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Hurdles for aspirants as APC holds primaries tomorrow

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…How they stand in their states

By Omeiza Ajayi

ABUJA: The All Progressives Congress APC earlier last week revised its timetable for the conduct of its primaries but not a few stakeholders believe that the conduct of the exercises could either make or mar the party depending on how they are conducted.

President Buhari presenting the Party Flag to Osun APC Gubernatorial Candidate Gboyega Oyetola accompanied by other party leaders during the Grand Finale of APC Gubernatorial Campaign Rally in Osun State on 18th Sep 2018

It was perhaps in that light that Senator Magnus Abe of Rivers State yesterday warned that he would pull out of the contest with consequential threats if his demands are not attended to by the party.

Based on the revised timetable, the presidential primary was conducted yesterday with President Muhammadu Buhari as the only contestant. The governorship primaries are holding tomorrow and the Senate primary elections on October 2. Others are those of the House of Representatives for October 3; State House of Assembly, October 4 and the National Convention to ratify the candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari on October 6.

However, there are few issues to tackle ahead of the serial contests. The first is the lack of an authentic party membership register. After the merger in the lead to the 2015 General Election, the party had claimed to have 12 million members having reportedly registered no fewer than 100 persons in each of the 120, 000 Polling Units of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC. Then last month, it decided to embark on fresh registration of new members as well as revalidation of old members, an exercise that saw its membership boosted to almost 16 million.

The challenge has, however, been the inability of the states to come up with a clean copy of the membership register, without which the much-touted direct primaries of the party could be challenged.

Consequently, most of the state governors of the party have continued to root for indirect primaries as a leeway out of the challenge.

Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State had following the meeting of the sixth National Executive Committee, NEC that decision on direct primaries was not cast in stone as the party leadership was at liberty to switch to another mode of voting should there be encumbrances.

However, the party leadership only recently approved direct primaries for 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.

Among states that would go for direct primaries are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kano, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Taraba, Zamfara and the FCT.

Senator Kabiru Marafa who has been having a running battle with Gov. Abdullahi Yari of Zamfara state had rooted for direct primaries while the governor was pushing for indirect primaries.

The governor had argued that it was commonsensical to have indirect primaries because even if direct primaries were to be used, they would still be conducted by state party executives whose emergence is being discredited and disputed by Marafa. The senator had openly threatened to conduct his own direct primaries using another set of state party executives should the national leadership of the party approve indirect primaries for Zamfara.

In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir el-Rufai had an upper hand as the party leadership approved indirect primaries for the state, as against the position of his arch political rival, Senator Shehu Sani.

In Adamawa, Gov Jubrilla Bindow had his way with indirect primaries approved for him. However, his rivals led by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal also got part of the bargain as the state working committee was banned from conducting the primaries.

But curiously, the party “banned the Adamawa State Working Committee from participating either as delegates or superintendents over the governorship primaries holding in the state. This is due to the fact that the Adamawa State Working Committee was prejudiced in favour of a governorship aspirant”.

There is a high level of suspicion among stakeholders of the party. Party stalwarts from Adamawa state and who are very close to President Muhammadu Buhari are no longer comfortable with the state governor, Bindow who is seen as an “Atiku man”.

Led by the Lawal, the former SGF, the group has said giving the governorship ticket to Bindow could mean a soft ground for the Peoples Democratic Party PDP in the state. To them, the only way to avoid giving the party’s ticket to the governor would have been to approve direct primaries for the state.

The developments in the state come against the background of the aspiration of President Buhari’s brother-in-law and younger brother of the First Lady, Dr. Mahmoud Halilu for the governorship.

Also, as the battle for the leadership of the National Assembly rages, some lawmakers who had supported the party leadership in its resolve to oust Senate President Bukola Saraki and House Speaker Yakubu Dogara are reportedly wary of the reasons for the revision of the party’s timetable for the primaries. Many of them had wanted the exercise concluded before the National Assembly resumes from its recess.

While the lawmakers were earlier slated to resume on September 25 and federal legislative primaries of the party conducted between September 27 and 29, recent reports indicate that the Senate leadership had shifted the resumption of the lawmakers to the second week of October.

The fear among some of the lawmakers as one of them told Saturday Vanguard is that the party could jettison its promise of automatic return tickets to them if they resume plenary and do its bidding to find a way of removing the current leadership of the National Assembly.

He said; “It is like a game of chess. There are some of us who believe that the party could dispense with us once we finish doing their bidding. There is no guarantee that our return tickets would be given to us. So, it is better for our primaries to even be conducted first, and let us see the party honouring its pledge to reward our loyalty before we go into the chambers”

INEC to the rescue?

One of the chieftains of the party from Cross River state, John Odey, (not the former PDP minister) however, believes that the party could have avoided the controversies surrounding the adoption of direct primaries, if it had contracted the job to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC.

Odey, who is a governorship aspirant in the state was quick to add that stakeholders in the area had met and almost unanimously agreed on direct primaries.

Notwithstanding the development, Odey said the party may not have prepared enough for the adoption of direct primaries as those he referred to as the “worst of the worst” would always look for loopholes with which to truncate the process.

To guarantee the fidelity of the process, he believes that the party now has a responsibility to put in place mechanisms where this voting system is well protected by only people who should be voting as eligible party members and voting in the day of primaries and also ensuring that there is a system in place where the people who are returning officers, collate and take those results as they should be to the collation centres.

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