Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spot the difference between PDP and APC

The All Progressives Congress concluded the ‘election’ of its national executive officers at a national convention held at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Friday, June 13. At the end of the exercise, a former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, emerged the new party chairman. It will be recalled that after the merger of the Big Three (The Congress for Progressive Change, Action Congress of Nigeria, and All Nigeria Peoples Party) last year, interim executive officers had been running the affairs of the party. At the 9th Interim Executive Committee meeting held in Abuja in March, the party announced that its congress would start on April 5 and end with a national convention on May 24. Specifically, the party announced as follows: “The Ward Congress will hold on April 5, Local Government Congress on April 12. State Congress on April 23 and the National Convention on May 24.” A change in date however led to the national convention being postponed before it eventually held last weekend. I say congratulations to all the newly elected party executives at the various levels.
Since the time that the ACN, the ANPP and the CPC began their romance and their eventual marriage by the Independent National Electoral Commission on July 31, 2013, I have taken keen interest in the activities of the party. For the records, I am not a card carrying member of any political party. However, as a student of politics, I pay attention to political developments around me. I am very delighted with the emergence of the APC because it will help to deepen Nigeria’s democracy. Formidable opposition is a sine-qua-non to democracy and concomitantly, good governance. Hitherto, the ranks of the opposition in Nigeria had been fragmented. Not even the coming together of opposition political parties under the aegis of the Conference of Nigeria’s Political Parties was able to foster the kind of challenge needed to put the ruling PDP on its toes.
Since the coming on board of the APC, there have been unprecedented vibrancy and dynamism in Nigeria’s political environment. Though I do not agree with all the positions taken by the party on national issues, nevertheless, the party through its vivacious Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has never been quiet on key national issues. The APC has robustly taken on the PDP and made the ruling party to sit up. More painful to the PDP is the poaching of some of its strong members in both legislative and executive arms of government. Scores of elected members of the state houses of assembly and the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and indeed five PDP governors had defected to the new APC. The new bride (APC) remains the greatest headache of the PDP since the return to civil rule in 1999. As things stand, the APC and the PDP are not unaware that they would have to earn their victory at the poll in any future election.
The dress rehearsal of what to expect in the 2015 polls between the two rival parties takes place this weekend in Ekiti State where the incumbent governor, John Kayode Fayemi of the APC, is slugging it out with former governor Peter Ayodele Fayose of the PDP. It remains to be seen who among the two major gladiators will come out top in the electoral battle. The same scenario is building in Osun State where the incumbent, Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola of the APC is sweating it out with his main challenger, former deputy governor and senator, Iyiola Omisore of the PDP. The epic battle for the governor’s seat in Osun is slated for August 9. Nigerians are waiting with bated breath on how these two governorship elections will be fought, won and lost by the two opposing parties, the APC and PDP. A win for the PDP in both or either of the two states will deal a fatal blow to the camp of the APC which hopes to consolidate its current 16 states ahead of the 2015 general elections.
For me, it does not really matter which of the political parties or candidates win, what is of utmost concern is that the votes of the electorate must count and must be the sole determinant of the winner at the poll.
I have asked myself if there is truly a difference between the APC and the PDP. As far as I can see, the difference between the two is that between six and half-a-dozen. Perhaps, the difference lies in nomenclature. Yes, the wordings of their party manifestoes may be different but in terms of governance, it will seem they are copying from the same textbook. Let’s start with the just concluded APC congresses and convention. Both parties shied away from electoral contest by adopting ‘consensus candidates’ for most if not all the elective positions.   It was reported that four candidates were in the race for the position of the national chairman, to wit, Chief Tom Ikimi (a former minister of external affairs under the military junta of the late Sani Abacha), ex-Governor Timipreye Sylva of Bayelsa State, Dr. Sam-Sam Jaja, a former PDP chieftain, and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, erstwhile governor of Edo State. Three of the four candidates were pressured to step down for the anointed candidate, Odigie-Oyegun. However, Ikimi has said he did not step down neither did he attend the convention which he claimed to have boycotted due to some grievances he had against the electoral process. So, what happened at the Eagle Square last weekend? Mere coronation. Delegates were just handed ‘ballot paper’ to mark Yes or No for the largely unopposed candidates, in fulfilment of all righteousness.
It will be recalled that the ruling PDP adopted the same strategy to elect the ousted Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led national executive in March 2012. The question is, why are Nigerian political parties afraid of electoral contests? Why do they revel in imposition of candidates, both for party executive positions and primaries organised for general elections? Governance wise, there is nothing the PDP legislators or governors are doing that their APC counterparts are not replicating; both good and bad. In any event, many of the APC chieftains were until recently staunch members of the PDP. Take for instance, a former governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni, who emerged as the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC. He only defected to the party from the PDP in May 2014, barely a month ago.
The same for ex-Governor Isiaka Adeleke of Osun State who until his May 31 defection to the APC represented the PDP in the last Senate. On a lighter note, while the PDP candidate in the next Saturday governorship election in Ekiti State was sharing out 2kg bags of rice to prospective voters in the state and topping it with N2,000, the APC candidate reportedly decided to cook jollof rice which is parcelled out to prospective voters in the forthcoming poll.
Wise up if you’re an aide to any politician. Don’t allow your principal to use your head to break coconut. In politics, thereare no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. For the electorate, vote candidates on their own merit, not on party considerations. Politicians are birds of passage who have scant regard for political platforms. As the race for 2015 elections draws near, I implore the various political parties to rein in their members and eschew hate speeches, violence, rigging and other unpatriotic acts.