Saturday, 15 January 2011

PDP Primaries: Pulling down our ‘giants’

by Joachim Ezeji

Does it not amount to short changing ourselves when we turn down experienced senators and allow green horns to represent us at the National Assembly? Does it also not amount to making ourselves small and low in the hallowed chambers of the national assembly to have new comers speak for us while other states such as Sokoto, Adamawa, Kebbi, Benue, Nassarawa etc are returning their serving and experienced senators?

It needs to be stressed that these days new comers or green horn senators are hardly allowed to chairman or lead very sensitive positions or committees in the senate or any house of law making. In the legislature, experience matters, and based on a senator’s length of tenure, ranking and seniority takes precedence. New senators generally spend a lot of their early days doing orientation and training activities on basic things such as observance of protocols, moving of motions, acts of networking and the techniques of drafting and presenting member bills. Also their views and contributions in senate debates are often basic as they are often bereft of parliamentary substance.

In this regards, the recent Peoples Democratic Party primaries in Imo comes into context. Though the PDP primaries have come and gone; it has nonetheless or perhaps eclipsed the political profile and adventure of notable senators; our representatives at the upper chambers of the National Assembly. This was very evident with the non-return of any of the serving senators. All three senators who were earlier elected in 2009 on the PDP platform currently have lost their foothold on that same platform.

Except Sylvester Anyanwu who had earlier defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) ; shunning the PDP primaries, the other two senators would likely not be returning to the senate. They may not even have the opportunity of contesting in the main election scheduled for April 2nd 2011. What this means is that both Senators Chris Anyanwu, and Osita Izunaso, all first time senators, would be bidding the senate chambers farewell in a matter of weeks. They can only return if either the result of their party primaries are upturned in their favour based on their petitions or they out rightly change political platform or switch to another party as Senator Sylvester Anyanwu has done.

One question that agitates my mind is; to what extent was the performance of these casualty senators a yard stick in the decision of the party to deny them tickets? Another question is; what are the implications for Imo State in bringing new comer senators to the National Assembly at every elections?

In Imo State this trend has remained the order since the return of democratic governance in1999. At that time and at the first instance, three senators stood in for Imo; they included Evan Enwerem, Ifeanyi Arararume and Arthur Nzeribe. In 2003, Evan Enwerem lost out in the primaries to Amah Iwuagwu. Unfortunately, Amah Iwuagwu died midway into his tenure and was replaced by Eze Ajoku who only spent less that 20 months in the senate.

However, in 2009 neither Eze Ajoku nor any of his other two colleagues from the state successfully made it back to the senate despite their indication of interest to return. Apart from Ifeanyi Ararume who had vied off to contest for Imo gubernatorial seat and was replaced by Sylvester Anyanwu; the other senators failed at the primaries. While Arthur Nzeribe lost out to Osita Izunaso; the then new entrant Eze Ajoku lost out to Chris Anyanwu.

It is also necessary to point out that since 1999 that all the senators that have represented Imo State at the senate had all come from the PDP. Pointedly too, none of these senators had lost at the main elections, rather they had always lost at the primaries stage of their party. It happened in 2003 with the upstaging of Evan Enwerem with Amah Iwuagwu; in 2009 with the upstaging of Arthur Nzeribe and Eze Ajoku with Osita Izunaso and Chris Anyanwu respectively. Recently, it has happened again with the upstaging of Chris Anyanwu with Kema Chikwe and Osita Izunaso with Hope Uzodimma. Sylvester Anyanwu had already read the hand writing on the wall and beat a retreat for another party; the ACN ticket.

Also, for the first time, Imo State was in 2009 represented wholesale by first time comers or legislative green horns at the senate. This had absolutely no connection with either professional training, or exposure. All three senators, Osinata Izunaso, Chris Anyanwu and Sylvester Anyanwu were new comers and as such had low ranking at the senate. The same scenario will likely be playing out as the new senate reconvenes in May 2011.

But was the defeat of these senators at the primaries a product of their seemingly poor performance at the senate? My answer is; may be and may be not. To me most of our elected office holders are poor performers.

In Orlu zone, some people have argued that Osita Izunaso deserves his fate. They accuses him of arrogance and hubris. There is the argument that the relatively unknown Izunaso who dethroned the ‘goliath’ Nzeribe in 2009 failed to remember how he was catapulted to that position in the first place. Based on this, they conclude that he therefore deserved to be made to eat the humble pie.

On the other hand, Senator Chris Anyanwu who currently is brooding over her loss has accused the state government of upstaging her. But close political watchers argue that she was a beneficiary of the same government in 2009 when Eze Ajoku was upstaged. She has been accused of poor representation and elitist aloofness to her constituency. People have queried why her open romance with the main opposition; the Alliance Group and yet expecting grace from the state government. These same accusations have also been extended the way of Sylester Anyanwu.

The number of motions moved, bills presented or constituency projected attracted to their zones seems not to be a central consideration here at all. What has been central in most cases has been rivalry between these senators and the state government for reasons quite unknown, outright envy, jealousy, witchhunt and perhaps antagonism by fellow politicians. In this web of intrigues, the poor masses have remained mere spectators.

For the Federal House of Representative the picture is also, almost similar. The PDP primaries have just foreclosed the chances of more than three-quarters of its representatives from returning to the federal house. They all lost at the PDP primaries.

And for the Imo State House of Assembly, similar scenario is almost playing out as over three-quarters of the 27 member house would not be returning to the house. Most of those that wont be returning based on their loses at the primaries are PDP members. Ironically, all 27 members had vied for a return ticket to the house. Most of them are also first time law makers. On track to take over their places are potential new comers or legislative green horns who would be coming to the house for the first time.

However, now that our senators have seemingly become outgoing, what becomes of them and politics? Wither the experiences, exposure and trainings as senators? Is the current trend capable of sustaining democracy in the long term?

Though most of these casualties have switched parties in order to still have the opportunity to partake in the forthcoming elections, the salient lessons remains apposite. It exposes the nature and trend of politics and democracy in Nigeria.

Whatever the case, we deserve to send out there, our best men and women. They need not all come from the same party. Plurality in party representation is not a bad idea. What should rather be central is our state. We need able representatives who are capable of looking their colleagues in the eyes and argue our positions at that top level.

Now that the parties have done their bit, I kindly appeal to Imo people to come forward and do the main voting where the final output will be made. We just need able and competent senators; chikena!

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