Some senators are threatening to leave the ruling All Progressives Congress should the party fail to adopt direct primaries for the 2019 elections, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Some of the lawmakers who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES warned that the party will experience mass defection if it fails to adopt the direct primaries.
They alleged that some governors are applying pressure on the national leadership of the party to adopt indirect primaries to choose candidates for the 2019 elections.
If the party adopts the usual indirect primary, the senators said, the party will lose its majority status at the Senate. For them, the only way to reclaim leadership of the senate is an assurance of direct primaries by the party.
Direct primaries involves the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates while indirect primaries involves use of delegates, often party leaders at local levels and political appointees as well as elected officials, to elect party candidates.
The APC used the direct primaries to elect its governorship candidate in Osun for next month’s governorship election. Prior to that, it often used the indirect primaries system.
The ruling party will on Thursday hold its first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting since Senate President Bukola Saraki left the party.
The meeting is expected to deliberate on the party’s preparation for the 2019 elections especially its primaries.
APC NEC, the second highest organ of the ruling party, comprises the president, vice president, governors elected under the platform of the party as well as chairpersons of the party in the 36 states.
DIRECT OR INDIRECT PRIMARIES
Controversy over the choice of primaries for the party started in July when the chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, declared the party will adopt direct primary method in Osun State in choosing a candidate ahead of the state’s governorship election.
Mr Oshiomhole said the method remains the “most democratic way of handling the primary.”
The party went ahead employing the method to choose its candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, but the process did not go down well with some of the aspirants.
Prominent among the voices against the method was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuf, who was runner up in the primary.
“I did not accept the outcome of the primary election. Why would I accept that kind of primary, where a direct primary was conducted in my state, one week after another form of primary was conducted in another state.
“And I hope the chairman will wake up. That chairman is going to destroy that party. The chairman of that party is going to destroy it,” the lawmaker said.
However, many lawmakers, especially those who fell out with their governors in the last state congresses, wants the party to adopt direct primaries to choose candidates for the 2019 election.
MASS DEFECTION AWAITS – LAWMAKERS
Three senators who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES expressed fears over the possibility of deploying indirect primaries for the APC primaries.
They alleged that some governors are laying pressure on the party leadership to deploy indirect primaries in order to replace them come 2019.
One of the lawmakers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the party should brace itself for mass defection if the NEC resolves to adopt indirect primaries.
“I am aware the National Chairman and members of the NWC are under pressure from state governors to adopt indirect primaries. Most of us suffered injustice during the Congress. Till this moment, the leadership is yet to resolve the issues. We will not tolerate injustice again.
“For me, the next NEC meeting is a make or mar meeting for our party. The APC has assured us of justice through direct primaries. If the party bows to governors, we will have no option than to leave the party. It will be mass exodus,” the senator said.
In July, 14 APC senators left the party with at least 12 joining the major opposition, PDP.
Few weeks after their defection, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, also announced his defection to PDP.
Following his announcement, some senators and leaders of the APC have continued to mount pressure on Mr Saraki to relinquish his position since his party does not have majority at the senate.
Another senator who prefers not to be named said the party will lose its majority status at the Senate if the governors have their way.
The senator said the governors are ready to replace up to 90 per cent of the federal lawmakers if the party allows delegates to choose candidates for the party.
“With the war that exist between the party and Saraki, the party has confidentially resolved to return the senators because it is dangerous to come back on 25th when some people don’t have assurances.
“The governors have their individual agenda because the people whom they want cannot win election by direct primaries. If you cannot win by direct primary, it means that you are unpopular and the party cannot bring people who cannot win election.
“The party will be heading into trouble because it will be the Senate Presidency that will be at stake at the National Assembly.
The point is that if you have an indirect primary election, the governors will replace up to 90 per cent of existing federal legislatures. Now, that will be playing into the hands of the PDP,” the lawmaker said.
The senator said the party risks losing at least 20 senators if it tolls the line of indirect primary.
“The moment the Senate resumes, the conflicting figure we have now is that PDP are saying they are the majority, APC are saying they are the majority, what do you take for consideration? We have up 20, 30 APC senators without a ticket and they have nothing to lose (if they leave the party).
“Let us get there first, because we were kept in the party on the promise that it is going to be a direct primaries. If the party says Saraki must go, who is going to remove Saraki, is it the governors? We are in a tango. The governors must concede, they must keep their heads down.
“We’ll see what happens but I can tell you that the Saraki group are waiting for those eliminated in the APC to join them.”
Another senator, Shehu Sani, expressed his dislike for indirect primary in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday.
“Indirect Primaries is a boulevard to corruption. It’s a seed to imposition, manipulation and systematic desecration of the anti-corruption crusade of the government and the party.
“Indirect Primaries is a bidding process, a slave market and an auction house where price tag is placed to honour,” he noted.
Urging all members of the party to reject the method, Mr Sani described it as a “final step to consolidate a fraudulent congresses.”
APC At Liberty To Choose – Ambode
The Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, has said that the party is at liberty to employ either direct or indirect primary in choosing its candidates.
He said this while responding to questions from journalists after an APC caucus meeting on Wednesday.
“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 either direct or indirect primaries, you are at liberty to justify the choice you want to pick, once it suits your purpose and in line with constitution as the state determines.
“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,” he said.
DECISION WILL BE MADE THURSDAY – APC
When contacted, the Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, said the party will take a position on the issue on Thursday.
“We’ll know the position of the party after tomorrow’s NEC meeting. The party has already made a proposal, it’s going to be either direct or indirect primary,” he said.