the interests of the governors was in the area of automatic tickets to some loyal senators who refused to defect to the opposition parties in response to the promise made to them by the party to reward them appropriately. The Oshiomhole-led NWC decided to extend to them automatic tickets by ensuring that they were returned unopposed.
But the governors kicked on the claim that the senators were not loyal to them in their respective states. So, it was a clash between loyalty to the president and the party at the national level and disloyalty to the governors in the states. Oshiomhole deployed his legerdemain to appreciate that, on the economies of scale, it was more important to consider the interest of the party and the president over and above the local political and economic interests of the governors.
With the benefit of having been governor for eight years, Oshiomhole must have done his calculations to clearly understand the wavelengths on which politics and economy of state governance can interact such that some compromises can be made at the state level to accommodate the bigger picture in the presidential power politics at the centre.
If he were not on top of the game, it would have been foolhardy and politically dangerous for him to disrupt the governors’ gambit to the extent that they were running helter-skelter. The point is that the APC is enmeshed in these crises because Oshiomhole is courageous enough to insist on the supremacy of the party to do the right thing in the interest of members even to the extent that people close to the President complained about the process that produced incumbent Governor Jubrilla Bindow of Adamawa state as the party’s candidate.
For standing solid in defence of the preponderant decisions by the NWC on the processes and outcomes of the primary elections, Oshiomhole is now a victim of perceived gang-up. A series of sponsored protests, laced with veiled threats to his life and character assassination, has become his lot. Rather than being given plaudits for his adroit superintendence of the political economy of a tricky process, Oshiomhole is being vilified. How sad!
*Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org.