Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the different political groups in the country recently held their primaries to elect their different candidates. The last minutes rush was apparent as they tried to meet the deadline given by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Different candidates for the different posts emerged eventually. However, the primaries were engulfed by crises of different dimensions, leaving many still nursing some anger against their opponents and even the leadership of their parties in some cases.
The crises appear to be more apparent in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. In almost all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, the story of imposition and lack of level playing field for aspirants have created more factions for the party than before.
In Rivers State for instance, it is a fight to the finish as the crisis that rocked the factions loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe snowballed into the two groups conducting parallel primaries.
While that of Abe conducted a direct primary that elected him as the governorship candidate of the party, the Amaechi group elected Tonye Cole, a business mogul as the flag bearer of the party in the state.
Although the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party has cleared Cole as the candidate of the party, Abe described the exercise that led to the emergence of Cole as a charade and vowed to use all available legal means to redress the injustice.
Also in Zamfara State, the inability of the party to conduct its primary within the stipulated time by INEC’ due to supremacy battle between the incumbent governor of the state, Abdulazez Yari and Senator Kabir Marafa may hinder the party from presenting candidates to all elective positions in the 2019 elections. Already, the commission has written a letter to the party on the matter, though it vowed to contest the decision.
According to a statement by the acting secretary to the commission, Okechukwu Ndeche, “For clarity, our position is that the All Progressives Congress (APC), will not be fielding candidates for the governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara state for 2019 general elections.”
The conduct of the party primaries in Lagos could have degenerated into violence and bloodbath if not for the timely intervention of party elders and traditional rulers. For instance, the governorship primary in the state which was won by Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a former commissioner in the state was initially cancelled by the primary election committee headed by Clement Ebri. He announced that a new date for the primary would be announced to members as the exercise could not hold as planned. However, in a dramatic manner, the same committee announced Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the primary, a day later. The decision of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to concede defeat according to observers prevented the situation from degenerating into confusion and violence.
The party also contradicted itself when, initially it screened only Senator Gbenga Ashafa for Lagos-East; Remi Tinubu, Lagos-Central and Solomon Adeola for Lagos-West, but announced Bayo Osinowo as the winner of the primary while he was not among those screened to contest the primary.
The story is not different in Ogun State where two aspirants emerged as winners of the governorship primaries. While the state chairman of the party, Chief Derin Adebiyi, declared the House of Representatives member, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade as the winner, the electoral panel sent by the party’s NWC, declared oil mogul, Prince Dapo Abiodun the winner. The two groups claimed they held the authentic primary as ordered by the NWC.
In Bauchi State, it has been unresolved controversies over the conduct of National and House of Assembly elections. Aggrieved aspirants in the state had alleged that there was no election held in most areas where APC declared results, while violence was also recorded in most parts, among others electoral illegalities.
Though Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is yet to conduct primary into Kogi-East Senatorial District and some other places also has its own share of crises, the magnitude of the ones in APC appeared to be too overwhelming for a party that promised to abide by the tenets of democracy in all its dealings.
Political observers believe the crises in the primaries were caused by political interest groups and godfathers who wanted to have their ways in who became the candidates of the party in the forthcoming election.
In Lagos for instance, everything was going on well with Ambode as several groups had endorsed him as their preferred candidate in the 2019 governorship election, until the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, his political godfather said he did not want him for second term.
With the magnitude of crises emanating from the primary elections, the party may have a lot of issues to resolve before the general election which is about four months away.
It may be in realisation of the enormous task ahead that the leadership of APC did not waste time in appointing former Edo State Governor Oserheimen Osunbor as Chairman of National Appeal Committee of APC governorship and legislative primaries.
There is no doubt that Osunbor’s committee has a lot of issues to deal with in order to bring cohesion to the party ahead of the election.
Similarly, the governors of the party, under the leadership of the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, were at the Presidential Villa, on Wednesday to, among other things, seek the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari in the resolution of the crises that resulted from the primaries. They stressed the need to go to battle as a united party if they must win during the 2019 election.
The question that is yet to be answered however is whether all the efforts that would be made would be good enough to calm frayed nerves. Would the Osunbor led committee accomplish the arduous task ahead? Of what effect will the intervention of Buhari be? The result of the 2019 general election will provide the answers to these and many other related questions.