Ruling Party and the Consensus War

Sanusi Muhammad

Sanusi Muhammad

As the 2023 general election approaches fast, All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party seems to have lost direction and the idea of how to confront those challenges of the strongest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the coming general elections.

APC was created by power mongers who were hungry and so desperate to wrest power from the performing PDP that was tolerant and more democratic in governance.

Instead of the APC to conduct credible internal primary elections, in the absence of credible aspirants, it hurriedly opted to imposition and claimed consensus.

For instance in one of those areas it has its presence, Wase federal constituency in Plateau State, the party lost direction on take-off and ended-up in the bowel of the stinking gutter without a rescue. As for the 2023 House of Representatives election, the party can only field candidate to bridge the gap and cover shame but it has no legally elected candidate from the abracadabra displayed as primary election. Whosoever rates himself as APC candidate for the 2023 House of Representatives election, lives in a fool’s paradise and suffers from an aggravated mental illusion.

But what is consensus? The question sounds simple and straightforward, but in political circles, consensus has become a dreadful word in the contestation for the highest office in the land. Consensus means what it means. It is when two or more persons agree on something.

Such an agreement brings about amity to the peaceful resolution of the issue in contention. It brings about a win-win situation for all because everybody agreed on the outcome of the matter. Consensus is not easy to forge though because of varied interests. Why? People tend to see things from different perspectives. It is this difference in outlook and thinking that makes politics tick.

We have seen this manifest in the countdown to the 2023 elections. The political scene is agog, as various interests contend for elective offices. By far, the jostle for the Presidency is the highpoint of it all.

The parties have since initiated moves to pick their standard bearers for the presidential election slated for February 2023. The main opposition PDP and Labor Party (LP), have since picked their own candidates and gone into contacts and connections before campaign proper.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who ran on PDP’s platform in 2019, with Peter Obi as his running mate is back as the party’s candidate. Interestingly, Obi is is no longer with Atiku. He has switched camp to Labor Party as its candidate. Other parties are in the process of doing the same thing before the given deadline by the umpire.

By now, the issue would have been long settled, if INEC had not extended the deadline for party primaries. Despite the extension, in some federal constituencies, attempts were made to impose favored aspirants as duly elected candidates despite glaring evidence of poor performance where they presently serve. Some of those favored for imposition are not better than village councilors in training while some can rightly be described as political bandits and miscreants in power, yet APC selected members rate them as politicians worth another trial. It’s unbelievable and ridiculous!

APC cashed in on the situation to shift its presidential primaries from May 29-June 1 and to June 6-8. Although, the parties claimed that the extension was at their instance, political pundits think otherwise. They believe that INEC extended the deadline to favor the ruling party. Be that as it may, the ruling party is still ruing how it should pick its candidate. Should it be by direct, indirect or consensus option as provided for in the Electoral Act? Another thorny issue facing the party is where its candidate should come from, North or South?

PDP threw its ticket open for contest and Atiku Abubakar from the North picked it on May 29 through a landslide victory at the primary election.

The Abdullahi Adamu led APC seems to be in a quandary about the mode of its primaries. With no fewer than 25 presidential aspirants set to battle for its ticket, the party’s hands are already full but the grapevine has it that two more presidential aspirants may declare interest from the North to swell the number to 27.

How does the ruling party plan to prune the number and manage the remnants of such a large crowd of ambitious politicians for a single ticket without acrimony, remains to be seen with time.

Well, that’s the headache of the Change Agents. It is not that it did not try to curtail the number from the outset, but it seemed the mechanism it put in place did not work. Rather than deter aspirants, the high cost of its nomination forms, N100million for the presidency while the least was N2.5million for the State House of Assembly seemed to have propelled them to join the race.

Then the party tried to be clever by half by inserting a condition in the forms, which required aspirants to sign an undated withdrawal letter. It is now clear why it did that, with Buhari, the party leader, talking of exercising his right to choose his successor as some APC governors did in their states. A case of is good for the goose is good for the gander! What the President wants to do is to get all the other aspirants to step down for the person he prefers. But who is that person and why?

Only the President knows. He has known that person for long as he claimed in a television interview that he was keeping his choice close to his chest so that the person did not come to harm. The President, like every other party member, has the right to support any aspirant. Though as the party’s leader, his preferred aspirant may end up carrying the day as no member would want to go against his choice for fear of offending him. But, why did he wait, this long before coming out categorically to ask that he be allowed to pick his successor? Is President Buhari picking his successor or picking their party’s presidential candidate? Nigerians should be told in the language they can understand.

If he had pointed the party towards the person’s direction before now, perhaps things would not have come to a head. After buying forms for N100million and logging thousands of kilometers on the road making contacts, will it be appropriate to tell an aspirant offhandedly at this stage to withdraw from the race because Buhari has a preferred candidate? The party should think things through before it acts even though, it has a hidden agenda. It should also remember that it does not have the last say on this matter if it acts in breach of the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines.

APC must tread gingerly because whatever it does may end up being seen and rated as imposition and not consensus.

The Act is clear and succinct on how a consensus candidate can emerge. Section 84 (9) states: A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure a written consent of all cleared aspirants for the law warns that where the party cannot secure the buy-in of all the cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall resort to the use of either direct or indirect primaries.

What happens if all the ‘cleared’ aspirants do not agree on a consensus candidate? One suspects that to avoid that the party may not clear recalcitrant aspirants for the primaries. With some governors already saying that they would go with the President, the party will enjoy their support if it axes such aspirants.

Where will all these leave the APC? It may come out the worst for it at the polls. It is sad that APC which was perceived as the poster-boy of our democracy that trumpeted Change and promised a new lease of life for Nigerians, is now the very one involved in this kind of misadventure. What a pity!

President Buhari if he is sincere to the good of the democracy had all the time in this world to pick his successor and let the world know who that ‘lucky’ person is. He slept on that right and now that the contenders are ready for the battle, he wants to pull the chestnut out of the fire. There is danger ahead for APC which we have no business with. The President and the party are unwittingly setting the stage for acrimony, which I cautioned in my little efforts towards stabilizing the democracy and not as a partisan democrat.

To avoid a fractious party ahead of the general elections, the presidential primary should be allowed to hold having appointed an Appeal Committee for that specific purpose that may not be of any use in view of the composition involved.

The price for flouting the law is usually heavy. According to Section 84 (13), where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue. This Section has affected the phantom Wase federal constituency party primary election where there were no authentic candidates for the primary. The list of aspirants had different names than those expected. It had one Ahmed Idris Not the known Ahmed Idris Maje and Yahaya Adamu and Not the known Yahaya Adamu Mavo as they are officially known. Then, there was one faceless Abdullahi Yerima who could neither be seen nor heard throughout the exercise. Two separate primaries were conducted for the three aspirants with different aspirants participating. The first election had on the list, Ahmed Idris from Bashar/Wase with Abdullahi Yerima as participants. Ahmed Idris from Bashar/Wase scored 59 of the total 60 votes cast while Abdullahi Yerima had 0. No vote was declared invalid or absence declared. The where about of that single vote, is better be imagined than, said.

The second election had same Ahmed Idris from Bashar/Wase and Yahaya Adamu excluding Abdullahi Yerma who scored 0 at the first election. Ahmed Idris maintained his lead with 59 votes against Yahaya Adamu who ‘scored’ 0 in absentia. The ground is now watered for a legal battle because from the aforementioned, APC in Wase federal constituency has no candidate for the 2023 Wase Federal Constituency election. It can only participate to cover shame in exhibition of crass ignorance and its usual deceitful mechanism of banditry, gluttonous politics and kleptomaniac ibeberism that has relegated the federal constituency to the back bench.

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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