Yobe: Democracy On Trial, By Ahmed B. Gulani
For APC to retain its firm grip on Yobe politics, it has to make sure that direct primary elections take place in the state. And all efforts must be made to stop anyone or any force from manipulating the process. There is need for all well meaning Nigerians and institutions to come to our rescue, as people in Yobe State are getting so helpless to the point of increasingly becoming fatalistic.
This week is a decider for Yobe and many other States in Nigeria. It is particularly a week worth watching in Yobe State. Who the All Progressives Congress (APC) fields as candidate for gubernatorial election of 2019 will determine so many things. First, it will determine whether the state can make progress or it will end up being the continuation of business as usual. It will also determine whether APC is going to be the same or fall apart and lose its stronghold. It will also determine who has power between the people and the incumbent governor who, by his recent actions, shows that he controls the State and its people in the manner of ancient kingdoms and emperors.
Yobe State is backward. There is no argument about this. The State is littered with so many jobless youth and farmers who cannot get the support they needed to produce enough food to sustain themselves. Once again, this year too, Yobe was at the bottom of WAEC performance. Just this week, the commissioner of health announced that 61 people have died of a cholera outbreak across the State. The death toll, according to local information, are higher. People of Yobe State are among the poorest in the world. Everyday people sink more into the squalor of poverty. The lack of good leadership is the reason why Yobe State found itself where it is. There is no vision. No plan or financial discipline to give the State the progress it desperately needs. The State house of assembly, which constitutionally should check the excesses of the executive is just about rounding up another four precious years of doing nothing. One could as well say, there has been no legislature in Yobe State since May 2015 because no one knows what they are doing or has felt their impact. Members who should have been pushing people’s demands for water, roads, good schools, access to good health care, were mainly nowhere to be found all through. They have simply not been there for the people. Every statistic only further shows how the State has missed opportunities to make progress, not because of the lack of resources but because of the lack of good fiscal management.
While the last elections brought excitement and hope, yet that hope has basically been dashed by the overbearing manipulation of power. It strongly appears that the governor wants to impose on the people of Yobe, a person who he deems will do his bidding, not the best person that can govern the State. However, as it has been reiterated, and in the interest of fairness and justice, members of the All Progressives Congress in Yobe State want a direct primary election to chose their preferred candidate for the 2019 gubernatorial election. But the government insists on an indirect primary election. The same government that organised local government elections successfully claims that direct primary elections cannot hold, even when many APC members believe the direct primary election is the best way to ending the imposing influence of governors in the affairs of the State. The indirect primary election is easy to manipulate, and delegates in Yobe State are strongly alleged to already be under intense pressure to do the bidding of the state government. How can there be free and fair primary election if the plan to hold it at Government House, Damaturu is allowed to stand? How can aspirants who are not ‘anointed’ by the state government expect justice in a location that is not neutral? The APC provides that primary elections must be open secret ballots that give politically privacy to voters. These would protect voters from the blackmail and intimidation that might come as a result of their choices. It will also reduce vote buying, which is becoming more rampant. In Yobe State, the open secret ballot must not be compromised for any reason.
We the people of Yobe State have never been this helpless. We are watching while some people want to manipulate every process to deny us the opportunity to freely choose our leaders. The imposition of candidates on the people is largely the cause of the current Osun State nightmare of the APC.
For APC to retain its firm grip on Yobe politics, it has to make sure that direct primary elections take place in the state. And all efforts must be made to stop anyone or any force from manipulating the process. There is need for all well meaning Nigerians and institutions to come to our rescue, as people in Yobe State are getting so helpless to the point of increasingly becoming fatalistic. That fatalism gained more grounds when the Yobe State governor announced his anointed candidates for all positions, including that of the governorship. The implication here is that already people feel the state’s resources and powers are being thrown behind aspirants anointed by government. This can only be possible in a State with as much poverty as Yobe.
All that we are asking for is a free and fair primary election. Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam has done ‘his best’ for Yobe State. It is now time for the people to decide who should govern them.
Ahmed Bulama Gulani is with the School of Law, University of Sheffield.