By Ehichioya Ezomon
With presidential and party reconciliation committees in place, confusion and confrontation, rather than conciliation and consolidation continues to reign in the camps of aggrieved aspirants and their sponsors, and in the entire All Progressives Congress (APC), no thanks to the fallout from the party primaries.
This comes barely five days to the December 1, 2018, expiration of the window that allows for withdrawal/replacement of candidates for the positions of governor/deputy governor and members of the House of Assembly for the 2019 elections, which resume at 8 a.m. on February 16 – just 81 days from today, November 26, 2018.
While the opportunity for withdrawal/replacement of National Assembly candidates had lapsed on November 17, 2018, some Governorship and State House of Assembly candidates can be “encouraged” or “persuaded” to withdraw their nomination from the list submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to enable their replacement by the APC.
And this is where the dissatisfied aspirants and their backers should channel their strategies and resources, to save a seemingly bad situation before the APC would send the nomination forms of the final candidates to the INEC for publication for the 2019 elections.
But what have we seen? The aggrieved aspirants are unrelenting in beating the drums of war over alleged refusal of the party hierarchy to replace them with the “temporary” candidates on the INEC list.
Failing which they have promised fire and brimstone against the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC), and legal causes that may hamper the chances of the APC in the elections.
Let’s step back a bit and ask if these aspirants, especially their sponsors, had any ‘Plan B’ in place, on the APC platform, for their “anointed candidates” to secure their tickets if they failed to “impose” them or influence their choices?
From all indications, they didn’t have such plans, as they had successfully “schemed” the processes in the past. Their alternative, if any, was the highway: Cause crisis that would affect the fortunes of the party, in order to demonstrate their “overlordship” in their states. Now, pride and ego have taken the front burner in their “fight-to-finish” with Oshiomhole.
However, although unrelated in the context of the APC primaries, the “aggrieved” should take a cue from the strategy adopted by some aspirants of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara and Sokoto States.
For instance, both Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Aminu Tambuwal aspired to be president. But as a fall-back option, they caused their “surrogates” to be elected as senatorial and governorship candidates, respectively, at the primaries.
When they failed to clinch the presidential ticket of the PDP, they “persuaded” the candidates for the positions to withdraw, and the party subsequently sent to INEC Saraki and Tambuwal’s names as replacements in the senatorial and governorship elections in 2019.
Likewise, the aggrieved APC aspirants in Ogun, Imo, Zamfara and elsewhere ought to persuade the “temporary” candidates to withdraw or swap positions with them, as the case maybe, instead of trying to worsen a bad situation that could be remedied by negotiations and compromises with the candidates and the APC Chair, Oshiomhole.
Accordingly, in Ogun, Dapo Abiodun can be persuaded to pick Adekunle Akinlade (Amosun’s protégé) as his deputy, or Akinlade becomes the candidate and Abiodun the deputy. The same thing in Imo: Hope Uzodinma will pick Uche Nwosu (Okorocha’s preference) as deputy or vice versa.
In Zamfara, Yari’s “anointed” candidate should pick Senator Kabiru Marafa as deputy or vice versa. And in Rivers, Tonye Cole (former Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s “choice”) will pick Senator Magnus Abe as deputy or vice versa.
But these governors and their opponents seem not listening. They would rather target Oshiomhole, and demand the “impossibles,” as the December 1, 2018, for final substitution of candidates for governor/deputy and state legislature winds down in five days from today.
Consider the Amosun group in Ogun insisting on the “restoration of the mandates” of Akinlade and other aggrieved candidates for the State House of Assembly. And the consequence of not realizing the demand is, “We are not going to work for Dapo Abiodun (in the 2019 elections) because he was imposed on us,” the faction told the presidential reconciliation committee in Abeokuta last week.
But Abiodun has rejected any conditions not in conformity with the Nigerian Constitution, the APC constitution and the Electoral Act, stressing: “Whatever anybody is saying should fall within the laws. We talk to each other. We are in the process of reaching out to them. Even if they bring any demand, we cannot say they should get out; we will tolerate each other.”
That’s the crux of the matter: Negotiations, give-and-take, and tolerance of each other, as matters can still be “corrected” within the remaining timeframe of five days.
Yet, the APC’s NWC should not over-stretch its luck by threatening to deal with the aggrieved members that have taken the primaries issues to the courts. You can’t beat a child – which is what the aggrieved aspirants and their backers are – and ask them not to cry. What they need is pacification, and not punishment.
In any case, the party can’t approbate and reprobate. The APC can’t be pursuing reconciliation, and also stoking the embers of more crises. The option would have been to nip in the bud what the six committees for reconciliation are attempting too late in the day to achieve. The primaries and attendant crisis started in August 2018.
Like the aggrieved aspirants and their benefactors, the NWC didn’t plan for the aftermath of the primaries. Perhaps, as usual in political “family affairs,” members had assumed that the events would fade away quickly. They misjudged, even their intentions! So, all hands must push for the great task ahead of the APC in 2019.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.