By Amah Baldwin
The outcome of political party primaries in Nigeria has shown that candidates emerge victorious, not based on popularity, but on imposition.
It is a lingering phenomenon. The political class appears not in any hurry to reverse the trend.
It has happened before; it is happening again, and nothing suggests that it would not be happening in the future.
Down memory lane in 1998, some powerful forces opened the gates of Kirikiri prisons, pulled out Rtd. General Olusegun Obasanjo and imposed him on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The masterminds were Rtd. General Theoplilus Yakubu Danjuma, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and the incumbent Head of state, General Abdulsalam Abubakar. Those who contested the primaries with Obasanjo at the primaries and the subsequent presidential poll did so merely to make the exercise appear credible.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
After all, OBJ was not brought out for nothing.
It is instructive to recall that having lost June 12, and the winner of the election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the Yorubas, and indeed NADECO vowed to heat up the polity through wide range of actions, including civil disobedience.
NADECO chieftains and the so called progressive elements wanted the Presidency. For them, it was the only way forward for a peaceful political environment to thrive in Nigeria. The government accepted without hesitation.
But there was a caveat.
“Yes, we shall give you the presidency, but the President you will not like,” the masterminds told the Yorubas. That is to say that, while the Yorubas chose Chief Olu Falae to be President in 1999, the military junta imposed Obasanjo on Nigerians. Arbitrary use of power.
The matter ended there. No protest, no demonstration, perhaps because everything seemed okay. Actually, Nigerians were either helpless or naïve. At that time, NADECO had become weary and tired, after years of running battle with the late Head of State General Sani Abacha.
Again, in 2018 the political space was reserved for the privileged few, who shared friendship with the powers that were or who were in their good book. Like in 1999, the space, and indeed party platform to contest election was not for everyone. In Enugu state, for instance, consideration for nomination depended on who was behind one, notwithstanding one’s electoral value.
It is instructive to recall that former Governor Sullivan Chime attempted to restrict legislators to two terms so as to enable other loyal party members benefit. However, the lofty idea did not go down well with greedy PDP politicians.
The two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC were united in awarding tickets to their preferred aspirants. In the game, there was no law. If there was, it was not applied.
The brigandage and arbitrary exercise of power went on. No one could call the bluff.
Again, political offices appear to be family business.
From Enugu East Local Government Council area, Hon. Cornelius Nnaji relinquished his C of O (Certificate of Occupancy) as Chairman of the Council for a seat at the lower chamber of the National Assembly. His elder brother, Gilbert had been in the upper chamber (Senate) for eight years.
Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor and senator, realising that a deal could be worked out with the new PDP henchmen, dusted his political cap. He dared Senator Nnaji who defeated him twice and secured the Enugu East senatorial seat, simply because Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had ditched the incumbent Nnaji.
Senator Gilbert Nnaji was said to enjoy the backing of the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.
In the same manner, both Hon. Ujam and Hon. Chime Oji lost their House of Representatives seats allocated, this time around to Hon. Nnoli Nnaji and Hon Offor Chukwuegbo. Recycling. One term legislators lost their seats, but in Enugu West Senatorial District, those who had been at the National Assembly for more than two terms were awarded more tenures.
Those who opted to go for nomination did not come to terms with the fact that incumbents should not be challenged. Their dream seats were not just vacant.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu
Engr. Uche Onyekwelu felt that Senator Ike Ekweremadu had overstayed his welcome at the Senate. Onyekwelu had awful stories to tell after the outing at Awgu, venue of the primaries. While Ike Ekweremadu holds sway in the Senate, his brother Mathias represents Aninri state Constituency at the Enugu State House of Assembly.
Hon. Mathias Ekweremadu and Dr. Okey Ibeabuchi made desperate efforts to retire Hon. Toby Okechukwu from the National Assembly after his eight year stint, but the PDP authorities in Enugu would not hear of that.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu himself, very influential, by 2019, would have confiscated the Senate seat for record four terms of 16 years.
At Awgu, it was glaring where the delegates, and indeed the electorate stood, but the King makers in Enugu insisted otherwise. Those like one CJ Obiakalusi, Samuel Eze and others who picked courage to protest the outrage ended up in various hospitals. At present, they are telling their awful stories in the hands of in the hands of politicians who call themselves leaders and stakeholders.
Deputy Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, Donatus Uzogbado (Jascolo), like Toby Okechukwu would be eight years in office in 2019. By the PDP arrangement, Jascolo leaves. Toby Okechukwu stays. Not strange? Double standard.
APC’S primaries did not fair any better. The entire exercise was shrouded in mystery. In Enugu West Senatorial District, where three candidates slugged it out for senate seat, three primaries that produced three “candidates” were held.
Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu GNG
Two time governorship candidate, Chief Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu, GNG; A presidential aide, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku and DG Voice of Nigeria, VON Osita Okechukwu were allocated results. APC, for reasons best known to the party, chose Mrs Ibekaku.
While Ostia Okechukwu sulked, and in fact rained vituperations on the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, Gbazueagu simply crossed over to the All Peoples Grand Alliance, APGA to further his aspirations.
I recall as if it were yesterday that in1983, the electorate in Ondo state refused to tolerate imposition.
In Akure, like in Enugu, the scripts were rehearsed. The actors: FEDECO, Security agencies, the NPN took positions. What viewers saw on the screen was awful. Akin Omoboriowo, until then, Deputy Governor, aided by President Shehu Shagari regime snatched the result sheet.
FEDECO had entered his name on it. Security operatives shielded Omoboriowo as he ran towards the Government House, Akure to take over, with the sensitive document.
But the electorate, indeed the people gave them a hot chase. Not even the gun totting NPN thugs and the police could stop the people of Ondo state.
Just as he approached the gate, Omoboriowo was caught by the people he claimed voted him.
He could not catch his breath. They dispossessed him of the result sheet. Form EC 8.
The document was handed over to His Excellency Michael Ajasin who won the Ondo state governorship election.
Jim IfeayiChukwu Nwobodo with Journalists
In Enugu, the reverse was the case. His Excellency, Jim Nwobodo lost the governorship election he won. Extraneous, but powerful elements imposed one of his opponents. Unfortunately, Nwobodo restrained the electorate from chasing the impostors away from the Lion Building.