•Party lacks updated register for direct primary, says chieftain
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The All Progressives Congress (APC) at the weekend foreclosed the adoption of indirect primary as a way of picking its candidate for the September governorship election in the state.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, told THISDAY that the decision of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to use direct primary for the primary, scheduled for June 22, remains inviolable.
Issa-Onilu spoke against the backdrop of the deepening controversy generated by the party’s decision to adopt direct primary to decide on who flies its flag in the forthcoming governorship election.
Six aspirants, from two camps of the party, riven by power tussle, are in the race for the APC’s governorship ticket.
Five of the aspirants, including a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who recently defected from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC, and a former Deputy Governor of the state, Dr. Pius Odubu, are jostling to unseat the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who is seeking a second term in office.
While the governor, whose camp is opposed to direct primary, is the sole aspirant from his faction of the party, Odubu and three others belong to the faction loyal to APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
In a fresh twist to the series of plots to outsmart each other, the state government in a gazette that the governor signed on May 28 and published on Friday, outlawed political gatherings that could aid the conduct of direct primary possible in the state.
The governor’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, was quoted as saying that the gazzette was in line with the directive of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that states should manage the COVID-19 pandemic through measures unique to them.
But a former Deputy National Auditor of the party under the Chief Bisi Akande-led National Interim Management Committee, Captain Muhammad Bala Jibrin, has said the party lacks an up-to-date register of members for direct party, adding that the last time the register was updated was in 2017.
Issa-Onilu, in an interview with THISDAY, said it was too late to change the rules for the primary.
“The Electoral Act requires us to give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 21-day
notice for the primary election, and we have done that, stating our resolution to use direct primary. We cannot change the rules; we don’t have power to change it again,’’ he stated.
He also urged the public to ignore the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari had advised the party to use indirect primary in Edo State APC, stating that the president does not interfere in the party’s affairs.
“It can never happen and it will never happen. The president does not interfere in the party’s affairs,” he added.
Also, a statement by Edo Professionals Forum (EPF), signed by Dr. Igbinigie Osubor, advised all parties participating in the state election to be mindful of the COVID-19 protocol in determining the mode of primary to be adopted for their elections.
The group said the mode of primary that would decentralise the system was more appropriate at this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
“A system that requires thousands of delegates to gather in a stadium to pick their candidate is very unhelpful as this time of our health challenges, created by COVID-19 pandemic. So, all political parties should be guided appropriately,’’ the group stated.
However, Article 20 of APC Constitution says conduct of primaries for nomination for governorship shall be through direct or indirect primary election to be conducted at the appropriate level.
“Further to Article 20 (iii) of the constitution, indirect primaries for the purpose of nominating a candidate shall be done at a designated venue for that purpose, by an electoral college of delegates democratically elected by members of the party from the various wards contained in the particular constituency at congresses.
“The number of delegates required for each office shall be determined from time to time by the National Working Committee’’, the party constitution stated.
By interpretation, to use indirect primary, also requires direct primary to elect delegates for the indirect primary.
Party Lacks Updated Register, Says Chieftain
A former Deputy National Auditor of the party, Captain Muhammad Bala Jibrin, has said the party lacks up-to-date register of members, saying the last time the register was updated was in 2017.
Jibrin, in a statement yesterday, said the insistence by the party on a direct primary without a register of members smacked of sinister motives to cause confusion, violence and manipulate the process.
He cited some breaches of party constitution by the NWC that can lead to a repeat of what caused the political misfortunes of the party in Zamfara, Bauchi and Rivers States in 2019.
According to him, some state chapters that are crisis-ridden will require the intervention of the party’s National Executive Council (NEC), stressing that the ruling party is at risk of losing its core.
He said: “To conduct a direct primary, the most elementary requirement is an authentic register of party members. Article 9.4 (i) states that: “…the party shall update its membership records every six months and remit updated copies to appropriate secretariats…”
“As we speak, the national secretariat of the APC has no up-to-date register of members. The last time the register was updated was in 2017.
“While the absence of an up-to-date official register of members is a clear dereliction of duty on the part of the NWC. The insistence of adopting a direct primary without a register of members smacks of sinister motive to cause confusion and violence and manipulate the process to serve the whims and caprices of Adams Oshiomhole.
“We saw Pastor Ize-Iyamu, the person Comrade Oshiomhole wants to impose by all means as the governorship candidate of APC in the 2020 Edo elections, announcing on live programme on AIT that he has registered as member of APC online. When did the APC develop online platform for membership registration?
“Where is the registration portal domiciled and who manages it? When has the APC announced such development? Has it been advertised? Has the party extended the online registration of members to Kano, Kwara, Taraba, Cross River, Ogun and other states where we have exodus of members in and out of the party shortly before the 2019 general election?”
The party chieftain noted that the APC’s National Executive Council (NEC), and not the NWC, has the final say on the mode of the primary.
He said Article 20 (IV) states: “Without prejudice to Article 20(u) and (iii) of this Constitution, the National Working Committee shall subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee (NEC) make rules and regulations for the nomination of candidates through primary elections.”
Jibrin said this showed that the powers to determine the mode of election to be used for the nomination of candidates rests with NEC and not NWC, adding that at least NWC must get the approval of NEC.
Meanwhile, the legal battle between the Obaseki-led faction of the APC and the party’s NWC over the mode of primary will resume today at the Federal High Court in Benin.
Factional Deputy Chairman of the party, Mr. Kenneth Asemokhai, and a governorship aspirant of the party, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, had approached the court seeking to restrain the APC from adopting the direct mode of primaries, citing COVID-19 and 2018 APC National Executive Council (NEC) resolution as the ground for their action.
Also joined in the suit is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to the plaintiffs, who were represented by Mr. John Odubela (SAN), APC’s constitution provides that the states should suggest mode of primaries to the NWC, adding that they have suggested indirect primaries in which 4,000 delegates would participate with 500 delegates representing each ward.
However, the defendants’ lawyers, led by Mr. H O Ogbodu (SAN), appeared in the matter and demanded to be served the motion papers.
It was at this stage that Justice M.D. Umar, declined to grant the ex-parte motion but instead gave the defendants three days to file their papers to show cause why the injunction should not be granted.
The judge subsequently adjourned the case till today.