Concern as Nigeria’s presidential primaries process goes to the wire

By Richard Mammah

There is concern in Nigeria at the moment as the presidential primaries process within the leading political parties is clearly going down to the wires.

Evidence of this can be seen in the continued shifting of the timetable and adjustment of the processes.

For example, as at the time of writing this piece, another correspondence had just come in from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC announcing the shift of it presidential primaries screening process once again, and this time indefinitely. Meanwhile, this is coming at the same time when the residence of one of the presidential contenders on the platform of the party, former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha was being invaded by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over the latter’s insistence that Okorocha had failed to honour investigation invitations from the agency in relation to a long-running probe into his affairs while he held forth as Governor in Imo State.

Even more substantially, one of the real thorny issues dogging the unfolding primaries fiasco is what some observers describe as attempts to jettison the natural power rotation process in the country that has seen power almost always alternating between the North and the South since the return to civil, democratic rule in 1999.

At the moment however, that process is being imperilled by the fact that the leading parties had encouraged people from all over the country to vie for consideration as flag-bearer.

With President Muhammadu Buhari, a Northerner from Katsina State completing his term of office in May 2023, pundits had wagered that the natural course of action would have been for the President to be succeeded by a Southerner. But even within the president’s party, the process has already recorded the entry of Northern-originating contenders like Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

The situation is not different in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party that has the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, firmly in the contest.

Within this scenario and given the long-running propensity of political players to manipulate the nation’s historically-entrenched natural faultlines, even the chances of principal Southern-originating contenders like former Anambra State Governor Mr Peter Obi, his Rivers State counterpart Mr Nyesom Wike, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu remain in the balance. And with the rest of the nation waiting to see how all of this would be resolved.

There is also the issue of the Electoral Act amendment which has, in excluding the core of office holders or statutory delegates from the process, greatly reduced the number of electors. There is still lobbying going on to pressure the president to sign up on the amended bill but he is yet to budge and time is indeed running out.

Which then leaves us with the issue of whether we are getting too much political play in the process even at the detriment of governance. Indeed, in the past three months, you can count the number of days that the average Nigerian governor has spent in his state. A lot of time is practically being spent in caucus and lobbying sessions at the Federal Capital Territory and elsewhere.

For the political commentator, Eke Atamah, the action of the political players has to be put in context:

‘I agree that a lot of time is being spent by the governors in particular in say Abuja. But this is traceable to the kind of politics we play at the moment and their desire to play their own roles in the process and exert as much leverage as they can. But it also raises the other issue of a cold contest between players in the states and the federal tier of government which we may need to find better ways of mediating; perhaps constitutionally.’

Will that day come soon? Time may be running out on all.

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