Osun: As APC innovates double standards in direct primary
The All Progressives Congress (APC’s) decision to use direct primary in the selection of the party’s flag bearer for Osun State gubernatorial poll is not only a new innovation, but also the first time such primary election would be organised under the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
But, no sooner than the party released the modalities for the primary that some informed observers and stakeholders saw the development as an attempt to constrict the area of influence of former Lagos State governor and national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the Southwest.
The first time the idea was mooted about the need to use direct primary as basis of choosing governorship candidates was at the build up to the Anambra State gubernatorial election. One of the frontline aspirants, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, while announcing his decision to withdraw from further participation in the process, bemoaned the unabashed movement of huge sums of money to buy delegates, urging APC leaders to rethink the delegate system of electing flag bearers.
In the letter Obidigbo wrote to the then national chairman of the party, he explained that it was a shame that a party that promised Nigerians internal democracy and a change in the way things are done in the polity should look the other side why party chieftain and stakeholders facilitate the use of money to induce delegates.
Comrade Oshiomhole might have decided to toe the path of open and direct primary to rekindle public confidence and pave the way for party faithful to have the final say on who becomes the candidate for the September 22 governorship poll in Osun.
However, a former member of APC NWC told The Guardian in confidence that direct primary was devised by certain powerful elements in the Presidency that want to limit the control of Jagaban in the Southwest, stressing: “It is a plan that has been in the works for over a year now. They believe that if four states in Southwest are within their direct control, it would limit the ability of Asiwaju to play any mischief or bargain with rivals.”
The outcome of recent election seems to buttress the assertion of the former APC NWC member, because with the second coming of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, the Presidency could boast of Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun already, while waiting in the wings to influence things in Osun.
It would be recalled that at the build up to the Ekiti primary, Fayemi rebuffed attempt by Tinubu to get into the driving seat and broker a consensus arrangement in a bid to avert a repeat of Ondo experience that nearly cost the party the governorship. But, knowing that he has tight control of the delegates, Fayemi reportedly badged out of the meeting convened by party leaders in the Southwest.
Although he denied walking out on Tinubu, the effortless manner in which Fayemi trounced other aspirants and picked the APC ticket and went ahead to emerge winner of the July 24 gubernatorial poll, bears testimony in most quarters that it was a mission scripted and executed from the Presidency.
It could be recalled also that Fayemi was prominent in the power play and noise that attended the selection of Alakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, as the governorship flag bearer of APC, especially against the background of heated disputations about the delegates list.
AS the direct primary gambit gained momentum and the governorship primary drew near, more than ten aspirants for the APC ticket in Osun voiced their rejection, saying that it amounted to changing the rules at the nick of time.Perhaps, in a bid to address the red flags being raised against the direct primary option, which Oshiomhole explained would engender public participation, date for the party primary was moved from July 19 to 20.
But while the aspirants denounced direct primary as coming so late in the day after they have wasted logistics on reaching out to the delegates, some elements in the national headquarters of the party fingered Governor Aregbesola, alleging that the governor actually instigated the aspirants to wave the red flag in apparent attempt to shoot down the direct primary method.
While the party leadership was reflecting on the best way to tackle the bourgeoning opposition, the Osun west senatorial chairman of the party, Ameobi Akintola, lent his voice, and urged APC NWC to use the delegate system or risk possible loss of the governorship seat.The zonal chairman argued that the membership register of the party was in very bad shape and as such ascertaining the true membership profile of party men and women might prove daunting. Akintola declared that the membership register has not been updated since 2014, and the use of direct primary may disenfranchise a lot of party faithful, stressing that the confusion the development could engender might derail the exercise.He maintained that if 12 out of 17 aspirants have cried out against the direct primary option, the party should hearken to the voice of the majority and use delegates that have already emerged for the exercise.
INTRIGUINGLY, while the arguments for and against the direct primary raged, the national leader, Tinubu, endorsed the approach, saying it would curb the excesses of moneybags and give a sense of belonging to party faithful.In a statement by his special assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Tinubu praised the innovation, describing it as “historic and capable of deepening democracy. A ground breaking step toward achieving this fine objective, by this decision, the party affirms its democratic inclinations.”
While stressing that the constitution approves direct and indirect methods of picking candidates, the Jagaban of Nigeria politics added: “When the history of this moment is written, those looking back on this decision will say that it was an inevitable natural consequence of party evolution.
“This consideration was a key factor in the election of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as party chairman. Core to that mandate is the improvement of democracy within the party so that we may become even better representatives of the people.“However, I know differently. This decision took courage and conviction because it bucked the old ways in order to bring about something better and new. Comrade (Adams) Oshiomhole deserves commendation for leading the party toward greater democracy, which means increased participation of all party members in key decisions that affect them.”
Tinubu explained that direct primary would serve as a future deterrent to those who might have tried to corrupt the delegates system of obtaining nominations, adding, “The involvement of all APC members in candidate nomination will ensure that the party chooses the candidate of the people. It will also serve to galvanize the party membership for the general election that lies ahead.”
The Devil Is In Tomorrow
DESPITE the effusive endorsement of the former Lagos State governor, some notable stalwarts of the party, particularly from North central said the real test of the innovation would be when it comes to states with incumbent governors and during the Presidential primary.A Senator from the zone who craved anonymity said the direct primary option in Osun should mark the beginning of a new crisis point for the party, stressing: “You cannot be talking about involving party members in one breadth and pleading right of first refusal in another.”
Lamenting that the seed of double standards has been sown in the party, the Senator disclosed that those who wanted the Benue State governor out of the party stand to reap the storm that direct primary would throw at them very soon.“The democratic inclination, which my friend Tinubu referred to, was the root cause of the recent confusion in the party in some states controlled by our party. Whether Oshiomhole came at a right time or belatedly would be seen by the way this direct primary hurricane will sweep through APC,” he added.
Although sources within APC disclosed that the cause of disaffection among some prominent players was that automatic ticket being worked out for President Muhammadu Buhari should be extended to them, it is believed that some state governors that plotted for Oyegun’s tenure elongation prefer the direct primary, ostensibly to see how it plays out during the Presidential primary.
Sources said that not most of the party chieftain are well disposed to Buhari’s candidacy, even as some said Tinubu’s interest revolves around keeping the party platform intact for 2023.Could this be why the Presidency has adopted a twin strategy of raising up new arrowheads in Southwest? In the event that Osun goes to SDP or any other party outside APC, who takes the blame? Definitely, as the primary season for the main election draws closer, there would be more questions than the new APC leadership could answer.