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Nigeria: Takeaways And Giveaways From APC Presidential Primaries – OpEd

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The presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) have come and gone. The Federal Capital Territory was agog and in a festive mood for almost three days as the ruling party organized its special convention in Abuja from June 6 to June 8. Former Lagos State governor and national leader of the ruling party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has emerged the winner of the keenly contested race which pitted him against formidable opponents including the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Minister of Transport, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, and the Senate President Ahmed Lawan. Tinubu who described the election as a stiff and bold competition emerged victorious with a landslide victory as he polled 1271 against his closest rival Rotimi Amaechi who polled 316 votes. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo projected to create an upset and secured a distant third with 235 votes. Senate President Ahmed Lawan was touted as the consensus candidate by the APC Chairman Senator Abdullahi Adamu polled 152 votes to take the fourth position. There were 23 aspirants in the race but only 14 of them remained in the battle for the ticket to fly the party’s flag in the 2023 general election.

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In his acceptance speech, Tinubu said the election had made him a better person, saying he was humbled by the victory since he wasn’t sure that he would win the election. He attributed his victory to hard work, preparation and foresight. He extended an olive branch to his opponents, saying he bears no grudges and bitterness toward them. While congratulating the winner, President Buhari enjoined Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to be magnanimous in victory and advised that he should close ranks with his opponents in order to move the party to greater heights. He declared that Tinubu’s victory was well-deserved judging by his commitment to the party and the sustenance of democracy.

The major highlight of the event was the abrupt and complete reversal of position by seven aspirants who stepped down for Tinubu and pledged their support while at the same time directing their supporters to vote for the former Lagos State governor. The aspirants included Governor Godswill Akpabio, Governor Rotimi Kayode Fayemi, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Governor Mohammed Badaru of Jigawa State, and former Speaker Dimeji Bankole, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, and the only female contestant Uju Ken-Ohanenyen. On his part, the youngest male aspirant Nicholas Felix stepped down for the vice president. Former Senate President Ken Nnamani who withdrew from the race did not declare support for any of the remaining aspirants. Also, former Minister of State for Education Emeka Nnwajiuba did not show up for the race. Still, he scored 1 vote.

Before the primaries, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was projected by social media polls as the most preferred candidate by the electorate. However, this failed to translate into victory for him as Osinbajo came to a distant third position. The APC delegates whether influenced by money or by their consciences did not set many stores on these projections. The primaries did not bear the pundits out.

Also, the issue of fairness, equity, and justice for the southeast as it relates to the presidency came to the fore once again. This was championed by the former minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, and former Senate President Ken Nnamani. As a form of protest against injustice in the zone, Senator Ken Nnamani withdrew from the race.

Addressing delegates, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu pricked the conscience of All Progressives Congress (APC) over its failure to zone the 2023 presidency to the South-East. Onu railed against the injustice against the southeast, which is the only zone in the south that has not taken a shot at the presidency since the return to civil rule in 1999.  “Where is the justice, where is the justice,” Onu lamented as he presented his agenda to the delegates. He promised to give science and technology the pride of place it deserves as the cornerstone for the launch of the nation to greater heights.

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“What is very, very important, exceptionally important, is that we must ensure that justice is upheld,” Onu said in his address.

“Naturally, it should be somebody from the South East that will replace (Buhari), and that will give the opposite South versus North and Christian versus Muslim a good chance, and it will bring stability to the nation; it will strengthen Nigeria,” Onu declared.

Both Onu and former Senate President Nnamani wondered why the party which had insisted on zoning during its March 26 national convention where it elected a national chairman of northern extraction would now turn round to discard zoning.

The political marginalization of the southeast has to be addressed sooner than later. The nation cannot afford to ignore the voices of reason on this vexed issue since the southeast is one of the major tripods on which the nation rests. Regrettably both the PDP and APC fell short in addressing the aspirations and grievances of the Southeast.

Most importantly, the monetization of the political process continually rears its ugly head as there were unconfirmed reports that delegates were compromised with bribes ranging between $5000 and $25,000. A similar accusation was laid at the doorstep of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during its presidential primary convention held in Abuja recently. In fact, the sudden collapse of the naira which now exchanges for 600 naira to the dollar at the parallel market has been attributed to excessive mopping up of forex by politicians. Actually social media has been abuzz with viral videos of aspirants who lost out in various primaries asking for a refund of sums of money given to delegates to influence their decision on candidates to be voted for. In fact, a delegate from Kaduna State who enjoyed a windfall during the PDP presidential primary went on to extend the sum of 20 million naira to his constituents.

Without a doubt, the monetization of the political process can only lead to an uneven contest as the candidates with the deepest pockets will always have the upper hand in such contests. Indeed both elections in the PDP and APC were won by candidates who are perceived as having a huge war chest. The implication is that the highest office in the land has been cornered by moneybags. Clearly, this bodes ill for democracy. In this sense, candidates with competence and capacity will be denied the chance to offer their services to the nation since they would have been eliminated from the race by moneybags. Essentially, democracy is in clear and present danger when politics is driven by nothing else but the crass deployment of money toward achieving political ends.

All said the 13 Northern governors who insisted that the presidency should go to the south have demonstrated statesmanship, patriotism, and foresight. Their unprecedented resolve helped to douse the tension that had enveloped the nation. At a time when the party leadership and President Muhammadu Buhari dithered and showed diffidence and were not forthcoming on the issue of zoning, the Northern governors stepped forward and demonstrated rare leadership and statesmanship. The president’s strategic ambiguity on zoning left a sour taste in the mouth.

Overall the general arrangement for the Special Party Convention and Presidential primaries was perfectly executed even though there were minor hitches here and there. Besides all the aspirants were given a level playing field. Now Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is expected to square off with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP in the 2023 general elections. This promises to be a four-horse race as Mr. Peter Obi has secured the presidential ticket of the Labour Party. Also, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has secured the presidential ticket of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). Now the usual arithmetic and permutations for the presidential elections have been altered with the entry of both Mr. Peter Obi and Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso into the presidential sweepstakes.

Kola King

Kola King is a Nigerian journalist and novelist. He worked for more than two decades as a reporter, correspondent and editor in major national newspapers in Nigeria. He's the founder of Metro newsletter published on Substack. His debut novel A Place in the Sun and was published and released in 2016 by Verity Publishers, Pretoria, South Africa. His writing has appeared in Kalahari Review, The Missing Slate Literary Journal, The New Black Magazine and Litro magazine. He earned a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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