JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM writes on the controversy trailing the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to adopt direct primaries to select its candidates for 2019 general elections
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is enmeshed in the system to be adopted in selecting its candidates for the next year’s general elections. The party had adopted indirect primaries to select its candidates for elections until two months ago when it adopted direct primaries to select its candidate in Osun State governorship election slated for next week Saturday.
The party constitution in line with the electoral acts provides for three modes of selecting a candidate. According to the party’s constitution, a candidate can be selected excerpt councillor through direct primaries, indirect primaries or consensus. The constitution also states that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party could suggest any of the three with approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
At the last NEC of the party, which was the 6th one, the APC NWC proposed direct primaries against the usual indirect for the party primary to select the candidates of the party.
Briefing journalists on this proposition of the NWC, the governor of Plateau State, Simeon Lalong and his counterpart from Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello told the media that the NEC of the party had adopted direct primaries for its presidential aspirants and indirect primaries for other mode of aspirants for next year’s election.
In that briefing, Lalong said, “On the mode of election, we all agreed that for presidential election. We are going for direct primary, but for other elections, there are two options. But the general option is that we go for indirect primary. But any state that has a problem and wants to deviate from that is at liberty to write following the normal process with a resolution from their state executive seeking approval for a deviation from the agreed process.”
However, 24 hours later, the NWC of the party refuted the position of the governors and said that was not the position of NEC. According to APC Acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, the resolution of the party was that all primaries would be direct and any state wishing to adopted the indirect primaries or consensus would write to the NWC for approval.
Nabena said, “NEC resolved to adopt direct primaries for the nomination of the presidential candidate and all other candidates. The party’s constitution though provides for indirect election and consensus, however, the use of indirect primaries is conditional and dependent on logistic impediments; peculiarities and need of a given state that makes it unable to use direct primaries.
“The State Executive Committee (SEC) shall in consultation with aspirants and other critical stakeholders of the party in a given state forward for the consideration and approval by the National Working Committee (NWC), if indirect primaries is 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.
“The request for indirect primaries must be signed by majority of the State Executive Committee and critical stakeholders in attendance at the meeting where such resolution is reached. Direct primaries will among others ensure fairness; create a level playing ground for contestants; eliminate corrupt tendencies usually associated with the delegates system and ultimately ensure full participation of party members at all levels.”
Unfortunately, the position of NWC has been a source of controversies in the party, pitching the NWC the governors against the NWC and other stakeholders.
The direct primaries provides that every registered member of the party would participate in the selection of a candidate of the party, while the indirect primaries provides that candidate would be selected through delegates. Delegates are executive members of the party, elected members or party, appointed members of the party in government and other stakeholders of the party. In this type of primaries, the governors of the states have much influence as most the delegates are there appointees or nominated by them. The state executive of the party are usually under the governor since the party is structured that the governor of a state is the leader of the party, just as the president is the leader of the party at national level.
For a direct primaries to be adopted, the governors believe it is taking away the party structure from them since they cannot easily determine who would be elected as candidate of the party. Some of them have posited that such system of primaries is very expensive and the party would not have the finances to carry it out. Some also have argued that the party does not have a comprehensive members’ data and membership card which are prerequisite for the direct primaries.
According to the proponents of indirect primaries, adopting direct primaries would lead to manipulation where by the party would adopt whatever register of members for the primaries.
Also argued against the Direct primaries is the issue of security. For instance, the Senator representing Adamawa North, Senator Binta Masi Garba, while speaking to journalists after collecting her intent and nomination forms said it would be risky to conduct direct primaries to select candidates for election in Adamawa. She hinged her argument for preference of indirect primaries on security.
Also, one other person who is against the direct primaries is the APC National Vice Chairman (North-East), Comrade Mustapha Salihu. Salihu was the first person that raised alarm that some geo-political zone was planning to foist the direct primaries on members of APC.
Speaking to journalists, he stated that the party was not ripe for the direct primaries, nothing that for the party to adopt direct primaries, it must have concluded its membership registration and issued authentic membership cards to members.
He also argued that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not have the funds to observe direct primaries.
His words: “I want to make this assertion, advanced democracy moved from Option A4 to direct primaries, then to indirect primaries then to electronic voting. So, the direct primary is not a new mode of primary, it is something that we have been practicing before with the advancement of Electoral College that we have decided to go indirect.
“This is not to say that direct primaries is not possible; it is possible but we need a lot of preparation and a lot of work. It is not something that you just stand up one day and just think about it; it is something that you have to prepare for because of the people involved in the state, most especially.”
But for those who believe that the direct primaries is better, they have argued that indirect primaries breed corruption in the party. They also believe that it throws up an unpopular candidate. Their argument is that the direct primaries would sell the party more to the people since members were allowed to choose the candidates for elections.
According to them, direct primaries would help to determine how strong the party is in different areas. Among those canvassing for direct primaries is the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial district, Senator Shehu Sani.
Sani has fallen apart with governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, therefore he believes that the only thing that can guarantee him a return ticket to the Senate is direct primaries.
Addressing the media after submitting a petition to the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on the need for direct primaries in Kaduna State, he described indirect primaries as “Labour room for corrupt practices.”
Arguing that indirect primaries would amount to adopting corrupt system to elect credible people in office, he posited, that “Indirect primaries stand as direct antithesis to the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption at all levels. Our party having touted the change mantra must shine the light into those dark places in our electoral system where the corruptive influence of ill-gotten wealth is used to subvert the will of the electorate and perpetrate the vicious circle of corruption, bad governance and weak and dysfunctional institutions and processes.
“In all, Your Excellency, we see our decision to adopt direct primaries in Kaduna State as the panacea to the current deep fault lines and obstacles to building a strong virile, people-rooted APC. Direct primaries is the most assured means at throwing up the most popular candidates that will deliver Kaduna State for the APC come 2019″
Also in his company to submit the letter at the APC national secretariat was Senator Sani Saleh, who faulted the argument of insecurity being projected by some governors. According to Saleh, any governor making argument about insecurity is not worthy to be a governor.
However, Kaduna State has joined some other state to adopt indirect primaries as a system to elect candidates for general election. Other states that have adopted indirect primaries are: Adamawa, Zamfara, Kogi, FCT, Katsina, Imo, Bauchi, Rivers, Plateau, Yobe, Ondo, Nasarawa and some others.
But Senator representing Zamfara Central, Senator Kabiru Marafa said his state executive has adopted direct primaries. Marafa is contesting the governorship ticket of Zamfara State APC.
According to him, his state parallel state executive of APC would conduct indirect primaries for the selection of candidates and present same to the party. He stated that there was already an existing case in court on the authentic executive of APC in Zamfara State.
It is obvious that with the domestication of the primaries that APC might have problems in presenting candidates for the general elections. The conditions for adopting the mode of primaries in states might not be properly met as some governors and some state executive would unilaterally adopt any system convenient to them.
Also, many other states, like Zamfara might likely conduct direct and Indirect Primaries at the same time to select their candidates.
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