The issue of whether to go for direct or indirect primaries as the All Progressives Congress (APC) settles down to produce its flag bearers has continued to generate ripples and is threatening the peace of the ruling party. TOPE FAYEHUN, in this report, writes on the politics behind it and its implication.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), may have caught itself between satisfying the governors of the party and the National Assembly members of the party based on the issue of the direct and indirect primaries introduced by the new leadership of the party led by Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole.
The party had introduced the direct primaries as means of selecting acceptable candidates that will fly the flag of the party in all elective offices ahead of the crucial 2019 general election, as means of giving every member of the party a sense of belonging.
Oshiomhole, on assuming office as the National Chairman of the party, promised commitment to the provisions of the constitution and commitment to internal democracy in the then crisis-ridden party.
According to his acceptance speech during his inauguration as the chairman of the party ,”As things stand now, we have no other party other than the APC and we must all remain in it and rebuild it, reform it, strengthen it so that it can provide comfort to all of its members and leaders regardless of how and where or when they came in to join in our shared commitment to providing leadership for our great country.”
He stated further that, “I am aware there are challenges here and there. But I believe that the team that has just been elected, we have what it takes to address those challenges. The instruments required do not need to be rocket size, but basic commitment to the provisions of our constitution, commitment to internal democracy, mutual respect for each and everyone of us, purge ourselves of any arrogance and a commitment to honesty, listen, discuss, persuade and finding common ground so that in the end, we can have a win-win solution in any states we have challenges and even on issues affecting various arms of government elected on the platform of our party”.
But analysts observed that the current leadership of the party may have reneged on his promise and equally lost the grip of the party to some powerful forces within its rank and file on the issue of direct and indirect primaries.
The National Executive Committee (NEC )of the party, in a statement by the spokesman, Yekini Nabena said, the 30th August 2018 resolution of NEC on the mode of Primary Election had been subject to inferences and misleading interpretations.
Nabena said ,“As an update to the earlier released statement, we wish to make the following clarifications on NEC’s resolutions on Mode of Primary Election: Primary elections into all elective offices shall be by Direct Primaries; NEC resolved to adopt Direct Primaries for the nomination of the Presidential candidate and all other Primaries.”
He disclosed that 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.
His words: “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 Primaries is to be adopted. The adopted mode shall now be applied to all categories of the Party’s Primary Elections i.e. State Assembly, Senate, House of Representatives and for the Governorship Elections.
“The request for Indirect Primaries must be signed by a 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”.
With that statement, it was clear that the decision of the NEC of the party was that direct primaries should be used so as to give everybody in the party a sense of belonging with a condition that any state that wants to adopt indirect must convey a meeting of stakeholders, that is, SEC members and aspirants of the party in such state and they must all agree to that effect .
But governors of the party kicked against the decision of the NWC on the direct primaries and the majority of them opted for indirect primaries so as to be able to have input in who gets what in their respective states.
The governors, who are in favor of voting by delegates, are reportedly spoiling for war with the national leadership of the party through their various state chairmen.
However, the question agitated the mind of political observers was that, did all the states that had already adopted indirect primaries called a stakeholders meeting as directed by the national leadership of the party?
For instance, in Ondo state, most of the stakeholders like, Senator Ajayi Boroffice and some members of House of Representatives like, Hon. Afe Olowookere, Hon. Babatunde Kolawole, Hon. Baderinwa Bamidele among others were left out in a meeting where indirect primaries were adopted for the party in the state.
Boroffice, in a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Kayode Fakuyi, said he was not invited to the venue of the stakeholders meeting where such decision was made.
He noted that the decision to adopt indirect primaries for elective positions in the party in the state was not the true reflection and correct representation of APC position in Ondo state.
“The only decision that can be said to be the position of the party is the decision that emanated from wide consultations and engagements with party stakeholders and aspirants, like the National leadership of APC directed.
“Whatever decision they take is not effective. At best, it is a proposal. It is subject to approval or rejection by the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC.
“As at Today, the APC has adopted direct primaries for all elections in Ondo State. If a primary election is conducted in Ondo State Today, it will be by direct primary,” the statement read.
Also, the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, and some aspirants from his state, petitioned the national secretariat of the party on the need to stick to it’s earlier decision on the direct primaries.
The aspirants, in a letter, addressed to the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, demanded that the direct primary mechanism which the party earlier settled for should apply in Kaduna State.
The aspirants who urged the leaders of the party to stand by their decision to avoid an unnecessary crisis in the party noted that indirect primaries stand as the direct antithesis to the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption at all levels.
“The party has touted the change mantra must shine the light into those dark places in the electoral system where the corruptive influence of ill-gotten wealth is used to subvert the will of the electorate and perpetuate the vicious circle of corruption, bad governance and weak and dysfunctional institutions and processes.
“We the aspirants and stakeholders of the Kaduna State Chapter of our great party the All Progressives Congress (APC) present our best compliments to you and wish by this letter to inform Your Excellency of our collective decision to adopt DIRECT PRIMARIES as the preferred mode of nominating candidates at primary elections into all elective positions in the state.
“We are particularly in opposition to indirect primaries because of the weakening effects of its corruptive tendencies. The entire process begins and ends with vote buying. And, as it is always the case where the will of the general electorates are subverted, the best candidates for the tasks at hand never get recruited.
“Our decision to adopt direct primaries in Kaduna State is the panacea to the deep fault lines and obstacles to building a strong virile, people-rooted APC. Direct primaries are the most assured means of throwing up the most popular candidates that will deliver Kaduna State for the APC come 2019.”
It was clear, however, that the party had failed to fulfill the condition of NEC for the adoption of indirect primaries in the state.
Argument For And Against Direct Primary
Some of the argument in favor of direct primaries in the party was that the decision will eliminate corruption and unfairness that usually characterize the primary elections of political parties in Nigeria, since the party pride itself as a progressive
Those who argued in support believes that the decision if followed, will ensure fairness, justice, equity and provide a level playing ground that will give every aspirant and members of the party a sense of belonging.
They opined that “For the purpose of aligning with the grassroots, the members of the party will choose those who will fly their flag. That will refuse to allow few persons to take the responsibility of determining who will fly the flag of the party.
“It will also help to assess the strength of the party in our various localities and wards and use it to test run of seeing how to prepare we are for 2019 general elections”.
However, those who oppose the direct primaries hanged their argument on logistics and security aspect of conducting the direct primaries. They said the development would further polarise and cause more crisis for the party.
Most of them who noted that adopting the indirect primaries was to avoid a further crisis that might plunge the ruling party into a bigger mess, averred that some members from other political parties have since joined their fold and hence the register was not fully updated.
They argued further that direct primaries will cause anarchy and further polarise the party since the issue arises from the last congresses are not yet resolved.
According to some of them, “We adopted ‘indirect primaries’ because those that have just joined the party did not have the membership cards.
“We, unanimously adopted that any elections that will be conducted in our state shall be indirect exercise. Because the party has no document to back up the direct primaries and that was why we have arrived at the indirect primaries.
“Direct primary is evil and is another form of corruption, is unacceptable in our and direct primaries is going to spoil our party, that is why we did not accept it. The lives of our citizens are precious to us, we are to protect them, we do not want violence and that’s why we unanimously adopted that election should now be conducted indirectly”
However, political observers who punctured their arguments noted that the whole drama revolves around of politics of taking the structures from the governors and politics of retaining the structure of the party by the governors.
According to observers, the politics of the direct primary itself is to return the party to the people at the grassroots after the new leadership of the party might have succeeded in withdrawing the party from the governors who had been claiming the ownership.
According to observers, the governors are aware the implications of having a direct primary in their respective state where they have been running the party like their own empire. Some of them know that since they are not in good term with their people at home, they may revolt against their candidates during the excise, hence the need to do everything humanly possible to work against the introduction.
Some of them who argued about the issue of register forgot that they all participated in congresses from ward to state level in April, where they successfully installed the candidates of their choice in the detriment of other leaders of the party.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), had advised the leadership of the party to yield to the demands of state governors of the party to conduct indirect primaries in their states ahead of the 2019 polls.
Sagay who said APC may lose power in 2019 if the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s rift with the governors from the party is not resolved, insisted that the party could not afford to go to war with the state governors who are critical stakeholders in the party, with just a few weeks to the general.
“I will urge the party to think of the consequences. In this case, I will advise the party to acquiesce to their demands for indirect primaries rather than direct primaries.
“We need to be pragmatic on this issue and, also, they have to think of the future. If they do anything now and go against the government or the party, it will not bode well at all. So, we have to be pragmatic about these things.
“If there is such a threat and they are likely to carry it out, I will advise the party to accept indirect primaries rather than direct primaries.
“The election is around the corner. If they don’t listen to the governors’ demands, the consequences are that the party may lose power.
“If we stick to principles and you lose power, you are out of power and all the indiscipline and mis-governance we experienced under the PDP will come and haunt us. So, I believe the party should concede to them,” Sagay said.
However, this statement put into question the issue of party supremacy which Oshiomhole led administration had been preaching since he came on board. He has been seeing as someone who believes in party supremacy and had since been pursuing this principle.
The party had given a directive and governors are going against the directives, this development brings to test of party supremacy that present leadership of the party wants to install. Will NEC succeed with the idea of party supremacy?.
Now that the country is moving towards the 2019 elections, with the type of politics going on in the ruling party, who will lose out in the game? Is it the national Assembly members or the governors?.
Will the national leadership of the party accept the decision of these states that failed to follow and obey its directive on inviting all the aspirants and stakeholders before adopting indirect primaries?
If the NEC of the party concedes to the governors, will the issue of party supremacy will not be brought to question.? Will the party come out of this without recording any casualties?
What happens, if the governors lose out?. Will they work for President Muhammadu Buhari and the party in the forthcoming election wholeheartedly ?. If it is the National Assembly members that equally lose out, what happens ?. Will, they move out of the party or stay and work for the party when they have already lost out in the power tussle?
Currently, there is high wired politicking going on in the National Assembly. Will the party still retain is acclaimed majority status in the to actualise its dream of removing Bukola Saraki taking into cognizance the statement of PDP that six governors of APC are on their way to the party. What will happen to the party in the post-primary era in the National Assembly?.
However, there is no way there wouldn’t be causalities. It is either the governors succeed or the National Assembly members who are not in the good book of their governors succeed since politics is a game of interest and that is the basis of all the gale of defections in the history of the country politics.
Where your interest is not protected, you move out of the place and go to another place where your interest would be accommodated. No doubt, the National Chairman is in a deep dilemma.
However, some observers opined that the debate on the Direct and Indirect primary dominating the political atmosphere of the ruling party, is a testimony to the fact that it is very tough to manage a growing political party in Nigeria.
According to pundits, Nigeria politics is an amalgam of subsets of the system and rational behavior in the civil service, trade, business, and another informal sector, hence managing a political party and it’s myriad of interests and intrigues requires a stoic political sagacity.
They are of the view that, although, some governors listened to the instructions of the party highest decision making an organ, what will happen to those who failed to listen to the National Leadership of the party?