Ahead of the 2023 general elections, there is considerable anxiety in some state chapters of the two leading political parties in the country, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor. The lingering crises, it was learnt, are largely as a result of disputes over the outcomes of the primary elections conducted by the parties to select candidates for the forthcoming elections.
The crisis brewing in the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Benue State Chapter has not abated. Instead, the gladiators have continued in a worrisome game of allegations and counter allegations months after the party’s gubernatorial primary election. In Delta State, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remained troubled even as the court is now left to decide who will eventually be its governorship candidate for the 2023 general elections. The PDP chapters in Ebonyi, Kano and Rivers States are also not at peace following fierce disagreements over the choices of gubernatorial candidates presented by the party for the forthcoming 2023 elections.
Many state chapters of the two leading political parties across the country are currently bogged down by internal crises caused by the outcome of the primary elections held to nominate candidates for the 2023 general elections. Many more are now facing stringent legal complications, caused by multiple litigations which have thrown the parties’ leadership into confusion ahead of the next general elections. The APC and the PDP in some state are also seriously afflicted by a spree of defections by political office holders elected on their platforms, and other chieftains, and in some places, compounded by mass resignations of top ranking party officials.
The hitherto simmering crisis in Benue APC, which started after Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia emerged as the party’s gubernatorial flag-bearer for the 2023 elections, worsened during the week when the two contending camps, led by Senator George Akume, Minister for Special Duties and Senator Barnabas Gemade, a governorship aspirant, renewed their media war in separate publications accusing each other of political intolerance and sundry offences. Observers of the politics of the state warn that if not addressed, the crisis within the party can rob it of its chances to win the 2023 elections in the state.
The Gemade group, in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, published in a national daily, accused Akume of imposing weak candidates on the party across the state and called on the President to take advantage of the ‘substitution window’ to correct the anomaly in the interest of the party. “Senator Akume hurriedly packaged a suspended healing Mass Catholic Priest……as candidate even when the candidate was yet to register formally at his ward level,” the group claimed and called on President Buhari to urgently consider an emergency intervention through the national leadership of the APC to “exercise party powers to choose a consensus flag-bearer in order to avert political losses and replace other weak candidates across the state.”
The publication, signed by Hon. Boniface Oche Idoko and Hon. Peter Achigili, among others, also urged the President to constitute a reconciliation committee for the party ahead of the 2023 general elections. Explaining the need for reconciliation, the group alleged that “Senator George Akume’s leadership has moulded a political culture of brigandage with a dubious character of extortion, mortgage, imposition and immorality.” But in a swift response to the allegations leveled against the Minister, the leadership of the APC in the state, in another publication, accused the Gemade group of being bad losers who have no interest of the party at heart and alleged that the group is being sponsored by the ruling PDP in the state. The APC leadership insisted that Fr. Alia and all other candidates of the party were elected in accordance with the laid down procedures.
“It is very clear from the writers of the petition that their sponsors are members of the PDP or failed APC aspirants who are hand in glove with them with the sole objective to decimate the candidature of Rev Fr. Alia, and ensure the continued existence of the discredited PDP in Benue State. They will fail. And they must fail. For Benue yearns for change. APC in Benue state cannot be deterred by people like Gemade who has lost everything in the party. Making Gemade a consensus candidate as he desperately crave in Abuja which is outside the ambits of the law is recipe for the Zamfara episode while upholding the election of Fr. Alia is a sure path to victory in Benue state,” the publication read in part while also urging President Buhari to ignore the requests of Gemade and his group.
In a related development, during the week, some chieftains of the party stormed the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja to protest the alleged substitution of the names of some candidates from Benue state. The protesters vowed to drag the party to court to seek redress, “if the anomaly is not corrected.” The protesters brandished placards with inscriptions such as “Upload our names on the INEC portal”, “We are the authentic candidates”, “It’s injustice and impunity to substitute names after we won primaries” and “All we are saying, give us our rights” to register their anger over the development. Though the party has insisted that there is no cause for alarm over the manes it submitted to the electoral commission, some party chieftains are still expressing dissatisfaction as at the time of filing this report.
More indications that the crisis rocking the Delta state chapter of the PDP is no abating emerged penultimate weekend as the two former governors of the state, Chief James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, as well as Senator James Manager, Olorogun David Edebvie, the court recognized governorship candidate of the party in the state, stayed away from a rally organised to welcome some new members into the party. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, a the mega rally which held at Ozoro, Isoko North Local Government Area, received a notable chieftain of the APC in the state, Chief Fred Obe and other decampees from across the local government areas in the state into the PDP’s fold.
The development is a fall out of the faceoff between Governor Okowa and Ibori, over who should be the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the state. While Okowa favours Speaker Sheriff Oborevwori to succeed him, Ibori has been rooting for Edevbie. Oborevwori’s victory at the primary election was challenged by Edevbie in court, resulting in his being pronounced as the PDP candidate by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja. But when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), released the list of participating political parties and candidates in the state, PDP was missing in the list of 16. Neither of the two claimants made the list. This further deepened the confusion within the party. Oborevwori has since appealed the lower court judgment while supporters of both claimants continue to insist that their man remains the authentic candidate of the party amidst fears that PDP may end up not participating in the 2023 guber election in the state.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP assured members of the party in the state that the party will participate in the 2023 governorship election. “With reference to Delta State, our party duly submitted and uploaded the name of Oborevwori Sheriff Francis Orohwedor as the Delta State Governorship candidate of the PDP onto INEC Portal on Friday, July 8, 2022. On July 18, 2022, three days after the closure of access to the INEC portal, our party and INEC received a court Order directing the substitution of the name of Oborevwori Sheriff Francis Orohwedor with another name.
“However, given the closure on July 15, 2022, our party had no access to the INEC portal.” He added: “Subsequently, the PDP and INEC were served with Court of Appeal processes comprising Notice of Appeal, Motion for Stay of Execution and Records of Appeal filed by the candidate whose name was initially uploaded by the party onto the INEC portal. It is instructive to state that under the INEC guideline, the last day for effecting any change of names of candidates for the 2023 general election is September 28, 2022. For emphasis, the PDP currently has a candidate for the 2023 governorship election in Delta State. If there be any change drawing from the outcome of the judicial processes, such will be duly and appropriately reflected in compliance with the Order of court,” he said.
With the decision of Muhammad Abacha, son of the late Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, to seek legal redress, the lingering crisis over who is the authentic Kano State governorship candidate of the PDP has also escalated. Contrary to expectations within the party, INEC had listed Sadiq Wali as the governorship candidate of the party on Friday, rather than Muhammad Abacha, who emerged at the party’s primary election supervised by the electoral body. The development ignited a crisis within the party as the leadership of the party rejected Wali and insisted Abacha is the PDP candidate in Kano.
While speaking to newsmen on the matter, Abacha said he will be approaching the Court to seek redress. According to the politician, his only interest is to retrieve the gubernatorial ticket in continuation of his quest to govern Kano state. “What happened was a complete electoral fraud. You can’t build something on nothing. I don’t expect this to happen with the electoral amendment Act in place. The era of impunity and lawlessness is over in Nigeria. I believe in the supremacy of the law and I have strong confidence that the truth will justice,” he said. Factional Chairman of the PDP in Kano State, Shehu Sagagi, also confirmed that Abacha, who was aggrieved, would challenge INEC’s decision in court.
Wali’s recognition by INEC came as a shock to many within and outside the PDP because on June 30, 2022, the Kano Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof Risqua Shehu, had said the primary election of the PDP that produced Abacha was the recognised primary of the factional PDP, pointing out that the electoral body observed and monitored the exercise. According to Shehu, the commission monitored the party’s primary, which produced Abacha because with the letter served on the body, the party headquarters, the Shehu Wada Sagagi faction was the side recognised by the law, with respect to a court judgement. The two contenders had emerged as the candidates of the PDP in Kano State following the conduct of parallel congresses in the state last May.
At the congress conducted at the state secretariat of the party, Abacha polled a total of 736 votes to beat Jafar Sani Belllo who came second with a total of 710 votes. On the other hand, the congress conducted by the Aminu Wali faction of the party at the Sani Abacha Youth Center in the state produced Sadiq Wali as the governorship candidate of the party. He polled a total of 454 votes, defeating Ibrahim Ali Amin, to the second position. Amin polled a total of 333 votes in the exercise that featured six aspirants. The former Chief of Staff, Dr, Yunusa Dangoni came third with 276 votes while Yusuf Dambatta, a former Commissioner for Budget in the state scored a total of 182 votes.
Penultimate Friday, INEC published 12 political parties and their candidates for the 2023 governorship election in Ebonyi State. Amidst anxiety, Lagos-based entrepreneur, Ifeanyi Odii, who has been having a running battle with another PDP chieftain, Senator Obinna Ogba, over the ticket, was listed as the governorship candidate of the PDP after the party was ordered by the Court to immediately transmit his name and those of other successful candidates that emerged from its May 28 and 29 primary elections to the commission. Justice Fatun Riman of the Federal High Court made the order in his judgment in a suit marked FHC/AI/CS/105/2022, filed by Chukuma Odi Ifeanyi, against the Peoples Democratic Party, the Independent National Electoral Commission and Senator Obinna Joseph Ogba. Justice Riman, sitting in the Abakaliki, division of the court, Ebonyi State ordered the PDP and the electoral body to comply with the judgment without delay.
The court similarly ordered INEC, its agents, servants and workmen among others from recognizing, in any manner whatsoever, the purported primary elections allegedly held by the PDP in Ebonyi State on the 4th and 5th of June this year. Justice Riman has consequently set aside the governorship election primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Ebonyi state, held on 4th and 5th of June 2022 as well as the Governorship primary Selection on 5th June, 2022 in Ebonyi State. Describing the process leading to the 4th and 5th of June this year’s governorship election primaries as unconstitutional, the court set aside the primary elections of the House of Assembly, House of Representatives, and Senate of the party.
In a move that signal the continuation of the troubles bedeviling the PDP in the state, Senator Ogba last weekend vowed that no man born of a woman will take away the party’s ticket from him, especially as the 2023 general election approaches. Ogba who is representing Ebonyi Central senatorial zone at the national assembly, said this while addressing supporters and party leaders at his campaign office in Ebonyi State. “I don’t know how to thank you. When I came out of the Airport, the crowd that I saw was so intimidating and I asked myself, are these Ebonyi people? You have made me proud and I will not disappoint you. I made a promise to you that this mandate given to me, no man born of a woman will take it away. I may not have money, but I have grace.
“Don’t be deceived. I have been in this party from day one when PDP was formed in August 1998 at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja and till today, I am still in PDP. Some of these people, I gave them membership cards and some of them have no membership card until we started contesting this election. I always say it, the court does not belong to one person, court belongs to all of us and they said it is only the hope of the common man. I know that in the end, God’s decision is the final. The one they went has favoured me, if they go back that one will still favour me. I plead with you, don’t shake in your support because there is no fear at all. There will be light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to talk too much. The day we will talk too much will come and very soon,” he said.