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APC’s furor over direct or indirect primaries

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PHOTO: Philip Ojisua

Given that the success or failure of a party in an election depends on the candidates fielded, which in turn depends on the primary election process adopted in selecting the candidates, it is up to the parties to be wary in the primary election method to adopt. The stakes are really high. The days of massive rigging of elections in Nigeria have waned.

Whatever may be the case, the people hold the power. The people can decide to slug it out with whoever imposes the wrong candidate through rigging. Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should let the will of the people take precedence in the coming 2019 elections. The process begins with the party primaries.

I would like to state from the outset that there is no hard and fast rule on which method to adopt in terms of party primary. The constitution of the party should provide guidance. Other than that, the situation and circumstances of the time may determine which method to adopt. It is left to the party to decide based on the prevailing circumstances.

But let me state, without reservations that adopting a method based on selfish interest or corrupt tendency would backfire. A primary election method should be adopted based on the larger interest of the party as the ultimate goal is to present candidates that are salable to the people.

If you carry rotten fish to the market, nobody will buy it and you will have to carry it back home or throw it way. The aim of a diligent primary election is to choose credible candidates that would most likely be acceptable to the electorates. The party wants to win.

Before now, little or nothing was heard of direct or indirect primary elections. Since 1999, when the present political dispensation began, what Nigerians knew were primaries using delegates, which indirect primary. The delegates were party members selected across the party’s political spectrum from the ward to the state level. That has been the prevailing order.

But things are changing. Our nascent democracy is maturing. There is no way there won’t be changes in the way things are done. For instance, there is no way the corrupt delegate-based primary election method will not give way to better more open and transparent methods.

Many corrupt politicians bank on buying the delegates to vote them or their cronies at the primaries. This has been going on over the years. For these politicians, doing away with delegates in favour of direct primary, which allows for mass participation of members, would truncate their corrupt unpatriotic plans. And that is why there is contention over this method in the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Perhaps, the idea of the direct primary method has been brought to bear to forestall corruption in the spirit of the anti-corruption campaign. The method has already been tried in the recent selection of APC’s governorship candidate in Osun State without problems.

The anti-corruption fight would be meaningless if from the outset people of questionable characters are(s)elected to run a corrupt government. That would be self deception as nothing would change. The anti-corruption fight would only remain a mere slogan.

Without doubt, it is politicians who have hatched wicked plans to buy the delegates with money under the old system that are vehemently kicking against the direct primary election. This is where the supremacy of the party must come to bear.

Over the past week, the ruling All Progressives Congress at its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held at its national secretariat in Abuja adopted direct primary to select its presidential candidate but indirect primary for the governorship and other political offices.

This decision by NEC amounted to eye service and self deceit since the party, at the moment, has only one presidential candidate in the person of Buhari. Who else is competing with Buhari to warrant even a direct primary voting? Certainly, all the party members will queue behind Buhari to endorse him as the one and only presidential candidate for the APC. Who is fooling who? The direct primary should apply to all electoral offices if the APC is serious.

Earlier on, in an attempt to stand on a sound footing, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC had decided to adopt direct primaries to produce presidential, Senate, House of Representatives, governorship and State House of Assembly’s candidates ahead of 2019 general elections.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the party’s National Caucus attended by Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, among others. Reports say there was no dissenting voice among the NWC members. All members of the NWC agreed to adopt direct primaries. This is a better decision.

Unfortunately, this decision has generated intense bad blood in the APC between the opponents led by some governors against Oshiomhole-led NWC. While the party is demanding direct primaries at all levels on the ground that if a politician is not popular to win in a direct primary, such a person cannot win in the general election and as such is unqualified to contest.

But those who prefer the corruption-ridden indirect primaries are afraid that their plan to impose themselves or their cronies will be thwarted if the direct primary is adopted. Governors who usually control the party structure in the states are able to foist their unpopular choices at elections through the delegate system. Time comes when evil is defeated for good to thrive. We cannot continue in this mess.

The onus is on Oshiomhole to resist the wolves in the party who want to eat all the chickens. Being that the 2019 elections is a litmus test for Oshiomhole, as a new party chairman, his own personal integrity is at stake. He should prove that he is able to uphold dignity, honour and respect for democracy to thrive. Otherwise, Nigeria will be wallowing in darkness under his watch. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and all the other parties should take cue from the APC and conduct transparent direct primaries. Nigerians are watching.

It is unfortunate that Nigeria’s democracy copied from the United States of America (USA) is bogus as it lacks the key tenets of democratic governance. Primary election is used in the U.S. to select candidates to run for public office. Primaries may be direct or indirect. But it is left to the party to decide which method to use.

The APC’s decision to adopt direct primaries should be given a chance. We have tried the delegates’ regime over the years and found its flaws, principal among which is corruption and vote-buying by moneybags. This should not be allowed to continue in a regime that is committed to fighting corruption.


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