Nigeria: Direct Primaries Stoke Discord in APC Ahead NEC

President Muhammadu Buhari.
30 August 2018

There were indications yesterday that a fresh crisis is brewing in the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the party's decision to adopt direct primary election as a method of choosing candidates for the 2019 general election. LEADERSHIP gathered that ahead of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting billed to hold today, governors on the platform of the party and party leaders are divided over the idea of adopting direct primaries for elections at the party level. The fall out, it was learnt, became evident during the party caucus meeting held at the presidential villa on Tuesday night. The governors who unanimously rejected direct primaries disagreed with the party's national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the meeting.

Also, there seem to be disquiet among leaders and stakeholders in the governing APC on the contentious issue bordering on the mode of primaries to adopt for the selection of its candidates for the 2019 general election. It was further gathered that at the National Working Committee (NWC) level, senior party leaders are also divided on whether to adopt the direct or indirect primary system in the exercise scheduled for next month.

The APC had opted for direct primaries to choose its standard bearer for the Osun State governorship election.

According to the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, the direct primary is the most democratic way to ensure that a truly popular candidate emerges.

"Under this arrangement, all card-carrying members of the party in the state will be involved in the process of selecting the party's candidate," he said.

But a source in the APC said governors from each geopolitical zones who took time to speak on Tuesday night at the caucus gave reasons why the direct primary is not feasible for now.

The source who did not want his name in print told this paper that state governors who took turns to speak at the caucus meeting were not ready to budge, as they maintained that the decision is ill-timed.

He said, "Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who spoke on behalf of the South West said emphasis should be on cleaning of the party's register across the country and registration of new members. He also wondered why the party rushed to implement the direct primaries in Osun State.

"On his part, Borno State governor, Kassim Shettima, who is the chairman of Northern governors forum said with insecurity in the North East and North West, using the direct primaries was not an option for now. "Zamfara State governor and chairman of the Nigeria governors' Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, also echoed the same sentiments that the insecurity in the North East and North West may hamper the direct primaries.

"Imo State governor and chairman of the Progressive Governors forum, Rochas Okorocha also spoke against the use of the direct primaries".

The source added that President Muhammadu Buhari who was in support of direct primaries said it will deepen internal democracy in the party.

He disclosed that the president also gave reasons why he rejected the reordering of elections by the National Assembly, saying only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have the constitutional right to reorder elections.

The resolutions of the party caucus meeting on Tuesday night will be ratified by the NEC in its meeting today.

Meanwhile, speaking to State House correspondents after the caucus meeting on Tuesday night, Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, explained that the constitution of the APC supports the adoption of direct or indirect primaries

According to him, no matter what the party settles for, what is important is that party members are allowed to elect their leaders.

He said, "The fact remains that the constitution of our party allows us to carry out our primaries and elections, using direct or indirect primaries. We cannot disagree with the constitution. So, whether direct or indirect primaries, you are at liberty to justify the choice you want to pick once it suits your purpose

"The whole essence is for us to deepen democracy and also allow our members to participate in this whole process. The idea is once you have party members that are able to take decisions on who should represent them, I think we would have gone a step higher and better than other parties, that makes us a better party."

On his part, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who attended his first caucus meeting, said the resolutions will benefit both the party and the nation at large.

He said, "The meeting went very well and a lot of topical issues were discussed bordering on the interests of the nation. The resolutions are fantastic and I believe that the resolutions will not only move the party forward but will also help to alleviate the situation in the country today and Nigerians will be happy for it."

On what is uncommon about APC, he said, "Well, you want me to talk from the position of an opposition leader before? Let me say that the first thing you need to know about the APC, from the point of view of leadership, I am quite impressed. The President has kept his integrity intact.

"He has been able to improve the image of Nigeria and restore a lot of respect to Nigeria from the international community. I can assure you that he alone can attract millions of people; he is that infectious. Of course his stance on corruption, and that Nigerians have food on their table are things that are applauded all over the world.

"I have also advocated that he also fights the twin brother of corruption, which is poverty. I am joining the APC as a government to stabilize the government and to assist the government to create employment opportunities for Nigerians so that we can fight the twin brother to corruption, which is poverty.

"Poverty creates corruption and corruption deepens poverty, so we need to fight the two together. And that is one of the things I find attractive about the APC and believe me, with my people in Akwa Ibom State, with my presence in the APC, my people in South South have now seen the light and they said APC is the party to vote for come 2019."

Process Will Be Transparent - Oshiomhole

On his part, APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, assured that the party will follow electoral guidelines and be fair and just to all parties in the forthcoming primaries.

He stated that the principles of internal democracy will also be strictly adhered to in the party primaries.

He further explained that the meeting discussed the forthcoming party primaries based on the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 general election as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in January.

Oshiohmole said that the APC will comply with the INEC guidelines because the guidelines are derived from the provisions of the Electoral Act.

He said, "The meeting just had a conversation around the forthcoming primaries. As you know, based on INEC timetable on primaries, this is the season from the president, down to House of Assembly, and the exercise must end on October 7 according to INEC guidelines.

"We are obliged to comply with the guidelines because the guidelines are derived from the provisions of the Electoral Act. So, we basically discussed how to ensure full compliance with the INEC guidelines and also ensure that that we observe all the principles of internal democracy, participation, ensuring fairness and justice. I think these are the issues basically".

He averred that respecting the electoral act and the APC's constitution in the conduct of the party's activities is to ensure justice for all members.

He said the resolutions at the APC Caucus meeting will be tabled at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party fixed for today for deliberation and possible endorsement.

He said, "On Thursday we will go to NEC where the formal decisions will be ratified and once they are ratified there will be no problem. They are not being kept because every member of the party and indeed Nigerians are entitled to know how we agreed about the exercise.

"But I think everybody has confidence that we will do a very credible primaries to ensure that those who fly the flag of the party have the mandate of their various constituencies."

Also former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, gave reasons why he defected from the PDP to the APC.

According to him, one of the factors that brought him to the ruling party was the massive development coming to the Niger Delta area under the Buhari administration.

He stated: "Politics is about interest. I'm from the Niger Delta and I managed a lot of crises from Niger Delta. Sometimes, I went to the creeks and engaged the boys and my principle when I was managing the Niger Delta was out of engagement and the crises that the current APC government met, they succeeded in managing them through engagement.

"The president was seeing a lot of leaders from the Niger Delta, while the vice president went from state to state of the oil producing states, making a lot of engagements and agreements were reached.

"Nobody at that level had gone from state to state before in Nigeria. This was the first time and of course if that is happening and the crisis is not over, they need to be supported by those of us from the Niger Delta who are passionate about Niger Delta so that in moving forward, we can have solutions to the crisis of Niger Delta".

"So for me, let me join the party to be able to effect changes because we cannot achieve anything by working from the outside in the Niger Delta. Some of us have to join the APC train and many people are going to come with me so that we can achieve a lot more in the Niger Delta for the APC government. Politics is about regional interest and I'm interested in the Niger Delta."

Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan on his part said, the caucus was assured by members of the APC in the National Assembly that they were united and stronger than ever.

He stated: "We have the understanding that this is a party affair. Even when we have issues at state chapters, we are supposed to resolve these issues and the national party leadership is working round the clock to resolve those issues. Our caucus in the National Assembly is more united than ever before. This is the most united and focused caucus since I went into the Senate.

"After the defectors left, those of us who remained are stronger as brothers and sisters and we are doing everything possible to ensure that the National Assembly reconvenes in good time to look into the serious issues that we have before us - INEC budget, approval for the foreign loan and appointment confirmation issues that are before the Senate".

Meanwhile, the national vice chairman (North East) of the APC, Comrade Mustapha Salihu, said yesterday that the party will not succumb to regional imperialism of any sort.

He noted that there may be divergent views on the contentious issue of direct primaries in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party which will be thrashed at National Executive Meeting (NEC) of the party today.

Salihu said, "Before now I don't have any feelings that there was possibility of conspiracy, but when I see people planting stories, I now begin to suspect. If one region feels that was what is best for them, I think they can canvass that at the regional level and they now give us reason why they need that. I want to believe that in a democracy, the majority have their way and the minority have their say.

"So, they have the right to wish and if we decide to make it flexible, definitely what they want will be given to them at their own various states, but one thing I want to assure you is that we will not succumbs to regional imperialism so long as we are acting within the constitution.

Dismissing the fact that the matter had been concluded at the Caucus meeting, he said, "I am aware that some members of the House of Representatives from certain part of the country are circulating text messages to their colleagues that a decision has been reached as to the nature of the primary to be used by the party.

"NWC deliberated on the matter; the reason why I am doing this is that some people are trying to mislead members of the public, claiming that some decisions came from the party or an organ of the party. Any decision that will come from the party will be disseminated officially from the spokesperson of the party. We should wait for the outcome of the NEC tomorrow (Today)".

2019 Polls Will Be Free, Fair, PMB Tells Theresa May

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured British Prime Minister, Theresa May, of his commitment to conducting free, fair and credible elections in 2019.

In a bilateral meeting with the visiting Prime Minister, President Buhari welcomed UK's support at strengthening democratic institutions in the country.

A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying: "I assure you that I'm all out for free, fair and credible elections. I'm very pleased that my party is doing very well. The High Commissioner will brief you more.

"The recent successes in polls in Katsina, Bauchi, and Kogi have boosted our morale greatly. Nigeria has accepted multiparty democracy and that is putting politicians on their toes, forcing them to work harder".

On the anti-corruption campaign, the president applauded the British government for its support to the country, noting that the success of the fight is very important to ordinary people in the country.

Buhari said, "We had great opportunities and resources between 1999 and 2014, due to high oil prices. But when we came in 2015, oil prices plunged to as low as 37 dollars per barrel.

"What we have been doing since 2015 is to focus on infrastructure development, despite low earnings. Work is ongoing in roads, rail, power, and many others."

On Brexit, President Buhari noted that it provided an opportunity to strengthen the historic ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

"We are nervously watching the development about Brexit because we know that the relationship had been on for a long time. I assure you that I am prepared to strengthen the relationship between our two countries", he stated.

The Nigerian leader also thanked the UK government for its support on security and the fight against insurgency in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, as well as the improved trade relations between both countries.

"I am very grateful to the British government under you leadership for the help in security, particularly your training team that is in our institution in Kaduna," he said.

Earlier, in remarks before the bilateral meeting, Buhari underscored the need for UK's support on reviving of Lake Chad, which is a means of livelihood for millions of people.

The president told the visiting Prime Minister that Europe and China were already conducting an in-depth study on recharging the Lake through inter-basin transfer from the Central African Republic.

In her remarks, Prime Minister May who welcomed the assurance by the Nigerian government on credible elections in 2019 said she was pleased to be in Abuja to continue the "excellent discussions" she started with President Buhari in London in April, this year, particularly on security, trade, asset recovery and the fight against corruption.

"Security and defence cooperation are very important steps to address Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa," May noted.

On asset recovery, the Prime Minister told President Buhari: "We do not want to hold anything that belongs to Nigeria people, but we follow the judicial process, which can be slow."

The Prime Minister appealed to President Buhari to use his position as ECOWAS Chair to keep the issue of human trafficking on the front burner in the sub-region.

President Buhari and Prime Minister May witnessed the signing of two agreements namely Security and Defence Partnership and Economic Development Forum Agreement.

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