If there is any political forecast that turned out to baffle members of the opposition party in Akwa Ibom State, it is the prediction that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, will be decimated after the last chairmanship and councillorship primaries.
Fortunately, the PDP is waxing stronger after the primaries. But no thanks to Governor Udom Emmanuel and his lieutenants, whose political hindsight forestalled any defection or crisis in the party after the primaries as prophesied by the APC’s doomsday prophets.
I may not be a party man to understand the internal workings of political parties, especially the ones in the postmodern world, but I know for sure, and I have also seen many political parties plunged into implosion with lasting scars on members because of primaries.
Often, pre-elections crises stem from three perspectives: pre-primaries, primaries and post-primaries crises. Crisis at pre-primaries usually emanates from strong party players who parade different aspirants with the aim of either selling or imposing them on delegates. Another dimension is, refusal by party leaders to abide by principles such as zoning as agreed by party members. Crisis emanating from party primary is not peculiar to the PDP. For instance, prior to the emergence of Willie Obiano, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Governorship flag bearer in Anambra, there was unabated crisis with the two factions –one led by Chief Martin Agbaso and the other led by Chief Victor Oye – announcing different dates for the party’s primaries for the nomination of APGA candidate for the just concluded November 18 governorship election in Anambra State. Similar thing happened in Lagos Chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, before the Local Government election.
In Akwa Ibom State, before the chairmanship and councillorship primaries, there were hitches in virtually all the Local Government Areas, ranging from attempts to impose aspirants, to breaking of zoning arrangements. In all these, Governor Udom Emmanuel, whom the APC considers as a new breed in Akwa Ibom politics, weathered the storm, gave express instructions that all aspirants be given level playing ground for the best to emerge.
The Governor also insisted that existing zoning arrangements in different local government be strictly adhered to. Governor Emmanuel’s unwavering stand compelled party strongmen to seek amicable solution to both zoning and selection of candidates. The Governor uncompromising stand, reawakened trust and hope among the party men. During the primaries, crises usually arise from authentication of the delegates’ list.
Disagreement among delegates sometimes results in fight at the venue of the primaries. It can be recalled that in May this year, the peaceful atmosphere in Lagos State was disturbed by the primaries held by the All Progressives Congress for election into local councils. This created tension everywhere. Party members were pitched against each other following unacceptable outcomes of primaries held to elect councilors and local government chairmanship candidates for the July 22 elections.
What eventually culminated into a statewide crisis started at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere venue of the primary election where party loyalists had gathered to nominate candidates for the 20 local government areas and the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). Violence broke out as delegates and aspirants disagreed violently over moves to impose some persons as candidates.
At the just concluded primaries of the PDP in Akwa Ibom State, the Lagos kind of crises almost erupted in some local government areas, but were addressed by the proactive intervention measures put in place by the Governor.
In ONNA Local Government Area, hometown of the Governor, the Governor sat and supervised the primaries from the beginning to the end. He ensured that all the players were given equal opportunity in the contest. It was clear that the Governor did not have preferred aspirant in the contest and did not allow anyone to influence the selection process. This is unusual of a typical Nigerian leader who would stop at nothing to influence things to advance his personal cause.
Governor Udom Emmanuel has set a pace for new political behaviour among political office holders in Akwa Ibom State. By his action, the Governor has demonstrated obedience to the oath of office he took on May 29, 2015 when he swore “… that [he] will not allow [his] personal interest to influence [his] official conduct or [his] official decisions…”
The last dimension of primary elections crisis is the post-primary crisis. Often, this crisis arises from neglect, non-integration of the defeated aspirants. After the PDP chairmanship and councillorship elections primaries, there were postulations and permutations about the fate of the PDP.
First, the Amadu Attai’s faction of the APC in Akwa Ibom State prepared grounds to receive those he thought would defect to the APC after losing the primaries. I can recollect that some APC stalwarts boasted at different fora that there would be implosion in PDP after the party primaries. The opposition party had based their postulations on two pillars- that PDP has no strong Crises Management Mechanism, and the Governor may not have the needed political dexterity to stem any implosion. Surprisingly, the Governor and his lieutenants rose to the challenge and calmed eventual political tide.
Immediately after the primaries, knowing very well that Uyo Local Government Area is a strategic political centre in Akwa Ibom politics, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh, first gathered all the aspirants who could not make it at the primaries, and reassured them.
Mr. Udoh, hosted the aspirants in his house. He urged to remain in the party and support their counterparts who succeeded, to win the elections.
The Government Information manager assured the aspirants that Governor Udom Emmanuel would always do everything to carry everybody along in his leadership, while calling on them not to defect from the party.
“In the process of election, there is bound to be a winner and loser, but that doesn’t mean that losers should be cast aside.
“That is why I am duty bound to call all the councillorship and chairmanship aspirants who failed nomination to tell them that we have a Governor who believes in political inclusion and that they have vital roles to play in the party.”
In the same manner, the next day, Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr. Victor Antai, met aspirants from Mbo Local Government Area who could not scale through the primaries and encouraged them to stay with the party.
Few weeks later, the State executive of the PDP held a meeting with all the chairmanship aspirants and a representatives of councillorship aspirants, where the aspirants were promised full integration into government.
Also, in the struggle to keep PDP alive in the State, Bureau of Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources which has been playing critical role in Democratic sustenance in the State was not left out.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Political/Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Rt. Hon. (Barr.) Ekong Sampson played host to the PDP aspirants in Uyo. The group, christened “PDP Defenders”, consisted of chairmanship aspirants from the 31 LGAs of Akwa Ibom State and representatives of the councillorship aspirants.
Barrister Ekong Sampson commended the resolve of the aspirants to remain steadfast in their support for the party and Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration in spite of the outcome of the primaries.
Barrister Sampson said those who thought the PDP will implode after the primaries will be sore disappointed because the people they felt were going to lead the implosion have turned round to be defenders of the party.
“PDP has a robust stabilization mechanism to withstand tension and anxieties, resolve concerns, reinvent itself and move on.”
The Special Adviser commended the aspirants’ appreciation of the zoning system. He explained that the zoning was informed by Governor Udom’s commitment to ensure that every strand of the Akwa Ibom community be given access to opportunity.
Above all, Governor Emmanuel, knowing full well that in a political scenario like that, emotion is always high, created time to meet all the aspirants who could not sail through the election primaries and assured them of inclusiveness in his administration.
In all these, the Governor deserves kudos for not despising these aspirants and not creating space for opposition to take advantage.
The APC is disappointed that the prophecy of mass exodus from the PDP after primary elections did not come to pass, hence their new device of resorting to blackmailing the administration of Governor Emmanuel.
The proactive approach adopted by Government appointees in calming nerves after the primaries which forestalled defection, is commendable. PDP was not known to be like this, perhaps that was why the opposition party was quick to open its gate wide with expectations that PDP will be emptied.
Unlike previous administrations where internal wrangling in the PDP was a norm, Governor Emmanuel’s open door policy and neutrality has created a new portrait of the Peoples Democratic Party in the State. It has affirmed the Governor’s constant assertion, that he came into politics to serve the people.
By Kufre Etuk *1521