IDEAS Radio 24th October 2018

 

Aghogho Oboh: Welcome to Countdown 2019 NG on Nigeria Info 99.3 where we feature  all the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 elections. Remember you can follow the programme on Twitter @Countdown2019ng,  @RotimiSankore, @ideasradiong, @naijama and you can also tweet the station handle @nigeriainfofm.

Our big topic today and on both the IDEAS segment and on the main programme is the substitution of names of some winners of primaries by political parties.  It’s recipe for disaster eh? So reports that several political parties have conducted parallel primary elections different candidates, and INEC has the unenviable task of sifting the wheat from the chaff.

Ayo Obe, how much does substitution affect the integrity, ethics and accountability of the political process?

 

Ayo Obe: Well, there are several aspects that it covers.  And, there are deadlines. You know, last week, or the week before last, we discussed the fact that people have finished their primaries and immediately they have to rush in and submit their forms and sometimes, particularly if you are the presidential or the gubernatorial candidate, you may still be making consultations about who’s going to be your running mate, and in those circumstances it’s understandable that somebody might be substituted after wider consultation.

But that’s not the same as the situation that we’re looking at in many parties.  I will leave it to Rotimi to talk about the parallel primaries, but what has affected, that is most concerning from the point of the view of the integrity of the electoral process, is the fact that people, that parties conduct primaries, which is to say that their members vote for: Who do we want as the candidate in this election?  And somebody emerges as the winner. And despite that person’s victory in the primary elections, the primaries, then suddenly you find that the party, when submitting the nomination forms, has submitted a different name, somebody who did not win the primaries, and I think that is the area that is most concerning, partly because it speaks to the integrity of the political parties themselves.  Why do you conduct primaries, put people through the expense of buying the forms, waging a campaign and perhaps emerging as victor in a fair contest. And then at the last minute you ‘discover’ something? Now there may be some reasons that parties have, they may say: Oh, we discover, for example, our candidate hasn’t done his NYSC, or our candidate can’t … is not a Nigerian … there could be anything, so there’s always … so it’s not possible to just say parties should not be able to substitute.  But you have that problem, and then on top of it, you have a situation where there are allegations that even some INEC staff are colluding to substitute names that were not originally substituted.

 

AgO: Very very disturbing.  Rotimi, can you come in here on this one.  You have this peculiar situation in Zamfara State where there’s a case in point where a candidate says I’ve won the primary, and it’s  very glaring that he’s won the primary, but another name gets submitted to INEC by the political party.

 

Rotimi Sankore: Yeah, it’s, quite sadly it’s not just in Zamfara.  It’s in Zamfara. It’s in Kaduna State, it’s in Niger State, in Ogun State.  Let’s look at the high profile cases first, because the non-high profile cases … even as of today, I was discussing with some political activists, with some activists who are members of some parties, and they were saying that their candidates that they voted for are in Abuja now struggling to make sure that their names are not substituted, because the party leadership does not like them.  And you know, they are practically standing at INEC to make sure that the names are not changed. And I’m, all the things Ayo mentioned there, I asked:  What’s the issue there? Is it that they don’t qualify in some? And they said “No! They were vetted. They qualify in every way, it’s just that the party structure wants to replace them with somebody who is more pliable, somebody  who will comply with instructions.

 

AgO: This is a very interesting case.  Because, does the party have the power to submit a list?  The same as a candidate who thinks he can interfere with the process?  What’s the law on this one?

 

AO: A candidate cannot submit the list themselves and that’s the problem.  Their fate is in the hands of their political party. And as I said, I think it really does speak to the integrity of the parties and what is going on within them, because really, they ought to do their vetting before the primary contest is even held, so that they can return the money to the unqualified candidate and say sorry, you don’t meet …  and then the person will know where they stand, and they will know whether they want to make a fight of it. But to go through all of that, to emerge at the other end, and as I said, the fact that they have to stand guard at INEC, is itself something of an indictment too, of INEC, and INEC needs to be very much alert and aware about what is going on under its very nose.

 

AgO:  That’s the point I’m coming to.  You’ve been in civil society for several years, and a number of civil society groups are saying that INEC must insist that the list that they have, they stick with those lists.  There’s so much pressure on INEC. They already have a problem with the time, the duration, you know the amendment, the they even talked about the time that they would have to submit names and all of that.  How much pressure is on INEC? I mean, this is really early …

 

AO: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m sorry Aghogho if you don’t like the heat, you don’t enter the kitchen.  This is the time of INEC. It’s bound to be hot. There is bound to be pressure. The issue is whether INEC is going to respond to that pressure with integrity, from an ethical position, or whether it’s going to, under guise of  “We can’t be everywhere”, “We’re not accountable for what our own staff are doing”, whether they would now just disclaim all responsibility for what is happening. And I don’t think that the issue of pressure is going to wash with the Nigerian public.  A huge amount of money goes into the elections in Nigeria, and part of that money is supposed to pay INEC staff. They shouldn’t have their hands out for anything else.

 

AgO: Rotimi …

 

RS: Yeah, so if you look at the multiple scenarios we have, some of it is power play.  Let’s look at someone like Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State.

 

AgO: Before you go on Shehu Sani, are you surprised that Shehu Sani would agree to such a process saying that you be an automatic candidate without going through the electoral process?

 

RS: Well, it’s not whether he wants an automatic ticket or not, it’s that he wants a transparent process.  And as an incumbent Senator, no one – to his understanding – has complained that he did not represent the constituency well.  It is known that there are problems between him and the Governor of the State. They clash on process, on party direction. And you know Shehu Sani is more of an independent-minded person than most politicians, so he feels: If my constituency wants me to go back, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Why has my name been changed?

 

AO: But was his name originally on the …  did they hold primaries?

 

RS: Well, he says that his constituency party duly nominated him, but that the party in the state did not want him …

 

AO: … to contest in the primaries …

 

RS:  Yes, aha, and that’s when this controversy started about the insinuation that the Presidency said (this is what the Governor said) that the Presidency said that he speaks his mind too much, he causes  confusion and that we can’t have such people in the party. That’s what the Governor’s camp said. The Presidency then came out and said: Actually no, we did not say any such thing we did not say anybody should be punished or removed from the list.  So Shehu Sani said ok, he will wait and see where it goes. But apparently the party in the State holds more sway than his constituency. Now, if you look globally …

 

AO: Than his constituency party?

 

RS: Yes, than his constituency party which wants him.  But the party at the state says No, you’re not the guy we want.

 

AO: Now does that come under the heading of substitution or just outright …

 

RS: … imposition

 

AO: … chicanery and removal and exclusion?

 

RS: Well yes.  If your constituency party says: This is the person we want to represent us, and the state party or the national party says: No.   So, if there is no primary between the person the constituency party wants, and the person the state party wants, then obviously there is a problem.  It can’t be called substitution, but he’s been blocked, or another candidate has been imposed on the party, which raises a big issue which is what we’ll come to in the main part of the programme, about: If your preferred candidate from  your constituency is removed, will it affect your commitment to vote for your party? Or will you, as in the case of Shehu Sani, follow him to PRP? But it’s also happening in many permutations. You can see the Governor of Ogun State saying to the media that the National Chair of the party, Oshiomhole …

 

AO: That’s the APC?

 

RS: The APC, yes, that the national …

 

AO: Yes, because I think it’s important that we should recognise that this is not something that is happening in all political parties …

 

RS:  It is not in all parties, yes.  And sadly, of the ones where it is happening the APC happens to be the most prominent because it’s the ruling party and therefore, the tickets are seen as more juicy …

 

AO: Hot tickets!

 

RS: … Hot tickets, more guaranteed.  If you get it, you’re almost there. The same thing happened with PDP in 2015, so it’s not an APC issue, it’s an issue of ruling or incumbent parties, where everybody assumes that if you are the candidate of the party in power in Abuja, that your chances of winning the seat is increased.

 

AO:  Although, talking of 2015, I should say that when I mentioned on my – on the twitter handle of @ideasradiong, that we were going to be discussing this issue, one of my twitter communicants, Zeal Akaraiwe, said: Please don’t forget to mention the  case of Delta APC in 2015, where a death certificate was presented, because under the rules with INEC you’re entitled to substitute up to 45 days before the election. After the election, after that 45 day limit, if somebody dies, then INEC may have to arrange another day for …

 

RS: For a by election

 

AO: No, for a fresh, no for another election.

 

RS: For a fresh election.

 

AO: But in this case the death certificate was presented and INEC put somebody else in, and then the dead man turned up and said: “Here I am!”  Mr. Lazarus!

 

AgO: Hilarious!  But, Ayo Obe …

 

AO: Hilarious, but sad.

 

AgO: Really sad.

 

RS: But – sorry Aghogho, this points to the issue about collusion.  Because can INEC do due diligence if someone brings a death certificate and says: The candidate has passed away.  And the INEC official takes it and says: Ok we’ll take the new name, and then the person turns up and says: Ah ah, I’m still here!  Does it mean that INEC doesn’t do due diligence with the issuing authority for that certificate?

 

AgO: Absolutely.  They argue many times that they are just one of several stakeholders in Nigeria’s democratic process.

 

AO: But you see, when we talk about integrity of the system, you can be sure that that death certificate was obtained on the correct form and from the correct place …

 

AgO: This brings me to this point about not being enough time,

 

RS:  … without a body!

 

AgO: … of the pressure cooker politics which we sort of run in the country.  INEC can’t stand the heat leave the kitchen but they will have to face it …

 

AO: No, it’s not so much a …

 

AgO: What about the courts?

 

AO: The thing is, I was just being surprised to hear that a case in which I was interested at the Supreme Court has been adjourned to February 2020, but that’s not a political case, it’s not a case which – and the Supreme Court will be, and the Court of Appeal will be involved in the litigation that comes.  But unlike the situation with an election petition where you have a specific time limit, in the case of intra party disputes, because INEC’s position is that if your name is wrongly substituted after you have won the primaries, you can, you have to go to court and get it changed. Now you can also apply to INEC for a certified true copy of the result of the primary, and this is where the importance of ensuring that INEC officials are present when the party is conducting its affairs, is present.  But you have to go to court, and that court process may take, may actually be concluded after the election. And if we remember this was how Rotimi Amaechi became Governor of Rivers State in 2007, because – or after 2007, because after the election had been concluded, he went to the Supreme Court and – or his case finally reached the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said: He’s the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, swear him in!

 

RS: In other words, he’s the one that won the primary, and that the party  substituted Amaechi’s name, and put someone else’s name, and that the person who was parading himself as Governor could not be said to be duly elected because he did not win the PDP primary.  Yeah.

 

AgO: Alright, so we’ll bring the segment to a close.  It’s just one part of a big talking point we have.

 

AO: Well I just want to say thank you to all the listeners to the IDEAS segment.  Please don’t forget to follow us on @ideasradiong, and you can also check us out on our website ideasradio.ng and you can get copies of the, you can revisit or rewatch some of the episodes of this programme.