The news making rounds that President Muhammadu Buhari is the sole candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) should be disregarded by well-meaning Nigerians as well as the international community. The only area where Buhari appears to be the sole candidate of our party thus far in the ongoing primaries is electoral impunity.
Recall that, against popular will, the leadership of APC (including the representatives of President Buhari) imposed prohibitive fees to candidates seeking electoral offices. Of relative interest is that individuals aspiring to the office of the president are required to pay an outrageous sum of N45 million for ordinary nomination forms. The president feigned ignorance and appeared to disown the decision, claiming that his salary could not accommodate such inordinate amount. Yet, the fact that Buhari allowed phony groups to compete to purchase the form for him is an apparent subterfuge and, of course, a quaint acquiescence to the quandary.
The quagmire quickly provoked all manners of questions from a cross section of the Nigerian people:
1) If the president, the highest-paid elected public servant in the country, cannot afford the exorbitant cost of nomination fees, how then can the other elected officials pay—without dipping into public coffers or without exposing them to quid pro quo arrangements with ever-ready racketeers who always hover around the corridors of power?
2) How on earth can a progressive ruling party that prides itself as an anti-corruption agent suddenly be seen as aiding and abetting corruption?
3) How can Buhari who is still wagging his pen for signing the “Not-Too-Young-To Run” bill into law eventually leave office remembered as a self-serving president who twisted the law to embrace a mercenary electoral fiat that profoundly undermines the youth?
4) How can the ordinary masses, particularly the youth and women, afford the huge nomination fees in face of the current economic condition in the country?
5) How can a liberal progressive party suddenly become the poster convention for the highest bidders, particularly in a country where illegal moneybags are notorious for determining who wins or who loses?
6) More surprisingly, how can one possibly explain why the leadership of the APC cannot even recognize that the huge nomination fees instantly place the candidates from the opposition parties, who enjoy significantly lower fees, at a great advantage over various candidates from our great party?
In an attempt to douse the tensions, a Coalition of APC Presidential Aspirants stepped forward. In a world press conference in Lagos, the coalition warned President Buhari not to accept the sham donation of N45 million. The presidential aspirants argued that the donation, in of itself, not only disenfranchises a majority of the Nigerian population, it also fundamentally and commonsensically contravenes Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which states, “No individual or other entity shall donate more than one million naira (1,000,000) to any candidate.”
The Buhari campaign team swiftly responded, disparaging the aspirants, while at the same time exposing its pattern of hypocrisy. According to Malam Gidado Ibrahim, Buhari Campaign Organization Director of Communications and Strategy, Nigerians should regard “The statement issued on behalf of APC presidential aspirants by Dr SKC Ogbonnia, Chief Charles Udeogaranya and Alhaji Mumakai Unagha…as the ranting of anti-democratic elements in the country’s political space.” He remarked that “Section 91 (9) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) states that ‘an individual or other entity shall not donate more than N1m to any candidate’, whereas, President Buhari is yet a candidate but an aspirant. He was however offered presidential nomination form and not any cash worth over N1 million.”
But Nigerians are definitely not fools. They can discern that the intent of the electoral law in this matter is as clear as the attempt to twist it to suit President Buhari’s plot to rig the primary elections. We know the meanings of “candidate”, and “aspirant” in electoral terms. We also know that money is used in purchasing nomination forms. Best of all, patriotic Nigerians understand that common good ought to take precedence over fraudulent interpretation of the law, especially when such interpretation is coming from a president who proclaimed that the “Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest.”
Apparently boxed in a corner, the Buhari team and National Executive Committee of the party (NEC) did not realize when they unearthed the whole grand scheme to impose their candidate at the cruel expense of other declared candidates and the Nigerian people. This undemocratic move became most evident when the National Secretary of the APC, Maimala Buni, shocked the world by suggesting that the notion of any APC Presidential primary was fake from the beginning since the party had already adopted Buhari. In his words, “Once the National executive Committee NEC of the party passes a vote of confidence on the President, that President stands accepted because the NEC is the highest organ of the party and it met to take the decision, where every interest was represented so the National Executive Committee of the APC has passed a vote of confidence on our President and that means every APC member has endorsed him.”
As if the ensuing drama lacks in folly, Buni revealed that the NEC had plans all along to give the president the choice of first refusal. He added that by accepting the nomination form, it has become a mere formality for Buhari to emerge as the nominee of the party in the 2019 presidential election.
The unfolding political shenanigans beg the questions: If the NEC had already adopted Buhari as the sole candidate of the party, why did the party continue to drum a fidelity to internal party democracy even after the president declared his intention for a second term in office? Why lure other candidates into the presidential race if the primary election results were already written in advance? What then was the motive for placing an outrageous N45 million tag on ordinary nomination form?
The answer is a crescendoing height of political chicanery and gross illegality. A majority of party members are against the undemocratic maneuver, and my campaign will deploy every resource within the democratic sphere to ensure that Muhammadu Buhari is not imposed on the people. In short, there is sufficient time to ensure that justice prevails before the INEC deadline for submission of candidates, and I expect to be the eventual presidential nominee of our great party.
SKC Ogbonnia, Ph.D, APC Presidential Candidate, Writes from Ugbo, Enugu State, and can be reached via: [email protected]