Fouad Oki Writes On Lagos APC LG Primary Election: Time To Stand Up For Liberty, Justice, Rule Of Law

This letter focuses on the issue of candidate selection process within the All Progressives Congress (APC). In our Country, primary elections are the most common method of selecting party flag-bearers, and more often than not, this process is undermined by feudalist who deploy force, intimidation and coercion as tools to influence and enforce choices thereby, leading to the outright collapse of the party structures, which are expected to breed internal democracy. This, in turn, hinders the emergence of credible candidates and also gives rise to internal party squabbles, litigation, and the exclusion of certain segment of society, notably, women, youth and the weak.

Naturally, democracy operates principle of majority which emphasizes decision(s) must be in accordance with the desire of the populace. The principle of majority can be popularly achieved at the end of every decision made electorally and such decision(s) is upheld and binding in democratic states. Prior to general elections in democratic states, there is a tradition which ought to be genuinely adhered to, in order to engender inclusion of all. To all those who participated in the non-conclusive charade called party primaries last week, I salute your courage and tenacity in the face of the daylight robbery of democracy.

Primary election is core to harmonious relationship among members of any political party because it is the fountain-head and fundamental to the existence and practice of political party internal democracy. Simply put, political party internal democracy is the freedom, justice and equal political opportunities, a political party member enjoys in accordance with the political party’s guidelines (rules) in regards to political liberty such as to vie for elective post(s) and wide consultation of members to arrive at party (consensus) decisions if any.

Unfortunately, Local Government Primary elections of the APC on Saturday

29th May, 2021, to say the least was a charade and mockery of all that is decent. I saw it coming and I am glad that, everything that I predicted came to pass. I had earlier alluded in my letter addressed to the Party, our members and the voting public titled: “RE-LAGOS STATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION: BEFORE THE COCK CROWS. NEED TO BE TRUTHFUL, FAIR, EQUITABLE AND TRANSPARENT WITH LAGOSIANS”.

The premeditated shenanigans were nothing but a shameful act by those that were appointed to superintend over the robbery. These were people who stood up against the same antics in 2007. For ease of a reminder, the duo of Otunba Femi Pedro and Hon. Oyinlomo Danmole stood against imposition in the Governorship Primary of 2006 to the extent that Otunba Femi Pedro left the ACN for Labour Party as a result of the perceived injustice meted out to him. How time flies, today the two of them were hired to carry out evil machinations of funeral of the Party in Lagos State.

Democracy is about participation and representation in governance, true democracy wherever it operates, offers equal level playground for all individuals and groups, equal participation and political liberties of various dimensions to all without let or favour. Therefore, political parties are expected to operate on a platform of impartiality to enable members contest among themselves for political parties’ flag-bearers in preparation for general elections.

Equal political opportunities and liberties are antidote to imposition of any kind, be it candidate or vital political party decision(s) which bears internal democracy in political parties. Absence of internal democracy in political parties can be best de- scribed as democracy without democracy because political parties are the substructure upon which democracy is built. Imposition of candidate is a product of lack of political party internal democracy and when a political party lack internal democracy, the country’s democracy is threatened.

Sadly, in the Lagos State APC, lack of internal democracy due to impunity causes imposition of candidates and sensitive decisions which threaten the unity and legitimacy of the party’s flag bearers. An example was the protest that was carried out by All Progressives Congress (APC) Amuwo-Odofin local Government area Ward A2 constituents demanding for their mandate that was given to unpopular candidate in the Councillorship primary election on 22/ 6/ 2017 and the Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area APC supporters rejection of imposition of Chairmanship candidate in the party’s primary election on 29/ 6/ 2017. I want to believe that, members in the various Local Government Areas will rise up to the same challenge and protest vehemently against the decision of the Party by keeping mammoth human vigil at the Party Secretariat as well as LASIEC demanding for justice and equity.

The practice of imposition, particularly of candidature, has become a political culture of the Lagos enforcers, these feudal leaders sits in the cozy of their comfort zones to send names to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and or Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC). It is high time for the National Secretariat and leadership of our Party to acknowledge that imposition of candidates due to lack of internal democracy is unacceptable, State chapters should obey and respect their own rules and extant laws and regulations. Indeed, it is the chief root of the country’s development problems; leadership, social and economic ills.

The APC Lagos State chapter’s dishonesty and fraud is legendary, when it deliberately hiked the cost of nomination forms from N 500,000 in 2017 to N2,5 million total for Chairmanship and N550,000 for Councillors. Democracy is in peril in Lagos State.

This high cost a deliberate ploy to rake in money fraudulently of the poor members of the Party and encouraging pilfering and corruption by prospective aspirants and incumbent Chairmen.

I alluded to this in my letter of appeal for reason and consideration to the Party and other well-meaning individuals to stop the political hemorrhagic stroke of Party members. The prescribed high cost of nomination form was anti-youths as no upcoming youths, particularly graduates cannot afford the cost. This action was a deliberate tactic to shut the door against young people even with the 50% discount that was offered. It was evident that, the Party disenfranchised new members just maintain its close cult circle.

It amounts to a fact that, the Party has already decided on its anointed candidates before taking money from poor unsuspecting young Nigerians and then unleashed them against one another to fight to death over nothing. If not how else would the Party overruled and denied the report of its own election committee headed by Mr. Wale Edun, who refused to be complicit in the stupid shenanigans, just achieve a premeditated and dictatorial, lies and deceit that someone somewhere is not interest in anybody, but later turn around to anoint aspirants in Lagos Island East, Oriade, Isolo and one other council.

I promised in my earlier writings that, we shall approach the Court for the nullification of all actions taken by the illegal caretaker committees. Together, we shall seek redress of all infractions that have been committed. Trust me, we shall ensure adherence to the rule of law by tyrants clogging democratic fabric to rob us.

The lack of internal democracy and respect for the rule of law has brought about candidates’ imposition which consequently produces unpopular leaders that often times demonstrate incapability to govern. Hence, democratic governance and national security are in jeopardy, which is the situation of the Country in the recent times. Lack of internal democracy cum-candidates imposition caused Nigerian democracy to be one without democracy because it does not encourage proper development of the true spirit of democracy as liberal theory of representation uphold. Consequently, the foundation of democracy is threatened because political parties are substructure upon which democracy is built.

Candidate imposition is the major feature of lack of our party’s internal democracy, it is an act in which some influential and powerful party leaders hand-picked their favourite as a candidate without considering the progress and well- being of the other political party members and the unity of the party. It also refers to anointing candidate by some influential and powerful party leaders and forcing such upon the rest of the party members. On the other hand, party internal democracy means culture and norms which are; tolerance for others’ view- points, right to compete for supports and votes, free and fair elections, eligibility for public office and playing politics in accordance with the guidelines (rules) of the party.

The purpose of political party internal democracy is to create an enable or a level playing ground for every party member to participate in the affairs of the party. Therefore, lack of political party internal democracy refers to injustice, inequity and non-compliance to political party guidelines which causes crises in the party.

This is because democracy functions better when there is perfect harmony between the will of the majority and respect for the rights of individual and minority groups.The primary elections appeal committee set up by the Party was still receiving appeal petition, when the State Party secretariat submitted names of its anointed candidates and started distributing LASIEC nomination forms to them, particularly incumbent LG Chairmen. This and so many other ineptitudes are reasons why the Party continues to struggle to win elections in Lagos State and will continue to be in dire need of winning elections.

Candidate imposition is an act in which the party enablers exercise their powers and influence over other party members through hand- picking of their favourite candidates to occupied elective office or engineering sham election(s). Hence, lack of political party internal democracy and candidate imposition are like two sides of a coin, the head and the tail that goes together, a catch double 2 situation of head I win; tail you lose. The former brings about the latter which are affronts to democracy. Therefore, party internal democracy is an antidote to any kind of imposition either candidate or other forms within a political party.

In the APC, Candidates imposition is due to lack of internal democracy by enforcers and have the party a “democratic party without democracy”. This is because healthy internal democracy of a political party makes the political party a democratic bud through which democracy is exhibited with full with democratic principles and culture are developed and observed respectively.

The painful thing is that, we do not even have a leader that, we can hold by his word. One of the Party’s foremost leader, in company with the Rt. Hon Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Governor of Lagos State and stand in front of Nigerians to proclaim his non-partisanship in the primary election, only to eat his vomit. Leopard can’t change its spot. Can such person be trusted to lead?

Democracy is primarily a means of determining who shall rule and broadly to what end.  In modern democratic societies, the people do not actually rule directly but they elect leaders or representatives who govern. Therefore, candidate imposition syndrome in Nigeria politics, particularly in Lagos State in the last twenty-two years have posed a threat to Nigeria democracy and our   political party as well prospective flag-bearers whose political ambitions have been cut-down due to undemocratic process and practice.

Some of the effects of candidate’s imposition due to lack of political party internal democracy in our democratic practice are:

Disintegration of political parties: Political Party members who feel shortchanged during party primaries due to imposition, usually leave for other political parties, a situation that breeds bad blood and discontentment in the rank and file of political parties.

Threat tour emerging democracy: Imposition syndrome due to lack of political parties’ internal democracy does not offer equal opportunities to party members to have a say in making choice of candidates to stand for general elections. Popular candidates with good qualities of a leader do not emerge through popular franchise, rather the handpicked ones who rule for the protection and interest of the powerful party leaders and their political cleavages.

Discourage hardworking and loyal old political party members: Here, when candidates who felt short changed in their original political party primaries cross-carpet to another political party only to be given opportunity to compete for elective posts or offered attractive and valuable appointments over the hardworking and loyal old political party members.

This often breeds frustration and bad blood within political parties, which threatens the nation’s democracy. A breach of fundamental human rights of political party members: Section 39 and 42 of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) offers Nigerians right to freedom of expression and right to freedom of discrimination respectively, which connote freedom and eligibility of Nigerians to express their choice of candidates through vote(s) without discrimination or deprivation.

However, candidate’s imposition in political parties deny members the aforementioned human rights. Shakes the belief of political party members: Im- position of various kinds in political par- ties are capable of shaking the belief of members and the political party internal mechanism

From the above explanation, national security includes provision, protection and pro- motion of well-being of citizens as well as national interest of a country. A true democracy promotes national security because the essence of democratic government by states is for the well-being of their citizens through robust dividends of democracy. However, lack of political parties’ internal democracy which causes imposition of various dimensions particularly candidature across most political parties in Nigeria since 2007 has significant negative impacts on the country national security.

Negatively, candidate’s imposition due to lack of political parties’ internal democracy have caused the emergence of incompetent leaders that could not pilot the nation’s affairs to ensure provision of dividends of democracy to the general public. Therefore, they see no need to provide dividends to the masses, rather to their political cleavages. The essence of democracy and its practice by states is to provide the general public with conducive environment; welfare, protections and physiological (basic) needs.

This is why in my views Nigeria as a fragile state, which gives punishment to the peasants (masses) by denying them their fundamental human rights which includes education, food, cloth and shelter as a result of the economic depression of parents. The lack of basic necessities by the people in Nigeria has therefore created a pool of frustrated Nigerians who are ignited easily and lured into violence.

Elections in Nigeria cannot be thought of without political parties as there is no provision for independent candidacy in the country’s constitution. Political parties remain the only platform in Nigeria for democratically elected leaders to emerge. The idea of political party’s candidate selection process enjoys unrivalled eminence in political discourses and analyses in Nigeria. However, party primaries and conventions are mere platforms of voice affirmation of elite’s consensus, which most times renders candidate selection process less credible.

The process through which candidates emerge is often fraught with controversies, which often lead to violence and litigation. In fact, a greater percentage of those that emerge from party primaries are products of imposition, consensus and compromise. Emerging through consensus is not an aberration neither is it undemocratic but it becomes a problem when it is orchestrated by the party’s godfathers who see themselves as the owners of the party.

Internal party democracy is one issue which APC as a political party has to contend with. An assessment of the process of emergence of candidates in the party therefore, becomes necessary to identify the democratic deficits inherent in the party’s leadership. Focusing on the All Progressives Congress (APC), the assessment is based on a two-dimensional approach of party candidate selection, and political inclusion. Assessment of the party was done within the following contexts: level of internal party democracy; presence of party rules on selection of candidates; doctrine of party supremacy in the selection process; use of elections to select candidates; and consensus politics in the selection process. The main question therefore begging for an answer is whether party selection processes in the is governed by party rules and procedures?

Democracy represents, first and foremost, an increase in citizens’ political equality and equity in terms of their popular participation in the society. It is a system of government that enables both the leaders and the citizens to be conscious of what is required, and accomplish it for the betterment of that society in terms of political, social and economic development. We know the importance of allowing the votes to count. If the votes continue to count, leaders would be more responsible and responsive to the people. They would have respect for the people, and respect for the people is the beginning of responsible leadership. But if and when votes don’t count, there would be no respect for anybody but impious actions and insidious behaviours.

An assessment of public confidence in LASIEC seem obvious and trite. Electoral management is the way an election management body is legitimately constituted. LASIEC as an Election Management Body is an organization which has the sole purpose of, and is legally responsible for, managing the elements that are essential for the conduct of elections. These elements include: determining who is eligible to vote; receiving and validating the nominations of electoral participants (for elections, political parties and/or candidates); conducting polling; counting the votes; and tabulating the votes.

LASIEC is founded on fundamental guiding principles like: independence; impartiality; integrity; transparency; efficiency; professionalism; and service-mindedness. The essence of these principles is to make all the citizens including critical external stakeholders to have unflinching confidence in the electoral management body. An electoral management design covers the structures and the decisions that are made to conduct an election. As an election management body, LASIEC has not commanded very serious confidence among many Nigerians since it was established in 1999.

The process of selecting candidates for election cannot be thought of without the activities of stakeholders. There are two broad categories of stakeholders – internal and external. Internal stakeholders vary from one party to another, and they include but not limited to, political godfathers who are usually former or reigning governors, members of the National Assembly, special advisers, etc., while external stakeholders include, among others, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials, civil society organisations (CSO), media and so on. In the real sense of the word, every party member is a stakeholder in the party but in Lagos State only a few see themselves as the party’s stakeholders.

Typically, these are the party’s godfathers, enablers and other glorified stooges pretending to be relevant. Within the structures of the party in Lagos State, power lies with the godfather instead of the party executives as was brazenly exhibited by the godfather with his manipulative primordial sentiments, as well as use of money and cohesion to maintain his dominion over other party members. The Lagos enforcer rendered the party organs impotent, especially before, during and even after the party’s primaries last Saturday 29th May, 2021. Party constitutions and other extant laws regulating candidate selections were also rendered ineffectual.

These group of people have at one time or the other taken advantage of their access to public office to amass fortunes for themselves. Political power is synonymous with economic power and it is a weapon to access some share of the State resources. This explains why most bullion van businessmen are in politics just as most politicians are in business. These business/political elites finance party activities and in turn reap the reward in the form of patronage and influence, these powerful individuals are more powerful than the party chiefs and formal office holders. They control the internal party nomination process, rig elections with fiat, corrupt election officials, and sometimes change the names of candidates after elections have been concluded.

The adage that who pays the piper dictates the tune becomes applicable, contrary to all democratic norms, values and best practices. The political history of Nigeria reveals that from 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule to date, the dominant party in Lagos has always been run not through elected party leaders but through a clientele arrangement that every person elected into position of power and authority automatically becomes the manipulative tool used to superimpose the feudal lord’s interests, as well as candidates on the rest of the party. These godfathers/kingmakers are so influential that they turn the party into their personal fiefdoms. Ironically, the main casualties in all these will be the party.

Another set of external stakeholder’s worth mentioning is the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). In an ideal democratic society, CSOs play an invaluable role as stakeholders in deepening the process and in enhancing its stability. In Lagos, however, there is no love lost between political parties and the CSOs. There is no denying that the number of CSOs that engage in elections and party monitoring is tremendously increasing but there is no corresponding improvement in the candidate selection process of political parties.

Political parties seldom invite the CSOs to their congresses, primaries or conventions. CSOs, nevertheless, gatecrash and attend these party activities but they are never accorded any recognition and are even seen as adversaries. Between 2007 and 2015, various CSOs through the support and funding from international donor agencies enriched the democratic environment by creating synergy between political parties and the CSOs.

Among such platforms is the political Party/Civil Society Forum established as a multi-stakeholder’s platform for positive engagement aimed at enhancing and sustaining relations between the two stakeholders. This forum has also become complicit, else how can APC commit such a monumental and brazen robbery of people’s mandate, yet no CSO has come out to condemn the charade and approach the court to force the party to respect its own rules?

One thing that is undeniable in the APC Lagos State, is the fact that internal democracy has always not been allowed to flourish in the process of selecting candidates for general elections or positions within the party itself. This is evident in the manner political gladiators tend to struggle – at whatever cost – for benevolence from the godfather all in a bid to exert some level of influence in his decision-making process of the party.

The 2017 local government election which berthed the outgoing crop of LG Chairmen gives a lot of insight into this. The APC’s success at the polls may be a result of the cracks in the wall of the governing party (PDP). Prominent members of the opposition left the party for the APC, shortly before the general election because they believe that, the Lagos landlord has corned all the instrument of State. I enjoin all members of the party to rise up to this occasion by saying enough is enough.

The one area of dispute is candidate imposition which is being perpetuated by lies and deceit. Only a few days back, the Lagos enforcer publicly denied his involvement in the exercise which has turned out to be his signature bidding. The election related petitions were being received and preparations being made when the Lagos enabler directed that, LASIEC nomination forms be given to his anointed candidates to the forthcoming 24th July elections. It is also important to mention that the crisis that will rock the APC in Lagos State will cause a volcanic implosion of the party that has enjoyed cult like follow-follow followership that has never been seen before. The primaries turn out will be a child’s play as it has confirmed that members voice count for nothing, rather a lone voice is louder than one million voices.

The absence of internal democracy that characterize APC party primaries in Lagos last Saturday is the gun powder needed to snowball the grave yard silence into a massive “soro s’oke” political pandemic that will shake the party to its foundation in coming months.  The Lagos State chapter of the party has been in the news for the wrong and negative reasons in the last two years, all occasioned by impunity, lack of discipline, refusal to obey its own rule, lack of equity and fair play and disregards for the rule of law.

A party that can’t hold an ordinary local government primary elections void of rigging, violence and deaths shouldn’t have anything doing at the helm of affairs of our dear State. The surrogate and compromised leadership pride themselves self as democrats but events of the last one week has exposed fully their flaunted democratic credentials as nothing but autocrats, tyrants, Machiavellian impostors and manipulators who continue to jack lock our jugular with their knees.

Our party has lost its goodwill and clearly on its way to the coroner in Lagos State. I strongly believe, that after twenty-two years uninterruptedly on the saddle of statesmanship in Lagos, honestly, regression has set into our ways and means and should be queried and resisted by cheated members and all well-meaning Nigerians by speaking out and loudly with their votes. Afterall, the substantive national leader of the Party, President Muhammadu Buhari has encouraged party members and indeed Nigerians during the campaigning leading to the last general elections that, in deepening our democratic ethos, people should vote their conscience and not to follow- follow like zombies.

Clearly, one of the main challenges political parties in Nigeria face is that of internal party democracy. The most noticeable trend that runs through all narratives is the culture of exclusion and underrepresentation of some segments of the society. Political parties in Nigeria, overtly or covertly, fail to accord the underrepresented groups such as women, youth and the disabled a place within the democratic space.

Though, the Party constitutions make efforts to uplift these groups, however, reverse is the case in Lagos, they have been relegated to the background in the affairs of the party. Forget the Greek gift of fifty percent discount offered them on the contribution of tithes which was paid to the party under the guise of nomination forms and deceit that will follow for a refund of payment to all those that have been robbed. It is nothing but the usual ploy to coerce them to support and mobilize for the party at the election.

If the party offers a refund of nomination form payment, I enjoin members to collect it and do not swallow the bait. Do not acquiesce their day light robbery by resisting their treacheries and perfidious negotiations. The promises that will be made to you are confirmation of your being good only at second class and third-class seats on the train to further ruining your persons as tools for impunity.

Our Party, the APC like its siblings’ other Political parties in Nigeria are institutionally weak, structurally defective and operationally fragile, and have failed to grow both vertically and horizontally to assume that enviable position of an institution with capacity to uphold the tenets of democracy. The most re-occurring decimal, which has become a noticeable feature of Nigeria’s party system is the fact that party leadership across board remains nominal, subservient and submissive to party godfathers.

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