The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by tomorrow will lift the ban on campaigns for political parties, signaling the commencement of political activities ahead of 2019. ANDREW ESSIEN, X-rays the level of preparedness of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the task ahead.
It is now without doubt that the 2019 general elections will be a defining moment for the world’s most populous black nation as once again, Nigeria’s quest for a sure footing among the committee of democratic nations will be tested and tried.
It is no longer news that the stakes for this particular elections are high particularly because of the factors at play. The ruling party, the APC, which took over power from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is more than interested to retain power at the center and if possible, all the states of the federation.
Meanwhile the PDP is seriously working to kickout the party it feels, wrongly took power from it even as the other political parties continue in the business of convincing the populace that it presents the proper alternative to the dominant parties, whom they blame for all that is wrong with the country since the advent of democracy in 1999.
However, stalwarts of the APC are concerned with the swelling rebellion growing within the party occasioned by the fallout of the recently concluded primaries to elect flag bearers for various elective positions up for grabs in the coming general elections.
With the many aggrieved party men and women across the country, the blame has naturally landed at the doorstep of the present Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).
At its last convention that saw the coming of the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC to pilot the affairs of the party, pundits had averred that a new lease of life had come upon the party and the issues that were the antithesis of the Oyegun era may have come and gone especially considering the reception that greeted the leadership’s ascension to power.
But with the contentious issues that have arisen because of the outcome of the primaries across the states, it is evident that the presidency would have to get involved since it was an interested party ahead of the general elections. At first, the process was greeted with so much enthusiasm by most party faithful who felt that the solution to a one-man-takes-all system had finally come.
But in the process of time, some party stakeholders and indeed a segment of its leadership realised that even with that process, a lot of ‘senior’ persons would be swept away with the growing tide of anger that had slowly enveloped the electorate at their different wards.
The greater test has now been the aftermath of the implementation. As it now stands, all hell seems to be let loose as crisis from the primaries in almost all parts of the country, on daily basis are erupting with protesters in their numbers continually besieging the national secretariat of the party with one form of complaint or the other.
The toll took its course with many party leaders either abandoning their offices or deciding to operate outside the secretariat, the usual hustle and bustle, preparations, meetings hitherto associated with the national secretariat prior to an all-important election period has considerably waned after the primaries as offices within the APC secretariat are peopled by administrative, secretariat staff and security personnel.
With the expectations that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will lift the ban on campaigns by Sunday, it has been observed that there is a general feeling that the division among the party leaders resulting from the fallout of the contentious primaries may be the reason.
Indeed, the recent state congresses and national convention of the APC has continued to hunt the party in the last few months so much so that the resultant effect has crystalized into some of its dissatisfied members having to dump the party to align with the major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other political parties in a coalition arrangement ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The current leadership of the party has continued to argue that the introduction of the direct primaries was not only meant to deepen the internal democracy of the party, eliminate, if possible, the penchant for trading votes for money and the imposition of candidates on the party, but to bring an acceptable and to a large extent, credible candidate for the party even as it goes to the all-important 2019 general elections.
The current national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole while explaining the rationale behind the move in the buildup to the Osun elections stressed that the NWC “decided that in order to ensure popular participation, and to deepen democracy in Osun State, in line with the provisions of the APC constitution which allow for either direct or indirect primary’’, they ‘’have resolved that the governorship election primary in Osun State will be conducted on the basis of direct primary.
‘’What that means is that every card-carrying member of our party will participate in the process of nominating the flag bearer of the party. This for us, is the most democratic way to conduct elections and is in line with what our critical stakeholders from that part of the country want and we are quite happy to oblige.
“The whole idea of that is that the more we allow our party members to participate in the process of nominating candidates, the more we will remove the issue of corruption or monetising the process of nominating aging candidates, in addition to the fact that party members will have a sense of ownership of the outcome of the exercise.”
In layman terms, direct primaries mean that every registered member of the APC may not just be an “observer” but a participant and delegate who will not just be involved in general elections but also in all primary elections, to choose their prospective elective representatives.
A political analyst, Usman Yahaya, had averred that “The recent introduction of direct primaries by APC is a multi-million dollar task that may not be taken lightly by those who invest heavily into the slavery transaction of delegate trading, where the highest bidder wins the race.
“Nigerians should understand that a battle line has just been drawn between the forces of darkness that have mastered the art of imposing candidates of their choice and the masses who now have the liberty to decide who deserve what.”
But with the various divisions within the party, its readiness as the electoral umpire lifts ban on campaigns is doubted by several party stalwarts. Reports of party leaders shying away from the national secretariat abound even as party businesses are conducted more in secret locations.
A source within the party lamented that the absence of senior party officials had considerably dampened the morale within the secretariat as there are no longer high-profile activities like the usual monthly meetings between governors elected on the platform and the party leadership, courtesy calls by eminent persons, Committee inaugurations and the rest.
It had been expected that activities would be on top gear, planning and inauguration of various think-tank committees to, among others, raise funds, reconcile aggrieved party members and chisel out a workable plan to be executed as it sells its plans and programmes to the electorate.
National Auditor of the party, Chief George Moghalu however insists that there is no division within the leadership even as he said that despite the fallout of the primaries, reconciliation is being vigorously pursued.
“Naturally, in any human organisation of which APC is one, interests are bound to clash,” Moghalu said. “There must be disagreements after every major primaries because in every contest involving two or three persons, only one person will win.
“Having clearly established that fact, it is incumbent on us, who by the grace of God and the will of the people, are vested with the responsibility of managing the party to set up the machinery to reach out to every concerned person in the reconciliation process.”
Speaking on the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the 2019 general elections, he says, “To be honest with you, I really don’t have any fear. However, what we need to do which is also good for our democracy is that we need to work hard as a party. We need to improve on our marketing and we need to consolidate on our area of advantage. We must continue to reach out to the people, doing what is expected of us considering the limited resources available to us.
“If there are healing process to take place internally to avoid any more cracks, we must concentrate on it until they are done with. We must ensure we tidy up our house first.”
The next few weeks will be critical for the APC and its leadership as it tries to assuage wounded egos, close ranks and forge a united front for the 2019 elections. The time however, starts now.