By Ehichioya Ezomon
Kogi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is looking set to attain the unenviable status of its counterparts in Rivers and Zamfara during the 2019 general election: disqualification from fielding a candidate in the November 16, 2019 governorship poll.
In the February 23 and March 9 National Assembly, and House of Assembly and Governorship elections, respectively, the courts outrightly banned the Rivers chapter from fielding candidates, and turned over the party’s wholesale victories in Zamfara to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
What was the offence of both chapters of the APC? They failed to conduct valid primaries, in line with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended); the party’s constitution; the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended); and the guidelines for the general election issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Kogi chapter bears imprints of the political rumbles that ensured the party lost in its strongholds, and promising terrains: unbridled ambition of incumbent or former officeholders; desire of big wigs to enthrone cronies; and opposition by other aspirants.
The result was a plethora of court cases prior to and after the conduct of cantankerous primaries across the country. Some of the cases are still running alongside election petitions initiated after the polls in February and March.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, as the organ mandated to pick the mode of primaries, and conduct same accordingly, has chosen “indirect” primaries for the Kogi chapter. But about 20 “aspirants” are opposed to the process, and call for a “direct” primary contest.
The opponents of “indirect” primaries argue that it favours Governor Yahaya Bello, who’s seeking re-election. And they allege of plans by the governor to substitute the delegate list for the primaries.
But over 30 “aspirants” are in support of”indirect” primaries, as a method they claim has brought victories to the Kogi chapter in elections since 2015, and as such, “you don’t change a winning formula.”
Whereas the indirect election is by delegates chosen in ward and local council congresses, who vote to pick the candidate at a state convention; the direct primaries involve all card-carrying members casting ballot at the wards to return a candidate at the convention.
The real headache for the APC in Kogi isn’t the conduct of the “indirect” primaries per se, but how the delegates would be chosen, as there’re two factions laying claim to the leadership of the chapter.
Besides the “aggrieved aspirants” getting the court to put the APC on notice for a hearing on an injunction to stop the primaries; some “stakeholders” have also dragged the party to court, to determine the authentic State Executive Committee (SEC) of the chapter.
Among issues canvassed are: Whether, during pendency of the suit, the APC, through persons claiming to be members of the Kogi SEC, can adopt indirect primaries; whether the party can ignore the suit, which seeks to determine the authentic members of the Kogi SEC; and who constitutes the delegates to the primaries.
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During their protest to the APC secretariat in Abuja, the dissatisfied aspirants drew the party’s attention to an untoward fallout from using a delegate list from an “illegitimate” state executive.
Their spokesperson, Mohammed Ali, said: “Arising from the pendency of the various suits to determine the legitimate party executive council in the state, the use of any factional delegate list may amount to an exercise in futility.
“And lastly, we may have unconsciously set booby-traps for our party and the stage for the replay of the unfortunate Zamfara scenario.” The APC can ill-afford a repeat of that occurrence!
The main problems in the Kogi chapter, as in all other APC chapters nationwide, are: The adoption of one of three methods of conducting primaries; indiscipline and impunity among powerful members; and failure of the party leadership in dispute resolution.
The constitution of the party recognizes consensus, indirect and direct methods of primaries, and it empowers the NWC to pick any of the modes for each election.
Direct method is popular with the majority of party members, but unpopular with incumbent and former governors, who lobby to get consensus or indirect primaries, or impose same on the members.
In the Kogi example, it’s alleged that Governor Bello, through stakeholders of the chapter, got the NWC to approve “indirect” primaries for the November poll.
Though the governor has denied such indiscretion, and said he’s ready to contest under any method picked by the party, the aggrieved “aspirants” have insisted there weren’t adequate consultations for the adoption of indirect primaries.
The die is cast, and as usual, the APC leadership is found wanting at resolving the Kogi logjam. The party’s failure to intervene, or as some alleged, intervened and sided with one faction against the other camp, led to its loss of several Government Houses and State Assemblies in the 2019 general election.
So, is fictionalization in the Kogi chapter a recipe for poor outing at the poll? Or, in the worst case scenario of conducting yet invalid primaries, get slammed by the courts or INEC with zero participation in the franchise?
Whatever the outcome of the election, it would be to the eternal good of the APC to adopt one method of primaries – preferably the direct process – for all chapters, and for all elections.
Direct primaries allow for mass participation, and provide ordinary members, who are actually the voting blocs, a say in the choice of candidates for elective offices. Any other method is subject to hijack and manipulation by the powerful and mighty in the party.
Adopting the direct primaries would curtail, if not curb their scheming excesses, and thus enhance party supremacy, which has suffered incalculable disregard and disrespect in its barely six years of existence as an “agent of change.”
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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