Most observers thought that the crisis rocking the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) will not throw the party on the same pedestal as the other two leading political parties until last Thursday’s announcement of the emergence of the factional National Chairman of the party, Chief Edozie Njoku, as APGA’s second governorship candidate for the November 6 election.
This surprise announcement is less than a week after a faction of the party led by Chief Victor Oye elected Prof Chukwuma Soludo as its governorship candidate for the same election. Indeed, there is palpable fear that the failure of internal democracy in virtually all the recent primary elections of the major political parties in Anambra State may stun the permutation on who may eventually emerge as the governor of the state in the November 6 gubernatorial election.
This is coming from the fallout of endless disputes during and after the primaries of the three strong political parties in the state – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and All Progressives Congress (APC).
Despite efforts of government and other agencies to create awareness and educate politicians on the need for internal democracy within the parties, ugly incidents of political thuggery and violence, electoral malpractice, unending lawsuits, the crisis of legitimacy, instability, and chaos appear to entrench themselves, creating a worrisome phenomenon in the growth of democracy in the country.
Anambra State has just witnessed the primary elections across political parties, but the outcomes have become a contextual issue, as many of the contestants are insisting that there were no primary elections, among others.
The APC Election Committee led by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State adopted the Open Ballot Mode, also known as Option A4, to conduct the primary election that produced Andy Ubah as APC winner with 230, 201 votes, to defeat 13 other contestants.
However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had called for the postponement of the primaries “to enable party members across the state to participate as well as give enough room to the Committee Members to resolve contentious issues raised by aspirants.” Since its merger in 2013, the APC contested the governorship in 2013 and 2017 but lost on both occasions to Willie Obiano of APGA, who will be exiting the office after his two terms.
For APGA, political analysts believe that it may not be a smooth sail for Obiano’s aspiration to deliver Soludo as governor of Anambra State as some APGA aspirants are obdurately refusing to bury their ambitions, despite attempts to persuade them to do so by Obiano.
According to them, the party had disqualified five of its governorship aspirants, Hon. Chuma Umeoji, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, Cater Dike Umeh, Hon. Nonso Smart, and Ozoka Odera Ifeanyi and cleared Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Barr. Damian Okolo, Hon. ThankGod Ibe, and Hon. Ezenwankwo Okwudili to participate in the primary election.
They also believe the disqualification was simply a ploy to clear the way for Prof. Soludo, who is seen as the candidate favoured by the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, to emerge.
Another knotty issue is that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of APGA convened and announced the sack of the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Victor Oye, and another factional national chairman, Edozie Njoku, and installed a new chairman, Chief Jude Okeke.
The Okeke-leadership had announced the suspension of some members of the House of Representatives, including Hon. Chinedu Obidigwe, who is known to be a strong supporter of Prof. Soludo.
It also annulled the disqualification of the five governorship aspirants, insisting the primary election of the party was scheduled for July 1, as against the June 23 date earlier announced. It was the July 1 primaries that threw up Edozie Njoku as APGA’s latest gubernatorial candidate.
On the part of PDP, Mr. Philip Shuaibu, Deputy Governor of Edo State and Head of the Electoral Panel, announced Valentine Ozigbo as the winner of the PDP ticket, amidst parallel congresses after the primary election.
A total of 16 aspirants contested for the PDP ticket, out of which 12 were present at the venue and three withdrew from the race.
Meanwhile, the PDP in Anambra State is divided between the Chief Ndubuisi-led State Executive Committee and the Umeaba-led Acting Caretaker Committee, following a judgment of an Abuja High Court on June 9.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it would comply with an Abuja High Court judgment by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi dismissing the sack of the Anambra State PDP executives.
PDP, which first clinched power in the state in 1999 and 2003, before it was removed by the court in 2006, may have unwittingly set the pace for eventual multiple litigations in leadership tussles.
Interestingly, in the Young Progressives Party (YPP), the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, Upstream, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, has emerged as the sole candidate.
The selection and nomination of candidates to fly party flags since the Fourth Republic to date have been enmeshed in knotty issues of intraparty and inter-party conflicts in party administration.
People join political parties to actualise their interests, which include getting elected into public positions; hence, any threat to their interests triggers conflict and eventual decamping or re-decamping to and from other political parties.
Looking back, the lack of internal democracy in parties has created a lot of hiccups in the political equation during most elections. In the 2019 election, an in-law to the former Imo State governor, Uche Nwosu, had to leave APC to Action Alliance (AA) to contest the election.
Today, one could see somebody fly the flag of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and he can secure a public position, only to leave APGA after a while for another political party that appears to herald better opportunities for him.
If he was governor, he would automatically become the party leader, disrupting the existing political chemistry that could affect the internal workings of the party.
In some instances, some parties contested some electoral positions without clearly identified candidates. Oftentimes, some controversy results in extensive legal challenges, the majority of which were not settled before the general elections.
In APC, Imo, Rivers, Adamawa, Zamfara, Kaduna, and Ogun States, had major intraparty crises during the last general elections. In Lagos, the incumbent governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was technically denied the party nomination for the 2019 elections. In Delta State, intra-party divisions within the ruling party saw the national chairman partnering a faction, thus creating ample room for greater division in the state chapter of the party.
Most prominently, APC primaries in Rivers and Zamfara States were nullified, while INEC’s sanctions and Supreme Court ruling robbed the party of the chance of participating in the general elections.
Other contentious examples included two different APC governorship results announced in Imo State, alleged parallel primaries organised by two rival PDP factions in Ogun State, and two persons claiming to be the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In Edo State, pundits opined that Comrade Adams Oshiomole applied the wrong antidote of labour approach in APC during the last governorship and set several members against one another.
APC’s confusing decision in the ratification for use of both direct and indirect primary election modes, in seventeen and nineteen states respectively, aggravated trouble in the party across state chapters, with an unprecedented number of defections and decampments to the build-up for the 2019 general elections.
The APC national executive, however, exerted authority on who flies the party’s flag in all the cases. Even in about five states where the political interests of the governors (Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; Imo State, Rochas Okorocha; Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun; Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu; and Zamafara State, Abdulaziz Yari) clashed with that of the party’s national leadership, the national executive successfully inserted its powerful wedge to arrest any drift.
At the state level, many national officers of the party are always having running battles with their state governors, as manifested in the re-election bid of Governor Godwin Obaseki who was denied participation in party primaries in the 2020 gubernatorial primaries.
The parties are always enmeshed in factional leadership battles via contentious parallel governorship and legislative primaries. The usual challenges in the parties lie in the absence of internal party democracy and crass disregard for the principle of party supremacy. A situation where political parties are in perpetual turmoil does not augur well for the nation’s relatively young democracy.
Democracy will grow and thrive if political parties in Nigeria act within the stipulations of their constitutions and grant all members equal and adequate opportunities for participation in party affairs by conducting their elective conventions and nominations processes in a free and fair