2019: APC’s ‘direct primaries’ of controversies


The move by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to adopt the Direct Primaries in electing candidates for all tiers of its election heading towards 2019 has generated controversy among its members with many of them threatening to dump the party. How has it polarised the party formed the thrust of this report culled from PREMIUM TIMES.

Controversy has continued to trail the resolution of the latest APC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in which direct primaries for elections in the party was deliberated on and adopted.

Direct primaries involve the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates. Indirect primaries, on the other hand, involve use of delegates. Often party leaders at local levels, political appointees as well as elected officials are assigned to elect party candidates in indirect primaries.

At the end of the meeting, one of the participating governors said the party had resolved to adopt direct primaries for the presidential election and thrown other positions open, but the party through a statement made a counter.

Before NEC Meeting

Prior to the NEC meeting, the party, in a caucus meeting held on Wednesday, had resolved to either go for direct or indirect primaries as allowed by the party constitution.

“The fact remains that the constitution of our party allows us to carry out our primaries and elections using direct or indirect primaries.

“We cannot disagree with the constitution so either direct or indirect primaries, you are at liberty to justify the choice you want to pick, once it suits your purpose and in line with constitution as the state determines,” Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode said after the meeting.

However, some senators who are keen to keep their seats at the National Assembly raised alarm over the moves to hand-twist the party into adopting indirect primaries.

Some of them who spoke on the issue alleged that the governors are ready to replace them with other candidates if the party goes for indirect primaries.

Confusion over Party’s choice

The NEC meeting on Thursday, rather than clarify and take a bold stand on the choice of primaries, brought more confusion. First was the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, who said the NEC adopted direct primary for only the presidential election as state elections will be subject to the peculiarities of the state. Lalong said on “the issue of mode of election, we all decided that for the (presidential) election, we are going into a direct primaries; but for other elections, there are two options.

“But the general option is that we go in for direct option but any state that has a problem and will want to deviate is at liberty to write and following the normal process, with a resolution from the state executive to the national exco”. Same day, the party released a statement which corroborated Lalong’s position.

“NEC resolved to adopt the Direct Primary option for the Presidential Primary. The use of the Direct and Indirect Primaries shall however depend on the peculiarity and need of a given State. In each case, the State Executive Committee (SEC) shall in consultation with candidates and other critical stakeholders of the party in a given state identify and forward for the consideration and approval by the National Working Committee (NWC) for the mode of election 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.”

This request for the selection of mode of election by any state, the party said, must be signed by majority of the Executive Committee in attendance at the meeting where such resolution is reached. However, twenty four hours after, the party released another statement which seems to counter its earlier position. In a statement signed by Yekini Nabena, its Acting Publicity Secretary, the party said the NEC meeting adopted direct primaries ‘for all elective positions.’

“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”. The latest statement cast a doubting shadow on the resolution of the NEC.

Parallel Meeting

Following the controversies, some party members and state chairmen who seem to be against direct primaries, met on Sunday. The meeting, which held at Barcelona Hotel in Abuja on Sunday, was originally scheduled to hold at Transcorp but was changed after the party released a statement on the planned meeting, stating that whatever came out of that meeting would be null and void. The meeting, as gathered, was to see how best to tackle the issue of direct primaries and kick against it so it is not imposed on states.

Reacting to the decision of the NEC and the several disagreements around it, the senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, on Monday said that indirect primaries breed corruption. Sani, expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of indirect primaries for other elective positions, as he took to his twitter account to say indirect primaries is an incubator for corruption.

“If we fight corruption as a Government and condone it as a party, we become ‘moral mullatoes’. Indirect Primaries is a breeding ground for corruption, an incubator for corruption and a crèche for corruption,” Sani tweeted.

Oshiomhole’s Clarification

In an attempt to clarify the lingering confusion on Monday, the APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, said the party adopted direct primary for the selection of its candidates for next year’ elections to boost internal democracy. Speaking on the issue to a national daily, he said the party decided to “liberalise” its shadow polls by making all registered members automatic delegates.

“Party members are complaining that they have no role to play in the party, except voting during the general elections, like other members of the public.

“We also note that direct primary is free from the vices associated with the indirect primary. Direct primary cannot be manipulated. It is not prone to corruption.

“We want to grow democracy. We want the party members to have ownership of the party. We want to give our members a sense of belonging.”

States’ Choices

Despite the controversies, the varying interpretation of the meeting seem to favour the adoption of direct primary for presidential and open choice for the states.

In this kind of arrangement, the states are expected to make choices based on peculiarities and realities of the political terrain. Already, a state has made its choice of direct primary.

In a statement on Monday, the Shola Fulani-led executive of the APC in Kwara State said that it will adopt direct primaries in electing its candidates for all elective offices as directed by the NEC of the party.

However, that executive is no longer recognised by the party’s headquarters which dissolved it after the defection of Senate President Bukola Saraki to the opposition PDP.

Fulani, an ally of Saraki, however, says he and his other executives remain in office and have challenged their dissolution in court.

The publicity secretary of Mr Fulani’s faction, Dele Kayode, said the executive arrived at decision after its meeting in Ilorin on Monday, assuring all aspirants under its platform of a level playing ground.

“This is to inform all members of Kwara state APC that after the meeting of the executive and stakeholders today, Monday, September 3, 2018, at the party secretariat, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:

“That direct primary will be adopted for the party primaries as directed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party,” the statement highlighted.

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