Gangsterism and incivility in Nigerian politics, by Aminu Salihu Yakudima
Politics in Nigeria has turned into a complex business; it is no longer service to humanity, nation-building, and value addition to governance. The active participation of charlatans, harridans, and mediocrities is a consequence of our mercantilist politics. Our politics has often sprouted characters bereft of a mission or vision and the know-how of good governance indispensable to the improvement of the lives of the citizenry. Our politicians tend to be primarily motivated by materialism and power. Ignoble as their ambitions are to capture power, they are bizarrely often the contenders for political power.
Extortion, embezzlement, and squandermania are becoming the norms of public service and politics as a consequence of our kind of unscrupulous politics fed primarily by avarice. This phenomenon can be found in political parties and their campaign organisations as constituted by candidates running for office. Career politicians typically hustle to make the lists of these campaign organisations. A variation to the above occurs during nomination fights for the candidacy of political parties. Making a campaign organization’s list or winning a political party’s nomination for an elected position is perceived as a ticket to “El Dorado” in the context of the political largesse a successful outcome has the potential of garnering, in addition to securing relevancy in the scheme of things.
Politicians have also found creative ways to use political party organisational structures to make money to the detriment of our democracy. Political parties have statutory and non-statutory organs. These are the Board of Trustees (BOT), National Executive Committee (NEC), National Working Committee (NWC), National Caucus (NC), and membership of the Electoral College (EC), which in our democracy are called ‘party delegates.’
Many people reading this article who are inquisitive about the functions of these party organs will be shocked at the kind of corruption, electoral malpractice, and administration several party functionaries are engaged in. This article will open an aperture into the functions of these organs and provide instances of the gangsterism and incivility of members that go on inside political parties.
The Board of Trustees (BOT) ensures that the highest standards of morality in every political party prevail by acting as the conscience of the party. It is an advisory council made up of veterans and well-experienced politicians. The National Executive Committee (NEC) has membership representation from all states of Nigeria and the FCT. The NEC promulgates policies and passes them down to the National Working Committee (NWC) for implementation.
Members of the NWC, who are required to be persons of integrity and competence, are expected to implement the policy decisions and run the affairs of the political party on a daily basis. The NEC, NWC, and the rest of the adhoc committees, with the exception of the BOT, report to the National Chairman. The BOT has its own Chairman and Secretary who are elected by the board. A management committee—essentially the bureaucracy of the party—consists of directors, deputies, and assistants in the National Secretariat.
Internal democracy, as enshrined in the constitution of the political parties and the Electoral Act, requires a screening exercise and primary elections as the first steps of the electoral process. Aspirants go through fundamental arrangements to emerge as candidates. The process is supposed to entail good management and experience, but some party leaders, who lack these skills, have derailed and clandestinely gotten involved in all kinds of corruption, particularly in the current dispensation.
Even members of the NWC have abandoned their responsibilities and joined in the corruption. The malfeasance involves the collection of money from candidates for elective office to secure their admission for screening; and lobby before electoral and appeal panels. The collectors make returns to party leaders. Some party leaders collect directly from the aspirants. Others collect monies by proxy in order to avoid being traced when there is an investigation. The monies involved are huge.
The obnoxious process enables the extortion of aspirants by party leaders at both the state and national levels. The fleecing continues during the party primaries when officials that are assigned responsibility of conducting the exercise exact their own pound of flesh. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which must publish the names of genuinely nominated candidates prior to an election is often used by party bosses and agents to compel candidates to pay more money to ensure that their names are not wittingly omitted from publication. The electoral process can therefore be extremely expensive for candidates as a consequence of internal political party corruption.
The injustice, insincerity, and lack of transparency involved in the political process were observed in the brouhaha surrounding INEC’s publication of certain wrong names as candidates and the controversy between Ahmed Lawal (the incumbent Senate President) and Hon. Bashir Machina of APC in the Yobe North Senatorial Zone; Hon. Jibrin Mustapha Tatabe and Hon. Mohammed Umara Kumalia in Borno Central Senatorial Zone; Hon. Haruna Saidu and Senator Adamu Aliero in Kebbi Central Senatorial Zone, all of PDP. The abnormalities involved buttressing the argument that our democracy is in serious trouble.
The primaries have come and gone, but they were largely marred by fraudulent activities and impunity. In areas where there were relative ease and semblance of sanity, the results were either upturned in favour of certain interests or the legitimate candidates were illegally substituted without their consent by the party leaders with the full support of INEC officials at times, in flagrant violation of the Electoral Act and the election guidelines of political parties. The case of Mustapha Tatabe substantially buttresses this charge and it poses a credibility challenge to INEC.
The courts must wade into Tatabe’s matter to correct an egregious wrong committed. He had secured the nomination for PDP Borno Central Senatorial Zone after defeating Hon. Bukar Kachalla by 244 against 44 votes on the 23rd of May, 2022. Thereafter, Tatabe was issued a certificate of return, and his name was uploaded onto INEC’s portal, following the submission of a list of nominated candidates, inclusive of his name, by PDP to INEC.
Despite these realities, Jibrin Tatabe was dragged to court by Bukar Kachalla, his only opponent. Kachalla had earlier congratulated Tatabe and promised that they would work together. The court ruled in favour of Tatabe who still extended hands of solidarity to Kachalla so that they could combine efforts and work together as a team. However, an idea to replace Tatabe was suggested by a few leaders from Borno State, who called for a meeting on the 28th of June, 2022 at Aso Drive, Abuja.
The meeting ended in a stalemate, but some members still decided to pursue the matter with the PDP presidential candidate, His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, who later met with the senatorial candidates from the State at his residence at Asokoro, Abuja on the 14th of July, 2022. The idea to replace Tatabe was discarded after stiff resistance by his sympathisers. Atiku advised that the candidates should be allowed to continue with their preparations for the campaigns and general elections. The advice was however never adhered to because of the desperation of power mongers. These events further exposed the yawning distrust between some leaders and regular members of the PDP.
The orchestrated plan to substitute Jibrin Mustapha Tatabe by all means possible was intensified. There was a rendezvous at Wadata Plaza, Abuja where Mohammed Umara Kumalia and a few officials of the PDP National Secretariat forged a letter purporting the withdrawal of Tatabe and his replacement with Kumalia, via a forged document and a cover letter dated 18th of July, 2022 jointly signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, and Senator Samuel Anyanwu, respectively. These illegalities were allegedly handled and mischievously facilitated by the Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Iliya Damagum, and his cohorts.
To cover up their antics and speedily carry out the electoral heist, they deliberately equipped Umara Kumalia whom they issued forms and a separate certificate of return. Thus a primary election which never held was falsely represented to the INEC as having taken place. It is pertinent to note that Kumalia had deliberately refused to buy both the PDP’s expression of interest and nomination forms. He never participated in political activities leading up to the primaries and was never a candidate for the election.
Mohammed Umara Kumalia has shamelessly been parading himself as a senatorial candidate. He has held a series of meetings with senior officials of the party, including BOT and NEC members from Borno State. He has been observed shuttling between the residence of Atiku and the PDP National Secretariat in an effort to consolidate. Also, he organised and started political tours and rallies in Borno Central Senatorial Zone in order to deceive electorates and cause more damage to PDP.
In a meeting of selected PDP stakeholders from Borno State convened by one of the respected chieftains of the party, Alhaji Idris Mamman Durkwa, and presided over by Senator Sanusi Daggash, which was attended by the State Chairman, Alhaji Zanna Gaddama and the Gubernatorial Candidate, Alhaji Mohammed Ali Jajeri at Chopstick Maitama, Abuja on the 18th of September, 2022, Kumalia spoke ridiculously on mobilisation and how the PDP could deploy strategy to achieve victory in Borno State.
The meeting ended in rancor, unsurprisingly, as many stakeholders took exception to the incivility, hypocrisy, and stupid attitude of Kumalia, a serial decampee notorious for jumping from one political party to another. His effrontery was intolerable, and he was therefore not going to be allowed to lecture others on strategies for PDP. A person who is under suspension in APC as per the Letter issued to him and signed by his Ward Secretary of Limanti, Maiduguri, Borno State, Mohammed Kagu and dated 8th of August, 2022, cannot credibly suggest any strategy for his new party. He is unqualified to do so. Therefore, all he said at the meeting was really aimed at troubleshooting. He is selfish and unpatriotic!
Kumalia with double membership registration defected to PDP only 3 months ago and started shameful acts demonstrative of desperation for power. The provisions of the Electoral Act and the constitution of the party do not matter to him. Imagine a man of such character in the Senate. What is wrong with our democracy? Why should this act of shame and scandalous activities continue to happen in Borno State?
The arm-twisting of the rightful winners of primary elections and the scandalous stealing of their respective mandates exposed the corrupt nature of the leaders of the PDP involved and their inexperience. Despite their irrationality and stupidity, we hope they still remember and believe that “GOD is able to do all things.