By Iniobong Amama
The Political atmosphere in our country has been very hazy. Fortunately, the heat effusing from the primaries by political parties for the 2023 General Elections is beginning to calm but it is not yet over. It was as if the senile activities to choose party candidates would consume party members and the entire nation. There was no headway.
It began like soft music from the delegates list, especially for the two “big” parties; the All Progressive Congress (APC), the party in power, and its main opposition, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
Then, came the heat again on actual dates for the primaries. This suffered uncertain fixtures and last-minute changes that cast aspersions on those managing the political parties. It was certain that parties were ambushing one another to understudy each other’s strategies and secrets.
It was only when INEC would not postpone the evil day again, that the parties had no option but to conduct the primaries, I dare say, at the niche of time. That was therefore time to hear names of alien political parties that one never knew existed.I think some really exist to create tension and overheat the polity because, after the general elections, we hear of them no more. There is no need to name names in case you pretend to be a member of such political parties whose existence is of no consequence to the power play and political economy of Nigeria.
The tension of the primaries was beginning to douse down, then the battle for the choice of running mates raised its ugly head.
At the state level, the commotion seems less. But how disastrous and consuming it was raised the dust at the presidential search for running mate. It was real effervescence for the “Big” parties. But what makes a party big? Is it the name? Is it principles or manifestoes?
If it were later, all the hullaballoo caused by the supposed big parties would have simply been a matter of principles. The question remains, why would somebody aspire to become the president of a country like Nigeria without reasons, call it principles on how or who to choose as a running mate even after becoming a presidential candidate?
The Nigerian political system is simply a “wonderer” according to Fela Kuti, the legendary afrobeat music maestro.
But what is most surprising to Nigerians is not the heat from the party primaries but that which comes from non–partisan quarters/personnel. INEC as a regulatory body should be seen as fair and just to all political parties in all ramifications.
The Nigerian economy is in abysmal shambles. Every Dick, Tom, and Harry can attest to this. Nigeria is only sovereign by name but it is crystal that as a nation state; it cannot protect itself and its citizens.
Therefore, there are several unacceptable theories on how Nigerians and Nigeria protect their sovereignty. These days, people even women have seen branding AK47 openly and no one irks.
These days too, briefcases and women’s handbags are stuffed with arms and ammunition to protect themselves due to the failure of the security apparatus of the government. To say the least, the security in Nigeria is set against the citizens under various nomenclatures such as Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, militants, unknown gunmen, terrorist organizations, etc.
It is bad to the extent that the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran have been customized into weapons of mass destruction. There is a complete security breach in Nigeria and if the 2023 General Elections fail to give us a president/legislature that is willing to address these anomalies headlong, there is no need to talk about Nigeria again.
This is no more the era to sermonize the age-long balance; “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”.
All Nigerians know this to be a fluke and we are tired of being fluked by some Nigerians. Nigeria as a father is already laden. What is only left is for her to belch out the truth: “I am tired. I am not originally your biological father, I was forced to accept this fatherhood. So, I release you to return to your biological and natural father, to your geopolitical zones.”
This looks like a joke but if the 2023 general elections fail Nigerians again, Nigeria would deliver her sextuplets, for the first time in sixty-two years. Be assured, that there will be no miscarriage. The delivery, however painful and difficult, will be successful.
The 2023 General Elections if it fails to give us the leadership we pray for would end in the restructuring that we have been clamouring for without success for years.
INEC must be set to be a father, fair and just to keep Nigeria as one. Every day there is one breaking news or the other about the APC in Akwa Ibom State and the source is the AKS REC, Mike Igini.
“APC has no governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State”; “Godswill Akpabio of the APC is not the candidate of the Akwa Ibom Northwest senatorial district”. Then, again: “APC congress in Akwa Ibom State null and void – Mike Igini.”
Does it not concern INEC as a good father that there are so many weighty allegations on the certificate forgery / bio – data falsification involving the standard-bearer of the PDP in the state? Is it that the grass is greener there? If this had involved the APC standard-bearer, would Mr. Igini maintain the same silence?
What is most baffling is the audacity with which he attacks the APC in Akwa Ibom State. For him, “may” means “must” when it comes to the APC. Section 82 (8) of the Electoral Act 2022, does not make it mandatory for INEC to observe party primaries.
It states inter alia: INEC “may” observe party primaries. The modal auxiliary used is “may.” In the eyes of the law, and even in common usage, “may” does not commute “compulsion.” It is a possibility, not a certainty. “May” most times indicate that something is true in some circumstances, not in all. In any case, can the AKS INEC REC say convincingly that the primaries he has condemned were not monitored by INEC officials?
Apart from the above, the INEC REC in Akwa Ibom State gives us the idea of an armchair supervisor. The APC has a secretariat in Akwa Ibom State, when he went to the venue in his itinerary as he claimed and nothing happened there, did he crosscheck from the party secretariat, a stone throw from the Sheergrace arena as a seasoned officer that he is? What effort did he make as INEC REC? He likes to refer to the police commissioner in the state as accompanying him to the location he went for his primaries.
Has the CP raised the alarm that they were no policemen at the venue? Why is it that he is raising so much dust about monitoring primary elections when the law says he may or not? The AKS REC should look inwards if he is aggrieved because it appears that even within INEC, he is not a team player.
However, in the same situation involving the current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who participated in the same APC presidential primaries in Yobe State, and Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio and immediate past Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, INEC has stated clearly that it has no power to reject the names of candidates sent by political parties.
INEC Commissioner Mohammed Haruna says “INEC has no powers to reject names sent by political parties. Primaries are the sole prerogatives of the party.”
This verdict is given in the case involving Nigeria’s current Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Bashir Sherrif Machina in the Yobe North senatorial primary.
It is therefore salient to conclude that there are no two INECs. What is upheld in Yobe State should uphold in Akwa Ibom State.
The truth remains that party primaries are the internal business of political parties.
As political watchers who pray for peace in Nigeria and the states, we do not know where Mr. Igini of INEC will bury his face if in the end Akwa Ibom State gubernatorial candidate of the APC, Mr. Akan Udofia and Distinguished Sen. Godswill Akpabio are fielded for the 2023 General Elections. Let the INEC in Akwa Ibom State not play the hatchet for infighting among brothers in Akwa Ibom Northwest Senatorial District, Ikot Ekpene.
This senatorial district has enjoyed the favour of the Almighty. For instance, in the current regime, this senatorial district produced a senator and a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria all at the same time in the persons of Distinguished Senators (Engr.) Christopher Ekpenyong, a senator of the ninth senate, and Distinguished Senator Godswill Akpabio, immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. That was God at work.
Ordinarily, in 2015 when erstwhile Gov. Akpabio went to the Senate for the first time, something happened in the history of Nigerian politics; a first-timer became a principal officer of the senate – the minority leader in the red chambers.
Now that he is going back under the APC, something better might happen again to set history for Akwa Ibom northwest Senatorial district again. Then we will forget the fierce battle but rejoice that once again, a Jonah has come to judgment.
May Mike Igini sheath his sword for the benefit of Nigeria and the 2023 General Elections.
By Iniobong Amama, Social Commentator, and Political Analyst