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February 6, 2022.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship party primaries in Ekiti state have come and gone but the reverberations may not abate any time soon. Call them primaries of controversies and you will be right. None of the two leading political parties can lay claim to the bragging rights over the conduct and outcome of their primaries. And this is a shame! Credible elections are not just about casting and counting of votes and declaring the results on Election Day, the process actually begins with the delineation of constituencies, where the election umpire can apply what is called “gerrymandering” to manipulate the boundaries of electoral constituencies to favour one party at the expense of another. The process of citing polling booths, of determining their numbers across the country, and of the distribution of election materials – the timeliness and adequacy of such materials – can also be manipulated to “technically” rig elections. Remember that President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted as saying that his party “technically” won (rigged?) the 2018 Osun State governorship election. Increasingly since the 1999 return to civilian rule (which is neither civil nor democratic in nature), the use of the military in civil and election operations to tilt the balance on the side of the powers-that-be has gained ascendancy. All of the above have impugned on the integrity of our elections. On the side of the political parties, providing level-playing ground for office-seekers and allowing the will of party members to prevail has been an issue. God-fathers and moneybags have imposed their will, railroading their preferred candidates as the party flag bearer in virtually all elections. One of the contentious issues in the languishing Electoral Act is whether parties should choose their candidates through direct or indirect primaries. None of the two is foolproof. While indirect primaries tend to favour the governors or those who control party structures at the grassroots, the “Abuja politicians” (mostly Ministers, presidential aides and those in the National Assembly) believe direct primaries could afford them a better opportunity of competing with or turning the tables on the usually over-bearing governors and/or godfathers.
In Nigerian politics, the winner usually applauds the process and outcome while the losers lambast and pooh-pooh them. It is rare to find our politicians demonstrating the spirit of sportsmanship; in like manner, it is not common for elections to be won fair and square here. The same process or system that one politician applauds today because it favours him, he shreds the next moment if it turns against him. Nigeria’s is a politics of quicksand, as you will soon see, and our politicians are chameleonic in nature. While Carol Moseley Braun posits that “there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent interests”, Nigerian politicians have corrupted the “Interests” in that quotation to mean their own “selfish interests” and the non-permanency of enmity or friendship they have equated with political prostitution and rascality. Little wonder, then, that when I was growing up, Grandma repeatedly alluded to “adehun alagbada”, which is shifting and unreliable. “Adehun” is “agreement” and “alagbada” refers to politicians, so depicted because of their flowing robe or babariga. You rely on such agreements or put your trust in such fellows at your own peril!
Let us take a look at some of the media reports on the Ekiti PDP and APC primaries of controversies, starting with the PDP: “The crisis rocking the Ekiti state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took another twist on Saturday as five governorship aspirants rejected the process of the ad-hoc ward congress to elect three delegates in each of the 177 wards for the primary election ahead of the June 18 governorship poll. The aspirants, former Gov. Segun Oni; lawmaker representing Ekiti south, Senator Biodun Olujimi; former deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola; former national treasurer of the party, Wale Aribisala; and Lateef Ajilola described the congress as a charade and unacceptable. The aspirants who jointly addressed journalists in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, said the congress, aimed at producing delegates for the January 26 primaries, was compromised in favour of the group loyal to ex-Gov. Ayo Fayose”. They also alleged the hijacking and diversion of election materials, the wilful writing of results, as well as describing the entire process as laughable. However, the secretary of the congress committee, Kola Ologbondiyan, debunked the allegations, saying the committee did not bend the rules to favour any of the factions. “What we have done is in line with the directives we have been given from Abuja. We did distribution of materials in the presence of the aspirants. The aspirants would have to wait for the appeal committee if they have issues with the conduct of the congress” The aggrieved did just that and lost but have gone upstairs with their grievances. The case is at the Supreme Court. When the PDP governorship primaries eventually took place on January 26th, it was another round of controversies, allegations and counter-allegations from opposing groups within the party. A news media reported it thus: “The governorship primary of the Ekiti State Peoples Democratic Party has deepened the crisis which started last year when the party conducted its ward congress (and) has come with mixed feelings for stakeholders and aspirants in the party – feelings of satisfaction on one side and of despondency on the other. The implication is that the exercise appeared to have shattered the peace and unity process which the Senator Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee started to midwife in December last year immediately on assumption of office to ensure the party’s victory in the June 18 governorship election. A political watcher…said ‘The 2022 Ekiti PDP primary was won and lost in March 2020 when the ward congresses were conducted. The pains, tears and joy witnessed with the declaration of Fayose’s man, Olabisi Kolawole, as winner, were reflections of what happened at that congress. The three PDP leaders, former governors Ayodele Fayose and Segun Oni; and a National Assembly member, Senator Biodun Olujimi, find it difficult to be real friends. Politics of self-interest has seen them injuring one another all along and the wound is what the just-concluded governorship primary has once again re-opened’”.
The situation is not different in the APC where many of the leading aspirants announced a boycott of the process in the dying minutes. A report said seven APC governorship aspirants withdrew from the race. They were — Kayode Ojo, Demola Popoola, Femi Bamisile, Bamidele Faparusi, Dayo Adeyeye, Opeyemi Bamidele, and Afolabi Oluwasola — alleging irregularities in the conduct of the party primaries. The report further said the aspirants contested “the purported list of local government election committee and ward election committee members made up solely of party members and political appointees that had before now openly endorsed the candidacy of Biodun Oyebanji, the immediate past secretary to the state government. It is on record that the government of Gov. Kayode Fayemi has given its unwavering support to the candidacy of Biodun Oyebanji, it is common knowledge that the governor and most appointees of the governor are openly rooting for and supporting Biodun Oyebanji’s aspiration to become the flag bearer of our great party. What is more disturbing is the fact that a simple glance at the names of the persons appointed as members of both committees would reveal that it is made up of appointees of government who are all supporters of a candidate in the primary election they are appointed to superintend.”
To cut the long story short, Oyebanji, the alleged favourite of Gov. Fayemi, was declared winner of the APC primaries and, consequently, the party’s flag bearer in the forthcoming June 18, 2022 Ekiti governorship election. In like manner, Bisi Kolawole aka Bisi K from former Gov. Ayo Fayose’s stable was declared the winner of the PDP primaries and, consequently, the party’s flag bearer in the same election. What is intriguing in the Ekiti debacle is that many of the top players are not strangers to one another, even if they are strange bedfellows who have ended up in bed with one another now and again, only to disagree and go their separate ways for a season with no one certain they will not end up together in bed again! Some of the aggrieved APC leaders have said they will not leave the party but will stick with it. It remains to be seen with what sincerity they will do that. Are they simply playing politics, mindful and afraid of the heavy punishment the ruling party can unleash on them if they dare put “sand in its garri”, as they say, or their rationalization is that they will be called in for negotiation and settlement, both at state and federal level? Note that for the average Nigerian politician, the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom! Besides, there is a lot of largesse at the Federal level to assuage the anger of any aggrieved APC member. Or, as some have posited, will these “suffering and smiling” politicians (apologies, Fela!) remain inside but piss right inside? Will they play the role of spoilers; the enemy within that is more dangerous than the enemy without? Will this case be like that of the proverbial rat that says: It is either I eat the beans or I spill it? Time will tell!
Some of the aggrieved governorship aspirants in the PDP are reportedly moving away from the party. Whereas Bisi Kolawole has made overtures to them, extending an olive branch and a hand of fellowship, some are said to have spurned the gesture. Others, however, have accepted, if the statement issued by Lere Olayinka, spokesperson of the Fayose group, is to be believed. Those who will have none of that are said to be putting together a Third Force that may likely make the next Ekiti governorship election a three-horse race. Who are the brains behind this and will the membership cut across political parties? Will some aggrieved APC members join and openly endorse it or will they only give tacit and behind-the-scenes support? Can a mega party emerge in Ekiti state at this point in time? Someone said the proponents of a Third Force still have time on their hands to cobble it together but do they have the resources? Another critical hurdle will be the choice of a flag bearer. Who, among them, will joyfully sacrifice his or her own governorship ambition? Next week, God willing!
OAU: ASUU/CONUA tango
The ongoing or brewing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife should be nipped in the bud and not be allowed to throw the academic calendar into another tailspin. ASUU, its splinter group CONUA (Congress of University Academics) and the university administration should be ashamed of themselves – all of them! Are you the only university in Nigeria? Strike, strike, strike all the time! Mba! Haba! Kilode! We can understand – even if we do not condone – when students behave like the children that they are but when adults behave irresponsibly, like toddlers, they deserve not just tongue-lashing but real spanking in the real sense of the word. “Awon agbalagba to n se lagba-lagba!” And these are supposed to be highly educated fellows! But they cannot even responsibly conduct themselves! If gold rusts, what will silver do? And what kind of training are these ones actually impacting on our children, seriously speaking? By their conduct, are they themselves properly trained? How many years do they want our children to spend in the university for a degree? Let them subject themselves to arbitration if they cannot independently and responsibly conduct their own affairs! To think that these are the same people parroting university autonomy! From a video clip that I watched, the argument of the OAU ASUU leader on the vexed issue of earned academic allowances (or what do they call it?), I am sorry to say, sounded puerile and unreasonable. Nevertheless, Nigeria has a chartered institute of arbitrators; let the OAU gladiators haul themselves before it and submit themselves to its authority. Or do they want to trigger another crisis like the one that ended the tenure of the immediate past OAU administration in ignominy? Is it rocket science for these people to understand that the way they are misbehaving, they are de-marketing the university, imperilling the vision of its founding fathers, and embarrassing the alumni of “Great Ife”? Is it because they always get away scot-free each time they down tools, earning full salaries and escaping sanctions or censure? ” Ogo ta, ogo o ta, owo alaarun a pe” kind of mentality? Away with rascality! Let commonsense return! Understood?
* A former editor of the PUNCH newspapers and Chairman of its Editorial Board, BOLAWOLE writes the “On the Lord’s Day” column in the Sunday Tribune and the”Treasures” column every Wednesday on the back page of the New Telegraph newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.