PARTY PRIMARIES: HOW THE ASPIRANTS, PARTIES ARE CUTTING THEIR LOSSES
Chief Peter Nwaoboshi, the Chairman of the Delta State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was emotionally and physically drained as he settled down for an interview in his Transcorp Hotel room in Abuja three Fridays ago.
'If you have done what you call your primaries and people are complaining about the primaries, the best thing you do is to listen to their complaints,' the embattled politician said in apparent reflection of the frustrations that he had received in his bid to address what he claimed to be irregularities that characterized the primaries of the ruling party in his State.
Nwaoboshi's pains, some of his critics, allege, were caused by his failure to stop Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the favoured choice of the party establishment in the State as the PDP senatorial candidate for Delta North. Nwaoboshi, his critics allege, is in favour of Dr. Mariam Ali, wife of the former national chairman of the party under whom he was first recognized as state chairman of the party.
'For example in my own local government and other local governments they changed the results and when I now raised an alarm that you have the guts to change a result in my own local government but they said it was a mistake,' he added in echo of the large outcry of dissent that is fanning across the nation arising from the conduct of the party primaries.
The party primaries in Delta as with most areas of the country were characterized by irregularities, intimidation and sometimes outright stealing of votes as Senator Chris Anyanwu alleged was the case in the PDP Imo East senatorial primary.
'At the point of counting, my agent observed the electoral officer, throwing in hands full of my votes and not counting them, literally 'dumping my votes.' My agent protested and for that he was brutalized and pushed out of the venue by police. How they dumped wads of ballot papers that should have counted for me into the basket uncounted, and the evident conspiracy to whittle down my score, was captured on video. You will be shocked,' Senator Anyanwu alleged in a petition she sent to the National Assembly Appeal Panel of the Party decrying the overt effort by the State government to stop her.
Senator Anyanwu the unfading beauty who put a face of recognition to Imo East in the senate in the past three and a half years was matched in battle for the ticket with another popular face from Owerri, Ambassador Kema Chikwe who was until recently the Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland.
The experience of Senator Anyanwu was recounted by a group, Coalition for Justice which at a press conference directly accused the Imo State government of directly sabotaging the mandate of the people. Coordinator of the group Chidi Unuoha who briefed newsmen in Abuja last weekend in narrating the twists and turns said:
'By the time delegates filed out, seven local governments voted peacefully, nothing happened, it was well arranged, security lived up to expectations, then suddenly by 8:30pm along the last local government where Kema Chikwe came from, the moment it was glaring that Chris Anyanwu was also leading her she left the stadium and suddenly there was a light out in the Grasshopper stadium in the area where the votes were being counted, whereas there were lights in the other area of the stadium and people started shouting sabotage among the delegates who stayed to the end to see the outcome of the result.
'There are many factors including the state factor that does not want her to win, even some of the delegates that came from the leaders who were hobnobbing with the governor still voted for her,' he said. The mutterings of disaffection over the conduct of the PDP primaries is indeed the song across the country with most of the losers describing the process as full of irregularities. The winners, however, are trumping hurray with many of them admonishing the losers to learn to be good losers.
The losers are indeed not waiting to learn and in some cases are leaving the ruling party for other parties where they hope to slug it out against the PDP.
Remarkably, the dissent is not restricted to within the ruling party. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN despite its clarion slogan of one man one vote has had its own credibility seriously tainted by the primaries, that is where any was done. In much of the Southwest, the party forsook the internal democratic mantra in favour of the wisdom of the elders in choosing its candidates.
Indeed, the ACN institutionalised its own abhorrence for internal democracy when it issued withdrawal forms alongside the nomination forms to aspirants. The aspirants were expected to fill the form indicating their decision to withdraw from the primary contest and were also expected to authenticate the forms by signing such.
The party grandees after meeting over a position as such released the withdrawal forms already endorsed by the aspirants, leaving only the one endorsed by the favoured aspirant.
The party's national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande said as much in an interview with newsmen penultimate week. 'This is not a matter of an individual but the party. Nobody should accuse ACN of imposition because that is our style. Anyone that is not comfortable with that should go and contest in another political party. So if you see anyone carrying placard around, he is wasting his time. We know the efforts we made before the party became what it is today and where are they when we were making the efforts.'