By Owei Lakemfa
There is a massive movement led by the youths to register for the 2023 general elections. It is like a battle cry by those who are clearly qualified to vote in the elections rather than the underage and foreigners who are imported to vote.
The cry is ‘Get your PVC (Permanent Voters Card) and vote’. Even concerts are being organised as part of this unprecedented campaign. But there are parts of the country where this exercise is being disrupted and threats are issued. My position is that those who view the massive registration of voters as a threat, do not intend to allow the votes to count.
Indeed, we may be dealing with desperate people who have no respect for democratic processes or even basic decency. The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, primaries showed that there are people in leadership positions who have impunity in their DNA. For instance, on the eve of the primaries, the APC Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, staged an unsuccessful coup with the intent of aborting the primaries.
He announced that after consultations with President Muhammadu Buhari who is also the APC leader, the party had picked Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, as its consensus presidential candidate. Buhari was to deny he had picked a candidate for the party. But is there any truth in Adamu’s claim that he consulted President Buhari before announcing Lawan as the so-called consensus candidate?
If the party chairman had lied against Buhari, what has been done to punish him? Why would Buhari, a man who lays claims to personal integrity, tolerate a party chairman who used his name to try to con people? Or was it a case that the coup attempt failed and Adamu was left to carry the can?
However, what was quite clear is that the forces wanting to stop Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu became so desperate that they went for the broke. But it was also clear that Tinubu and his supporters were ready for a fight should the internal democratic process be subverted. That is a major lesson those putting their fate in voters cards should learn; that unless they are ready to fight, the 2023 electoral process can be subverted.
Whatever the case, the impunity in the whole charade was exposed by the fact that Lawan could not even come third in the primaries. Tinubu, a man the Presidency attacked in the run-up to the primaries for making the truthful claim of having been instrumental to the ascent of Buhari to the Presidency, won the primaries with 1,271 votes, while Lawan had a paltry 152 votes.
Since Adamu was not punished for his coup attempt, it is not surprising that some days later, he executed another coup by substituting the names of some of the winners in the party’s senatorial primaries with people who did not participate. For instance, Lawan, who failed to understand the basic saying that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, decided not to contest the party’s senatorial primaries for his Yobe North District.
After failing to foist Lawan on the party as its presidential candidate, the Adamu gang decided to compensate him by submitting his name as a senatorial candidate. It then threatened the actual winner of the senatorial primaries, Bashir Machina, for insisting on his mandate.
A similar substitution was done for the Ebonyi South Senatorial constituency. The winner of the primaries, Austin Umahi, who conveniently is the brother of Governor Dave Umahi, stepped down and ‘new’ primaries were said to have been conducted which resulted in the governor – who had lost in the APC presidential primaries – emerging as the new senatorial candidate. If in truth Austin Umahi stepped down, then logically, the runner-up in the primaries, Ann Agom-Eze, should have been named as replacement. What is going on are attempts to browbeat Ms Agom-Eze into submission.
A similar charade played out in the Akwa Ibom North-West District where parallel primaries were held and former Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Godwin Akpabio, who had failed in the presidential primaries emerged, pushing retired Deputy Inspector General of Police Udom Ekpoudom out of the race and out of the party.
Making a person who did not participate in primaries a candidate is like awarding a student distinction in an examination he did not take.
The APC disease is also ravaging its Siamese Twin, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. For instance, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State who ran for the party’s presidential primaries, did not participate in the gubernatorial primaries which was won by Mr Ibrahim Kashim, who allegedly secured all the 656 votes cast, with one invalid vote. Despite this, the said Kashim stepped down to allow new primaries in which Bala Mohammed emerged as candidate.
With party primaries and our electoral system being promoted as a criminal enterprise, it is clear to me that the perpetrators will not repent before the 2023 elections. So, getting PVCs is just the first step. Voting at the elections would merely be the second step. Consequent steps and actions are required if the will of the electorate and their sovereignty are to prevail.
For votes to count, buying and selling of votes must be stopped by voters on ground as reliance on security agents may be a waste of time. Armed thugs, hooligans and urchins must not be allowed free reign; they need to be physically resisted, especially by the electorate on ground. Thumb-printing of ballot papers need to be checked as should the allocation of votes by whichever group, including the electoral officials.
There are ungoverned spaces in the country where terrorists, bandits and so-called unknown gunmen control, these are areas from which spurious votes can be uploaded on genuine votes; this has to be resisted. Foreigners who pour into the country to vote, and underage voters should also be resisted. If violence is visited on the electorate at whatever level, they need to be mobilised sufficiently to mount counter-violence.
The judiciary must also know that there would be consequences if they appoint elected officials as was done in the Imo State gubernatorial elections.
It should not be misconstrued that I advocate violence, but self-defence is legitimate. Voters cards alone, will not win the general elections; what will ensure victory for any party is the mobilisation, determination and capacity of the electorate to, if need be, enforce their choice.
This was what the electorate did in the 1983 gubernatorial elections in Ondo State when those who rigged the elections and were declared winners fled to Lagos with the voters in hot pursuit. They refused to return and claim their ‘victory’; so the real winners, led by the peaceful Pa Adekunle Ajasin, had to be sworn into office.