Ahead of next week’s presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), some delegates have disclosed what will guide them in the selection of their preferred flag-bearers.
The PDP had fixed its primary election for May 28 and 29, while that of the APC has been scheduled for May 29 and 30. A total of 11,500 delegates selected from across the country would participate in the elections of the two parties. While the APC has 7,800, the leading opposition party has 3,700 delegates.
Thirty-eight aspirants are in the race for the presidential tickets of the two leading parties. While the APC has 23, the PDP has cleared 15 aspirants to compete for its presidential ticket.
The aspirants had in the last two months been travelling from one state to another to woo delegates. Reports from states showed that in their quest to get the delegates to their side, the aspirants in both the ruling party and the PDP showered gifts on them.
A cross section of the delegates spoken to by our reporters from both parties and across states said that irrespective of the gifts showered on them, they would look out for the best candidates that can address the challenges bedevilling the country.
One of the APC state delegates in Lagos, Mallam Ahmed Jaji, disclosed that delegates would be guided by the antecedents of the aspirants, especially the caucus to which they belong.
He noted that every delegate wants his or her party to win the main election, so they seek a popular candidate with the right qualifications to lead the party to victory.
“The antecedents of the aspirants as party men matter. Which caucus do they belong to, because there are caucuses within the party? If he or she belongs to the caucus with the majority, then the aspirant stands a good chance of winning. Delegates also look out for aspirants with the right qualifications as required by law and one who is popular to win the election,” he said.
The grassroots politician and social critic argued that while financial inducements could not be ruled out from Nigerian politics because of the level of poverty, he opined that not all delegates could be bought.
“Whether we like it or not, Nigerians have been pauperised by the ruling class. But not all delegates can be bought. I am a contented man; I know the kind of person I want to represent me in the poll. Very soon, Nigerians won’t rely on the man with the deepest pocket but the man with their best interest,” he added.
A national delegate of the PDP who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday on the condition of anonymity said that competence and not money would determine the choice of the presidential candidate he would vote.
The top Lagos PDP member said, “This country is in a deep mess and we need somebody who can do it. This is not about money now because if we make a mistake and elect an incompetent person, it will not be in the country’s interest.”
According to the delegate, while many aspirants have been coming to meet the delegates, there is a need to genuinely check the records of the aspirants and pick the best among them.
A former PDP chairman in Lagos State, Captain Tunji Shele, in a chat with Daily Trust Saturday, said his yardstick would be electing somebody who is a pan-Nigerian and understands the dynamics of Nigeria’s complex terrain.
He said, “As far as I am concerned, I want somebody who is truly Nigerian and can unify this country. Who is well experienced, educated and understands the dynamics of the Nigerian environment from the rural area to the urban area.
“That person must have an economic think-tank and must have undergone developmental and administrative processes.”
In Kano, a delegate and APC zonal chairman, Kano Central, Shehu Aliyu Ungogo, said that while the party had its ways of dealing with aspirants, on their part as delegates, they consider the interest of their leaders but also the qualities of the aspirants.
“However, in the interest of our leaders, we look at the qualities of the said aspirant first, what he has done, what he is doing, and his contribution to national development. Not only the country but whatever someone did right, even from his state. We will rate him accordingly. Of course, whoever is coming up has held positions that are similar and had the experience.
“The issue of insecurity is of greatest concern to us now in the country. So, whoever is willing and can address the security challenges in the country, we are looking for that person also.
“Who will take Nigeria as a whole irrespective of tribal or religious differences? Who will bring up the issue of the economy and boost it for the benefit of all? These are what we are looking for now,” he said.
Also speaking, a PDP national delegate representing Tarauni Local Government in Kano, Comrade Sa’idu Bello, said their focus would be based on who would deliver and address the challenges of the country.
“There are a lot of security challenges, impunity in the government, poverty has taken over the country. Virtually, this is going to determine our focus because we have to look at somebody who is experienced and can do it. Somebody who has a focus and Nigeria in his mind and feels he can do better – a patriotic person. We will choose somebody that will take us out of this mess,” he said.
On his part, Felix Pienswang, a PDP delegate from Plateau said, “The capacity of an individual in handling issues will be a determining factor to select the candidate. Afterwards, I will look at his integrity and experience, which I believe would help him to serve the people,” he said.
Also, a national delegate of the APC maintained that the issue of zoning would play a role in his choice of a presidential candidate for his party.
The Oyo State-born politician opined that the South should produce the person to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
“In the forthcoming convention I will be voting for a southerner, it is in line with the gentleman agreement of the party. We must respect it for the unity of Nigeria. So, as delegates from the South we must look at the aspirant who can win both at the primary and the general election,” he said.
For Alhaji Sani Muhammad, an APC delegate, the manifesto of the aspirants will play a key role during the convention because if an aspirant’s manifesto is empty he will not succeed.
Bemgba Iortyom is one of the PDP presidential delegates in Benue State for the coming national convention. He said most of the presidential aspirants, apart from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, Governor Bala Mohammed and Governor Nyesom Wike, as well as former Governor Peter Obi, were yet to visit Benue delegates to canvass for votes.
“When we listen to all of them we will be able to answer the question rightly. For now, it is yet premature to pass a vote of confidence on any of them. But they are addressing the issue on the front burner of the country,” he said.
On the other hand, Dan-Morgan Ihumon, an APC delegate for the national convention, said his choice of candidates would be guided by their capacity, credibility and content of character, as well as experience. He added that his feeling about the mad rush by aspirants to woo them is expected.
“Of course, it is politics and they are trying to sell themselves by reaching out to delegates across the country,” Morgan posited.
Jugnu Abdullahi, a PDP national delegate from Kaduna, said he had hoped that the many presidential aspirants would work together to come up with a consensus candidate.
He said that while delegates appreciated the respect accorded to them by the aspirants for travelling from far to see them, what would guide his choice would be how acceptable the candidate would be to Nigerians.
“We are looking for someone easy to sell to Nigerians, this will guide us. Politics is money-consuming. It is not easy, and if you don’t have the money, you are only deceiving yourself. Some people are coming out because they want to be known, but they know they don’t have the capacity,” he said.
Unlike Abdullahi, Salisu Tanko Wusonu, a national delegate and the state APC publicity secretary, said he would be looking out for someone who is competent and can deliver on the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
Wusonu said his expectation as a delegate was for the aspirants to comply fully with the manifesto of the party. He urged other delegates to be composed and pay attention to the aspirants as they make their submissions.
Unravelling Nigeria’s shadow ‘kingmakers’
Delegates play key roles in the electoral process of Nigeria’s democracy, but they remain in the shadow of aspirants and candidates of the various political parties they anoint political leaders.
Daily Trust Saturday delves into the world of the kingmakers (delegates) and explains what roles they play in the democratisation process.
Delegates are party officials who are granted the right to elect candidates during an indirect primary election. It is the candidates who are thus elected that fly their various political parties’ tickets in the general elections.
There are statutory and ad-hoc/elected delegates.
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the APC has scheduled its primaries for governorship/House of Representatives; Senate/House of Assembly and presidential for May 26, 27, 29 and 30 respectively.
The PDP, on the other hand, has settled for May 21 for the House of Assembly, May 22 for the House of Representatives, May 23 for the Senate. Governorship and presidential primaries will hold on May 25 and 28 respectively.
7,800 delegates to APC national convention/presidential primary
The over 23 presidential aspirants will jostle for 7,800 delegates when the party holds its presidential primary on May 29-30.
Article 20 of the APC constitution as amended this year provides for the selection of candidates through consensus, direct or indirect primaries, but there are indications that the party will opt for indirect primaries where the aspirants will slug it out.
Sources, however, said the party was still toying with the idea of producing a consensus candidate, but it is yet to ascertain the magnitude and ramifications of the bad blood that very method would engender among aspirants; hence its cautious moves.
The delegates for the national convention of the APC are members of the National Working Committee (NWC), National Executive Committee (NEC), serving and past presidents and vice presidents who are members of the party, serving and past governors and deputy governors, serving and past members of the National Assembly and all serving members of the states’ Houses of Assembly, past speakers, deputy speakers and other principal officers of the Houses of Assembly.
Others are members of the states working committee, all party chairmen and secretaries of the local government areas/area councils in the country who are members of the party, all elected local government councils/area council chairmen and three elected delegates (at least one whom shall be a woman) from each local government area/area council.
However, the numbers would reduce if the legal and political quagmire around section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 is not resolved.
Already, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Uwemedimo Nwoko, on Wednesday informed a Federal High Court in Abuja that President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the 36 state governors were not eligible to vote in the upcoming primaries of their political parties.
Nwoko was representing 987 delegates who had brought the application seeking to join the suit over the Akwa Ibom ad hoc delegates of the PDP.
Nwoko said the statutory delegates, comprising the executive office holders in Nigeria, were not approved to vote in the primaries because the president was yet to assent to the newly amended Electoral Act.
“Only ad hoc delegates can vote in the primaries,” he said.
But the Senate had carried out an accelerated amendment of section 84(8) of the Electoral Act to include the participation of statutory delegates in the conventions and congresses of political parties.
In opposing the submission, counsel to the PDP faction, Ahmed Raji (SAN), said laws governing political parties included the constitution, the Electoral Act, parties’ constitutions and the relevant guidelines made by the parties.
He said the Electoral Act did not forbid the use of statutory delegates, and the guidelines of the PDP incorporate the use of party delegates.
He said members of the National Assembly were already statutory delegates but only wanted to secure themselves so that party executives would not wake up later and remove them.
Meanwhile, Justice Obiora Egwuatu, while granting the application for joinder, ordered parties to maintain the status quo.
The case was adjourned to May 25 for a hearing.
As the race for who will pick the presidential ticket of the opposition PDP gathers momentum, it has been revealed that 3,700 delegates will participate in the process that will elect the party’s flag-bearer among 15 presidential aspirants.
They comprise 40 per cent of statutory delegates and 60 per cent of elected ones.
The delegates might, however, be more if the amended section 84(8) of the Electoral Act is assented to before the primaries.
Meanwhile, the delegates expected to vote at the PDP presidential primary comprise of the national chairman of the party, members and former members of the NEC, members and former members of the NWC, serving and former governors.
They also include serving and former principal officers of the National Assembly, as well as former and serving members.
Others are serving members of the Zonal Executive Committee and State Working Committee; serving members of the House of Assembly and former presiding officers; elected local government area/area council chairmen; all local government party chairmen; governorship candidates and deputies; National Assembly candidates; national delegates to the national convention (one per local government/area council).
As at press time, the party was still keeping the comprehensive list of the delegates close to its chest as there were issues yet to be resolved in some states like Zamfara, Abia and Lagos, where the delegate lists were still in dispute over the three-man ad hoc delegates from each ward.