As I wrote this Saturday night, Abuja, where I live, was crowded and bustling. The All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s governing party, was holding its long-awaited national convention. Delegates poured from across the nation and they were not going to allow Abuja to sleep. It was almost midnight and from inside my study, which more or less faces the intersection of the IBB and Shehu Shagari highways, I could get no let to the unceasing din of vehicular movements to and from the convention ground at the Eagle Square. It would be a long night, I said.
Sometimes the echo of the roars from the convention grounds was carried headlong by the struggling harmattan winds and reverberate frantically around my grounds. I wistfully mused to myself that APC must be in a celebratory mood. I guess that for at least two reasons. Firstly, the convention was holding despite determined efforts by some of its party members to scuttle it. Also, the attempted ouster of Governor Mai Mala Buni as acting chairman of the CECPC by some dissident members of the APC National Working Committee nearly marred the convention timetable which, willy-nilly, would have jeopardised the party’s chances of participating in the 2023 elections. Fortunately, for the party, the president, despite being away in London, rose to the occasion stoutly, calmed frayed nerves and insisted on the convention date.
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Secondly, the party’s top-notchers must be celebrating the triumph of the consensus mode of election of the members of the National Working Committee. In the last few days, consensus has been touted as the panacea to the rancour that always becomes the aftermath of elections. The emergence of the Unity List, worked out by some amorphous group within the APC and endorsed by the president, has however, put paid to the ambitions of many capable aspirants. Of course, it looks like there would be one or two dissenters requiring direct elections. But from all indications the most critical posts of the party chairman, national secretary, and the zonal vice-chairmen would not be filled by direct elections.
It was a winner for consensus and a winner for the state governors and their preferred candidates. I have raised concerns over the overweening influence of the governors in the election of candidates for party offices and state and national offices. As I opined in my column of 7/3/2022 “(the governors) – – now completely dominate the parties and all other nooks and corners of the political space. – – As for the APC, the influence of the governors is too glaring to warrant elucidation. It is so obvious that the party has not been able to entrust the chairman’s post to anyone since Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor, bowed out in June 2020. The party has since been run by a sitting governor in an acting capacity. And as the party election beckons this month, pundits are betting their last naira that it would be another former governor that would be installed as chairman.”
Perhaps there is no telling evidence to the overwhelming influence of the governors than the consensus list that had been circulating in the media space throughout that night bearing endorsements of their excellencies in red ink. From my perspectives I feel a great deal of sadness that election into party offices has come to this sorry pass. I know members of the National Assembly have made spirited efforts to curtail the influence of the governors by re-designing the electoral law to allow only direct elections into party offices. When both the Senate and House of Representatives were able to unanimously agree on this, it was hailed as a great piece of legislation that would restore democracy to party elections.
There was a great deal of pressure on the president, by well-meaning groups and individuals, to sign the bill. However, since the governors did not like the bill and they had the best access to the president, it was only reasonable to assume that the bill would return to the Assembly unsigned. I wrote in the same piece of 7/3/2022: ‘Of course, the governors took a rather dim view of the provisions for compulsory direct elections in the conduct of primary elections. They, most probably, saw it as the ultimate Trojan horse surreptitiously drawn into the bill to thwart their stranglehold on their parties. Even before the bill left the doors of the National Assembly on its way to the Presidential villa, the governors were up in arms against it. The governors were vehemently against the bill with at least one of them promising to go to court if and when the president assents the bill.’
Readers might be surprised to learn that on this matter, there is no difference of opinion between APC and the PDP governors. It was a PDP governor who threatened to go to court if the president assented to the bill with the clause of only direct primary elections, until the National Assembly relented to add the indirect and the consensus clauses.
Both the APC and the PDP are done with party elections now. The next stage will soon be with us when aspirants will be battling for party nominations to contest elective posts across the nation. That’s when the party men will see true manifestation of the consensus clause.