The All Progressives Congress (APC) may be heading towards a major crisis as it on Friday, dumped the position adopted at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on Thursday opting instead to adopt Direct Primary mode of choosing its candidates for the 2019 elections.
The decision to use Direct primaries for all elective positions will likely pitch state governors against other leaders of the party.
APC governors are said to maintain a common position against the use of direct Primary while others including Senators want it.
Delegates who will vote in indirect primaries are mainly appointees and loyalists of the governors while direct primary involves all members of the party.
The governors of Plateau and Kogi states, Simon Lalong and Yahaya Bello, respectively had told newsmen after the party’s NEC meeting on Thursday that it adopted direct primary to choose its presidential candidate for 2019 election, while other elective positions would go through indirect primaries.
Governor Lalong had said; “The constitution of the party provides for either direct, indirect or consensus. But for the presidential election, we all agreed that we will adopt direct primary.
“Also, a recommendation was made by the NWC that the other positions should adopt the indirect mode but there may be situations that this might be difficult looking at their peculiarities. So, if there are such difficulties, they can apply, following the process.”
However, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Yekini Nabena, on Friday, said that, “primary elections into all elective offices shall be by Direct Primaries”.
The party issued two contradictory statements on the resolution of the party’s NEC on Friday. Both statements were signed by the party’s acting National Publicity Secretary, Nabena.
While the first statement reinforced the position of the governors, the second statement was a radical departure from the announced NEC resolution.
The first statement said: “We wish to make the following clarifications on NEC’s resolutions: Primary elections into all elective offices shall be by the direct and indirect election or by consensus. The use of the direct and indirect primaries shall however depend on the peculiarity and need of a given state.
“In each case, the State Executive Committee (SEC) shall in consultation with candidates and other critical stakeholders of the party in a given state identify and forward for the consideration and approval by the National Working Committee (NWC) for the mode of election to be adopted.
“The adopted mode shall now be applied to all categories of the party’s primary elections, i.e. state Houses of Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives and for the governorship elections.
“The request for the selection of mode of election must be signed by majority of the Executive Committee in attendance at the meeting where such resolution is reached. NEC resolved to adopt the direct primary option for the presidential primary.”
The second statement issued by the party on Friday reads: “NEC resolved to adopt direct primaries for the nomination of the presidential candidate and all other primaries.
“The party’s constitution though provides for indirect election and consensus, however, the use of indirect primaries is conditional and dependent on logistic impediments, peculiarities and need of a given state that makes it unable to use direct primaries.
“The State Executive Committee (SEC) shall, in consultation with aspirants and other critical stakeholders of the party in a given state, forward for the consideration and approval by the National Working Committee (NWC), if indirect primary is to be adopted.
“The adopted mode shall now be applied to all categories of the party’s primary elections, i.e. state Houses Assembly, Senate, House of Representatives and for the governorship elections.
“The request for indirect primaries must be signed by majority of the State Executive Committee and critical stakeholders in attendance at the meeting where such resolution is reached.
“Direct primaries will among others ensure fairness; create a level playing ground for contestants; eliminate corrupt tendencies usually associated with the delegates system and ultimately ensure full participation of party members at all levels.”
The APC NEC decision which backed the preference of governors for indirect primaries generated ripples in the party as some National Assembly members were wondering why they were left to the whims and caprices of the governors in deciding who gets what.
Speaking on Twitter on Friday, Kaduna Central Senator, Shehu Sani said: “I stand by direct primaries. Indirect primaries [are] a maternity room for corruption.
Earlier on Thursday, he had said: “If you are truly a politician of the people and you are with your people, you should not have any fear of direct primaries. The fear of direct primaries is the fear of the people.”
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A chieftain of the party from Ogun State was emphatic that the direct primary option was vehemently opposed by state governors at the NEC meeting.
“The governors resisted wholesale adoption of direct primary. Now, you want to ask, why did the governors oppose it? It is simply because, that mode is prone to fraud. The party, for instance, has no up-to-date, credible register of members that would be used for direct primary.
“But let me tell you, whether direct or indirect, the governors still control the structures. They control delegates and also party structures to the ward level.
In Lagos, a chieftain of the party said the situation is still in a state of flux, adding, “You know the leader of the party announced that direct primary would be used in the state, even before the NEC of the party met.
“We expect him to convene another stakeholders meeting where he is expected to either reconfirm his earlier stance or shift grounds to indirect primaries as being canvassed by a side close to the governor.
Senator Soji Akanbi (Oyo South) said direct primary mode would have been the better choice if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) could provide adequate manpower to oversee the exercise.
“Direct primary requires a lot of logistics. Even INEC is skeptical about it. What the law says is that INEC must be present at every point where there is primary. Does INEC have the manpower?
“Police and DSS are supposed to be there too, but do they have the manpower as well? It would be the better method of selecting candidates if INEC and the security agencies can provide adequate manpower for it.
“Direct primary will show the acceptability of the candidates. Any candidate that can go round and who secures the nod of the party members in a direct primary is sure of winning the election because the party members will also work for him during the general election.
“Another challenge for the direct primary is that political parties don’t actually have proper registers of party members. So, direct primary can be hijacked at this point. I don’t think political parties in Nigeria are prepared for direct primaries.
“I go to ward meetings and we only use one torn exercise book as party register. So, if we use direct method under this circumstance, anybody can claim to be a member of the party and come to vote. It would have been the best and more transparent method to choose candidates.
“The indirect method too has its own inherent problems. The governor can easily hijack indirect primary by controlling the delegates. Most of the delegates are selected by the governor and these delegates believe they owe the governor a favour.
“The delegates can be identified, induced and intimidated. But in direct primary, it may be difficult to identify who voted for whom. So, indirect primary at the end of the day does not reflect the popularity of the candidates.
“Anybody that has the governor’s backing can hijack indirect primary because there will be enough money to buy the delegates. You know what danger the ‘see and buy’ syndrome poses. Indirect primary does not reflect the popularity of the candidates.
“Neither of the two methods is perfect. But if not for the difficulty of huge logistics, direct primary would have been a better choice. If INEC and the DSS are ready to deploy enough personnel for direct primary, I will go for it,” he said.
Asked if he was confident of a return ticket with Governor Ajimobi being speculated to be interested in the same seat, he said “Let us wait and see if the governor is interested in my seat. Within the next two or three weeks, it will be known. There is a rumour going round as you have said.
“But the tabernacle will come down in the next three weeks. There will be no hidden place again for anybody that is interested in any post. The primary is coming up on September 20, so by the 10th of September, forms will be picked. So, the curtain will surely drop then. And we will see who and who are interested,” he said.
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