Since conducting its primaries ahead of the 2019 general elections, the unity of the All Progressives Congress (APC), remains threatened following complaints on and, allegations of impunity and imposition of candidates by some state governors as well as the party leadership in affected states which denied some members ticket to contest the election.
In the build up to the primaries, the party’s decision to adopt direct primaries for the selection of its candidates threw the party into confusion as varying interpretations of this decision were made from different quarters. In the end, while direct primary was adopted for the Presidential, states were given the option of direct or indirect depending on the peculiarity and need of a state.
The party chairman, Adams Oshiomole had at the time, explained that the adoption of direct primaries was to boost internal democracy and added that it is “free from the vices associated with the indirect primary; direct primary cannot be manipulated; it is not prone to corruption”. But as soon as the conduct of the primaries commenced nationwide, reports of irregularities emerged some of which led to the postponement of the exercise in some places. Though, done and dusted, the exercise has left the party disunited; it has seen the membership of the party dwindle by the days especially, in the legislature even as it is faced with numerous petitions from aggrieved members as well as litigations.
Much as it set in motion a mechanism to contain these grievances and put its house in order ahead of next year’ polls, the party leadership appeared to not only make light the numerous cases bordering on irregularities in the conduct of party primaries with its timing, but also gave the impression that the Senator Osunbor Oserheimen–led national appeal committee was only a farce when it reportedly asserted that the committee’s report was advisory in a bid to beat the October 7 deadline issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct party primaries and resolve internal disputes.
It was reported that the committee in one instance, after reviewing an appeal by Mr. Acho Obioma, established that he won the ticket for Abia Central Senatorial primaries and recommended that the ticket be given to Obioma. However, that was not done due to INEC’ deadline and fear of violating the commission’s regulations. This, and probably other reasons have seen some aggrieved members dump the party for other parties and seen a few approach the courts for justice. Piqued by the latter, the party issued a threat to penalize those seeking redress in court as against exploring its internal mechanism and warned them to withdraw their cases.
In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mal. Lanre Issa-Onilu, the National Working Committee described action of those seeking redress in the courts as “anti-party” and a form of “indiscipline” and posited that any member who is aggrieved over a matter relating to the party and decides to drag the party or its officers to court without exhausting avenues contained in the constitution to address it, constitutes an offence as provided for in Article 20, Subsection 10 of its constitution which states that, offences against the party include: “Filing an action in a court of law against the party or any of its officers on any matters relating to discharge of the duties of the party without first exhausting all avenues for redress provided for in this Constitution”.
It said, “This growing trend is viewed by the party as a manifest indiscipline. The actions, it should be noted is considered as anti-party as it goes against our party’s constitution; the party intends to activate constitutional provisions to penalize such members as their action is capable of undermining the party and hurt the party’s interest’ we hereby strongly advise such members to withdraw all court cases, while approaching the appropriate party organs with a view to resolving any outstanding disputes; In addition to this, aggrieved members are urged to take full advantage of the reconciliation committees the party has put in place.
“We therefore advise such members to take this warning very seriously as failure to comply with party’s dispute resolution procedures would be met with the stipulated disciplinary actions”, it stated.
While some may argue that the “disgruntled” members need to allow the party’s reconciliation committees which was inaugurated shortly after the warning, to treat their petitions, it is should also be understandable if some of them opt for the courts if their matters have not been attended to or, if in their opinion, the committees would not give them justice.
It is equally understandable that the mounting litigations against the party and some of its officials may have prompted the riot act. There is need to acknowledge that issues such as it faces, cannot be solved through show of force as this only lends credence to allegations of high-handedness that have been previously level against it. And that the party’ constitution regardless, it is against the principles of natural justice which are considered basic rights to prevent aggrieved members of the party from going to court especially those who have lost faith in the judgement of a party that denied his right, to look anywhere but the party’s mechanisms for justice as re-echoed by President Muhammadu Buhari ‘s recent statement encouraging aggrieved persons to go to court.
The President in a statement, asserted that anyone that is displeased by the way and manner things have been done, and feels deprived of his/her rights, should feel free to approach the courts for redress saying, “we can’t deliberately deny people their rights. We agreed that party primaries should be conducted either through direct, indirect or consensus methods, and if anyone feels unjustly treated in the process, such a person can go to court. The court should always be the last resort for the dissatisfied. For the party to outlaw the court process is not acceptable to me”.
His statement clearly shows that he understands that you cannot cut a man open and not expect him to bleed. it opened a window for the dissatisfied to ventilate their grievances through legally acceptable channel, which is the courts. Aggrieved party members can now confidently explore this option, safe in the knowledge that they have the backing of the president and this will in no small measure, strengthen party mechanisms and the country’s democracy.
The downside of this conflicting positions however, is that it may lead to more chaos within the ruling party ahead of 2019 and beyond as egos will most certainly be bruised, interests will clash and efforts at reconciliation will be jeopardised.