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2019 Primaries: APC states’ chairmen battle Oshiomhole

2019 Primaries: APC states’ chairmen battle Oshiomhole

2019 Primaries: APC states’ chairmen battle Oshiomhole

Barely two weeks to the commencement of primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party is literally at war with itself over the method to adopt in the election of its candidates for next year’s general elections.

At the centre of the battle is the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who is being accused of running the party like a cabal. Whereas Oshiomhole is routing for direct primaries, the governors and state chairmen of the party are insisting on indirect method.

Penultimate Thursday, the NEC of the party had adopted direct primaries for the president and indirect method, as well as consensus for other offices – state Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and governor.

But in a statement 24 hours after, the acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena countered the NEC resolution, and stated that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had directed that all primaries must be by direct method. Responding, the party chairmen in all the 36 state chapters and the FCT threatened to pass a vote of no confidence in the Oshiomhole-led NWC over the decision to adopt direct primaries for the 2019 general elections.

One of them who volunteered to speak on condition of anonymity, warned that; “we will do everything possible to resist the imposition of direct primary, including passing a vote of no confidence in the Oshiomhole-led NWC.”

Surprisingly, the resistance to direct system of primaries had come even from within the NWC. For example, the party’s National Vice Chairman Northeast, Comrade Mustapha Salihu, who has been in the vanguard of the stiff resistance to direct primaries, described it as an imperial tendency of the Southwest.

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“Initially, I don’t have any feelings that there was possibility of conspiracy, but when I see stories planted, I began to suspect. If one region feels that direct primary is the best for them, they should canvass that at the regional level.

“But one thing I want to warn is that the North will not succumb to regional imperialism so long as we are acting within the constitution,” he cautioned.

Already, many states, from North to South, have within this week adopted the indirect form of primaries after various stakeholders’ meetings, in contravention of the resolution of the national leadership of the party.

However, the crisis may have become more complex with the official release of the schedule of activities and timetable for the conduct of the party primaries within the week. Ignoring the protests and threats from some interests, the schedule released by the NWC, detailed the date, mode of the primaries and the stipulated amount the aspirants under the party platform must pay to get the party flag for any elective position.

But the APC’s National Vice Chairman, Northeast, Mustapha Salihu disowned the statement issued by Nabena over the conduct of party primaries.

Speaking with Saturday Sun, Salihu said, everything that was passed at NEC is like a resolution, circulated to all members of NEC and that any other thing anybody including any organ of the party, says maybe his own interpretation of it.

His words: “In this vein, the best thing to do is for you to publish the resolution passed by NEC, you don’t have to coin English, you don’t need to canvass for any position, just publish it, as it is and do away with all ambiguities. Anyone that attended NEC will tell you that it was a resolution that was passed in respect of party primaries.”

He added: “As we speak, this resolution is being circulated to states for adoption. Kano has decided to go direct; Adamawa said it wants to go indirect; Borno said it is going indirect; Kebbi said it is consensus. “This is the beauty of democracy. This is first time it is done in the history of party politics in Nigeria to give every federating unit the chance for selecting their mode of primaries, as enshrined in the constitution and the Electoral Act.

“NEC agreed that primary elections into offices shall be by direct, indirect or consensus. Use of direct or indirect shall depend on the peculiarity and the needs of each state. “In each state, the State Executive Committee shall, write to National Working Committee for approval of the mode of election to be adopted. The adopted mode shall apply to all categories of primary election that is, state Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate and governorship. Request for this election must be signed by majority of the state executive committee members in attendance at the meeting.

“I’m a member of the National Working Committee; you can record my voice that at no time did NWC sit and agree to issue a press release either that we were going to do direct primaries for all offices; it is not true, or warning people or group not to hold meeting. We never discussed anything of such.

“So, if you want to get further clearance on why Yekini Nabena did that, the only person that can answer that is Yekini Nabena himself, but I, as an NWC member, I can authoritatively tell you that we never sat and agreed to author a press release, which goes contrary to NEC. Outside me, you can ask any other NWC member, we have never sat to contradict NEC. We don’t have the power to do that. That is insubordination, and we can’t do that.” On where the releases emanated from, the North East national vice chairman of the party, said, “certainly, I don’t know; I can’t tell where they emanate from. Any other thing apart from the resolution by NEC is misinformation. The only person that has the answer is the person that issued the release.

Saturday Sun learnt that immediately after Nabena’s statement, opponents of the direct primary method started mobilising the state chairmen and other stakeholders to resist moves to foist the method on the states. Some stakeholders including the state chairmen and some members of the NWC converged on the Barcelona Hotel, Abuja, last Sunday, to fashion out the best way to confront the contentious issue. It was learnt that the stakeholders at the secret meeting earlier scheduled for the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja later regrouped at the Barcelona Hotel when their initial location leaked to the party hierarchy hours before the meeting.

The party’s NWC had in a statement signed by the acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, earlier in the day, dissociated the party from the meeting. He said, “We want to state clearly that the meeting which has been fixed for 2 pm (on Sunday) is illegal and an attempt to puncture the sincere efforts being made by the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC to reposition our party ahead of the 2019 general elections and to ensure unity, equity and justice in the party.

“The outcome of such meeting which is already known will be a nullity and we admonish our members to disregard such meetings in the interest of the party. It is illegal to call such meeting outside the purview of the constituted authority. “The identities of those plotting such meetings have been identified and unless they desist from such, they will be dealt with in line with the APC constitution at the appropriate time. “The APC will resist any attempt to disrupt the current peace and harmony prevailing in our great party after the exit of some members of our party.”

It urged party members who had grievances over decisions taken by the party to use the appropriate organs and channels to register their displeasure. But there are reports that governors bidding to use the indirect or consensus options are under fresh threats with the injunction that a protest from any stakeholder or aspirant will lead to the cancellation of the exercise and resort to direct primaries.

Determined to have their way, the governors are said to be hesitant to fund the direct primary method, a development that has put the party in a tight corner financially in terms of the money to execute the primaries.

From the state chapters of the party came strong words for Oshiomhole. In Nasarawa, the state APC said the National Chairman has no right to cancel indirect primaries that the state will conduct, warning that he should not turn the party into a one-man show. The state publicity secretary of the party, Mr Wuduyamba Sam Agidi said direct and indirect primaries are provided for in the party constitution and that at the NEC meeting of the party in Abuja, a decision was taken that state chapters of the party have a choice to decide which method to use. He further explained that all the stakeholders of the party including the governorship aspirants and other aspirants for Senate, House of Representatives and state assembly met and decided to adopt the indirect primaries. He wondered why the national chairman of the party is threatening to cancel the indirect primaries that will be conducted by the various states, adding that the national chairman should learn to respect the decision and wishes of the people.

From Imo, the State Chairman of the party, Hon Daniel Nwafor said a cabal at the National Secretariat of the party caused the controversy over whether the party had agreed to adopt direct and indirect primaries. He said that majority of the members of the party had agreed at its last NEC meeting that indirect primaries would be used for the selection of candidates for elective positions across the states while direct primaries would be adopted only for the presidency. He maintained that the decision of the majority of the members of the party should carry the day rather than the views of the minority who tried to cause confusion.

In Kaduna, the State Executive Committee (SEC) also went for indirect primaries.

The State APC Chairman, Air Cdre Emmanuel K. Jekada (Retd) said the decision was in line with the directives of the NEC, “as the mode of conduct of the party primary elections in Kaduna state”. Jekada said the direct primary method is not applicable in the state due to absence of a comprehensive register of party members. But the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani rejected the adoption of the indirect primaries mode, saying it will not serve the interest of the party in the state.

He said some members of the party were still in court over issues relating to the conduct of the last congress, which needed to be resolved before an indirect primaries could be contemplated. In Zamfara, the chairman and secretary of the party in the State, Yahaya Baba Pate and Lawal Muhammad Liman said the party did no wrong in adopting the indirect mode for the forthcoming primaries. Liman said the adoption of the indirect primaries was a collective decision of all stakeholders and members of the party in the state.

In Borno, an APC governorship aspirant, Senator Abba Aji rejected the decision of the party to adopt indirect system in the conduct of the primaries in the state. Aji who was absent at a “critical stakeholders’ meeting” held at the state party secretariat in Maiduguri, said he stayed away from the meeting where the decision was reached because he was “not in support of the indirect primaries.”

He said he found all the reasons advanced at the APC critical stakeholders meeting in support of indirect primaries for the party as “unconvincing.” Also, the APC in Ondo state said it did not breach the constitution of the party by adopting indirect primary system. Chairman of the party, Mr Ade Adetimehin said the constitution of the party allows either direct or indirect primary for the election of the party’s candidates. He said the leadership of the party, after a stakeholders’ meeting attended by all leaders of the party in all the wards in the state resolved to adopt indirect system in the interest of the party.

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The endless debate

The mode of primaries the party adopted to wrestle power from the PDP and contest elections in the past four years, has never been a source of concern to the ruling party under the chairmanship of John Odigie-Oyegun. It all started after the current national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, took over the mantle of leadership. The hullabaloo about direct and indirect system of primaries started with the conduct of the party primaries for the forthcoming Osun state governorship election. Ignoring protests from the Osun party members, the APC national leadership, in its wisdom, had insisted on direct primaries. Although considered more corrupt free and credible in producing a party’s candidate, the antagonists of direct primaries argued that the system will not guarantee the state governors especially, the opportunity to manipulate the process to give them that near automatic return ticket.

That reason, many believe, has been why most governors were strongly against the direct system. A member of the NWC who spoke to Saturday Sun in confidence argued that many of the governors may not get the party’s ticket with the adoption of direct primaries. “Don’t forget that almost all of them perfected the strategy for an automatic return ticket during the ward, local government and state congresses by ensuring that their cronies emerged party officials from the ward to the state levels to help them in manipulating the delegates lists.

READ ALSO: Direct primaries: Protesters ground APC secretariat

“From the interfaces between the party’s national leadership and legislators, we observed that greater percentage of the legislators had issues with their governors, not the party. What it means is that adopting indirect primaries would authorize the governors to deny them automatic return ticket. “You and I know the premium the national leadership of the party places on the legislators for the titanic battle against the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and some APC members who defected. The party cannot secure their full loyalty without dangling the automatic return ticket at them, only for their state governors to frustrate our efforts.

“Truth be told, adopting indirect primaries means working at cross purposes. The party was left with the option of devil’s alternative – the governors and the legislators. And considering the magnitude of the battle ahead at the National Assembly, which is capable of dismantling the party, the national leadership had to settle for direct primaries to accommodate the legislators.

“Don’t also forget that it provided the opportunity to whittle down the ever rising powers of the state governors. The issue of Tinubu factor was also factored in. He still remains the beautiful pride Buhari needs to capture the Southwest votes for the 2019 presidential poll. The last may not have been heard but we feel this is the wisest decision we can take under the present circumstances,” the NWC member told Saturday Sun.

Stretching the debate further, the protagonists of direct primaries, have argued indirect primaries, proven to be an imperfect system, has been instrumental to electing stooges into powers, perpetuating corruption and electoral fraud. To put it more direct, the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, argued that: “indirect primaries has become a breeding ground for corruption and a labour room for producing corrupt people in the society.”

“We cannot subscribe to indirect primaries when we clearly know that what obtains in that is simply the use of public resources to bribe delegates in favour of a particular aspirant. Indirect primaries has been the source of the destruction of Nigerian political structure and dynamics. Indirect primaries is simply a factory for producing stooges loyal to a certain godfather. It is a system where money is used, where people are auctioned as slaves in favour of a particular candidate,” Sen. Sami said when he led a delegation of Kaduna aspirants to the APC national secretariat during the week.

Oshiomhole not autocratic

The All Progressives Congress (APC) Ag National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, has dismissed accusations of high-handedness levied against the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. Reacting to the attack from some chieftains of the party across the states, the party’s spokesperson described Oshiomhole as a rather accommodating and diplomatic leader. “There is no iota of truth that Oshiomhole is running the party with iron fist. He is not autocratic in handling the affairs of the party as they claimed. He has listening ears, he patiently listens to suggestions, gives everybody sense of belongings and carries everybody along,” he insisted.

Last line

The last may not have been heard on the system to adopt if the threat and submission of the Senator representing Zamfara Central, Kabir Marafa, is anything to go bye. Senator Marafa told Saturday Sun after purchasing his Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms to contest for governor of Zamfara state that he stands by direct primaries. “My case is still in the court over the shoddy congresses conducted in my state and as I speak, we have parallel exco in place. If they adopt direct, I will participate but if it is indirect, there will be parallel primaries because I will conduct my own primaries and whoever the court rules in favour should go ahead,” he warned.

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