Primary Elections: APC Trudges On Amid Challenges – By Abba Adakole
It is difficult suppressing a yawn of boredom when tracking recent media reportage on the so-called crises in the governing All Progressives Congress, APC. Add to this scenario, the opposition’s lip-smacking spins of imminent implosion of the party – and an observer would probably be left scratching his head, trying to properly situate the hullabaloo.
First, if the acronym APC meant “All Progressives Cemetery” instead of All Progressives Congress, it would make sense that a major political exercise like party’s primary elections to choose standard bearers across board, ahead of a general election – especially for a governing party in Africa – would be frictionless. Actually, Nigerians ought to be worried should that have been the case – where peace of the grave yard prevailed.
But good a thing, the APC is not a “cemetery” but a vigorous agglomeration of national political tendencies that fused to form a broad-based political platform with the vision of providing a new direction for the country. For starters, and given its national appeal, it successfully sacked the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2015 general election.
Except for the incurably biased, it cannot escape attention that even in the smallest parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the simple exercise of primary elections generated heat. At a fundamental level, the problem, within the context of this analysis, is not the presence of friction but the leadership adroitness and decisiveness of its management.
This is where the leadership skill and courage of the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, come under stern assessment. What are the core issues? Ahead of the party’s primary elections to elect candidates for various elective national and state positions and flowing from deliberations reached at its meetings in Abuja, the Oshiomhole-led National Executive Committee, NEC, had first settled for direct primaries and subsequently, due to governors’ insistence, indirect primary election for those who request for it and fulfill the conditions precedent, as the modes of choosing the party’s candidates, from the president down.
A distinctive feature of the direct method of electing candidates is its inclusiveness while the downside of the indirect primary election is its exclusiveness. But for the direct primary election, all registered members of the party would participate in the process of determining who their presidential standard-bearer as well as other candidates would be. But some state governors had pushed for the adoption of indirect primary election (delegate system) apparently to enable them secure their position and determine the fates of other persons jostling for nomination tickets for the various elective offices in their respective states.
Party leaders and members, who could not vouch for the sincerity and integrity of the state party machinery under the control of the governors, kicked against indirect primary election, preferring the direct primary election. They had wanted the generality of party members to participate in the process of determining who their candidates should be. Many members of the Senate who have been supportive of President Muhammadu Buhari but at loggerheads with their governors back home were obviously vulnerable back home.
As a reward for their loyalty to the president and the party, the Oshiomhole leadership had strategically and understandably conferred on them the advantage of disqualifying their opponents in order to insulate them from the debilitating antics and shenanigans of their governors back home. On the scale of balance in the present circumstance, the interest of the party and President Buhari is more important than any interest of the governors that is circumscribed in the state or local politics.
Nigerians are very familiar with the supremacy battle over control of the National Assembly. Oshiomhole had moved in to ensure that the vast majority of senators that had planned to defect from the APC was fractured by more than a half that eventually left the party. Return or automatic ticket is a way of keeping the senators in the APC to maintain the APC majority in the Senate and to ward off possible impeachment plot against Buhari.
The APC leadership, under Oshiomhole, had to make its moves to the chagrin of some state governors. The leadership would not allow the governors to further divide the party and had remained rigidly committed to ensuring that the position was maintained. It is in this connection that some APC governors met with President Buhari on Thursday, October 4, 2018 on the matter. They wanted to, as usual, exercise massive control.
Some of the governors were Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and Abubakar Bello of Niger states. Others included Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo and Simon Lalong of Plateau states. Okorocha, backing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as successor, spoke on behalf of his colleagues after the meeting with the President. He said their mission was to resolve frictions associated with the primary elections in their respective states.
The governors also met with Oshiomhole. Already, for procedural infractions, the national working committee (NWC) of the party led by Oshiomhole ordered cancellation of governorship primary elections in Imo and Zamfara states. There were as well some frictions in conduct of governorship primaries in some states; a few dissonances were also experienced in the National Assembly primary elections in a few states.
But in the shark-infested waters of Nigerian politics, some conspiracy theorists have wrongly gone into overdrive to even speculate that Oshiomhole is striving to get back at state governors who were against his candidacy as national chairman. Here is a fellow who assumed office as the ruling party’s national chairman, equipped with the necessary intellectual tools and experience to make a significant impact in the national arena.
Having played a significant role in the political evolution of the nation – in the past three decades, from labour to politics – Oshiomhole can hardly be expected to aid the destruction of the country. He is also not one to preside over the liquidation of the party under his watch. He has resolved the potential flashpoint of Lagos State, with Governor Ambode standing down and conforming to the party’s dictate. The few states that are experiencing residual friction hardly present insurmountable hurdles.
In all, Oshiomhole has demonstrated that where principle, discipline and integrity underlie leadership, outcomes can also be peaceful, notwithstanding the initial turbulence. President Buhari and the APC could not have gotten a better bargain in the ascendancy of Oshiomhole as the party’s national chairman, especially at a challenging period as today.
*Adakole writes via firstname.lastname@example.org