APC governors set for showdown with party, insist on indirect primaries

Governors in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Saturday said that states would exercise their rights to conduct indirect primaries in selecting the party’s candidates for the 2019 general elections.

This is in reaction to the statement of the party’s acting publicity secretary, Yekini Nabena, saying that all the party’s candidates would be picked through a direct primaries method, which contradicted an earlier report that  states should determine the mode of their primaries.

There is a deep division in the party between those who favour direct primaries, headed by its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and most of the governors who prefer indirect primaries.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party on Thursday reportedly attempted to resolve the division by directing for direct primaries in selecting the presidential candidate and giving states a leeway to decide their own mode of primaries.

This was countered by the acting secretary’s statement on Friday, which in turn prompted reaction from those opposed to direct primaries who insist that NEC’s original position was unchanged.

One of the APC governors who is also a member of the party’s NEC told Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday that, “The statement purportedly issued on Friday evening by the party’s acting national publicity secretary in order to ‘clarify’ the decision of the party’s NEC as announced on Thursday by the governors of Plateau and Kogi States was an exercise in futility. It was the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole; the APC deputy chairman, North, Senator Lawal Shu’aibu; and the deputy chairman, South, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, that called the acting publicity secretary and told him to go and make the so-called clarification in order to please their political mentor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. All these officials were members of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

“It is Tinubu that has been aggressively pushing for direct primaries as part of his drive to take over the presidency from President Buhari in 2023. There is no way the party can impose direct primaries on us all since its constitution appreciates our diversity and provides for direct or indirect primaries or consensus. The APC has 24 governors. Twenty-two of them, including all the APC governors in the North, made it clear that they preferred indirect primaries. This position was not taken out of fear, but out of concern for possible repercussions of direct primaries. Direct primaries will be as costly as holding general elections because we must pay security agents and many others.

“Secondly, our opponents can also infiltrate our party and cause chaos. When Kaduna State recently held direct primaries for local government elections, some people lost their limbs during fracas. That was just local election. What will happen if it is primaries for all posts?

“An APC leader in Gombe State said the PDP-controlled state government would certainly infiltrate our party and cause confusion.

“Thirdly, many of our states have one insecurity problem or another, and trying to hold direct primaries in some states is a recipe for chaos. Also, is the party ready for it? Have we got a clean membership register? For example, the APC has got only 12,000 registered members in Zamfara State. Is that the kind of register you want to use for direct primaries?

“Finally, direct primaries could cause so much confusion that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to unite the party afterwards.

“Already, Friday evening’s so-called clarification has infuriated many party leaders, including many state governors. They feel that Tinubu is jeopardising party unity and stability in pursuit of his selfish interest. Even in the Southwest he controls only Lagos and Osun states, and we are not even sure APC will win Osun in the upcoming elections. That is why he is doing all the manoeuvre even though 2023 is still very far away. Some few people within the National Working Committee (NWC) must not subvert internal party democracy by seeking to upturn a decision taken by the overwhelming majority. The PDP was destroyed before our eyes due to lack of internal democracy. Make no mistake about it, the same could happen to APC,” the governor added.

Also clearing the air on the decision of the party’s NEC on the mode of primaries to be adopted, the APC’s national secretary, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, said it was agreed that leadership of the party in states could decide on whether it desires a direct or indirect primaries in their domains.

Mala Buni told the BBC Hausa Service yesterday morning that the decision of the party’s NEC on direct primaries only affects that of the presidential primary but that states were at liberty to choose the kind of primaries they want to adopt, based on their peculiarities.

There has been confusion over the method of primary adopted by the party.

Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said immediately after the NEC meeting that they adopted direct method for presidential primary, other primaries would be conducted via indirect method.

However, the party’s spokesman, Yakeni Nabeni, said the decision of the NEC was that all primaries would be conducted through direct method.

But in the interview aired in the morning, Mala Buni said the party considered the cost of conducting every primary through direct method and other logistics; hence states were allowed to adopt indirect or consensus method.

“The NEC meeting approved the timetable for the party’s primaries and the amount to be paid for the various forms for each elective position.

“Both direct and indirect primaries ýare contained in our party’s constitution. In the presidential primary, we are going to start with direct method at the various ward levels, then we’ll conclude everything at the national convention.

“Other primaries such as that of the National Assembly, governors and members of state houses of Assembly, depends on what a state wants. The party executive at the state level would sit down and decide, and then forward to us that this is the method they want to use for approval,” he said.

Asked about the kind of crisis the indirect primaries would create in view of the sour relationship between some governors and top shots such as members of the National Assembly, he said there was no way election would be held without raising dust.

“There’s no way we’ll say we have a leader that’s unpopular or somebody that has done wrong to the people. There’s no way people will vote in a place and there won’t be issues. Everything has a procedure.

“If you want to do direct primaries, it has to be done at every ward. What people don’t consider is the cost and all that for the direct primaries. If a state feels it can bear the cost, we’ll approve it,” he added.

But APC’s acting spokesperson yesterday insisted that it was in the powers of the party to decide the primaries method to be conducted and not the governors.

Nabena told Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday by phone that everybody would conduct direct primaries.

When asked about what would happen in states that have expressed preference for indirect primaries, which could put the chances of federal lawmakers who might be favourably disposed to direct primaries at risk, he said, “It is very clear now in our statement. Everybody will go for direct primaries. The party is the one that will set the rules, not the state governors. It is only a situation whereby we have logistic problem that the State Executive Committee, with critical stakeholders, and the critical stakeholders are those aspirants, will meet and everybody will sign.

“So, the majority in attendance at that meeting will carry the day. And they will send the report to the National Working Committee to adopt the decision. The governor will not set the mode of election for the party. It is the party that will set the mode of election for the governors in every state. The governor will not choose for the party.”

On whether Nigerians would witness serious issue between the governors and members of the National Assembly, Nabena said, “No, there is no problem.”

But Tinubu denied that his support for direct primaries had anything to do with a personal political ambition for 2023, saying alleged presidential bid was only the imagination of those spreading it.

In a reaction through his media adviser, Tunda Rahman, the national leader of the APC said: “Nothing can be farther from the truth. Whoever is saying Asiwaju Tinubu is not comfortable with the model is only spreading blatant falsehood. He is pleased that the APC NEC adopted the direct model for the conduct of primaries at federal and state levels because it’s the most democratic and most participatory. It wards off corruption in the process, something which the delegate system unduly promotes. The success of the direct model in Osun governorship primaries has even convinced many beyond all doubts that it is doable and workable. The argument of those opposed to it is that the model can be difficult to manage because all the registered party members constitute the electors. It was done in Osun and it was a huge success.

“For instance, the winner of that Osun primaries, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, garnered over 127, 000 votes in that primary. Those votes are already in the basket for him going into the real election later this month. So direct primary enables the party to test its strength before the real contest. Asiwaju is in the forefront of direct primary advocacy because it’s like giving power to the people, which has been the fulcrum of his politics over the years. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the alleged 2023 presidential ambition, which is in the imagination of those mouthing it.” – Daily Trust.

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