No one who is minimally objective on political discourse in Nigeria can deny that last week’s Governorship primaries election in Kogi State by the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) is a sham. As widely predicted by many analysts, it was business as usual, just electoral fraud and manipulation of delegates list at its worst. Four out of the seven contestants boycotted the election by withdrawing from the race, yet the election was conducted without the Party addressing the irregularities raised.
The process and result of the primaries have been an embarrassing rejection at every turn. Controversy over its electoral process has dominated headlines on the newspapers and concerns that the process was poorly managed by the State chapter of the PDP have already settled into popular discourse and public consciousness. The Kogi State PDP’s position that it exercised due diligence is rubbished by the simple fact that the list of delegates were not made available to contestants before the election. It is also important to note that where some of the loudest criticisms are coming from is from PDP original delegates for the election. The agenda of the State Governor, Alhaji Idris was on full display when the results of the primaries were announced and his in law and business partner, Captain Wada was declared winner. By every logical analysis, the said election will remain a very sad day for people who believe in Nigerian’s democracy.
The unjustifiable exhibition of absolute control and influence over the primaries election by the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Idris is widely regarded as unhealthy. It is amazing to see, though, how a governor holds so much power in a democracy. The fact that a governor can anoint a candidate as his successor is not very surprising especially coming from an emerging democratic setting like Nigeria that is seemingly ridden with corruption in governance and possibility of financial probe by an unanointed predecessor. However, the authority to change the list of delegates for the Kogi State primaries election without undergoing established party procedures show that Governor Idris arrogated to himself too much power for self centered interests. All these efforts which run against democratic tenets were done in connivance with some corrupt State Party executives to ensure that the Governor’s candidate emerged as his successor in the party primaries. Unfortunately, the negative public reactions to the outcome of the election neither bodes well for the Governor’s political maturity nor for the Kogi people in a democratic setting because a State primaries elections must not be an aid to injustice.
Right now, the stakes are high and they go beyond Kogi State. The PDP is facing a possible political contamination triggered by its State Governor, Alhaji Idris. The exhaustion of his two term cumulative eight year alleged corrupt rule, may have contributed to his role and vivid interest on who becomes his successor but this not a sufficient condition to upturn Nigeria’s democracy. Most important, it is not Governor Idris that is going to be held most responsible by history for what happens after his tenure of office in Kogi State but those who failed to secure our democracy. Therefore, the increasing call on the PDP National to take the lead in getting the present crisis resolved is considered very apt.
The common belief is that if PDP wants to be truly seen as a fair and just Party, it needs to clean up the mess in Kogi State. The fight against impunity of the State Governor must not be left for the opposition to the Governor’s anointed; it should be a priority for all those that want democracy to thrive in Nigeria. Otherwise, not only the Party will pay a very, very dear price.
As Nigeria marches on in its efforts to deepen democracy, such a selection process conducted by Governor Alhaji Idris and his cohorts should be rejected with the contempt it deserves and the consequences of such an election should not be considered lightly. The position of Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria, the country’s highest regulatory agency on electoral matters to withdraw its officers from monitoring the Kogi State PDP primaries elections midway into the exercise is highly commendable and it not only shines a light into this darkness but retains INEC’s dignity and integrity.
To challenge the results of this sham election, is for the people of Kogi State to assert their democratic rights because it would be naive to expect that the Kogi State Governor, who coincidentally is the State Party leader, would have the moral capacity to address this problem without bias, if ever he is instructed to do so by PDP National.. This is where the intervention of the PDP National Executive is also vital in order to ensure that these problems don’t carry over to unmanageable proportions. Presently, a call for calm among the political factions by the security agencies is being observed but the dominant sounds coming out of the very many displeased PDP supporters are unlikely sighs of relief. While it is wise to ask those opposing the Governor’s position to maintain their composure, avoid needless provocations by showing calm and restraint, the National PDP’s continued silence on this electoral fraud is highly suspicious and displays an amazing degree of negligence towards public opinion. The question that readily comes to mind is, has PDP leadership lost its mind or has its National Executive members all gone on vacation with their voices.
Whether or not the National PDP will provide an answer to the ongoing impunity of the State Governor has become increasingly questionable. The fact remains that everyone observing the Kogi state’s democratic drama is awaiting the voice of PDP leadership because voting at the Kogi State primaries was not based on total integrity and sincerity, as such an exercise tainted with incredibility cannot be described as a means of upholding the torch of democracy rather it diminishes the honour and dignity of the Nigerian people. Luckily, President Goodluck Jonathan, a man that professes to be interested in rapidly enhancing Nigeria’s democracy is the National Party leader of the said PDP. His decision on whether or not to let the primaries election results to stand will show the world his true face on democracy and determine if all the external funding assistance to Nigerian Government by the international community is worthwhile.
Besides the implications the Kogi State PDP primaries has generated as concerns for the International community, the lingering fears that disputes over the improper candidate for the PDP could disintegrate into violence is real. However, what has become more worrisome is the Kogi State government’s continual rhetoric on having conducted a legitimate election, which is sufficient to foment violence and deride democracy when not kept in check. While many people may stand for the freedom of speech, it is also bothersome to many progressive thinkers that Governor Idris is willing to risk peace in the State for illegitimately advancing his self interest on a candidate that is plagued by conspicuous allegations of defrauding the State Government through bogus contracts and abandoned projects. Indeed, this is best described as a naked promotion of corruption, cronyism and nepotism.
There is widespread popular concern and anger over Governor Idris’s abuse of democratic rights of the Kogi people. First, exercising people’s democratic rights involves more than casting a ballot on Election Day, the distortion of an important process like the primaries is all about limiting the people’s choice. Second, .the use of state resources for campaign activities is condemnable. Third, the imposition of a candidate is very wrong. Fourth, the manner of handling this crisis has remained unacceptable to the majority. Thus, any constructive protest by the people at this time may not be strange because it will best be regarded as only an expression of the feeling that their voice has been stolen by Governor Idris.
From every logical reasoning, the backlash to Governor Idris actions which dramatically departs from safeguarding the choice of the people carries strong risks of instability and any chaos in Kogi State could provide Boko Haram like-minded groups another ungoverned area as a safe haven much as Borno State did for them under the tenure of a past governor, that today claims he never knew he was grooming a monster of unimaginable proportion in disguise of political self survival. Again, this is where Governor Idris actions may be a threat to our Nation’s security.
Now that the actions of the Governor has come under public scrutiny, the opposition is armed with knowledge of his playbook and as long as the PDP primaries is regarded as a selection not election, it is highly predictable, that when the people of Kogi State go to the polls in December this year to elect their next Governor, it is obvious that the intrigues that fostered a PDP candidate on them would serve as a ready catalyst and critical factor to make them stand in support of any party which produced the people’s choice. In as much as this remains a matter for the PDP, any reasonable political party that intends to engage in a free and fair contest is expected to be proactive in adopting tactics more dignified and trustworthy than rigging the elections for an unpopular candidate. The PDP by taking a strong stand against the primaries election results produced by Governor Idris would spare the INEC the energy and resources of conducting a credible election. The internal dynamics of PDP politics will be considered relevant if it can pressurize the outgoing Kogi State Governor to drop his own version of democracy or undemocratic tactics. This is difficult but certainly not impossible.
The condemnable nature of the conduct of the PDP primaries is not only a hard blow to PDP for having such electoral improprieties within the party but to the National Party Leader, President Goodluck Jonathan. Without an honest review of these electoral results, people will have no legitimate avenue and moral reason to participate in politics and most people may be pushed to take more radical means Certainly, this will be followed by a collection of questions about how Governor Idris intends to deliver the State for the PDP without the peoples support.
It is still unclear what further line of action the Kogi state governor may tow because such a man will be obviously very well prepared for every scenario but all these will be against good conscience and due process. Governor Idris should not be allowed to conduct any fresh primaries because his ways, intents and purpose are already defined. For the PDP, as difficult as it might be, the path of prudence for it as a ruling Party may require rectifying this abnormality before Kogi State descends into chaos. This may require adopting a common sense solution and for now, the easiest remedy to this issue may lie in the discovery that there exist sufficient and cogent reasons to further discuss and proceed with the merits of allowing the mandate from its previous primaries election which remains the valid people’s choice because it will simply require the Party’s affirmation.
The fight against political injustice in Nigeria should be without violence but the people’s fight in Kogi State is a good fight to win democracy.
Hon Idris Mohammed. President, Kogi Patriots