APC Bows to Pressure, Governors Have Way over Indirect Primary

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•Makes N8.7bn from N’Assembly nomination forms, says no crisis in Lagos
•Ambode meets Buhari, divides Mandate Movement

Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has finally caved in to pressures from its governors, approving the use of indirect primary for the selection of the party’s candidates for the 2019 general election without recourse to the National Working Committee (NWC).

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had at its last meeting approved direct primary for nomination for the party’s tickets but asked states that wanted to use indirect primary to apply for approval from the NWC.
The governors had risen up in arms against this proviso, pitting them against federal legislators who preferred the direct primary, which they felt would clip the wings of the states’ chief executives.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the governors with the NWC, the case for indirect primary was strongly made again and the governors had their way.

The party also said Thursday there was no crisis in its Lagos branch, explaining that the contestation for the party’s governorship ticket among Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat did not amount to a dispute.

Ambode, whose return bid is being hotly challenged by Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat of the Mandate Movement and Justice Forum respectively, held a closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday as part of his efforts to push forward his aspiration for a second term of office.

The meeting with the governors held at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro in Abuja, concluded that the state branches could now adopt indirect primary if majority of the party executives endorsed it.

Unlike the earlier stance of the party that all primary elections should be by direct voting process, the ruling party after a four-hour meeting between the national chairman and the governors elected on its platform resolved that the states are free to use either direct or indirect method to elect candidates for the 2019 general election.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Governor of Imo State and Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, Chief Rochas Okorocha, said the party had decided to adopt both direct and indirect primary elections as long as the process was free, transparent and would give equal chance to all the participants.
He also said that majority of the states were going for indirect primaries.

He said, “We just held a meeting with the Chairman and we’ve resolved that in support of the party that we are going to have free and fair primaries. Everybody will be given equal chance to participate in the primaries, which will be transparent, free and fair.

“And we have adopted both direct and indirect and most of the states are going for indirect primaries, but for the president, it is going to be direct primaries.”

Okorocha assured Nigerians that the APC was ready for free and transparent primaries, adding that the party was also ready to clinch victory in the elections in 2019.

Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, said what the party was after was the position of the majority of members of the state party executive.
According to him, “There is no way 100 per cent of the party will agree to one thing. There will always be some that will disagree but the decision of NEC is that the majority of the state executive committee decided on the mode of primaries.”

With regard to Kaduna State, the governor said the majority of the state executive committee had decided to adopt indirect primaries.
Oshiomhole who emerged from the meeting beaming with smiles said that the major task before the party was to ensure free and transparent primary elections.
He described the decision to settle for direct and indirect primaries as proper and in line with the party’s constitution.

“It is not a new decision that our constitution consciously provided for flexibility, first to reflect the diversity of our great country and also to try to give expression to the entire essence of federalism,” he said.
He promised that the NWC would ensure that the process is democratic, the rules fair and officiating impartial.
Oshiomhole also spoke on tension in the Lagos State over the challenge to Ambode’s second term bid, saying as far as the party was concerned, there was no rancour in the state and that the allusion that the governor was embattled was false and unfounded.

He said, “There is no APC governor that is embattled and because we are democratic, the best way to measure democracy is the presence of more than one person showing interest in an office.
“That does not make any other person embattled. But of course the media can create this impression that there is an earthquake in Lagos, there is no earthquake.”

Rakes in N8.7bn from N’Assembly Nomination Forms

Meanwhile, the party earned N8,732,600,000 from sale of nomination forms for the Senate and House of Representatives seats.
From the sale of 386 forms for Senate seats, the party got N2.702,000,000 while it obtained N1,272,600,000 from sale of 1,587 House of Representatives forms.

The party said yesterday that 386 aspirants purchased nomination forms to contest for the senatorial ticket of the party, while 1,587 aspirants are bidding for the House of Representatives.
The figures were confirmed by Oshiomhole while inaugurating the party’s screening committees at the national secretariat yesterday in Abuja
THISDAY also gathered from a party source that about 170 governorship aspirants have enlisted to contest for the party’s ticket.

Ambode Meets Buhari, Divides Mandate Movement

In a related development, Ambode Thursday met with Buhari behind closed doors ostensibly to press ahead with his aspiration to retain the party’s ticket for the governorship contest in Lagos.
That aspiration had been in limbo since the party’s National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, refused to publicly support Ambode even as his political machine, Mandate Movement, raised the Managing Director of Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), Sanwo-Olu, to bid for the governorship ticket.
A meeting of the state’s highest advisory body, Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), summoned to discuss it did not reach conclusion and would reconvene tomorrow to break the ice.

There were, however, indications yesterday that some leaders of the Mandate Movement were shifting grounds and considering the possibility of giving Ambode a second chance, splitting the group into two even as the majority remained crossed with the embattled governor.
Besides, a crop of APC leaders from Lagos East, Lagos Central and Lagos West Senatorial Districts are moving against the choice of Sanwo-Olu, insisting that the governorship position should not be zoned out of Ambode’s Lagos East Senatorial District.

Many of the major players in the political intrigues THISDAY spoke with in Lagos yesterday noted that unlike a fortnight ago, Tinubu had also started shifting grounds after the intervention of Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, among others.

A two-term senator, who spoke with THISDAY in confidence, said, “The Mandate is split already due to issues surrounding Ambode’s re-election. There are two different factions in the Mandate right now. On one side are Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, Hon. Bayo Osinowo and Alhaji Abdullahi Enilolobo, among others.

“On the other side are former Deputy Chairman of Lagos APC, Cardinal Odumbaku, former Chairman of Mandate Movement, Alhaji Ganiyu Badmus, the Director-General of Babajide Sanwo-Olu Campaign Organisation, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, and former Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mr. Kaoli Olusanya.”

He noted that the Aregbesola faction did not believe the move was to thwart Ambode’s re-election. He said, “Yes, Ambode has done wrong. This faction simply wants the APC to hold him accountable, but not to cut off his head. Even Aregbesola has softened his stance. I can tell reliably that there is panic in the camp of Sanwo-Olu and all his handlers now.”

The senator said the Odumbaku faction had taken the battle against Ambode too far, adding that it had become desperate about its agenda. He said, “Those in the faction have had meetings with the Minister of Power, Works & Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), and former APC National Legal Adviser, Mr. Muiz Banire (SAN) three times.
“Some leaders of the Mandate are no longer enthusiastic because they see a different agenda being played out. They simply want Ambode to be more accountable to the party. But the leaders of the other faction have taken the issues against the Ambode to the extreme while Hon. Osinowo, Alimosho people and lawmakers are more moderate.

“Even in Sanwo-Olu’s declaration, did you see Hon. Bayo Osinowo there? Did you see any member of Lagos State House of Assembly there? Did you see Speaker there? That should tell you things have really changed. The truth is that the people did not attend Sanwo-Olu’s declaration because some people have taken the issues with Ambode too far.”
THISDAY’s efforts to speak with some leaders of the Mandate Movement on the alleged division of opinion in their ranks proved abortive.

While Osinowo, a lawmaker representing Kosofe Constituency, did not pick his calls, the Personal Assistant to Alhaji Ganiyu Badmus answered his principal’s call and said, “Alhaji is in a meeting.”
When THISDAY contacted the Chairman of Mandate Movement in Lagos State, Alhaji Abdullahi Enilolobo, on phone last night, the calls entered into the voice mail.
However, the senator acknowledged that Tinubu would have to make a tough decision, which according to him, would require him to soft-land Ambode.

“He has to soft-land Sanwo-Olu too. The handlers of Sanwo-Olu have actually done more than what was in the original plan. They have gone beyond what they were asked to do,” he said.
Apart from Buhari’s intervention, the senator acknowledged the intervention of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), the business community, traditional rulers, senior lawyers and professionals, all of whom have been reaching out to the APC national leader not to thwart Ambode’s re-election.

He said, “These people are concerned about governance. They are concerned about the urban renewal programmes of the Ambode administration. They are also concerned about the ongoing development of strategic infrastructure. Before now, Tinubu did not shift ground. But in the last one week, a lot of interventions have been made.”
Another federal lawmaker, who served in the sixth and seventh House of Representatives, disclosed that the leaders of Lagos East APC had reportedly rejected Sanwo-Olu’s choice on the grounds that the governorship position should not be zoned out of the senatorial district.

He noted, “Our leaders have already taken position in this respect. Former governors from Lagos Central and Lagos West spent two terms in offices. The case of Lagos East should not be different. Their argument is that Ambode should be allowed to continue till 2023. They are planning to take away governorship slot from us.

“They are also planning to take Lagos East senatorial slot from Lekki-Epe zone. We stand for Ambode. We also stand for Senator Gbenga Ashafa, who is currently representing Lagos East Senatorial District. We hope the voice of reason and justice will prevail at last. Already, we have made our position known to the APC national leader.”
He also warned against denigrating the state institution just because some party leader did not like the governor, lamenting that nobody saw that the APC could be defeated in Lagos State until some leaders started the campaign against Ambode.

He noted that the 2015 governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jimi Agbaje, was reportedly skeptical about contesting until the Mandate Movement started supporting Sanwo-Olu against Ambode. With this internal issue we have in the APC, everybody now wants to run because of what is happening to Ambode.
He added, “With the advent of Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat, they now see that the APC could be defeated in Lagos State. People are now coming out to challenge the APC. Apparently, it is a fundamental error of judgment for some leaders of the Mandate Movement to take their issues against Ambode too far. How can you cut off your head because you have headache?”

Compared with what happened last week, the lawmaker noted that there “is more green light now. We have every cause to be hopeful. The meeting was adjourned till Saturday. Between you and me, there will not be much from the meeting because Osun election will be holding that same day. There will not be much until next week.”