As the ruling All Progressives Congress prepares for the process towards the primary election that will usher in its representatives at the both states and federal assemblies as well as the governorship candidates, on Saturday, September 15, the controversy over the adoption direct primary is still tearing the party apart
By Olu Ojewale
At a glance the issue looks innocuous. But for some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, adopting a direct primary election for its legislative and governorship candidates is not a welcome option, while for others, it is a go. Hence, since the idea was announced by Yekini Nabena, the acting national secretary of the party, there has been a level of unquietness within the ruling party. All the party members appear to be at each others’ jugular on the matter.
The development has sent many of the party members scampering to examine closely what the party constitution has to say about the issue. In the process they have all been arguing for and against the proposal.
Indeed, as it has been widely reported in the media, the APC Constitution (October 2014 as amended), makes provisions for three options of selecting candidates for the elective offices. The first is the consensus method, which entails candidates agreeing among themselves to field one person from within their ranks for the position they are interested in. The second is an option of election through delegates, while the third option is the direct primary whereby all the card carrying party members are allowed to vote for candidates of their choice at primary level. The direct primary gives room for every card carrying member of the party to excise his primary, whereas the indirect restrict the number of participants because only elected delegates would be allowed to choose the party candidates for each elective position.
Incidentally, the whole of the APC is now divided over the issue. At the centre of the crisis over the primary election is Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman. His idea of direct primary has not gone down with members and has been accused of running the party “like a cabal.” According to the media reports, the national executive council of the party had on Thursday, September 6, adopted the direct primary for the president and indirect method, as well as consensus for other offices – state Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and governor.
But barely 24 hours minutes, Nabena, in a statement, countered the purported NEC resolution and stated that the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party had directed that all primaries must be by direct method. He said further, “The NWC will resist any attempt to disrupt the current peace and harmony prevailing in our great party after the exit of some members of our Party.
“We urge any member who is not satisfied with the decisions of the party to utilise channels provided by the party’s constitution to air their views.
“We remain focused on delivering good governance to Nigerians and above all ensuring the victory for our party come 2019 and we will not be intimidated by the antics of a few in ensuring success for our party.” This, perhaps, prompted some of the party chairmen in all the 36 state chapters and the FCT, to vow that they will do everything in their power to resist direct primary. They also threatened to pass a vote of no confidence in the national executive over the decision to adopt direct primary for the 2019 general elections.
Incidentally, not every member of the NWC appears to be in support of the direct primary for the party. Among the opponents of direct primary is Mustapha Salihu, the party’s national vice-chairman North-East, who described it as an imperial tendency of the South-West. Speaking with a national newspaper, Salihu said everything that was passed at the NEC is like a resolution, circulated to all members of NEC and that any other thing anybody including any organ of the party says maybe his own interpretation of it. He said: “In this vein, the best thing to do is for you to publish the resolution passed by NEC, you don’t have to coin English, you don’t need to canvass for any position, just publish it, as it is and do away with all ambiguities. Anyone that attended NEC will tell you that it was a resolution that was passed in respect of party primaries.”
Salisu revealed that based on the party resolution, which was being circulated for adoption, many of the states had taken a position on the mode of their primaries. “Kano has decided to go for direct; Adamawa said it wants to go indirect; Borno said it is going indirect; Kebbi said it is consensus. This is the beauty of democracy. This is first time it is done in the history of party politics in Nigeria to give every federating unit the chance for selecting their mode of primaries, as enshrined in the constitution and the Electoral Act.
“NEC agreed that primary elections into offices shall be by direct, indirect or consensus. Use of direct or indirect shall depend on the peculiarity and the needs of each state. In each state, the State Executive Committee shall, write to National Working Committee for approval of the mode of election to be adopted. The adopted mode shall apply to all categories of primary election that is, state Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and governorship. Request for this election must be signed by majority of the state executive committee members in attendance at the meeting.
“I’m a member of the National Working Committee; you can record my voice that at no time did NWC sit and agree to issue a press release either that we were going to do direct primaries for all offices; it is not true, or warning people or group not to hold meeting. We never discussed anything of such,” he said.
Indeed, the states that have adopted direct primaries include: Lagos, Niger, Abia, Rivers, Anambra, Cross River and Akwa Ibom, while Ogun and Edo states adopted consensus.
That notwithstanding, the crisis over the party primaries continues to linger as the NWC released the official schedule of activities and timetable for the conduct of the party primaries in the week, ignoring the protests and threats from some interests. The schedule released by the NWC, detailed the date, mode of the primaries and the stipulated amount the aspirants under the party platform must pay to get the party flag for any elective position.
Determined to have their way, some of the governors are said to be unwilling to fund the direct primary method, a development that has put the party in a tight corner financially in terms of the money to execute the primaries. Some of the governors have also vowed to conduct indirect primaries.
For instance, in Nasarawa State, Wuduyamba Sam Agidi, the state publicity secretary of the APC warned the national chairman that he had no right to cancel indirect primaries that the state will conduct. He, therefore, warned Oshiomhole not to turn the party into a one-man show. Agidi said direct and indirect primaries are provided for in the party constitution and that at the NEC meeting of the party in Abuja, a decision was taken that state chapters of the party have a choice to decide which method to use. He further explained that all the stakeholders of the party including the governorship aspirants and other aspirants for Senate, House of Representatives and state assembly met and decided to adopt the indirect primaries. He wondered why Oshiomhole was threatening to cancel the indirect primaries that will be conducted by the various states. Consequently, he warned the national chairman to learn to respect the decision and wishes of the people.
Jalal Fadal, a governorship aspirant in Kaduna State, has decided not to participate in the indirect primaries adopted by the party in the state. Addressing journalists on Wednesday, September 12, in Kaduna, Falal insisted that his group will be unjustly treated if it participates in the conduct of primaries in the state. He accused the state party executives of compromising their position of impartial umpires. “All efforts through the National Headquarters of the party to reverse the induced position of the state chapter of APC by the Kaduna State governor have failed.”
Falal said that boycotting the party’s indirect primary was the only available option opened to him since he could not get the state and national headquarters to rescind the decision. He claimed that the initial declaration by the APC to adopt direct primaries nationwide prompted him to join the governorship race. “We were determined to give APC members a better alternative who will lead the party to victory at the general election and avoid handing the party’s ticket to an unpopular candidate that may cause the party to suffer defeat from the opposition,” he said.
Defending the party’s decision, Emmanuel K. Jekada, a retired air commodore and the state APC chairman, said the state’s decision to adopt indirect primaries was based on the directives of the NEC, “as the mode of conduct of the party primary elections in Kaduna State.” Jekada said the direct primary method is not applicable in the state due to absence of a comprehensive register of party members.
But Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central, rejected the adoption of the indirect primaries mode, saying it will not serve the interest of the party in the state. He said some members of the party were still in court over issues relating to the conduct of the last congress, which needed to be resolved before indirect primaries could be contemplated. Besides Sani argued that: “indirect primary has become a breeding ground for corruption and a labour room for producing corrupt people in the society.
“We cannot subscribe to indirect primaries when we clearly know what obtains in that is simply the use of public resources to bribe delegates in favour of a particular aspirant. Indirect primary has been the source of the destruction of Nigerian political structure and dynamics. Indirect primary is simply a factory for producing stooges loyal to a certain godfather. It is a system where money is used, where people are auctioned as slaves in favour of a particular candidate.” The senator declared when he led a delegation of Kaduna aspirants to the APC national secretariat in Abuja a week ago.
But supporters of the party are also vehement. In Zamfara, Yahaya Baba Pate and Lawal Muhammad Liman, the chairman and secretary of the party in the State, said the party did no wrong in adopting the indirect mode for the forthcoming primaries. Liman said the adoption of the indirect primary was a collective decision of all stakeholders and members of the party in the state.
In the same vein, Ade Adetimehin, the chairman of the Ondo State chapter of the party, while explaining reasons for backing indirect primaries, said: “The problem is that there is no correct data across the country for the APC members. If we leave it open, many people will just show up at the primary venue and claim to be members.
“At the moment, getting the correct record of our registered members is difficult. We have been using indirect primary since APC was formed and it has been working.
“The indirect primary is a product of the direct primary because all the registered members of the party at the ward level would assemble to elect the officers who would represent them to elect state delegates while the state delegates would elect the national officers.”
That notwithstanding, some governors are said to be opposed to the direct primary for the fear of not getting a return ticket to contest for a second term. “Don’t forget that almost all of them perfected the strategy for an automatic return ticket during the ward, local government and state congresses by ensuring that their cronies emerged party officials from the ward to the state levels to help them in manipulating the delegates’ lists. What it means is that adopting indirect primary would authorise the governors to deny them automatic return ticket,” a member of the party, who does not want his name in print was quoted as saying.
He added: “Truth be told, adopting indirect primaries means working at cross purposes. The party was left with the option of devil’s alternative – the governors and the legislators. And considering the magnitude of the battle ahead at the National Assembly, which is capable of dismantling the party, the national leadership had to settle for direct primaries to accommodate the legislators.”
Reinforcing the argument about the governors’ fear, Junaid Mohammed, a member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, dismissed the crisis over the APC’s mode of primaries, describing it as simply “much ado about nothing.” In an interview with the Punch newspaper, he said: “We all know why the governors would prefer the indirect method for the primary; for the simple reason that they control the party, therefore, they dictate who should be the delegates and, of course, they wouldn’t want people who have a free mind to do what their minds tell them. It is easier for them to not only choose the delegates, they have the resources to camp these delegates in choice hotels and compromise them to do their bidding.
“Every democrat knows that a direct primary is better than an indirect one for the simple reason that a greater percentage of party members not only have a say but have their way in deciding which party member becomes the party’s standard bearer in the general elections.”
However, Chekwas Okorie, the national chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, said that much as the direct primary mode is desirable and appears to be the ideal, it is not without its own challenges. Okorie, in the Punch interview said, “The indirect primary is easier to manage because the direct primary in an environment where party members are not paying subscriptions to become members gives room for every Tom, Dick and Harry, who is of age, who may not even be a member of the particular political party, to just go and put their names on the ward register of the party.
“The direct primary means all members of the party voting in the election. That can be chaotic; it can be difficult to manage.
“As populist as it may look that everybody may be given an opportunity to participate, what you will discover will happen is that the committees that will be sent to go and conduct those direct primaries at that level will simply return to their national headquarters with prepared lists of candidates and this will create more problems than it set out to solve.”
Besides, he said the sheer logistics it will require to ensure things are done properly is something that ought to have been prepared for long before. He said that there is no system that could not be compromised but that chances could be reduced to the minimum when managers of the process demonstrated sincerity of purpose. He, therefore, warned: “Be assured that the rancour that will follow this chaotic system will consume some of these parties.”
That, indeed, is the cross that the APC has to carry as the party goes to the national convention during the presidential primary election slated for October 6. But whether the ruling party can survive the current crisis causing discord within its ranks remains a matter of concern for every stake holders in its fold.
– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 15:47 GMT |