Sunday Narrative: Let APC Reform Self, Electoral System
IF there is anyone among the All Progressives Congress (APC) still living in dreamland, which was where they were cocooned during the campaigns that ushered in the 2015 general elections, that person must be told that to whom much is given, much more is expected, especially, after one had willingly advertised great capacity to deliver.
The APC promised to do great things for Nigeria and the expectations are very high. I dare say that this government has a huge task on its hands, not only in respect of deliverables, but to ensure that it does not begin to shift the goal post after the match had kicked off. The game took off during the campaigns and this is the time to commence the process of accountability.
But unfortunately for the polity, just six months into this government there are already reversals and denials. When it was time to celebrate the first 100 days of the President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) government, some of the highfalutin campaign promises were promptly discounted, even when the records were still available in the public space. Some smartly declared ‘honeymoon’ for a government that showed clear signs of cluelessness.
It should be repeated that the chance victory of APC at the polls was hinged on the believability in the platform to do things differently and hurriedly too. The party’s manifesto promises to alleviate the national yoke of many decades; and turn things around completely. The towering personality of Muhammadu Buhari on the integrity scale was a great hope to the people. Nigerians had lost hope in the entire political class, not only in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Nigerian party system suffers the same afflictions — primitive corruption, cluelessness and lawlessness. The political parties are equally afflicted, but the presence of Buhari promised a little difference for the APC.
Let’s take the two governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa for instance. These two elections have left sour taste in the mouth of PMB and his party, because it is not part of their priorities to confront challenges in the electoral system. After all, they have formed government and the rickety infrastructure in place at INEC could take them for another 16 years, like it did for the PDP. Whereas, the late Umaru Yar’Adua was pragmatic to put issues of electoral reform in the front burner as soon as he was sworn in, even after INEC posted outlandish figures for him in the 2007 polls, PMB does not see the need to add to his crowded anti-corruption plate issues of electoral reforms.
Before he was sworn into office, Buhari promised to deal with all electoral offenders, as if he was the President of the Court of Appeal, on whose table issues of election petitions are addressed. He said so in vengeful response to the volatile situation in Rivers, where the APC sustained a bloodied nose in that state’s ‘rough and tumble’ governorship election. Not that PMB was genuinely expressing concern for the electoral system.
The next time he came close to doing that was at last week’s reception for newly elected Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Executive Committee at the State House. That was when Buhari agreed that much work is needed to perfect conduct of elections.
Buhari is yet to be a politician and may never be one. In the first place, a meeting with IPAC is not the proper avenue to express serious issues of electoral reforms. IPAC is a pack of fringe and fair weather politicians who never win elections. They thrive by ingratiating themselves with parties that had laboured to form government, and by endorsement of presidential candidates of wining parties. IPAC was created by the PDP to keep idle politicians busy and to be free of their mischief.
What Buhari should do, instead of hosting an unserious IPAC, is to send a bill to the NASS for a review of the party system, so that we can reduce the cost of printing ballot papers, to begin with. Take the Kogi election for instance, 22 parties entered for that election, but the race was majorly for the APC and PDP. The rest are IPAC members who crowded the ballot papers and made voters to be distracted. After elections, IPAC would issue statements affirming or denouncing, depending on where the bread is buttered, as they say.
To perfect elections should begin with reforming the party system, to reinforce the integrity, capacity and character of its membership. What Yar’Adua left behind with regard to reforming INEC, should be taken up by this government and reworked. Since they promised change, they should not have issues with reaching consensus on matters like appointment of INEC chair and other key leaders. In case Buhari does not know, many INEC officers used to be card-carrying party members. The PDP unabashedly recruited some of its members into INEC, just the way Buhari too has made crucial appointments into INEC that Nigerians cannot vouch for. For a president to singlehandedly appoint an INEC chair is highly suspicious and unacceptable in a modern democracy. That was our fate under PDP, but that has to change quickly if Buhari and APC sincerely believe in working towards perfect elections.
But we didn’t even see evidence of wanting to do things differently in Kogi and Bayelsa. And if caution is not exercised, APC will do worse than the PDP.
For emphasis, let it be said that people became enamoured of APC, because the party promised to restore order in the political space. In the 16 years of the PDP, the people had become too familiar with political fraud within the parties. You cannot become the candidate of a party unless you have plenty money to bribe the leadership of the party. And you cannot become candidate unless you belong to the larger ethnic groups. This is part of what APC promised to address, but it went to Kogi to perpetuate injustice. Whereas the Constitution provides for the principle of Federal Character, which is to ensure that no tribe or senatorial zone is allowed to dominate the political space endlessly, Kogi East has supplied the governor for the state in 16 years. Not even the sanctimonious APC could address that fraud and was on the verge of adding another four years to the Igalas when heavens intervened. But men, trust them, had already worked ahead to counter all that.
If the APC sense of justice and history had not got detained somewhere, its leaders ought to know that when it comes to affirmative action, perhaps, the people who need political subsidy most are those of Kogi West. Kogi Central needs it too, but not as much as their brothers on the other side. The Ebiras are well heeled, well spread and highly resourceful. They are very exposed too. They produced a governor while they were in the old Kwara, Adamu Atta 1979; produced a Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Salihu Ibrahim 1990; as well as an Inspector General of Police, Aliyu Atta, 1990. There is more to this list. Ebiras have a natural ability and aggressiveness to get things done without much of outsider help. Even though, there is Tunde Ogbeha, David Jemibewon and a few others on the other side, if I were APC, my private sense of justice would make me weigh a number of things and encourage a process that would lead to Kogi West producing the governor for now. Kogi West needs affirmative action more and that seems to have been divinely endorsed. I know my Ebira friends would crucify me. So be it.
But like I said, men countered all that. Perhaps, if men had not acted out of character with the order of nature, if the deputy allocated to the late Abubakar Audu were not a James Faleke, a man who already has his bread well buttered in Lagos; just perhaps, if Audu’s deputy were a proper Kogi West homegrown, without allegiance to Lagos, the APC leadership might have tempered its game of Shanci in Kogi, and let justice reign. As was later revealed, Faleke, who has since returned to Abuja, where he supposedly represents some Lagos constituency in the House of Representatives, might not be the one their party wanted to axe. There is probably a godfather somewhere, who is still being stalked.
In the Bayelsa election, we also saw men trying hard to forcefully re-order the political templates. Even in the creeks where he is contemplating hispremature retirement, the APC seems bent on totally obliterating former President Jonathan. But we were told they got repelled.
Sincerely, this is not what some of us envisage of a progressive party. For this democracy to survive, PMB should bring onboard serious electoral reforms.
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