GABRIEL EMAMEH, writes on the intrigues following the declaration by the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, that there will be no automatic ticket for aspirants.
Amid the gale of defections that recently hit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the party has ruled out the likelihood of offering aspirants, particularly legislative members contesting under the platform of the party, automatic tickets to guarantee their return to the National Assembly in 2019.
The decision was coming just after over 30 House of Representative members and 13 senators dumped the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), despite spirited efforts by the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee to prevent the party from implosion.
It was alleged that most of the aggrieved legislators and some governors who recently defected to the opposition political parties had demanded automatic ticket from the new leadership of the APC as part of conditions to remain in the party.
Their demands according to sources did not go down well with the national chairman of the party who has been negotiating at the instance of the president to put the fold back in shape.
Feelers indicate that the presidency isn’t aligned with the prospect of automatic ticket, just as the president isn’t given to being arm-twisted into indulging in act that will further upset the electorate who are the larger majority of the party.
The President’s position is that he was not in the position to give a return ticket to any party aspirant as such power lies in the hands of members of their constituencies who have the constitutional rights to send or recall their representatives.
Consequently, Oshiomhole had on Thursday after a meeting with caucus members of the party in the House of Representatives insisted that the party under his watch would not guarantee an automatic ticket for aspirants contesting under the platform of the APC. He however assured the members of the party’s support to ensure victory in the forthcoming elections.
The party had last week, before the Osun State governorship primary election, ordered all aspirants contesting for the governorship ticket of the state to go for a direct primary to allow the electorates have a say in how its flag bearer in the state governorship election would emerge.
The decision, according to sources close to the national chairman, was meant to correct the fallouts of the party’s last nationwide congresses and its national convention that followed, which polarised the party in many states.
It was also explained that the decision was the best the party could offer in line with its democratic practice to provide a level playing field for all members to test their popularity.
The Osun State direct primary which turned out to be almost 90 per cent successful was, according to the APC spokesperson, Bolaji Abdullahi, who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday, a litmus test for the party over whether or not it will be adopted on a permanent basis in line with the options available in its constitution.
At the recent meeting with the House of Representatives members, Adams Oshiomhole had said, ‘‘somebody asked if we are going to counter the PDP by offering automatic tickets and I asked: did we serve anybody a departure ticket? If we did not give you a departure ticket, how did the issue of return ticket arise?
‘‘For me, we are clear that every legislator who has value and is at home with his people and not with the godfathers in their communities, that legislator is an asset to our party and this party will do everything possible to retain him.
“Our party must consciously work to produce seasoned senators. We will get there. If it took them 100 years to get there, we don’t have to take 50 years to get there. I want to assure you that it can’t be argued that experience cannot be discarded’’, Oshiomhole had assured.
On his part, the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, who spoke to newsmen after the meeting assured that the party would continue to support legislators, especially the first termers who needed to consolidate on their experience to better represent their people.
“First timers who have acquired experience to become ranking members and have represented the party at the grassroots level, they should be taken into serious consideration and I think they deserve a second term,” he said.
Also on a live television programme on Channels TV closely monitored by our correspondent on Wednesday, Gbajabiamila had accused his colleagues who left the party of desperation to get a return ticket at all cost. He said it is unfortunately that politicians no longer build their career on the basis of party ideology.
‘‘These things happen every four years when people no longer have confidence in themselves for a return ticket, they run to other platforms as vehicles to drive themselves back to power’’, said the house leader who expressed disappointment l over the action of some of his colleagues.
While he acknowledged the fact that there were cracks in the party, he emphasised on the need for such to be tested in the court, saying that political parties own the tickets which politicians won elections under.
However, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North) who was in the studio with Gbadabiamila debunked the insinuation that members were leaving for the opposition political party because they were denied automatic tickets in the ruling party.
Senator Hunkuyi said he was offered automatic ticket but he turned the offer down because his grievances go beyond getting a return ticket. He said he doesn’t need an automatic ticket to return to the Senate but that the injustices suffered by selected members of the party have left them with no choice but to leave.
But Gbadabiamila in a swift reaction said if the Kaduna Senator would be honest to himself, he has no excuse leaving the party on the basis of principle and ideology.
‘‘You are speaking for yourself. You know this thing is true’’, he said.
The wolves were shipped out
Contrary to what has been reported, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered from a close source in the Presidency that the APC after weighing the options before it ahead of the 2019 general elections, deliberately created the atmosphere that flushed out members who they have closely monitored to be on the side of the opposition, PDP.
The source said, ‘‘Look at it from the inauguration of the 8th NASS and you can easily tell that they were never in the APC. They made a Senator from the opposition the Deputy Senate President. Have ever heard of such in the history of the country?
‘‘They have been a thorn on the flesh of the executive because they have rightly been denied the access to public funds they used to inject into the budget and they want to do everything possible to poison the minds of Nigerians against the government.
‘‘Why do you think the President has refused to call them for a talk even when the likes of Buba Galadima and others were shouting that he wanted an audience with Buhari? It was deliberate to ship them out to know those who truly believe in the Nigeria Buhari is building, the source said.
‘‘Is the President and the new party Chairman (Oshiomhole) not talking to those who are the true APC members now? Of course he is because he now knows those he can rely on.
‘‘Oshiomhole further compiled their frustration when he announced that the party will henceforth chose its representatives through direct primary and what happened in Osun State recently sent a strong message to those of them who knew they have no structure in their constituencies and had to leave to join the PDP where they were offered automatic tickets’’, revealed the source who described the defectors as conservatives who can’t easily adapt to true democratic ideologies.
While Oshiomhole had consistently maintained that most of those who left the party despite calls by his NWC to be patient as he was putting the house in shape are political mercenaries who have no electoral values, reports have it that the opposition PDP had, as part of its agreement to woo its members who left it in 2014 to the APC back, promised automatic tickets to its new its new intakes.
The opposition party, according to reports, is also considering changing its name as part of the conditions put on the table by the incoming members.
There are however fears in some quarters that the direct primary, as good as the intention could be, might breed more troubles for the ruling party. Some have said that there is the possibility of the APC losing the majority at National Assembly that might cause it the overbearing power to run both the legislature and the judiciary.
The implications, they argued, is that such counterbalance may further fortify the base of the opposition PDP in the polity that even if Buhari is eventually returned in 2019, his executive power would be curtailed by the opposition who may likely have control over the National Assembly.
While the national leadership of the ruling party is busy putting its war chest in place to fortify its chances for the 2019 general election, it should thread with care while it further explores the provisions of its constitution vis-à-vis the nature of the Nigeria environment and the characters and content of those who call the shots in their various constituencies.