By Samuel Ogundipe
eek 50 will go down as the busiest for Nigerian politics in 2014, because it includes the days 344 and 345 of the year, Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
On those two days, political activities across the country were heightened. President Jonathan’s acceptance speech brought thousands of people to Eagle Square in Abuja for the Peoples Democratic Party’s National Convention. Similarly, the All Progressives Congress’ 3rd National Convention, which ended with the election, and subsequent celebration of, General Muhammadu Buhari as the party’s presidential candidate, set the city of Lagos agog.
While many politicians are already accustomed to attending events at Abuja and, therefore, found little trouble in their movement around the capital city; the last minute decision by the APC to hold its National Convention and presidential primaries in Lagos left the multitude who attended the event understandably exasperated, especially those who endured the long, treacherous journey from Maiduguri, Gombe, Damaturu and other far north towns. Upon arrival in Lagos, the heavy human and vehicular traffic, which borders on torture, made their much needed tranquility even far-fetched. While some were lodged around Surulere, the part of the city where the Teslim Balogun Stadium is located, many others got accommodation far away from the venue. The Osun State’s delegates were lodged at Iyana-Ipaja, 18KM away from Surulere.
“We were told that all hotels around this place had been fully booked, so we decided to drive further away after someone suggested two places for us around Egbeda,” remarked Olayinka Ajewole, amongst the delegates from Osun State.
Lifestyle of Lagosians seems totally alien to Mr. Ajewole which prompted him to prod our reporter: How do people survive in this city?
The event, as typical of most Nigerian gatherings, didn’t start at the time listed on program schedule pamphlet. This hardly comes as a surprise to journalists who, barely 2 days before, had been kept outside the Yard 158 venue of PDP Lagos gubernatorial primaries, where they were forced to endure scorching sun and police tear gas.
As early as 9:15 a.m., Wednesday, both local and international reporters had arrived at the stadium. They were left wondering when the event will start until around 2 p.m. when they were addressed by a senator who said he only came to supervise the preparation progress.
Yet, despite all these, the delegates, observers, journalists and, of course, political busy bodies who had nothing to do with the event complained very little about the overall process and its outcome. The organising team, which had Governor Kayode Fayemi as its chairman, received an ‘A’ for its efforts.
The event eventually began around 8:00 p.m. with stage performances from few Nigerian musicians selected from different parts the country. Some of them were forced to lip-sync their own songs after some of the musical instruments went kaput. Those who performed at the event included 9ce (Gongo Aso, Street Credibility, etc), Tony Tetuila (My Car) and Silva Sadi, to name but three.
While the musicians were entertaining the audience, the politicians were busy doing what they know to do best: trying to strike a deal amongst themselves.
WESTERN POST gathered that, until 7:45 p.m on Wednesday, at least two of the candidates who the party leaders believed stood no chance in the primaries were still being cajoled to step down so as to pave way for a more sensible process. But they all refused.
“Our candidate was told to step down this evening with promises to refund his presidential nomination fee and cover all his logistics bills,” a source close to one of the candidates alleged.
Shortly thereafter, the event chairman, Mr. Fayemi, announced the modalities for the event proper, the candidates autobiographies were read to the audience after which they were given 8 minutes each to sell themselves to the delegates, amongst other pre-voting preparation.
At 3:06 a.m., Abia State delegates became the first to cast ballots at the convention. Delegates from the remaining states, arranged in alphabetical order, cast their ballots.
By 8:43 a.m., the last person amongst Zamfara delegates voted.
After about few minutes delay by the organisers, sorting began around 8:56 a.m.
When it was 2:21 p.m., sorting, collation were announced completed by the chief returning officer, Alhaji Kawu Baraje and, shortly before 6 p.m., the figures were released.
The event climax with the declaration of General Muhammadu Buhari, a former Head of State and serial contestant for the presidency, as the winner of the parties primaries. He won with 3,430 votes and 3 of his four opponents who spoke before his acceptance speech promised to work with him. They were Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Governor Rochas Okorocha and Governor Rabiu Kwankwoso. Mr. Sam “Big Ideas” Nda-Isaiah who chickened out when he was announced to have scored 10 votes, 6 votes less than voided ballots.