By Salisu Na’inna Ɗambatta
The time for primary elections to nominate candidates for elective offices in the forthcoming general elections is a delicate time for all the political parties in Nigeria. But it is even more critical for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s largest party by both membership and control of state power. There is a keen interest in and strong contest for each elective office.
While it is managing size and success as it exercises power at the federal level and runs 22 of the 36 states of the federation plus the Federal Capital Territory, the party has attracted so many aspirants for each elective office that, without absolute transparency and clear level playing field for all aspirants during the primaries, nobody can accurately predict the effects of the primaries on APC’s stability and sustainability as a united party.
Indeed, the leadership of the APC is aware of the fact that the main opposition party, which was dominant in Nigeria’s democratic space for 16 years continuously, was ruined by the inability of its managers to be fair to all its members when it comes to giving access to various forms of opportunities for self-actualisation.
Alluding to the factors that contributed to the decay of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its defeat in the 2015 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari frankly told the 11th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ruling party that, leaders of the APC must avoid imposition of candidates if the behemoth political party was to emerge victorious in the 2023 general elections.
President Muhammadu Buhari said: “I call on all party members to abide by all extant laws, rules, and regulations, and to leaders of our party to avoid the imposition of candidates that cannot win popular elections. This dictatorial behaviour cost us many strategic seats in the past. In the recent past, this led to some of our strong members, unfortunately, opting to go elsewhere because of the unfairly oppressive behaviour of party leaders at the state level.”
President Buhari reminded the NEC that the APC was formed by a merger of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP. This implies that each of these components of the party should be included in the affairs of the party, such as the election of delegates for the primaries and during the primaries. The President has underscored the importance and relevance of the components that formed the APC in 2013 by hosting the rainbow of its founding fathers to a dinner. It was a masterstroke political move that fostered a sense of inclusiveness and unity.
Senator Abdullahi Adamu, a former Minister of the Federal Republic, a two-term Nasarawa State Governor and a ranking Senator before taking up his new role as Chairman of the ruling party, has strongly warned members of the party against divisive tendencies. He emphasised that the apparant rivalries between sitting and former state governors in some states is unhealthy for the party. He explained that, going by the extant APC constitution, sitting state governors are the leaders of the party in their states, but they should accord due respect to former governors.
“The former governors, some of whom are now senators, are still powerful political leaders in their own right. They remain absolutely relevant in the affairs of the party in their various states. The serving state governors cannot afford to treat them with disrespect or seek to undermine their relevance in the scheme of things without doing damage to the party,” the national chairman said.
That possible damage to its unity as alluded by the national chairman should be avoided by deliberate building of confidence and trust to end any disputations in the party. Doing so is in line with the reconciliation efforts by the National Reconciliation Committee he led prior to the national convention on March 26, 2022. This is imperative, given that the party was successful in 2015 and 2019 elections because it had a united front.
APC’s electoral success, which everyone in the party would love to see repeated in the 2023 general elections and beyond, includes producing a President for Nigeria for two terms of office and 22 state governors out of 36. A total of 70 Senators out of 109 belong to it; while 234 members of the House of Representatives out of 360 are of the APC; as are 591 members of State Houses of Assembly out of 991. The numbers are topped by hundreds of Councilors and a majority of Chairmen of Local Government Area Councils.
Salisu Na’inna wrote from Dambatta, Kano State.