By Tunji Olajide
In the last couple of days, it has been a frenzy of activities for the political parties, particularly the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as they are involved in many engagements to produce candidates that would fly the flags of their parties in the coming 2023 general elections. Going by the time-table released by the election management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all processes relating to party primaries are to be concluded by June 4, 2022.
That date is the deadline set by INEC for the conclusion of the primaries and submission of the names of successful candidates to the electoral body. Some of the parties had requested for extension of the time, but INEC did not budge. Rather, it insisted that it would go ahead with its plans in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Amendment of Act of 2022.
It is against this background that the parties are deeply engrossed in activities that would ensure they comply with the INEC deadline. The situation has provided an ample opportunity for political incumbents at various levels and new aspirants to square up against each other as they variously crisscross the land seeking the mandate of the people.
It is, however, unfortunate to note that many characters with questionable credentials are springing up from different directions as political aspirants. Given the rough times the country has gone through in the preceding years in the name of political representation, it has become very imperative that the parties must get the their acts right this time around by ensuring that only men and women of impeccable character, integrity and pedigree are given the chance to emerge. We cannot afford another unpleasant experience of going to wander aimlessly in the wilderness for another tenure of four years.
As the parties prepare for their primaries, they have a golden opportunity to screen out unsuitable elements who are presently strutting our political landscape, pretending to be responding to the calls of their people for them to run. The last seven years that the APC had been in power as a ruling party, it has not been a completely pleasant experience for the electorate and indeed the Nigerian people that voted it into power. If it seeks to return as a ruling party, it must ensure that only credible leaders are encouraged to emerge at all levels.
Those being screened to participate as candidates in the primaries should be individuals that reflect the true values of the party. They must be credible people with exemplary conduct; and not people of doubtful pedigree. Those that have done well in their present positions must be encouraged to succeed in their aspirations so that they would continue to give their people good representation.
The party must do everything possible to stop gangsters and the morally bankrupt from getting its tickets as it goes into the primaries. It is such characters that give the party bad image across board. The party cannot sit down and watch things go wrong. Credible leaders are what the party should be looking out for now.
For example, some of the Senators and Representatives elected on the party`s platform have done very well that they deserve to be returned. Such outstanding members should be supported by the party to return so that they can continue to give credible representation and service to the people. One of such elements is Senator Tolu Odebiyi, a first timer in the Senate, who represents the good people of Ogun West. In the last three years, Odebiyi has shown strong leadership, courage and effective representation.
Within the period, he has done excellently well to put the Ogun West senatorial district on the political map of the Nigerian federation through key bills and motions he has introduced into the Senate and numerous dividends of democracy delivered to his constituents. One of the bills which has been passed by the two chambers of National Assembly and is waiting for presidential assent is the National Institute of Border Studies which is to be situated in Imeko, one of the towns in his constituency.
It is important to note that Ogun West shares border with Benin Republic. He had argued that the existence of the Institute would help in better and effective border management in the country. It would also help to address the issue of human trafficking, illicit arms trade, smuggling of banned goods and trans-border criminality.
One other key achievements he has recorded and which is very dear to the hearts of his people was the constitutional change of the name of his area from Egbado to Yewa. This has been listed in the Nigerian Constitution and awaiting presidential assent. He also pushed for the reopening of the Nigerian borders which were closed for about three years to check the influx of sub-standard products into the country. The border closure had negative impact on his people, given their location as border communities. He worked tirelessly both within and outside the Senate to ensure that those borders were reopened to give a lifeline to his people. The result was the recent reopening of those borders by Mr. President. These laudable actions have been well received by his people.
He has continued to champion the cause of the people of Ogun West through his scholarship schemes and numerous skills acquisition and economic empowerment programmes that have helped to provide means of livelihood for a good number of his constituents. He is presently pushing hard for the intervention of the Federal Government on the deplorable Sango Ota-Abeokuta federal highway. He has continued to engage the Honourable Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fahola, on the matter.
But in all of this, a certain Senator from a neighbouring State is making moves to come into Ogun State to bid for the Ogun West senatorial seat presently being occupied by Odebiyi. This is capable of creating unnecessary social tension and disrupting the existing peace in the area. Such unconscionable action should be condemned by the leadership of the APC at both State and national levels.
The APC cannot afford to lose the Ogun West seat to the opposition. Odebiyi has done very well in giving the constituency effective and credible representation. He should be encouraged and supported by all men of goodwill to continue to lead the way. Anybody that has too much money to throw around should channel same to the party`s coffers to help it in improving its fortunes in the coming elections.
Olajide, a public affairs analyst wrote from Abeokuta.