Opponents of the direct primary method announced by the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress have started mobilising state chairmen and other stakeholders to resist moves to foist the method on the states.
Towards this end, some party stakeholders including state APC chairmen and some members of the NWC converged on the Barcelona Hotel, Abuja, on Sunday, to fashion out the best way to confront the issue.
The stakeholders, who held their meeting in secret, earlier planned to meet at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, but quickly dispersed and regrouped at the Barcelona Hotel when their initial location leaked to the party hierarchy hours before the scheduled meeting.
The party’s National Working Committee had in a statement signed by the acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, earlier in the day, said the attention of the party leadership was drawn to “the illegal” meeting.
He said, “We want to state clearly that the meeting which has been fixed for 2 pm (on Sunday) is illegal and an attempt to puncture the sincere efforts being made by the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC to reposition our party ahead of the 2019 general elections and to ensure unity, equity and justice in the party.
“The outcome of such meeting which is already known will be a nullity and we admonish our members to disregard such meetings in the interest of the party. It is illegal to call such meeting outside the purview of the constituted authority.
“The identities of those plotting such meetings have been identified and unless they desist from such they will be dealt with in line with the APC constitution at the appropriate time.
“The APC will resist any attempt to disrupt the current peace and harmony prevailing in our great party after the exit of some members of our party.”
It urged party members who had grievances over decisions taken by the party to use the appropriate party organs and channels to register their displeasure.
Our correspondent gathered that the state party chairmen under the auspices of the APC state chairmen forum with the active support of governors opposed to the direct primary directive are weighing their options.
A source privy to deliberations at the abridged meeting of the group said, “Consultations are still ongoing. We are party members who want the best for our party. We will take this matter (mode of primaries) up with the NWC because the decision of the National Executive Committee was what governors Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi) told your colleagues on Thursday.”
Asked if a decision had been reached, the source said, “No. We are still consulting that is why we can’t talk to the media just yet.”
The APC National Vice-Chairman North-East, Mustapha Salihu, had dismissed reports that the party’s NWC had agreed to recommend the direct primary method to the party’s caucus and NEC.
He noted that the each state/geopolitical zone had its peculiarities, noting that the direct primary was an idea being pushed by the South-West geopolitical zone of the APC.
According to him, there is nothing wrong for any zone to push for what best suits states within its control but that it will be wrong to foist such on others.
Mustapha said, “If one geopolitical zone feels that (direct primary) 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 will have their way and the minority will also 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 succumb to regional imperialism so long that we are acting within the constitution.”
A clarification issued by the APC NWC on Friday “clarified” that the mode of the party’s primary pitted the party leadership against a section of its members.
“The party’s spokesperson, Yekini Nabena, who issued the clarification on behalf of the NWC, said contrary to reports restricting the direct primaries to the presidential ticket, the decision was to cover all elections.
However, the APC National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, told the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation in an interview on Saturday that the direct primary would only affect those aspiring for the party’s presidential ticket.
Buni said, “Both direct and indirect primaries are contained in our party constitution. In the presidential primary, we are going to start the direct method at the various ward levels, then we’ll conclude everything at the national convention.
“Other primaries such as that of the National Assembly, governors and members of the state Houses of Assembly depend on what the states want.
“The party executive at the state level would sit down and decide and then forward to us the method they want for approval.”
In a related development, the APC said it was amused by the interest shown by the Peoples Democratic Party in the mode of election the APC had adopted for primaries to elect the party candidates for the 2019 elections.
The APC said this in a statement signed by Nabena, in Abuja, on Sunday. Nabena was reacting to an earlier statement issued by the PDP condemning the APC’s adoption of the direct primary method to choose its standard bearers in the 2019 elections.
Nabena said “With over 13 million registered APC members coupled with a large section of non-partisan Nigerian electorate supporting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration, it would seem that the PDP on account of its attack of the APC’s adoption of direct primary particularly to elect its presidential candidate, has already conceded defeat even before the 2019 elections.
“We quite understand that the revolutionary and progressive idea of direct primaries to elect party candidates is strange to the PDP – a party known for its inability to ensure internal party democracy and actively promotes imposition of candidates against the will of its members.”
The party spokesperson explained that the direct primary method, among others benefits, would ensure fairness; create a level playing field for contestants; eliminate corrupt tendencies usually associated with the delegates system and ultimately ensure full and direct participation of party members at all levels in the election of party candidates.