The controversial outcome of some of the primaries in many states proves a poor showing for the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC of the APC, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently immersed in intra-party crisis caused by its various contentious primaries held across the states. Perhaps, this may be the first major baptism of fire for the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) to prove their mettle in political party crisis management.
There were warning signs when the issue of the mode of primary to choose candidates for the 2019 general election became hotly contested – some wanted direct primaries, others sought indirect primaries.
At a stage, it almost threatened to dismember the party that had just survived the exit of heavyweights like Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara. But the timely intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari and other party leaders, who at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved to allow some flexibility on the matter.
However, Oshiomhole who is still basking in the euphoria of his unopposed emergence as the man at the helm of affairs of the APC insisted he was pursuing his own version of change in the electoral process and internal operations of the party.
But the man with iron fist melted under the heat of pressure mounted by the governors elected on the party platform. Indeed, the party was forced to officially recognise the use of dual mode of primaries – direct and indirect election.
It thus gave room for state chapters to adopt either direct or indirect subject to the approval of the National Working Committee. Close watchers of the unfolding event in the ruling party would notice that there were three strong interest groups involved in the tussle over mode of primaries.
These included the cabal at the Presidency, the governors, federal and state lawmakers. Each of these interest groups was seeking to protect their political stake by supporting either direct or indirect method of primaries.
For President Buhari, those who pushed for the use of direct primaries did so with the intention of insulating themselves from any legal issue that might arise in future due to alleged wrongdoings during the state congresses of the party. The move by the president is an acceptance that all is not well with the last party’s congresses held during the John Odigie-Oyegun leadership.
Another reason those behind the president’s direct primary took that decision was to try and save him the trouble of leaving his fate in the hands of the governors, who control virtually all the party delegates from their states.
Should the president have been made to go through indirect primary, the governors would have been the deciding factor on his ability to clinch the party’s presidential ticket. The governors were the ones pushing for indirect primaries.
The second group (the governors) in the saga are either seeking reelection or election into a new office like going to the Senate. Some of the governors also have wider interests to ensure that the party’s candidates are their cronies or stooges.
In the case of the third group, the lawmakers, they mostly preferred the use of direct primary, for the mere fact that the process might be more difficult for the governors to manipulate. APC has also said it adopted direct primaries in order to checkmate cases of the godfather influence and vote-buying.
The party said the incidences of vote-buying had become worrisome and as a party and was striving to rid itself of the scourge.
The Acting National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, who spoke with THISDAY on Friday, said the ruling party believed that indirect primaries were responsible for the hijack of the party’s structure by moneybags.
According to him, it is the use of delegate system that is responsible for vote-buying during elections.
Nabena said: “In APC, we are not even used to vote-buying in the first place. It is a worrying situation in the country presently and that is why we are trying as much as possible to make sure that we introduce the much talked about direct primary, because if the direct primary is introduced, it will carry along everybody, including those people at the grassroots, from the ward level.
“Delegate system is causing this vote-buying, because when the other people look at it that certain people are given money, because they are delegates – you camp them and paid them – other people will say okay, let’s wait for him till the time for general election. They will know what to do.
“So, when it gets to the general election, they too will say yesterday you paid some people as delegates, so today you must pay us. That is why APC is introducing direct primary so that everybody will be carried along and when everybody is carried along, nobody will say, okay we will wait for you at the general election, because they are all participating.
“One thing that did not happen, at least not in the public domain, was an attempt by the leadership of the party to sit with these powerful blocs in the party to try and harmonise their interests before rolling out plans for the primary elections.”
What the party did not seem to understand, however, was that the governors would not sit down and allow their powers and influence become eroded in the name of ensuring greater participation by the members.
Adopting a direct primary is just one form of challenge but allowing two variants of the primaries to operate in one period of electoral contest was asking for too much trouble. Added to this is the fact the party was ill-prepared to handle the challenges thereafter.
For instance, when the National Executive Committee of the APC said the decision over which mode of primary must be by a majority of the party stakeholders in any state, it did not provide means of ascertaining what majority meant.
Second, adequate logistics plan was not made to ensure that the exercise would be free, fair and transparent. Worse still, the party seemed challenged by the backlash arising from this avoidable adventure.
In fact, but for the last-minute rally by the Federal Capital Territory Police Command, protesters in their fury would have overrun the national secretariat of the APC last week.
The Oshiomhole-led NWC presently has its hands full and it is left for them to prove that they are equal to the task by uniting party members to a morale-boosting national convention which might be unlikely if Oshiomhole did not mellow his fire-and-fury disposition.