The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has concluded plans to make direct primaries – choosing party candidates through voting by all members – optional due to current realities.
It was learnt that two major reasons were behind the decision, namely, the fear of a backlash from insistence on direct primaries, considering the closeness of elections, and the cost implication of involving all members in primary elections.
Consequently, the APC leadership, at a recent National Working Committee (NWC) meeting, decided to throw the issue open, thereby leaving the choice of what method to embrace to the leaders of the party at the state level, in most cases, the governors.
Although the APC leadership had planned to use direct primary to elect all its candidates for the 2019 general election, it reckoned that the choice came with consequences, which, if not managed properly, could hurt the party at the polls.
However, with the open option already accepted and tacitly supported by the NWC, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party is expected to meet this Thursday to consider the development.
A top APC leader and NWC member, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed that the NWC had earlier considered adopting the direct primary election method as against the indirect or delegate system. The source said most members of the NWC supported the direct primary election method based on its successful experimentation during the recent Osun State governorship primary.
Similarly, for the same reason, the source said APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and other members of the NWC had met for four consecutive days last week, trying to take a position on the issue and other concerns in the party.
While the meeting was meant to deliberate on how to approach next month’s primaries and avoid any crisis that might lead to further defections, those pushing for direct primary believed it would act as a mechanism to check the antics of some of the governors and leaders bent on sustaining their hold on party structures.
But a few days to the NEC meeting, where a decision on the method to adopt for the primaries would be finally made, the leadership of APC started to have a rethink, considering the processes involved in organising a direct primary as well its huge financial involvement.
The source said given the deliberations at their previous meetings with Oshiomhole, the party might eventually revert to the delegate method for its primaries, although as an optional method, depending on the disposition of the states.
Chief among those said to have kicked against the adoption of direct primaries were some of the APC governors, who allegedly told Oshiomhole to drop the idea of direct primary because of the funding and potential crisis it could cause.
A chieftain of the APC and Director-General of Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, speaking on the development, said though direct primary was a good way of ensuring participatory democracy, it was also very cumbersome and could lead to crisis and defections.
Okechukwu, who spoke with newsmen by telephone last night, said, “Direct primary election method is good in terms of deepening democracy, but it is cumbersome and difficult to manage. It is also very expensive and may get out of hand.”
But another party chief, who spoke in favour of direct primary, on condition of anonymity, said there was no such challenge, as being feared, maintaining, “Yes, our people are desirous of it, we cannot deny our members the opportunity to participate in choosing candidates for elections. Governors are members of the party and they will do as it directs. The party belongs to all members and not an exclusive preserve of a few or the club of a few members.”
The APC constitution states that nomination of candidates for elective offices at the local government council, state House of Assembly, House of Representatives, and Senate, as well as governorship and presidential positions shall be through direct or indirect primary election. The party’s constitution also provides that only members that are financially up to date are eligible to vote or be voted for.
But there have been fears among the leading political parties on what might likely be their fate should they go into the primaries for the 2019 general election. With growing concerns and apprehension following the recent gale of defections that hit the ruling party, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are presently poaching each other’s members as a means of gaining the upper hand ahead of the 2019 elections, even as the leadership of the two parties are wary of the implications of rancorous primaries.
Oshiomhole had expressed delight at the outcome of the direct primary in Osun State, which produced Governor Rauf Aregbeshola’s Chief of Staff, Gboyega Oyetola, as the party’s governorship candidate for the September election in the state. During one of the party’s meetings, Oshiomhole allegedly said even at a short notice, the Osun State direct primary was able to hold with little or no hitches.
Since then, the proposal for direct primary was said to have won the support of the presidency and a good number of party stakeholders.
National leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has also succeeded in getting stakeholders of the party in the state to endorse the choice of direct primary. Tinubu, while justifying the move, said apart from increasing members’ participation, the introduction of direct primary would rank as one of the remarkable democratic reforms that the APC would bring to the polity, if it is successfully pulled through.
But the opposing governors had insisted that with the use of direct primary, there was always the problem of compilation of party membership register, which would in turn create bigger problems for the party.