By Tunde Joshua, and Kelvin Ohoror
With great expectations, Nigerians are d e m a n d i n g the dawn of a new era from the country’s political elite as the various parties hold primary polls ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The main opposition political grouping kicked off the primaries at the weekend. As at midnight Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari failed to sign the latest amendment to Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act 2022, which political parties and politicians fervently awaited.
This inaction of the President in a way eased the high tension in the polity as it dawned on the parties that they have to go into their various primary elections with only elected delegates as authentic voters. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) kick-started its primaries on Sunday with elections in the states for State House of Assembly and House of Representatives seats.
The party adhered strictly to provisions of Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which allows only democratically elected delegates to vote at the indirect Primaries and National Convention of political parties. National Organising Secretary of the party, Hon. Umar Bature specifically said on Saturday that “those qualified and eligible to vote as delegates in the forthcoming Primaries and National Convention of our great Party, the PDP are the three (3) AD-HOC Delegates per ward, elected at the Ward Congresses and one (1) National Delegate per Local Government, elected at the Local Government Area Congresses. Senatorial primaries hold in on Tuesday, May 24.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold its Governorship and House of Representatives primaries on Thursday May 26, Senate and States Assembly on Friday, May 27 while the presidential primary is on Sunday May 29. Section 84(8) recognizes only democratically elected delegates, stating, “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.”
Upon realising their exclusion from the list of those privileged by the provision to vote, members of the National Assembly came up with an amendment to the section to include ‘statutory delegates’.
The amendment to the section now read “…in addition to statutory delegates already prescribed in the constitution of the party in the amendment.” By virtue of this amendment, the lawmakers were asking that , statutory delegates, including elected councillors, local government chairmen and their deputies, party chairmen in local government areas, state and federal lawmakers (current and former), governors and their deputies, President and Vice- President, National Working Committee members, state party chairmen and secretaries, be allowed as voters at primaries, congresses and conventions of all the political parties.
But, these set of people captured in the statutory delegates cadre have lost out as they are not eligible by law to vote. The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC requires that list of delegates to participate in congresses and conventions of all the political parties must be submitted at least seven days earlier.
The Trumpet learnt that a majority of the parties, APC and PDP inclusive, met the seven days window by forwarding to INEC lists that contain names of elected delegates only.
This means fewer than 5,000 delegates in both APC and PDP will determine the fate of the various aspirants at their respective primaries next weekend.
It means only national delegates elected at the local government congresses will determine presidential standard bearers of the parties while the five delegates elected from each ward for the state congresses will vote to elect governors, senators, House of Representatives and states’ House of Assembly members for the APC.
This means that APC will elect its presidential candidate with 2322 democratically elected delegates For PDP, it will be the three delegates elected from each ward.
The PDP will elect its presidential flag bearer with 810 delegates based on one national delegate per local government area and one each per state to cover the physically challenged. Failure by Buhari to sign the amendment, no doubt, is a big loss to members of the National Assembly who had introduced the addition to settle scores with the executive arm of government, particularly state governors.
Read Also: Progress is Nigerian Idol Season 7
The lawmakers had thought that by increasing the voters base at congresses and convention, they will have number of voters to negate number of votes the governors might muster. By losing out in the game for now, power has returned to the governors who decide to a large extent list of delegates from their states. Some lawmakers in both chambers of Senate and House of Representatives who have gubernatorial ambitions or wishing to return to parliament are now at the mercy of the governors.
Many lawmakers have been crying foul, petitioning their parties over what they termed lopsidedness in delegates list or total hijack of the list by their state governors. Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe led a few aggrieved gubernatorial aspirants in Abia to the PDP secretariat last week to protest against what they called ‘fake delegates list’ submitted by the state party chairman who is being backed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Also last week, a former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisah Metuh led aggrieved members of the Anambra PDP to protest shoddy handling of the state delegates list.
There are lots of unsettled issues in states across the parties regarding delegates list. Those captured as statutory delegates have started counting their losses as they will be automatically shut out of the largesse expected to be enjoyed from contestants at the convention. Presently, there are unsettled rifts in some states across parties on how to constitute the delegate list.
On the part of the aspirants, a few of them with huge financial war chests are rejoicing that limiting the voting population to elected delegates will afford them chance to determine their strengths and limitations. Political onlookers said big spenders like Atiku, Tinubu, Wike, Tambuwal and Udom may capture fair shares of the delegates.
However, financially low rated aspirants like Osinbajo must not be written off in the monetary show of power as backers of the Vice President are already mobilising resources ahead of Sunday. Lawan on the other hand whose sponsorship in the race is still shrouded in secrecy, it was learnt, has been assured that he can match the big spenders naira for naira.
In some results, Bino Obowomano Owhede clinched the PDP House of Assembly Isoko South constituency 1 after keenly contested election with 10 to 6 votes. He was declared winner by the returning officer, Comrade Mike Ifeanyi Egwuyenga, the commissioner for Youths Development, Delta State.
Speaking to newsmen, Owhede said that the election went smoothly and credible, giving glory to God Almighty for giving him the victory. He also stated that “I am going to make impact by doing things differently from what my predecessors did during their time at the State House of Assembly.”
He lauded the delegates and his teeming for the confidence they have him for voting and supporting him to emeged victorious. “I will reach out to my fellow contestants to give me their full support during the general come 2023”, he stated. Meanwhile, Hon. Ferguson Onwo was declared winner with 16 votes, one void vote after emerging as a consensus candidate of the PDP Isoko South constituency 2 for the House of Assembly. Onwo was declared winner by the returning officer Mathew Tskere.
Also Barr. Bernard Odior won Isoko North Constituency PDP House of Assembly primaries with 23 votes out of the 40 delegates that voted during the Primaries. Hon Emmanuel Egbabor took second position with 8 votes, Comrade Zino Onaemor scored 5 votes, Hon Jude Omena Ogbimi- 1vote, Hon Oviemuno Oghoore1vote, Ashaka Orobosa2votes, while Ogboru had nill.
The Presiding Officer, Mr Noel Omodon, described the election as peaceful, free and fair. All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA has announced an adjustment in the date of its House of Representatives primary election earlier scheduled to hold on May 26, 2022.
Read Also: Progress is Nigerian Idol Season 7
The party says the shift in date is necessitated by the adjournment till May 26 of the trial of leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, a day where there is usually a restriction of movement in the South East. The party in a statement by the National Election will now hold nationwide on May 27, 2022.
The release partly read, “Due to the ongoing Court trial of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu which has been adjourned to May 26, 2022 and the resultant SIT-AT-HOME in the South East, it has become imperative for the Party to reschedule its House of Representatives primaries earlier scheduled for the same May 26, 2022.
“Consequently, the House of Representatives Primary Election of APGA will hold nationwide on May 27, 2022.” The party further stated that INEC has been duly notified about this slight adjustment.
Other primary elections of the Party will hold as originally scheduled. The dates for APGA primaries at the moment are as follows: (1) State House of Assembly: May 24, 2022. (2) House of Representatives: May 27, 2022. (3) Senate: May 28, 2022. (4) Governorship: May 29, 2022. (5) Special National Convention for nomination of Presidential Candidate: June 1, 2022.