Discord in APC over direct primary
The resolution by the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) to introduce direct primary elections for selecting the party’s standard bearers for various elective positions has become a source of new division within the ruling political grouping.
The scheme, which was put into play last week in Osun State, is already ruffling feathers among chieftains of the party. Although some see it as a means of infusing the desired change in party politics and cleanse APC’s Augean stable, others received the initiative with skepticism.
During his campaign to become the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole promised to institute the direct primary option as a means of not only curbing the recurring schisms in the party, but also ensuring that APC creates the enabling environment for the ideals of democracy to flourish.
However, last weekend when the system became operational in Osun, Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Sulaimon Yussuf Lasun and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Moshood Olalekan Adeoti, alongside ten other aspirants in the straw poll protested.
Mr. Ameobi Akintola, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, contended that the direct primary option was not acceptable because of absence of verifiable database of APC members from electoral ward up to the state level.
Their stance also followed opposition by a group under the aegis of Forum of Osun APC Youth Leaders, who argued that the direct primary invention would deny the party the services of its experienced members in the state.
Moreover, the option was said to have caused division within the NWC, particularly because some stalwarts felt it was politically engineered to gratify both Governor Rauf Aregbesola and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is said to be closely related to Mr. Isiaka Gboyega Oyetola, the eventual winner of the primary.
But, in spite of noticeable hitches, like late arrival of ballot papers, Oyetola polled 127,017 votes against Lasun’s 21,975 in the exercise held in 332 wards of the state.
Also among the 17 aspirants that campaigned for the party’s ticket, some withdrew at the last minute, including Adeoti, Senator Babajide Omoworare, representing Osun East in the Senate and Mr. Peter Babalola, chairman of State Civil Service Commission.
Some party insiders told The Guardian that the introduction of direct primary was aimed at averting a situation whereby the party was forced to bite its fingers as happened after subterranean moves failed to get Engineer Segun Oni to clinch the APC ticket for the just concluded Ekiti poll.
They said but for the use of the indirect primary system, where delegates decided the fate of the aspirants, Governor-elect, Kayode Fayemi could not have upstaged Oni, who enjoys much more grassroots support among party supporters in Ekiti State.
As the general election draws near, it is believed that a majority of the twenty APC governors might test their popularity and influence on the party apparatus to sustain the indirect primary, which affords them opportunity to teleguide delegates in the choice of candidates.
The drive for such influence over delegates has been at the root of the infighting between various chieftains of the party, especially governors and serving ministers in virtually all the 36 state chapters of the APC.
Oshiomhole, who has won plaudits from some chieftains over the initiative, maintains that direct primary would surely stem the tide of money politics and godfatherism plaguing party politics in the country.
He said: “We decided that in order to ensure popular participation and to deepen democracy in Osun State, and in line with the provision of our party constitution, which allows either direct or indirect primary, we have resolved that the governorship election primary in Osun State will be conducted on the basis of direct primary. What that means is that every card-carrying member of our party will participate in the process of nominating the flag bearer of the party.
“This is the most democratic way to conduct election and is in line with what our critical stakeholders from that part of the country wanted and we are quite happy to oblige. The idea is that the more we allow party members to participate in the process of nominating candidates, we will remove corruption or monetising the processes of nominating candidates in addition party members will have a sense of ownership of the outcome of the exercise.
“I think our slogan is change, but we have not changed from bad to worse. We have only changed from a situation where only few delegates who fly the flag of the party to one in which all party members have a say and can participate actively.
“Our democracy has to grow and our constitution allows for this process and I am proud that the people of Osun State are ready to go through the whole hog of allowing party members rather than allowing party caucus to determine who flies our flag.”
Also, Tinubu lauded Oshiomhole over direct primary, saying the involvement of all APC members in nominations will ensure that the party chooses the candidate of the people.
Tinubu added: “It will also serve to galvanize the party membership for the general election that lies ahead. Moreover, direct primaries will serve as a future deterrent to those who might have tried to corrupt the delegate system of obtaining nominations. With that system, the temptation to ‘buy’ delegates was an ever-present weakness.”
Senator representing Kano South, Kabiru Gaya, who was a beneficiary of the direct primary, also seen as option A4, hailed the initiative, saying it was in line with the provision of the Electoral Act.
Gaya said: “You know we passed the Electoral Act in the last senate with some few amendments to it. We had heated debate in the National Assembly on which way is better. But, the court says the party has the right to choose whether direct or indirect primaries.
“So it is left for the party to decide. Initially we wanted to make it a law that it should be direct primary because most of us are supporting it. I went through direct primaries in 1991 when I emerged governor of Kano State.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Comrade Peter Akpatason, said direct primary would surely increase party cohesion and unity, stressing: “Direct primary is constitutional. It is also one of the options in the party constitution. So, it is practicable. The way we look at direct primary, for those in support, is that when you have a few persons as delegates to decide the fate of aspirants, in a big party like ours, there would be element of disenfranchisement of the majority.
“But, when you allow card-carrying members of the party to come and contribute to the process of choosing the people that would represent them, it is more democratic and more inclusive and so I am in full support. “
However, since we have more than one option, situations should determine when to use both of them. For now, he is applying it to a peculiar situation, because people of the area have on their own demanded for it, which is constitutional and in line with the spirit of the party.”
Alhaji Umar Ahmed Nana, chairman of Bauchi State APC, said he was uncomfortable with the idea, contending that it is an issue that should be tabled for deliberation in the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) before adoption.
Having been applied in Osun, would direct primary become the tradition in APC or a one off thing?