By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The proposal for the conduct of direct primaries to select candidates for political offices in the All Progressives Congress, APC, is set to reopen superiority battles between political leaders in many states that were unsettled by the recent congresses of the party.
Party chieftains who believe that they were left with the short end of the stick after the congresses are preparing for battle to regain dominance during the forthcoming party selection exercises for candidates.
The battle is particularly proving stormy in the South-South region with the issue instigating a tough turf war between two of the region’s leading personalities in the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Rotimi Amaechi.
Supporters of the two political leaders Sunday Vanguard gathered have gone to opposite positions on the issue in a seeming determination to push through the advantages they got at the recent congresses. Groups that were disadvantaged during the congresses on the contrary are pushing for the direct primaries.
Oshiomhole is championing the move for direct primaries, a move that has been seriously opposed by Amaechi and some others who see it as an opportunity by the new national chairman to overturn the advantages they got during the congresses.
Before Oshiomhole’s emergence as national chairman, Amaechi had been the undisputed political leader of the region with influence over party affairs in five of the six states in the region. Edo State where Oshiomhole held sway as governor was the only state that Amaechi’s influence was, however, held back.
Senator Magnus Abe, unarguably, the leading critic of Amaechi’s hold of the party in Rivers State on Friday led the chorus against indirect primaries adopted by the Amaechi tendency of the party.
Speaking on a live television programme on African Independent Television, AIT, on Friday, Abe said:
“Rivers State is one of those states where we cannot have indirect primaries. The entire structure of the party in the state is embroiled in legal controversy with about four or five Court cases. So if you want to do indirect primaries, which particular list of delegates are you going to use and which particular congress?”
His assertion came in the face of the firm hold of the party’s structures by the Amaechi group.
In Akwa Ibom State, Senator John Akpanudoedehe who has been fighting a battle of relevance against recent joiners in the party is also canvassing the direct primaries for the forthcoming selection process. Akpanudoedehe is positioned against the interests of party chieftains like Nsime Ekere, the managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC who is aligned to Amaechi.
In Cross River State, the state structure of the party earlier controlled by Pastor Usani Usani, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and who is also an Amaechi ally, was recently dissolved. That has put the case for direct primaries as an issue in the state with no one actually projecting who could benefit from an indirect primary.
However, in Delta State, the stakeholders in the party aligned to the Great Ogboru/Ovie Omo-Agege tendency, on Friday night adopted the indirect primary as against the desire of the Chief Ortega Emerhor led group.
A resolution of the stakeholders at the end of an enlarged meeting late on Friday in Asaba read thus:
“The indirect primaries system is a necessity in Delta State due to some unique conditions. First is the absence of up to date registers that is trusted by majority of our stakeholders for the purpose of credible direct primaries. SEC agrees with our leaders and stakeholders that in the manifest absence of up to date, clean or credible registers, the system of indirect primaries is necessary.
“Indeed, SEC agrees with our party’s leaders and stakeholders that we do not have the luxury of time to collate and clean up our ongoing massive membership registrations before the primaries. It is our reasoned position that we must avoid any self-inflicted chaos that may likely arise from excluding so many newly registered members because of the obvious lack of sufficient time to collate and clean up the ongoing registrations.”
Ironically, Ogboru and Omo-Agege are aligned to Oshiomhole who is the chief proponent of direct primaries but are believed to have chosen the indirect primaries mainly because the control of the party structures is in the hand of the group.
Emerhor, who was edged out after Oshiomhole came to power – had the edge during the John Odigie-Oyegun era – is, however, canvassing for the direct primaries.
The Electoral Act provides for the direct and indirect options in the selection of party candidates. Comrade Oshiomhole, since emerging as governor has been advocating the use of the direct primary option which allows all party members to have a vote in the selection of party candidates. He has justified his claim on the fact that it curbs corruption that is rampant in the delegate or indirect system.