The two big parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday led 86 other political parties to submit their lists of presidential and National Assembly candidates for the 2019 general to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
With last week’s development, attention will now shift to the compilation and submission of list of candidates for state elections, namely governors and state assemblies.
But, currently, the ruling APC is enmeshed in confusion and apathy typified by threats of vote loss, litigations by some aggrieved members, which analysts say are capable of affecting the fortunes of the party in next year’s elections.
The exercise , in compliance with relevant provisions of the electoral act and INEC guidelines was largely peaceful but tasking due to the usual resort to last minute rush. For most of the parties though, the delay till deadline day appeared to be contrived, and this was obvious. Whereas some of the ‘portfolio’ political parties were waiting to cash in on anticipated defections of disgruntled national assembly aspirants who lost out from the bigger parties, but APC and PDP kept their lists close to their chests in a mind game that delayed the process unnecessarily.
For example, the ruling All Progressives Congress delayed the release of its Appeals Committee decisions till about 12 hours to the submission of the list, ensuring that fallouts of its acrimonious primaries do not rub off negatively on the process and distract the party.
The late release of the panel’s decision also ensured that dissatisfied aspirants had little or no option but to comply with decision of the party. In Kaduna for instance where the contest was between Senator Shehu Sani and other senatorial aspirants allegedly sponsored by Governor Ahmed El Rufai, the panel decided in favour of the incumbent senator leaving no room for the other aspirants to ask questions
The contestants, Muhammed Sani Saleh, Hon Usman Ibrahim and Hon Shamsuddeen Lawal Giwa had in their separate petitions challenged the decision of the party to file automatic ticket for Senator Shehu Sani, who was the only candidate cleared for the position. Two others, Aliyu Lawal and Dr, Abba Ibrahim also in their separate petitions alleged irregularities but the panel disallowed all the petitions,
But in a sudden twist of fate and utter confusion, the party submitted the name of an aide to the governor, Uba Sani in place of Senator Shehu Sani, the only candidate the panel said was cleared by APC for Kaduna Central Senatorial District.
It was reported last night that Sani has resigned his membership of APC in protest over the alleged irregularities of the primaries in his state.
The same scenario played in the contest for house of representatives slot in Kaduna Central where ten petitions were filed by aspirants with the complaints ranging from irregularities, wrongful disqualification, disregard of nomination process. The winner of the primary was dropped over alleged indictment by court in favour of Ahmed Munir Lere.
In Kano, with a large number of petitions, the panel surprisingly referred most of the matters back to the national working committee and the secretariat. Most affected among the referred matters was in the house of assembly elections with their alleged irregularities, violent disruption of the process, wrongful winner illegally declared, declaration of a winner when election did not hold etc.
The situation was not different from what transpired in the redtop of states in the north. It appeared the Appeals panel was set up to rubber stamp decision of the NWC regardless of issues raised by the aggrieved aspirants.
In Rivers State, Senator Magnus Abe, Lulu Briggs and others lost out in their battle with Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport and Director general President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation, who preferred oil magnate Tonye Cole.
Senator Abe who was in court over the matter had asked the panel to declare him winner of the parallel primary, having himself followed the direct primary recommended by the National Working Committee and NEC of the party. He also claimed that aspirants were not informed of venue of the indirect primary organised by the opposing camp. .
In his petition he had claimed that the aspirants were not informed of any change venue.
The panel headed by former Edo State governor, Prof Osariemwen Osunbor also refused to uphold the petitions filed by Dumo Lulu Briggs, and in Akwa Ibom, James Akpan Udo-Udehe, Patty Etete Inemeh, while endorsing Hon. Bassey Uwak for Oron federal constituency.
In Edo State, home state of the APC national chairman, the crisis there is already reaching boiling point, perhaps bound for the court. Although the appeal panel has reached decision and names submitted as a result, one of the aggrieved aspirants hinted that he would access the court to right the wrongs of the contentious primary in that state.
In most cases, it appeared the late decision of the party to grant some of the lawmakers automatic tickets was responsible for much of latest disturbances in the party which, against all protestations, sold its nomination and expression of interest forms at exorbitant prizes. But why would a political party sell forms for positions it knows it will reserve for particular candidate, except to sow a seed of discord within its ranks, asks, one of the aspirants.
Ambassador Gabriel Chukwuma Oyibode, an aspirant for Delta North Senatorial District claimed he was a victim of this anomaly and requested that it be addressed by the party. He claimed that he was cleared to contest senatorial primary election alongside Doris Uboh and Mariam Ali,. He however claimed that he was excluded from the ballot papers in the primary held at party’s state Secretariat.
He told reporters that the charade was widespread across the states and raised a yellow flag for ruling party to make changes before it all boomerangs.
“I want to warn my party that with this kind of charade done in the name of primary, the dream of the president to get two or three million votes is not going to work, unless they act now to correct the anomaly before it is too late.
“Again the candidate they are pushing to get the ticket is a PDP sponsored candidate, it’s on record.. And it’s going to be a free win for PDP in Delta North”
“Three aspirants, Mariam Ali, Doris Uboh and myself were screened by the party’s screening committee after obtaining the nomination and indication of interest to contest the senatorial seat for the Delta North Senatorial District, but unfortunately, the primary election never held on the stipulated date as we waited at the venue and both the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) officials were not there till about 3.30 pm,” Oyibode said
According to the aspirant, after waiting all day, the primary was said to be postponed to the next day and held outside the officially designated venue, the Technical College of Education Asaba, a situation he said, was reported to the election committee chairman, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (Rtd).
“I was disfranchised along with my delegates who are the largest in number in a Kangaroo election held without my name on the ballot paper and two boxes provided instead of three.
If three contestants were screened for an election and two made to contest, what is that”
“This act is tantamount to electoral fraud and I want the world to know what the party has done in the state regarding the primary election”, he said.
“I’m calling on anybody who cares that there was no senatorial primary election in Delta North. I don’t intend leaving the party, but if nothing is done quickly, I will go to court to seek redress”, he said. This was about 36 hours before the list was submitted.
In the weeks leading to the submission of the list of candidates for national assembly, the ruling party was in the news for the wrong reasons. Curses, appeals , pleas and calls for justice had been the refrain across all the states, including FCT. National chairman of the party Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been in the eye of the storm. Protesting groups had come and gone. He seemed to have become impervious to complaints over the primaries.
Perhaps the most virulent of the attacks against the party and it’s statute symbol, President Muhammadu Buhari surfaced on Friday, and it was a very bitter group from a nearby location in Suleija/Tafa/ Gurara federal constituency. The angry group had stormed the APC Secretariat pouring invectives on its leadership. They also vowed that the act of injustice meted on their candidates, Hon Ado Ikwo Allah and Muhammed Sani Musa (313) will not go unpublished, as they urged president Buhari to speak up now or risk massive vote loss in 2019 from Niger State.
Spokesman of the group Comrade Aliyu Isah aka Gentility said their candidates were deceived by the leadership of the party to buy forms , mobilise party supporters to vote and after winning, denied their mandate.
The group asked the APC to reinstate their candidate and uphold the mandate freely given to them by their constituents or risk rejection in the state in 2019.
“We are here to register our heartfelt dissatisfaction over the injustice done to our candidates. They were deceived to buy forms at exorbitant prizes. They won their primaries with a clear margin but on Thursday we got news that attempt was made to change the mandate of Hon Ado Ikwo Allah, the APC candidate for Suleija/Tafa/Gurara federal constituency and the most distinguished incoming senator, Sani Musa, 313 , the representative of zone B. We have on good authority that the decision was the sole decision of Adams Oshiomhole. We say no to this injustice. We say no to automatic ticket, yes to direct primary. And our governor, Sani Bello Lolo was the first to accept direct primary, and you allow people to spend their money to mobilise people, risk their lives and property and come now to talk about automatic ticket. We challenge all the APC national leaders which rule that support automatic ticket.. We are not going anywhere, we are not leaving the APC but I can tell you that even Buhari now stands at a risk because of the singular decision by Adams Oshiomhole” he warned.
It was learnt that winner of the primary Ado Ikwo Allah was replaced by the incumbent reps member, Abubakar Lado while incumbent senator David Umar replaced the popular Muhammed Sani Musa, 313.