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Nigeria Opposition Criticizes Ruling Party over Convention Election

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (R) is accompanied by local guards as he leaves the 17th African Union Summit, at Sipopo Conference Center, outside Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, July 1, 2011 (file photo)

An official of Nigeria’s opposition Action Congress Party (ACN) has described as a “mockery of democracy” the election of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over the weekend.

ACN spokesman Lai Mohammed said the election shows the ruling party lacks internal democracy.

“There was a lot of arm twisting, blackmail and threats. [The other candidates] did not go down without fighting,” said Mohammed. “On television, one of the candidates was weeping…and that is the sad thing about it.”

Backed by President Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Tukur was elected with an overwhelming majority at the PDP convention after his challengers withdrew their candidacy. Critics say the other candidates were pressured to withdraw, but officials of the ruling party dismissed the claims as without merit.

”Today, the joke is on the same president, who cajoled and arm-twisted others to step down for his anointed candidate as chair of the PDP during a mock convention,” said Mohammed. “It is now obvious that President Jonathan either does not understand what internal democracy means, or he is being deliberately cheeky in castigating other political parties for lacking in internal democracy.”

Tukur garnered 3,185 votes, with 51 invalid votes and 12 “no” votes. But critics say the other contestants were forced to step aside to allow President Jonathan’s candidate to win.

Opposition ACN spokesman Mohammed said his party will continue to expose the ruling party’s hypocrisy after President Jonathan accused the opposition of lacking internal democracy.

Mr. Jonathan reportedly said the ruling party is the only one with any form of internal democracy after describing the opposition as a “one man political parties.”

“We are stunned to see that in the process PDP has exposed itself as a party that lacks absolute internal democracy. In the sense that the party makes rules to govern its convention, but will at every point dodge the same rules,” said Mohammed.

Supporters of the ruling party rejected opposition accusations the party lacks internal democracy. They demanded proof from the opposition. But, Mohammed said the nationwide televised convention was enough proof of the ruling party’s failure to adhere to its own rules.

“It’s clear that meetings were held up til midnight and Mr. President [Jonathan] actually read the riot act to the governors, and one by one they succumbed,” said Mohammed. “We didn’t make it up. Since Mr. President made it a duty to comment on the internal workings of our own party, then he opened a pandora’s box and, of course, we will not let this mockery of democracy go uncommented upon.”

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