By ABBA MAHMOOD —
This column had respectfully advised President Buhari on various national and international issues. The last such was the call on him to not contest for the presidency in 2019. Immediately after that, President Buhari declared his intention to seek a second term, which is his constitutional right anyway. That advice was given with the best of intentions, and it was well received by the public judging by the responses from readers of that article. In a way, even the presidential declaration was a response to that article, among others.
The Hausa people have a saying that the Friday that will be good will give sign of goodness from Wednesday. If the indicators so far are anything to go by, 2019 will be nasty. And it appears those around Buhari are not reading the signs correctly. They don’t seem to connect the dots and cross the t’s to see an emerging pattern. There is an agenda, a grand agenda, playing out in the political landscape, possibly the first of its kind in the history of this country. What to do in response is very simple.
The plan to change the sequence of the 2019 election timetable was obviously targeted at the president and there is no doubt that this is not being hatched by the National Assembly alone, but by forces far beyond the legislators. The president rightly vetoed that bill, which in any case is against the letter and spirit of the constitution which he swore to uphold. The attempt to extend the tenure of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) executives at all levels beyond their constitutionally allowed four years was yet another plan in that grand design aimed at Buhari and his party. If that extension had succeeded, all the primary elections to be conducted by that illegally extended party executives would have been nullified by the courts. The party rightly decided to conduct congresses and convention to elect fresh leaders for a fresh mandate, as required by law.
The ward congress in the series of internal party elections was allegedly conducted by the APC on Saturday May 5, 2018. By every definition it was a charade. The congress was marred by violence, irregularities, breach of party guidelines and outright illegality. In almost all the states there was no proper congress, and this is just at the ward level. The desperation by some chieftains to announce clearly untenable results in the name of election was unbelievable. How can a ruling party that came to power with promises to respect the rules and change the bad ways allow itself to so ridiculously fail to conduct even mere ward congress properly?
In Adamawa State, some aspirants paid for forms to enable them contest. After spending over N17 million to collect the forms, they were eventually not given the chance to even return these forms they duly completed, let alone contest for the party offices they wanted to vie for. All the outgoing executive members were simply returned in a show of shame. Can anyone bring a better example of recklessness and impunity?
In Zamfara State, aspirants paid for the forms in the designated bank accounts, but no forms were issued to them. They simply lost their money and the right to vote or be voted for in the name of a non-existent and clearly illegal ‘consensus’. The head of the panel sent to conduct the election in Zamfara by the APC national headquarters did not know nor had the list of bona fide party members who were supposed to vote. In all honesty, can anyone say that election was conducted in such circumstance? In many other states violence characterized the ward congress of APC last week with some unfortunate loss of lives in some states.
Many questions are begging for answers. For instance, is the current national leadership of the party deliberately destroying the party through this confusion and imposition? Buhari has already shown his preference for Adams Oshiomhole to emerge as the APC national chairman and Chief Oyegun, the current chairman, was said to have withdrawn his candidature after clearly indicating his interest to contest for a second term. With his hardly veiled grievance, Oyegun is the one conducting the current congresses and convention! It is just like giving a hyena a piece of meat to guard.
As this column once emphasized, President Buhari should know that internal party democracy is the basis, indeed the foundation, of genuine democracy. If the APC ward congress of last Saturday is anything to go by, even the discredited Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears better than the APC in terms of organizing transparently free, fair and credible party elections. And that is a very serious indictment if we still remember the PDP impunity. As president of Nigeria and a leader of the party, Buhari is duty-bound to call his party to order and insist on the organization of proper, credible and transparent party congresses and convention which will see the emergence of properly elected party leaders at all levels in accordance with the constitution and guidelines of the party. Otherwise, all the delegates who will elect the party flag-bearers will be illegal and the courts will ultimately declare all the party’s candidates in the general elections next year to be illegal. Even if they win, their elections would eventually be nullified because they were not properly nominated.
The society is becoming more sophisticated by the day. No one will accept imposition anymore. Nigerian democracy ought to grow and not retard. Part of the reason people voted for APC in the 2015 elections was the fact that the party conducted a very transparent, open, free and fair primaries in the full glare of the public. If Buhari as president woud not build on that good foundation, then there is no hope for our democracy. In fact, it is in his interest to insist on doing the right thing as far as these congresses and convention of his party areb concerned. Otherwise, it will be like what the Fulani say, plaiting a lice- infested hair, which as we all know will never stand.
History is on the side of the oppressed.