APC’s Double-faced Primaries

Buhari, Tinubu

APC’s decision to assign different modes of primary elections to different states has consequences, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The All Progressives Congress (APC) last Tuesday approved both direct and indirect mode of primaries for its state chapters. According to a statement by the acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabene the party said it approved direct primaries for 18 states and indirect primaries for 19 others including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

States that hold direct primaries are Lagos, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Kano, Niger, Ondo, Ogun, Taraba, Zamfara, Bauchi and FCT. In the same vein, the APC said that it has approved the use of indirect primaries for Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kebbi, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Jigawa, Borno and Yobe States.

From the latest action of the APC, it would appear the leadership of the party had allowed most of the state governors serving on its platform to have their way and to adopt the mode of primaries that suits them. But that may not entirely be the truth after all.

It was the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that first canvassed for the adoption of direct primaries in his home state, Lagos, apparently knowing that the state had a controversial state congress. It is in Lagos that the congress committee broke into two and conducted two congress elections.

One of them went and conducted elections in the 57 Development Areas rather than the Local government Areas approved by the constitution. Though the issues were promptly addressed by the APC leadership, it is still not clear whether the flawed process had been effectively corrected.

The ruling party seems to be navigating in a very complex and intricate circumstances. The situation APC has found itself at the moment is not enviable. Like the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole said at one of the recent party functions that many of the state congresses were fraudulently conducted, the situation automatically put the party in a very tight corner on how to avoid legal bobby traps.

Oshiomhole lamented that since assumption of office, the NWC had been tackling issues arising to the last congresses of the party, which he described as fraudulent. He assured members of the APC that the party would correct the mistakes of the past and confront the opposition come 2019.
His words: “In many of the states, we had challenges arising from the way congresses were conducted. Many of them were quite fraudulent. That has been the challenge we have been trying to resolve since we came.”

In a statement issued by Oshiomhole’s Chief Press Secretary, Simon Ebegbulem, the party said it might adopt direct primaries in the state to avoid litigations that may affect the candidates and therefore challenged, for instance, the Imo APC to be ready for a popularity contest during the primaries.

“All of you have agreed you are popular, so we may have to adopt the direct primaries mode so that all the aspirants will go and test their popularities.”

Senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Kabir Marafa even alleged that certain elements he referred to as fifth columnist had planned to use the fraudulent congress to cause legal embarrassment to President Buhari and the party. He said the leadership of APC in its wisdom decided to insulate the president from the possible legal crisis that the unresolved congress disagreement might cause.

As at last count, not less than 24 state chapters of APC were having its leadership being challenged in courts as a result of alleged flaws in the processes that led to their emergence.

Concerns over the likely consequences of an improper congress notwithstanding, the governors who were the direct beneficiaries of the flawed congresses continued to pile pressure on the APC leadership. At a point, the party seemed to have found itself between the devil and the deep blue sea. On its own, the party appeared disposed to direct primary mode in all the states but for the powerful influence of the governors, who put their feet down to ensure that they retained the indirect method.

At a meeting held last Wednesday, at the Imo Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, the party said state chapters could adopt indirect primary election mode if a 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 resolved that the states were free to use either direct or indirect method to elect candidates for the 2019 general election.
Understanding the Governors’ Interest

Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, defended his colleagues, who opted for the indirect primaries. He said governors are supposed to dictate the tune being that they are the ones mostly on the ground and could easily adapt to any of the options for primary election.

Another governor that is known to have openly canvassed support for indirect primary election is the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai and his Kogi State counterpart, Yahaya Bello.
Implications of a Double-faced Primary

One of the immediate consequences of this non-committal approach adopted by the party is that it has wittingly or unwittingly created room for rancour and discord between the various tendencies in the party. The stance taken by the party in granting indirect primaries to some states where the governors are at loggerheads with other stakeholders of the party is a subtle way of scheming out those not on the good books of the state chief executives.

For instance, in Kaduna, where it is a known fact that the state governor, is having running battle with all the three senators from the state especially the last man standing and senator representing Kaduna Central senatorial district, Shehu Sani, the later has said without direct primaries, there would not be fairness in the process.

Also for the likes of Senator Magnus Abe, who is engaged in shadow-boxing with the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi over the control of party structure, indirect primary will further compound the problem. One other interesting aspect of the decision of the party on mode of primaries is the plan to use direct primaries to elect APC candidates from Imo State.

For the governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, who has an anointed aspirant, his Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu to deliver in primary election, it is a tough challenge, because the process will put the popularity of the aspirants to a clear test.

In the end, however, the problems that the party was trying avoid by employing this strategy would still surface and in full throttle. Those who felt shortchanged or shut out in the process might go to court and still create some level of uncertainty for the ruling party.