February 11, 2023

Akpabio, APC and the problem of more money



By Emmanuel Aziken

Did Senator Godswill Akpabio actually say that what money cannot do that more money would do? Whether true or not, the assertion wrongly or rightly attributed to the former Akwa Ibom governor has turned into a memorable political catchphrase in Nigeria.

The relevance of money as a weapon has again come to fore with many people linking it to the wonderful comeback of Senators Godswill Akpabio and Ahmad Lawan to the electoral ballot after they were initially stopped by the courts.

The duo had bided for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC and on failing had returned to pick the Senate tickets in their constituencies.

The role of money in the rediscovery of Akpabio and Lawan remains in the realm of speculation and extending that in this commentary may breach upon the integrity of the Supreme Court which validated the candidature of the two men.

Indeed, after the Supreme Court brought Senator Hope Uzodimma from his fourth position to first place in the Imo State governorship election of 2019, the court’s decisions on Akpabio and Lawan have brought unprecedented focus to the reputation of the court.

The Supreme Court in its decision on Akpabio averred that the lower court erred in assuming jurisdiction in a matter that ordinarily should be left in the purview of political parties. It affirmed that the issue of a candidate is the internal affair of the party.

In the case of Senator Lawan, the apex court threw out the winner of the Yobe North constituency based on the technicality that he, Bashir Machina ought to have commenced his suit by a writ of summons going by the allegations of fraud levelled against the APC in transmitting Lawan’s name to INEC.

Whatever, what the two decisions separately imply is that the original enthusiasm with which people looked at the amended Electoral Act as a sufficient deterrent to the bastardisation of the electoral process may have been misplaced.

It is especially perfidious in the case of Yobe North where a man who did not partake in the political party primary is returned as the winner of the ticket. If it is not demoralizing what would be?

As an aside, the victory of Lawan in the Supreme Court, and possibly in the General Election, would take his stretch in the National Assembly to a possible 28 unbroken years (in 2027 if he wins) having been first elected in 1999.

Your correspondent believes that it would have been better for Senator Lawan to bow out after initially conceding after the Appeal Court ruled in favour of Machina.

His return to the Senate in 2023 after being Senate Leader between 2015 and 2019, and then Senate President since 2019 may turn out to be an anti-climax as the prospects of him retaining the office of Senate President are very uncertain. Indeed, were the APC to win the presidency and the majority of seats in the Senate it would be implausible for him to retain the office of Senate President given the zoning principle that puts the office of Senate President in the same region with the president of the country.

So, if Tinubu wins, it is very likely the office of Senate President in an APC Senate would go to the South.

Even more, were Tinubu to be elected it would be out of reasoning for a Muslim to also hold the office of Senate President given that the President of the country and the vice-president would be Muslims.

On these points your correspondent believes that Lawan should have made a honourable exit having bequeathed to the nation what we believed had been the most robust Electoral Law in the history of the nation.

Indeed, the re-emergence of Akpabio and Lawan puts to question the meaning of Section 115 (D) of the Electoral Act, especially as it relates to the fact that it is an offence for a person to sign a nomination form in more than one constituency in an election season. Is it in reference to the party or the main election?

Whatever, given that Akpabio is also involved, it has not been difficult for his critics to come out to allude to the use of ‘More Money’ by the former governor, senator and minister to bulldoze his way.

Incidentally, Akpabio’s party is now enmeshed in a crisis over the application of money in an election. The decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to withdraw old notes in circulation has turned into a lamentation for party and campaign officials.

Though the naira redesign policy is than of an APC government, party officials allege that it is targeted at making the party lose the election. Without shame many APC officials are going about chorusing that their vote-buying scheme is about to be derailed.

As was argued here last week, the naira redesign policy is about the best to have come out from the Buhari government given its positives such as suppressing kidnapping, reducing vote-buying and the salutary effects on inflation and the exchange rate.

Political actors who believe that money or More Money is an answer to all things should be rebuffed. It is time that Nigerians adapt to the truism that honesty is the best policy.