October 6, 2022

I’m sure that Nigerians, at least, I know that I have, learnt several lessons from the recently concluded PDP and APC Party Primaries. Here are a few lessons that I learnt. 
Lesson 1: Cash is King
Firstly, that ‘Cash is King’! Section 121 of the Electoral Act 2022 (EA) which criminalises bribery and corruption in the nomination of candidates and elections, was definitely observed in the breach during the recently concluded Primaries, if we go by the mind boggling amounts that Nigerians have heard were involved in determining who would be the flag bearers of both parties. Aside from Section 88 of the EA which has increased the amounts that Politicians can spend for their different campaigns to the millions and billions thereby excluding the common capable man from running in elections, the obscene display was also ignited and encouraged by the two main political parties, APC and PDP, who started off by selling the forms for Presidential aspirants at the exorbitant amounts of N100 million & N40 million respectively. Our democracy seems to have regressed from the 1990s, as it is now heavily monetised – ‘Government of the Politicians, by the highest bidder, for a few’. Nigerians are not seeing the dividends of democracy. In fact, our political system has regressed from a democracy in 1999, to what I have christened an ‘ElectoPlutocracy’, a combination of an Electocracy where people merely vote, but don’t really play a part in decision-making, because governance and decision-making is concentrated in the hands of government and politicians, contrary to Sections 1(2) & 14(2)(a) & (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution); and a Plutocracy, which is a “government by the wealthy” or a society governed by a monied ruling class, and in our own case, a class in which many cannot account for their wealth.
Lesson 2: The Igbo Question
The truth they say, is bitter; but, the second lesson I learnt is that, the Igbos do not seem to be committed to the cause of enthroning a South East President. The reason for my assertion is that, the same thing that transpired in the PDP Primaries, happened again in that of the APC. Even before the Primaries, Senator Orji Kalu had come out to support Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, citing the excuse that if the APC wasn’t going to zone the Presidency specifically to the South East, then he would support Lawan who hails from the North East (a zone that has also not yet had a bite of the Presidential cherry in the Fourth Republic). Why didn’t he support other South East aspirants like Ogbonnaya Onu or David Umahi who continued in the race, instead? There were 285 or so South East Delegates; David Umahi secured 38 votes, Emeka Nwajiuba, 1 and Ogbonnaya Onu, 1. Assuming that those who voted for them were from the South East, that is only 40 Delegates out of 285; who did the other 245 Delegates vote for? Even South East aspirant, Uju Ohanenye stepped down for South West aspirant, Senator Bola Tinubu, and not a fellow South East aspirant. 
In a democratic setting, the way to push an agenda is through commitment, lobbying and voting. If the South East Delegates decided to forego the cause of their people for a South East President and sell their votes to the highest bidder, no one else but them can be blamed for the outcome. Undoubtedly, cash was more important to the South East Delegates and their Principals, than any zonal cause or aspiration. It is also amazing that some still feel justified asking the PDP to select someone from the South East as Vice Presidential candidate, having sold out on the Presidential ticket!
The attempt by some to compare the micro-zoning of the Nigerian Presidency to the South West in 1999 to the situation of the South East, is like comparing apples to oranges. The truth of the matter is that, the reason that the South West got the slot in 1999 was because late Chief M.K.O. Abiola GCFR not only won the Presidential election of June 12, 1993, was denied his mandate by the military junta at the time, he also paid the ultimate price, losing his life in detention under extremely questionable circumstances, having been detained in inhumane conditions (solitary confinement) for four years until his death on July 7, 1998. It was certainly not because anybody chose to serve power to the South West ‘a la carte’. And, while no one denies that the South East and the North East have not yet produced Presidents in this Fourth Republic, the difference with the South West situation and theirs must be emphasised – it was not a case of turn by turn, for the South West.
Lesson 3: Consensus Candidate
The meaning or use of the doctrine of a consensus candidate in Nigerian politics, is to push the candidature of an aspirant who may be largely unpopular with the majority and would not stand a chance of winning a nomination, but who is the choice of a few who can be considered as the “powers that be” – Imposition. 
The Collins Dictionary defines consensus as “general or widespread agreement”. See the case of Isa v CPC & Ors 2013 LPELR-22376 (CA), where the Court of Appeal held that a political party should not be allowed to violate or breach its own guidelines and constitution and foist excesses and arbitrariness on a member of the party, as we saw the APC leadership try to do by attempting to foist the Senate President on the Party as its consensus candidate and flag bearer, contrary to the provisions of Section 84 (9)-(11) of the EA.
Lesson 4: Disunity of the Southern Zones
The onslaught of aspirants from the various Southern zones and the inability to settle on one consensus candidate, shows that there is disunity, not just inter but intra-Southern zones. The Northerners, on the other hand, besides the ones who were in the minority (and ended up being inconsequential anyway, since the total number of votes they scored were not up to 200 and less than one-tenth of the total votes), and refused to align with the majority, spoke with one voice in support of power shifting the South. 
The sooner the South learns that a divided house cannot stand, the better for them to be more of a force to be reckoned with.
Lesson 5: Interest of Politicians
The way the Politicians prepared for the Primaries with such gusto and aplomb, shows that they are more interested in perpetuating themselves in power than actual governance. For example, if a fraction of what was used to pay for APC forms (close to N20 billion according to a news report I read) was disbursed to ASUU, the children would have been back in University ages ago. Yet, no one seems particularly disturbed about that. 
The New Debate: Religion
The new debate that has arisen consequent upon the outcome of the APC Primaries, is the ethnicity and religion of the Presidential tickets of 2023. That of the PDP is more clear cut, as it will be easy to choose a Southern Christian as the Vice Presidential candidate. That of the APC seems to be a bit more tricky because the flag bearer is a Southern Muslim, and some claim that the ‘powers that be’ in the North would prefer a Northern Muslim candidate as Vice President, which means a ‘Muslim/Muslim’ ticket (in Nigerian parlance). 
Section 130 of the Constitution which provides for the qualifications for election as President makes no mention of religion, nor does Section 137 disqualify a Presidential candidate by reason of his/her religious beliefs (also applicable to the Vice President by virtue of Section 142(2) of the Constitution). Section 142(1) of the Constitution which provides for the nomination of a Vice Presidential candidate, only stipulates that such candidate must be from the same political party as the Presidential candidate, and makes no mention of religion, let alone that both candidates must be of different religions.
Bearing in mind that one can only conclude from the provision of Section 10 of the Constitution, that Nigeria is a secular nation where all are free to practice their own religions (also see Sections 38 & 40 of the Constitution), it is a pity that we have been reduced to a situation where candidates are determined by ethnicity and religion, instead of capacity. What Nigerians should be interested in apart from capacity, focus and integrity, is candidates who are not religious bigots – whether Christian or Muslim; candidates who keep their religion personal, and are not afraid to uphold the relevant sections of the Constitution in that regard, including Sections 10, 38 & 42 of the Constitution, with deep respect for the rule of law. Unfortunately, this is no longer so; today, in governance, Nigerians are concerned about a balance between the two major religions, Christianity and Islam.
But, was it not under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southern Christian, that Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima of Zamfara State declared Sharia, contrary to Section 10 of the Constitution and was left to get away with it? That unconstitutional declaration, should have been challenged in court. Was it not during the Obasanjo administration, that the other Northern Governors then followed suit? They instituted a body of civil and criminal law, when the Sharia Courts, like Customary Courts, are only endowed with a measure of civil jurisdiction by the Constitution. Do we not have a mixed religious ticket now? A Muslim/Christian ticket, with a Pastor as our Vice President? What has this mixed ticket done, to douse the religious tension in the country? Nothing. If anything, religious bigotry and tension, is at its worst. If we had strong institutions, no one would particularly care less about the religious beliefs of political office holders.
Or maybe it’s just the false sense of comfort and security that people derive from having a mixed Presidential ticket, even if it’s in name only? Because, the Christian Association of Nigeria, NAIREC, his Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto – they have done more to douse religious tension in the country and promote religious tolerance, than any Christian or Muslim politician in Government. But, I guess one can say that the optics of the religious balance may be more desirable and soothing, even if it adds no real value. Be that as it may, I cannot say I do not understand the unwillingness to take the risk of having a single religion ticket, in today’s Nigeria. My dear colleagues, kindly, share your views on this crucial issue. Thank you.


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