APC’s Dilemma on Election Eve

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By Tonnie Iredia

Too many things have since shown that in truth, there is not much difference between our ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its biggest rival, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Both parties have a few decent members but majority are political traders.

When in power, the two parties behave exactly the same way. To start with, whereas both parties pretend that the welfare of the people matters to them, they do little or nothing to cover the pretence.

Whenever an election is approaching, they create scenarios that automatically frustrate a credible contest thereby retaining office while claiming to have come in through the popular will of the people. But events have shown that the strategy has its limits. On its part, the PDP managed to hold-on for 16 years (1999-2007); but whether the APC will last beyond 8 years is becoming doubtful.

In 2015, everyone saw through the gimmicks of the ruling PDP as it struggled to postpone elections to make room for vote buying and other electoral manipulations when it became evident that it no longer enjoyed the confidence of voters.

The change propaganda which thereafter brought the then opposition APC to power virtually waned even before its first term ended. First, the party showed its nervousness over the use of the Card Reader – a technological device which made rigging tedious. Hiding under the judicial ruling that the device was unknown to law, the APC made everyone to discountenance the amendment to the Electoral Act in 2015 which had recognised devices like Card Reader.

From then on, the party ensured that a fresh amendment to regularize the situation was not signed into law for the 2019 elections. Although the party was declared winner of that year’s elections, some people had doubts that the victory was real following the server controversy that preceded the declaration of results.

Four years later, it has become quite clear that the APC is in trouble especially in its current atomistic state in which it is now at war with itself on a daily basis. Indeed, the party has become the greatest opposition to its own policies and leadership. Evidence that the APC was visibly scared about its chances of reelection in 2023 was mostly seen in its desperation to frustrate efforts at instituting the electronic transmission of election results – which had become a global reality.

The attempt to procure officials of the National Communication Commission (NCC) to virtually commit perjury in their testimony before the legislature on the subject of electoral technology was ridiculed by the public. The electorate similarly rejected the legislature’s kangaroo voting against the innovation making it easy for the new Electoral Act 2022 to be passed along with a number of anti-rigging clauses. Apart from a few party members who remained popular in their constituencies, the ruling party has since been on edge moving from one error to another.

The new Electoral Act did well in the steps it took to sanitize party primaries, even though the ruling party turned out to be the leading culprit in electoral chicanery and the imposition of candidates. Luckily for them, for some inexplicable reasons such as the need to reduce cases in courts, the judiciary was arm twisted to allow for party supremacy in which a party’s nomination needn’t be controverted. Nigerians are however aware of the established canon that as administrative bodies, activities of political parties ought to be subjected to judicial review.

This is more so as the Electoral Act had stipulated what must be done or not done to attain credible primaries. In the end, the APC subverted such guidelines only to return to the inglorious past in which a party can elect flag bearers from among party members who did not take part in the primaries and as such could not be described as aspirants. Based on the trend, can we pretend that we are on the way to free and fair elections?

In a democracy, it is the victorious party in an election that forms government; which makes the ruling party to be powerful. In Nigeria, they are not only powerful, they act quite often with impunity. The Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP government had attempted in its days in office to appoint politically tainted persons into the Electoral Commission that is world-wide known as non-partisan. Such nominees were however dropped as a result of public outcry, but the APC did not take cognizance of public outcry. So, with the recent appointment of suspected party loyalists into INEC that is supposed to be an impartial umpire, the public could not have been unaware that the objective was to use such officials to rig the 2023 general elections. This became yet another evidence that the ruling party had lost self confidence that it could win a free and fair contest. Put differently, the APC has inadvertently exposed its fear that it is at the verge of losing public support having failed to perform to public expectation. This has made the ruling party to be a suspect in every policy it enunciates towards the polls – a good example being the new naira programme.

But perhaps the best example of the dilemma of a ruling party on the eve election manifests in the unusual hostility of APC’s leading members towards President Muhammadu Buhari who was himself elected into office through the party’s banner. The severity of the attacks on Buhari’s new naira programme notwithstanding, Nigerians know that the president is the only APC member on ground today who believes in a free, fair and credible contest next Saturday. All others are locked up in schemes to gain political leverage and foreclose a level playing ground for the coming elections.

Many Nigerians are persuaded that those engaged in court cases to stop the president’s plan are not doing so to alleviate public suffering as they claim, rather the goal is to buy votes – a popular method by which many elections were ‘won’ in Nigeria. Painfully, the Nigerian elites are grandstanding and eloquently displaying knowledge every evening on national television on the subject of the rule of law. Those media ‘shows’ are redundant because they have not changed the suffering of the people. If only the poor among us can get the N200 Buhari canvassed, the situation would drastically improve.

The on-going debate on the rule of law appears to have successfully diverted attention from the growing political violence in Lagos and some other cities in Nigeria. A few days ago, Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) did what his predecessors used to do close to elections. He rolled out law enforcement arrangements designed to curtail violence.

He even listed all the newly procured modern arms and other facilities to upgrade the police. We must tell him and quickly too that the reading of such riot acts is not new and that we remain scared by daily reports of political attacks about which the police are usually silent.

In Lagos, there was the report of a local leader in a community aided by another person described as SSG who allegedly summoned and threatened citizens with eviction if they failed to vote for a particular party.

The promise by the police to organize what was described as a forensic analysis of the report is yet to see the light of day.

The week before, members of a political party that held a well-advertised rally at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos were crudely attacked. Where was the police?

If half of the people are attacked and scared away from voting which voters would the police guard on voting day with its advertised modern facilities and what evidence is there that the police are not unwittingly supporting one set of politicians against another?

If so, what is all the fuss about some jaundiced rule of law principles?

Somebody should help us tell our elites that as fundamental as the rule of law is, they are able to partake in the television see debates on it because it is Banks and not the Supreme Court that frustrated citizens attacked.

Another well-meaning speaker should tell them that continued suffering of Nigerians cannot stop illegal contraptions such as the Interim National Government and Military rule that we all seem to deprecate.

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