APC Governors Explain Reservations over Direct Primary


“The absence of a credible register of members and time limitation make the policy unrealistic and unworkable”

Segun James

Contrary to general belief, All Progressives Congress (APC) governors are not opposed to direct primary for the selection of candidates for the 2019 general election, some of them told THISDAY on Monday.

Rather, they are of the opinion that the while direct primary will entrench internal democracy and help to mobilise the rank and file of the party for the general election, time was too short for it to be effectively and credibly implemented.

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had last week decided to use direct primary for the selection of its candidates in the impending elections.

It, however, said states that, for special circumstances, would find indirect primary more suitable, could apply to the National Working Committee (NWC) for waiver, provided majority of their stakeholders concur.

The governors were, however, believed to have opposed this resolution, and were also said to be working actively to overturn it.

But governors that spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity yesterday explained that they believe the party did not have enough time to implement the policy given the fact that the primaries are only two weeks away.

“We agree that direct primary would allow for greater participation of majority of members, bring us closer to the voters and help prepare our members for the general elections,” said a governor from the North-west, “But we think the party is not prepared for this policy given the limitation of time.”

According to him, “First, we do not have available a register of members that is critical for a credible exercise. Second, we do not have the time to compile one.”

The governor explained that although the party had done the registration of members twice, the data gathered had not been captured, adding that the company contracted to capture the data indicated that it would take not less than two months to complete the compilation.

“So, tell me, where are we going to get the two months when the primaries are, by law, barely two weeks away?” he asked, contending that it would be counterproductive to engage in an exercise that would not be credible.

Supporting his colleague, a South-west governor told THISDAY that given the nation’s experience with the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) efforts to register voters and distribute the permanent voter card (PVC), it was clear that the task ahead was not only enormous but unrealistic given the limitation of time.

“For us, the absence of a credible register of members and time limitation make the policy unrealistic and unworkable,” he said.

He dismissed the widely held claim that the governors were opposed to direct primary because it would limit their capacity to manipulate the selection process, saying instead, the incumbent chief executives have more resources and reach to influence the process than fresh aspirants who are new to the internal electioneering of the party.

According to him, a governor that has had a structure in his control for four years is more likely to have easier access to the rank and file of the party than a challenger that does not have the advantage of the control of the important apparatus of state, critical to the distribution of patronage.

He referred to Osun State, where Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, the preferred aspirant of the incumbent, won the direct primary election, saying that was possible because Governor Rauf Aregbesola had the financial resources and the viable political machine to mobilise the greater number in support of his candidate.

The governor said Osun State also demonstrated the fallacy of the claim that direct primary would eliminate the rancour and disputations that attend indirect primary, pointing out that not only were there deafening complaint about the process, but that senior members of the party who lost out in the process left for other parties even as those who opted to stay behind have continued to agitate for the cancellation of its outcome.

“Our position, therefore, is that we need to find a realistic and practical solution to this dispute that threatens to divide the party sharply into two, months before a general election,” another governor told THISDAY.

The issue, THISDAY learnt, was a major talking point at yesterday’s meeting of the NWC as the party struggled to roll back an emerging revolt against its leadership.

Some state chairmen of the party, believed to have been backed by the governors, had met on Sunday in Abuja in spite of threat of sanction by the national secretariat of the party, and expressed opposition to policy.

They resolved to oppose the direct primary to the best of their ability, a position that immediately threatened the tenure of the NWC, as being the comfortable majority in the NEC, the chairmen could withdraw their confidence in the party executive, a situation that could force the resignation of the national chairman and his colleagues.