Every election era throws up its own ‘wahala’. At the inception of this election era, we had the issue of the delegates dominating the length and breadth of the political spectrum becoming the endless subject of discussion in all the colourations of the media.
Of course, the delegates, anonymous as they were, became the ultimate bogeymen to all the aspirants in all the political parties. Now that aspirants have transformed into candidates, the issue of delegates is finally rested, though the term has now permanently found abode in our political lexicon.
It is now the turn of the dummy candidate to rear its head. This, as we have witnessed in the last few days, is a surrogate or a replaceable candidate, whose name could be substituted before INEC’s final date of submission of party candidates. This makes meaning for those holding office now and aspiring to higher ones. For example, Bala Mohammed, Bauchi State governor aspired to be a presidential candidate in PDP while still coveting a second term on his gubernatorial seat, should he lose. He could only enter the presidential race and somehow the Bauchi SSG was persuaded to stand as a gubernatorial candidate and Bala Mohammed went after the presidential ticket.
Eventually, when he failed to become the PDP’s candidate the loyal SSG relinquished the gubernatorial ticket and the branch of the party in Bauchi arranged another primary where Bala Mohammed was declared the winner. This same scenario was reenacted in Sokoto State where another failed PDP presidential aspirant, Aminu Tambuwal went back to the state to salvage a senatorial candidacy. But in some states, it didn’t turn out so smoothly. The dummy candidates rebelled and adamantly refused to let go. Akwa Ibom State is a prime example where there seemed to have been a tussle between a supposed dummy DIG Udom Udo Ekpoudom and Senator Godswill Akpabio who stood down at the APC Convention for Ahmed Tinubu to clinch the presidential candidacy. The same scenario is playing out in Yobe North where a dummy candidate is kicking loudly to retain the candidacy he won in the primaries. What is intriguing is the seat that Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President is filling now. He had just had a gallant battle at the APC presidential primaries where he lost to Ahmed Tinubu. The party had re-nominated him for the senate but the dummy is threatening to go to court to recover his candidacy. The APC in Yobe State should put its house in order before allowing a national embarrassment.
It is now in the bid to nominate a vice-president in most of the political parties, that the dummy candidate has clearly upped the ante. Due to our usual tardiness, procrastination and whatever else, the front-line political parties are left struggling to name a running mate for their presidential candidates. To beat the deadline, the APC, Labour Party, and the NNPP all have been pressed to name dummy candidates hoping to replace them at a more convenient juncture.
Clearly, in this regard, the PDP has beaten them all. Probably, the choice the PDP faced was seemingly easier. The candidature was zoned to the south and narrowed to Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa. But I surmise that it must have been a gritty decision to take by the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. Both Wike and Okowa are completing their second terms as governors of some of Nigeria’s wealthiest states whose resources would be a bonus to the campaign ahead. Both Wike and Okowa are also grassroots politicians that have seen it all.
Wike began his political career as a local government councillor. He was River State’s Rotimi Amaechi’s Chief of Staff and a minister in Jonathan’s administration before snatching a hard-won victory to become Rivers State governor. Similarly, Okowa began his political odyssey in his Ika Local Government where he served as secretary and chairman respectively. During this Fourth Republic, Okowa served variously as a commissioner in Governor Ibori’s government and was also a senator and then the governor of the state. A difficult decision to take but to Atiku’s credit, he surmounted it without undue procrastination to announce Okowa as his running mate.
We had expected the same from the rest of the front-line parties but have so far been sorely let down. It is understandable that Peter Obi’s Labour Party and Kwankwaso’s NNPP are engaged in a protracted negotiation of a merger or alliance that might necessitate putting forward fresh candidates for at least the two top posts of president and the running mate. But what is the problem of the APC that for days they have dilly-dallied naming a running mate to the presidential candidate? A few days ago, there were feelers that APC had zoned the running mate to the North East. Many had assumed that a former governor who is now in the senate and is reputed to have a very close relationship with the presidential candidate would be named. At the close of INEC’s deadline, there were disappointments all around that APC had presented a dummy as a running mate.
This is untidy for a party that is in power not only at the centre but in the majority of the states of the federation. In any case, after what happened in Yobe North, APC should be wary of a dummy.