By Zayyad Muhammad
Justice, fairness, and the entrenchment of internal democracy are the oils that lubricate the survival of any political party- no matter how big and strong is the party.
There are strong rumors and insinuations that some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) at the instance of some governors are hell-ben on disqualifying some aspirants in favor of some incumbent and unpopular governors, in spites of the fact that the party constituted 12-man Appeal Panel have in their report submitted to the NWC, cleared the aspirants. This is not only unjust but a clear disregard for the party’s guidelines and in violation of the constitutional amendments of the electoral act 2022. Thus denying other bonafide aspirants the right to participate in the primaries slated for May 23, 2022, and the indeed the electorates the right to elect candidates of their choice.
Reliable information from some quarters within the party indicates that two aspirants from Adamawa and Akwa Ibom states are being targeted for disqualification just to pave way for an unpopular incumbent governor and a Governor’s preferred choice to participate in the gubernatorial primaries unopposed.
Denying party members the right to participate in the primaries is dangerous and undemocratic. Take for instance, Ambassador Mohammed Jameel Abubakar- Waziri former state Chief of Protocol to former President Goodluck Jonathan, was said to have been disqualified in Bauchi by the Gubernatorial Primaries Screening Committee chaired by Abubakar Sadiq on the flimsy excuse that the committee has ‘ Instructions from the party Headquarters not to clear him’. The aspirant was neither issued a disqualification nor qualification certificate; contrary to the rule of the party to enable him to write an appropriate appeal to the Appeal Panel
Above notwithstanding, the aspirant submitted a petition to the 12-man appeal panel. He was appropriately rescreened by the panel, which cleared him to contest the primaries
Contrary to what the aspirant was told in Bauchi by the screening committee, their report indicated that the aspirant as a responsible party member failed to pay his party dues. Therefrom the appeal panel requested the aspirant to show proofs he has been paying his dues as at when due. After sighting the original receipts as presented by the aspirant, the panel in its reports cleared the aspirant to contest in the forthcoming Adamawa PDP gubernatorial primaries.
Considering the above, one begins to wonder why the National Working Committee would want to disqualify an aspirant who was duly cleared by the Appeal Panel consisting of 6 of its members and 5 BOT members. Does it mean the NWC doesn’t have confidence in the 6 members of the NWC and the 5 BOT members on the panel or questioned the integrity of the panel’s chairman? Or is there any new information to warrant such intended unjust disqualification?
Now, rumors are that, the Deputy National Chairman (North): Umar Iliya Damagum and the National Treasurer: Ahmed Yayari Mohammed were said to have collected money and promised to exert their own influence on the NWC to disqualify Ambassador Jameel, simply for the incumbent Adamawa Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri to participate in the primaries unopposed- that’s, to say, rubbishing the decision of the 12-man appeal panel; which all its members are respected members of the BOT and the National Working Committee.
If the party doesn’t want other aspirants to run against incumbent governors, why did it allow them to spend enormous money on the purchase of forms and other obligations?
What is Gov. Fintiri scared of as the incumbent governor who claimed to have structures, and resources and have worked for the development of Adamawa state? Could he now be sacred of somebody who he defeated in 2019 when he was not a governor? Or does he now know something which we don’t know? If I was Fintiri, I will not want to get ambassador Waziri disqualified and risk running an extraneous legal battle that could eventually end like that of Zamfara state in the 2019 elections. Pundits are sure the governor and the party are aware of the implication of section 84 (3) of the amended Electoral Act 2022.
The first article in the PDP electoral guidelines for the gubernatorial primary election says – “in Compliance with section 84(3) of the Electoral Act 202, the qualification and disqualification criteria shall only be as stated in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Article 4 said: The decision of the National Executive Committee of the party on all primary election matters shall be final and binding. And, article 5 section (f) of the same guidelines also stated that: “Only aspirants cleared by the Gubernatorial Screening Committee or whose appeal the Gubernatorial Screening Appeal Panel has upheld shall be qualified to participate in the primary election as contained in the final list of Cleared Aspirant.
An aspirant has fulfilled these requirements, while some people because of personal interests want to deny him or her that right, this will certainly lead to the PDP losing those states where such illegality occurred – this is the same thing that happened to the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Zamfara state in the 2019 election, in which the PDP became the major beneficiary. And, looking at the caliber of the people purported to be disqualified, one will definitely say the PDP will lose those states; if the disqualified aspirants go to the courts. People like Ambassador Jameel from Adamawa, an accomplished career diplomat with more than 34 years of public service, 27 of which were in the presidency of Nigeria. Directly served 5 presidents. the man from a royal family who is well educated and in the know of the intricacies of international politics & administration, exposed to international best practices in governance, who also came second in the 2019 Adamawa PDP gubernatorial primaries, cannot be barefacedly denied his rights, and expect him to keep mute without seeking redress in a competent court of law.
The PDP National Executive Council (NEC) and the National Working Committee ( NWC) should be very carefully- their reputation is at a stake, because any decision taken against the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, and the PDP Electoral Guidelines for Primary Election 2022 will only lead to the PDP easily losing states to the APC at the courts of Law, because any aspirant that is denied the right to participate in the primaries will absolutely go to the courts, and, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will certainly penalize any political party that contravenes court of law and the provision of the Electoral Act 2022. For example, INEC has just rejected the Imo state PDP 3-man Ward Ad hoc Delegate Congress conducted on April 30, 2022, following a ruling of an Abuja High Court.
In Summary, if the PDP allowed personal interest to override justice, fairness, and the entrenchment of internal democracy in it, the party will just be overweight battling with court cases, while its opponents will be in the field campaigning for votes. A stitch in time saves nine.