By Mohammed Idris
Any political watcher of Nigeria with particular attention to detail would think that by now political parties in Nigeria might have learnt some good lessons from experience and be better prepared to handle issues that would move democracy forward. Unfortunately, this appears to be far from reality. The recent wrangling over PDP’s flag bearer for the forthcoming Kogi State governorship elections is only one case in point. The recent directive by the ruling PDP National Working Committee to conduct fresh party primaries for Kogi State governorship is one issue that has emerged with the potential of retrogressing our collective quest for democratic growth.
For many objective analysts, it is not easy to be satisfied with the PDP National Working Committee’s verdict to conduct a new primary election for Kogi State governorship contest, which comes up this week because it dramatically departs from President Jonathan’s promise to the local and International Community of safeguarding the choice of the people in Nigeria’s democracy.
Right now, everyone with interest in Kogi state is on the edge because political activities in the state are basically in a shape of disarray. The PDP NWC’s decision not only signals an alarming willingness on the part of President Jonathan’s ruling Party to disregard our nation’s constitutional position of respecting the people’s valid selection of a candidate for an elective position but portends dangers. The decision has thrown up a string of erroneous and confusing signals for Nigerians to debate their democracy amid mounting criticisms of what has been described as a verdict of incompetence.
Many critics view the PDP’s decision with suspicion, accusing its NWC members of failing to foster democratic interests instead serving their self interest and affiliations. For emphasis, on the Kogi State Gubernatorial PDP primaries, the people have spoken and made their choice as at when instructed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigeria’s regulatory agency on electoral issues. The exercise and outcome of the said PDP primaries were duly supervised and endorsed by relevant authorities and security agencies. Contentious issues were properly thrashed out in courts of competent jurisdiction and a winner was legitimately declared in line with the peoples’ popular selection. It is therefore difficult to believe that the emergence of a new candidate will be in the interest of the people of Kogi State. This is why many politic watchers have confidently and openly affirmed that the National Executive of the PDP should review the atmosphere in the proposed Kogi State gubernatorial race especially given the worrisome political tension that its National Working Committee has generated with the decision to conduct fresh primaries.
From comments of the reading public, it is doubtful that the playing field for the intended Kogi State governorship PDP primaries elections would be sufficiently balanced, rather it is likely to lean in favour of the outgoing State Governor’s purported choice of candidate in many areas. Anyone, that understands Nigerian politics a little should know how important it is for an incumbent State Governor to see that his successor covers his dirty tracks. However, this should not be a crucial role or reason for the PDP’s NWC in redefining how a democratic process of electing the next governor of a State in a civilized society. Otherwise, if allowed, it will amount to deprivation and oppression of the electorate. In turn, this may bring about chaos and active or passive rebellion by many people.
Even when one does not feel a sense of worry for the PDP if it loses Kogi State to another Party in the governorship elections, it is time our so called political leaders learnt how to take decisions that would build our democracy than destroy it. Democracy is about more than holding elections. A real and true democracy should reflect the will of the people. This is why it is very obvious that there are many myths about the recent decision of National Working Committee. Indeed, many people are willing to be convinced that there is some wisdom in this conclusion because the resolution of the NWC of PDP to order a new primary election will remain highly condemnable until such an issue that is laced with undemocratic ethos is untied.
As we watch the heroic struggle for political leadership of Kogi state, the truth should be clearer than ever. The Kogi electorate would not settle for nothing less than free and fair elections in December 2011. Anything less than going by the people’s choice will lead again and again back into the cycle of destruction. This injustice of high magnitude surely needs articulate intervention that goes beyond the Kogi State governor’s purported interest in a particular candidate. The President of Nigeria and Party leader of the PDP, Goodluck Jonathan should not straddle the fence on such a very sensitive issue which may bring about disruption of peace and order in and around communities of Kogi State, merely because some seeming important persons are bent on ensuring that their anointed candidate emerges as new flag bearer of the PDP in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections even when it is obvious that the mandate extended to someone else has neither been cancelled nor exhausted. There is no higher priority for President Jonathan than ensuring that nothing else further threatens peace and security in any part of Nigeria. The turbulence of the past few weeks in Jos city and Abuja, federal capital are more than enough stress, damage and dent for our dear nation.
The growing concern is that the decision for fresh primary elections should not have been taken without examination of some unhealthy potential consequences. It’s something the NEC of the PDP needs to fine tune because there exist other persistent signs of trouble if the incumbent Governor insists on his new choice of candidate. Coincidentally, the Nigerian media outlets have in recent times thrived on reports of huge corruption involving the so called anointed candidate of the State governor, yet little has been done to investigate these allegations. Most significant is that the PDP is likely going to have a sad story to tell after the elections because the public has been watching and it would be fundamental for the PDP to change positively to regain people’s trust, particularly since so many people are disappointed with the Governor’s alleged switch in support of a popular candidate.
The present decision of PDP NWC only ensures that an acceptable and justifiable practice of allowing voters to make their choice will not be carried out. A key question now is whether PDP still has a NWC worthy of the name, and, if so, who is in control of it? As long as the PDP NWC fails to forge a decision that serves the interests of the people and not the agendas of some few persons, the Party will not receive the international and local respect it deserves.
Even when it is widely alleged that the incumbent governor of Kogi state must be up to some old tricks, it is critically important that at this point of Nigeria’s democracy, an organisation like INEC as led by Prof Jega that has been greeted with some acceptable credibility and all other well meaning independent monitors of party primary elections continue to stand on the side of truth especially by a man like Alhaji Jubril Isah that has made every effort to have a clean fight and conducted himself with respect and dignity in winning the unutilised ticket of the PDP Kogi State primaries. Such a man deserves a reaffirmation of his party’s ticket rather than be put through another stress of unnecessary political machinations and bogus campaign expenses.
While hoping that the PDP leadership will take steps toward a more democratic and commonsense approach to resolving this issue for increased respect, I express cautious optimism about the prospects of a peaceful election process in the Kogi Sate governorship elections, because PDP has already made it look like a puzzle with parts missing! If true, this could explain many of the problems associated with the NWC’s decision. Time will tell.