APC and loss of innocence in Anambra governorship primary

Odigie-Oyegun


Despite its puritanical posture, the conduct of the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the governorship poll in Anambra State has shown that the party and its arch-rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which it always accuses of moral debauchery, are two sides of the same coin.

In the thick of massive defection of some erstwhile members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Southeast geopolitical zone to the All Progressives Congress (APC), some older members of the ruling party described the defectors, as food-is-ready politicians.

Those who opposed this sudden influx of former political leaders, also expressed strong concerns that the defectors were coming not to advance the change agenda of APC, especially as it concerns zero-tolerance to corruption, but to infect the party with the viruses of indiscipline, impunity and intimidation that they alleged were rampant in the PDP.

Non-partisan commentators however dismissed the red flag being raised by the old APC stalwarts as evidence of inferiority complex, stressing that political events leading to the 2015 election revealed that no spectacular qualities distinguished APC from PDP.

Those who held that view maintained that APC’s singsong of anti-corruption battle was a smokescreen, pointing out that the prime movers of both parties are one and the same caliber of politicians divided only by their quest for presidential power.

Yet there were those who described the rush to APC as mere quest for protection against the tidal waves of the anti-corruption battle that was arrayed against looters of the national treasury. Somehow, prevailing circumstances buttressed that as most of those associated with the arms gate or PDP campaign funding, were left out of the loop, after joining APC.

While the slur on APC’s anti-corruption battle expanded, the governorship primary of the party in Anambra State approached. Anambra has been upfront as politically charged state, where money and wheeling dealing surround electoral matters. Consequently, as most erstwhile play makers emptied into the ruling APC, Nigerians waited to see how the new members would comport themselves in their new platform.

Primary as whited sepulcher
ON August 26, 2017 when the APC eventually held its governorship primary that suffered one-week postponement, most Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. The ‘transparency’ of the process was much like an anti-climax, because most people looked forward to a cataclysmic exercise given the caliber of political heavyweights involved.

To a great extent, APC showed a marked improvement in its organization, poles apart from what it delivered in Bayelsa and Ondo States previously. Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, earned the plaudits for his unbending insistence on strict obedience to the laid down procedure for the conduct of the governorship candidate selection process.

Shettima was chosen for the assignment after reports of heavy distribution of mouth-watering sums of money in bribes and good gestures to privileged officials and stakeholders. Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el Rufai, who was initially penciled for the tough job, was sidestepped for his presidential ambition and closeness to APC leader in the state, Dr. Chris Ngige, who showed preference for one of the aspirants after prevaricating on whether to contest or not.

But, while Shettima was being praised for the openness of the primary, little tales of how delegates were compromised began to swirl around town detailing money shared and denied, such that the surprise outcome of the primary damped the sweet savour of the methodical process.

Indeed, it was found that APC and PDP proved cynics right that they are two sides of the same coin, but also that the ruling party played along like others in delegate inducement. A delegate in one of the parties told The Guardian that virtually all aspirants on the major parties induced delegates. In APC for instance, while one of the front row aspirants paid $200 per delegate, his rival handed out N50, 000 to each delegate. Within PDP, an older aspirant generously handed out N70, 000, the new comer paid N50, 000 to each delegate.

Stakeholders are wondering how the party that prides itself as a puritan platform should lose sight of the impact of the unbridled show of money in the choice of the flag bearers, stressing that the APC has lost moral standing to pontificate against corruption.

But aside the fact of moral burden, APC faithful in Southeast are confused as to how to wriggle out of the reputational damage the issue of money for votes had done to the party in the geopolitical zone.

However, justifying the recourse to godfathers and financiers in prosecuting the governorship primary, a chieftain of the party and Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said even in advanced democracies, money is central to electoral competition.

While contending that the cost of voter inducement or outright vote buying in Nigeria ranks lower than in Canada, UK and US, Okechukwu noted that money spent on advertisement in those countries dwarfs campaign expenditure in the country.

He dismissed the attempts to cast a slur on the governorship primary, insisting that the exercise were free, fair and transparent in both APC and PDP. Yet, based on the widespread allegation of delegate inducement and swapping, four support groups registered with the national secretariat of APC have not only rejected the nomination of Tony Nwoye as flag bearer, but also petitioned the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, asking for a repeat of the primary.

The Anambra All Progressives Congress Forum, led by Obum Ozuanwu, All Progressives Congress Voters Club led by Ifeanyi Obinna, South-East All Progressive Congress Forum led by Mazi Chuzzy and Igbo/Yoruba Unity Forum led by Godwin Okafor, sued for the cancellation of the primary, as well as the disqualification of Nwoye and Senator Andy Uba from participating in the fresh primary.

They appealed to the national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun and the National Working Committee (NWC) to drop Nwoye as the standard-bearer, if the party must win the governorship election. The groups said Nwoye was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and may still have sympathy for his former party.

Part of the statement reads: “We are calling on the party’s NWC to order a re-run and we are calling for a suspension of Nwoye and Uba from participating in the re-run. Some people have been in the party for long and they just came to take the position of those who have been in the party. We won’t allow that.

“PDP is a corrupt party and Nwoye and Uba shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in the primary. He was elected as the party’s candidate but we want him substituted with a candidate who is credible or have a re-run of the primary with credible candidates who can win election for APC in Anambra. If this is allowed, how can APC survive in the South-East?”

But Okechukwu declared that anyone calling for the cancellation of the results is simply trying to act the script written by Governor Willie Obiano, recalling that in 2013 former Governor Peter Obi, expended huge resources to impose the governor on the party and prosecute the election.

Recalling that even the revered Zik (late Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe) endorsed the practice of handouts during election, Okechukwu disclosed that the former Nigeria President held that before anyone sets out to join politics or contest an elective office, he should either have means or look for a financier or financiers.

The problem APC has in its hands with the emergence of a former playmaker in PDP is how it would rationalize its description of PDP as looters. And with the way things are, unless the party rigs the election in November 18, it is not clear how it would make the much sought after inroad to the Southeast.How it solves the puzzle presented by Nwoye’s emergence and settles down to fight the election as one cohesive party, would determine its strength and survival.

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