Matters Arising from the Recent Lagos APC Primaries, By Gbolahan Akintunde
…constitutionally, the power to present candidates for elections rests solely with a political party which can employ any method it deems fit to do so. This includes the conduct of primary election to select its candidates or through consensus and affirmation. The APC has used a combination of these methods in picking its candidates.
The All Progressives Congress conducted its primaries recently to elect candidates for the July 22 local government and councilorship elections in Lagos State. As it is natural in contests of this nature, tempers were high and there were issues which arose from complaints by members of the party who did not agree with the party’s position of returning some candidates on the principle of consensus.
This has continued to generate reactions till date. Such aggrieved groups called this principle an ‘imposition’, while the party based its argument on the principle of consensus and party supremacy. The fierce nature of the contest was not unexpected because Governor Ambode has opened up the economic potentials of the state through massive infrastructure in two years, making Lagos a much viable state economically, with an improved annual Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profile of N302 billion, which is more than that of 30 states of the Nigerian federation put together. There are local council areas in Lagos State that generate more revenue than many state governments.
Before I am misunderstood as supporting party ‘imposition’, I wish to make it clear that I am a believer in free choice in a democracy, but at the same time I am aware that democracy comes with its own challenges and peculiarities, depending on the political environment. I have read in the media, recently, the grievances of groups and individuals within the APC who allegedly felt short-changed during the conduct of the primaries and have been expressing their anger through newspaper advertorials and sponsored articles.
The alleged main sponsor of this group is Dr. Muiz Banire, a former commissioner in Lagos state, who was in government for an unbroken 12 years as special adviser and commissioner, and who is presently a national officer of the APC. If anybody should accuse APC leaders of imposition, it should not be Muiz, who has been a beneficiary of the same system since 1999. Banire was a lecturer at the Lagos State University when he was picked by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a special adviser and later commissioner.
Not a few people are said to have kicked against Tinubu’s choice of Banire, but the Asiwaju was equally noted to have stood his ground on his choice, as he saw in Banire the qualities he always see in those he chooses to mentor, and who are now serving the nation in sensitive capacities and positions of great responsibility. A good example is the acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and many ministers and governors who cut their political teeth in the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu school of politics and leadership. It could therefore be seen as being hypocritical for a person who was a prime beneficiary of party supremacy and consensus, to now turn against the same process and system that brought him to limelight and derisively call it an imposition.
We all still remember how the present minister of Works, Housing and Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the APC in the 2007 elections and later became governor after winning the general election. The fact of the matter is that, it is those within the party who, because of their inordinate ambitions, create problems for the APC by blowing simple disagreements out of proportion as they’re currently doing, even though they’ve benefited from the same process in the past.
The voters out there are not bothered about how the candidate of a party emerged in as much as the party does not breach the electoral act in the process. What they’re concerned with is the quality and eligibility of such candidate and this is why despite the hue and cry about the emergence of Babatunde Fashola in 2007, during which as many as eight ACN aspirants including the then deputy governor, Femi Pedro, and some commissioners left the party in annoyance and drew a battle line with Tinubu, who was accused of imposing him, he went ahead to win the general election in a landslide victory.
The electorate behaved that way because Asiwaju who presented Fashola to them as his successor performed well as a governor, and they believed his successor who was his chief of staff would equally do well, and they were right. Many of those who left came back after Fashola won. It was the same system that produced the present governor, Akinwumi Ambode, who against all odds won the primaries of the APC because he was the preferred candidate of the APC leadership. Today, Lagosians are happy with what Ambode is doing to transform their State and make life better for them.
Coming back to the local government elections, I don’t see how the matters arising from the conduct of the last APC primaries would affect the fortunes of the party at the polls because the electorate out there are not unaware of the massive infrastructural transformation that is going on in all 20 LGAS and 37 LCDAS in the State. About 181 roads, covering over 800 kilometres, are also being fixed in the second phase of the roads rehabilitation programme. Primary and secondary schools have been built and renovated, as well as healthcare centres and community halls, even as many people in the grassroots have been empowered financially.
I also learnt that party leaders have held a series of meetings with the aggrieved aspirants to rally round the party’s choices so that they can sweep the polls, while they will be adequately compensated with other positions in the local councils since politics is about give and take in making the tough decision of who gets what, how and when. For the avoidance of doubt, constitutionally, the power to present candidates for elections rests solely with a political party which can employ any method it deems fit to do so. This includes the conduct of primary election to select its candidates or through consensus and affirmation. The APC has used a combination of these methods in picking its candidates. No court can query the power of a political party about this, except it breaches the law in the process. The Lagos APC does not appear to have breached any law.
It is not as if the PDP, which is the main opposition party, does not have its own internal wrangling, despite the recent victory of the Markafi faction as the rightful leadership of the PDP, over the Sheriff faction, at the Supreme Court. With the fate of the party having been hanging in the balance for a long time, it is not likely that the Lagos electorate would choose to gamble away their votes by leaving the certain candidates of a stable party – which is also impacting their lives postively – for those of a platform prone to so much crisis.
My message to those who are bent on making a mountain out of a molehill and trying to incite ordinary voters who are not members of any political party is that if they feel so popular, they should test their popularity in any other political party, after all political parties are open to free entries and exit, and there are so many these parties still looking for new members.
Gbolahan Akintunde wrote from Iyana Ipaja, Lagos.