Our Reporter, Abuja
In preparation for the 2023 general election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), recently announced the extension of the deadline for the sale and return of forms for aspirants.
According to a statement released by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the new closing date for the purchase of forms has been extended to Tuesday, April 19, while the deadline for the submission of forms is now Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
The party said it adjusted the original timetable to make up for the two-day Easter public holidays.
It sounds reasonable, and paints a picture of a political party all out to improve members’ right to democratic participation.
However, our investigations have revealed a big scandal and constitutional violations with the sale and purchase of nomination forms at the centre of which are the PDP governors.
Very reliable sources within and outside the party have told Ikengaonline how the governors have hijacked the process of sale of forms to intending aspirants in connivance with some party officials.
Multiple sources tell us that the PDP governors especially those going for second term in office have abridged the democratic rights of members of the party in their states by making sure that only those approved by them can obtain nomination forms for the different elective positions in their states.
In barring other party members from obtaining nomination forms, the governors, first and foremost, have foreclosed any challenge against them at the primaries thereby denying other citizens their rights to be voted for on the one hand, and on another, denying the citizens of their states their constitutional rights of democratic choices.
The two first term governors in the PDP are Douye Diri of Bayelsa State and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
In the case of the Bayelsa governor, our investigation revealed that Diri had drawn a shortlist of about four aspirants for each elective position for the state House of Assembly, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, out of which he will authorize only one aspirant to obtain a form – if he doesn’t issue the form directly to the person.
On his own part, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, is not taking any prisoners. A reliable source in his government told Ikengaonline that their governor had gone to Abuja to purchase “just one form” for each elective position in the state in 2023 and whoever he likes he gives the form, except for the sitting members of the Senate and the House of Reps whom he gave the go-ahead to purchase their forms.
You may wish to ask why the aspirants are not calling the bluff of the governors.
Here is the answer: The governors are the ones who will decide who votes at the different primaries. Our sources said the governors compiled the list of the delegates at the various levels of the party congresses in their states.
“The majority of theses delegates are their own appointees, elected members of the legislature who also need the governors to return and of course party leaders at the ward, and up to the state level who were handpicked by the governors, and those loyal to them. This explains why the governors fought for the removal of direct primaries clauses in the amendment of the new Electoral Act,” one source said.
The source noted that the high cost of the nomination forms has made challenging the governors even more difficult. “You don’t want to spend N3.5 million to purchase a form for an election, which you have lost even before the primary elections start,” the source added.
While the first term governors appear to be more vicious in blocking their members’ access to nomination forms, we can authoritatively confirm that all the other PDP governors are also doing same with various levels of coercion and success.
In Abia State, the Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, is tacitly constricting the political space by trying to decide who should run for what office.
Already his Deputy, Ude Oko Chukwu, has defied him by going ahead to declare his intention to replace him in 2023 and has obtained and submitted his nomination form at the PDP headquarters in Abuja. Ever since, an intriguing plot linking Governor Ikpeazu to have his deputy impeached has been reported.
Ikpeazu’s official denial of the plot to impeach his deputy in fact implicates rather than exonerates him. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka, Ikpeazu had described the ambition of his deputy to contest the gubernatorial election next year as a “distraction.”
“While the natural expectation of Governor Ikpeazu at this time was that his Deputy would have stood by him in steadying the ship of state as we head towards a political transition period, instead of being distracted by his personal political ambitions, the Governor, however, as a true democrat, believes that such ambition is not enough to warrant any plans to impeach the Deputy Governor,” the statement read in part.
Similarly in Enugu State, the incumbent governor is also said to be working hard to ensure that he personally handpicks his successor.
And very recently a former governor of the state, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, was reported to have declared that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is the only person to decide who succeeds him as governor in 2023.
When contacted for clarification on the influence of the governors in the sale of nomination forms, a high-up at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja asked our reporter who posed as an agent of a particular aspirant interested in purchasing a form if he is from a PDP-governed state. When pressed further, the senior staff hedged saying he could neither deny nor confirm the story of governors dictating who the party should or shouldn’t sell nomination forms to.
Our investigations reveal that all the PDP governors as well as their APC counterparts are doing the same thing in constricting the political space by appropriating the rights of citizens to free choice.
As one source succinctly put it, “the governors are now the greatest obstacle to democratic consolidation in Nigeria.”