Once more the nation is at the crossroads where various forms of selections are being undertaken in all the political parties to bring forth candidates who would slug it out to occupy various electable seats with effect from May 2019. Besides the Presidential candidates it is those that will occupy the Gubernatorial seats that are attracting close attention. Obviously the gubernatorial seats in the north-east would be most critically watched due to the high level of challenges of governance over there.
Already one of the leading parties, the All Progressive Congress (APC), has in the last few days been very much in the news rolling out guidelines on the party primary elections. The most prominent part of the guideline that seems to be attracting plenty of controversy is whether to hold direct or indirect elections. After the meeting of National Executive Council (NEC) of the party it was announced that they will conduct direct elections to select candidates for the next general elections.
It was a decision that delighted many in the party but caused considerable anguish in other quarters. As expected the decision was quickly rescinded. I heard the national secretary of the party on Saturday morning explaining over the BBC Hausa service that states chapters could choose the mode, direct or indirect election, that suits them. However, this Sunday morning when I was working on this piece, a letter circulated from the National Working Committee (NWC) angrily reaffirming the earlier decision to use the direct election mode.
Definitely the matter would not go away easily as both sides of the divide have dug into their trenches. On one side, the governors, particularly those in the north-east and north-west seem to be bent on adopting the direct primary election. They feel it is easier and more manageable to handle in view of their peculiar security situation. They claim that the financial outlay that would be required to hold direct primary elections would emasculate their treasuries and in the process take away resources direly needed to take care of IDPs and provide for the repairs of destroyed infrastructure. The governors also take cover under the provision of the party’s constitution that gives room for states to adopt the option best suited to them.
On the other hand, the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomole along with the national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, and many prominent leaders of the party such Senators Shehu Sani and Kabir Marafa, are rooting for direct primaries. While defending direct elections the APC spokesperson Yekini Nabena reiterated that the mode ensures fairness and creates level playing ground for contestants. Nabena added that direct primaries eliminate corrupt tendencies associated with the delegates system and ultimately allow full participation of party members at all levels.
Kabir Marafa, who is a gubernatorial aspirant in Zamfara state, has been quite vociferous in his support for direct elections foreseeing that the party could be enmeshed in protracted legal wrangles. This is because the indirect election will be done by delegates that Marafa believes were illegally selected during congresses that were boycotted by party leaders and their followers that had grievances in their states.
Shehu Sani arguing along similar lines described indirect elections in a recent tweet, ‘as a maternity room for corruption’. In a language that is uniquely his, Senator Sani described indirect primary elections as ‘a boulevard to corruption. It is a seed to imposition, manipulation and systematic desecration of the anti-corruption crusade of the government and the party. It is a bidding process, a slave market and an auction house where price tag is placed to honour.’ The long and short of it is that Senator Sani believes that the direct primary option would minimise the influence of money in deciding flag-bearers.
Be that as it may we are keenly watching how the APC would finally resolve these contending forces and produce acceptable candidates before the October deadline. The skirmishes are however already unfolding. In the north-east where the stakes are very high, the battle lines are already being drawn. Incoming elected leaders would be expected to hit the grounds running dealing with a myriad of problems that would need immediate solutions.
A typical example is Borno State which was the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. In the ongoing succession struggle the Governor, Kashim Shettima, has already sounded the battle cry, looking ahead to a period of resurgence after the debilitating insurgency. In a speech that was a farewell message of sorts to his cabinet and close aides, the governor decried the seeming interference of what those he referred to as ‘Abuja Politicians’ in the succession arrangements in Borno State. The speech that was widely circulated expressed the frustration of those who had lived through the harrowing experience of the insurgency with the suffocating interference of those who were outside the state and now want to ‘re-ignite political insurgency within the state’.
He asked, ‘where were they when we were going through the harshest time in our contemporary history of Borno? Where were they when we were living under perpetual fear of being attacked? I know of some of us who abandoned their houses and have continued to live in hotels. I know of you here who could not go to the mosques for prayers except they come to Government House mosque to pray. But some clowns who have abandoned Borno for ages and now taking the advantage of the peace we have suffered to build by saying that it is only them that will decide and install the next governor of Borno State’.
Very tough words, and the governor was quick to add that he does not have knowledge of who will succeed him, leaving that decision in the hands of God. Nevertheless, he was emphatic that that the next occupant of the Government House will definitely come from amongst politicians of the younger generation. A bit of a fuzzy template, I say. Deep down him I guess he must have a template of what type of person he would like to succeed him. And I hope that person would have known the terrible pain of the years of attacks of the insurgents and the horrendous damage and suffering it inflicted on the people of the state. He will need to come with something of a Marshall Plan to build on what Governor Kashim has achieved.
I add that the person must be correctly educated, hopefully a technocrat, whose credentials have been sufficiently burnished in the state public service so that he can inspire and lead the public service in the task of rebuilding the state. The state will also garner some advantages if the person has some additional wider experience in the federal public service, big private firms, international organizations and the like. In the circumstances Borno only deserves the best to open up towns and villages closed for years by the terrorists, so that ordinary citizens can go back and pick up their lives again, return to their old neighbourhoods, to their farms and markets. The next governor will need to rebuild virtually all the public buildings destroyed – schools, hospitals and offices. He will need to link up with the federal government to rebuild all its road that are now in the state of dilapidation. Hopefully when that is done, trade particularly with the neighbouring countries will return to status quo ante. He will need to psyche up the people that are battered by years of insurgency. There is so much to be done and hopefully the politicians will sort out their differences and give Borno such a person.