•Party faithful hail direct primaries
By Simon Ebegbulem, Abuja
The primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have come and gone but several positives to cherish in the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. For the first time in the history of the party, even governors and leaders, who had called the shots over the years, were panicking with the mode of primaries adopted by the NWC.
The NWC had canvassed for direct primaries across board but that pitched the APC National Chairman against some governors who saw that as an attempt to stop them from imposing their preferred candidates as governors and National Assembly members.
The governors kicked and even plotted to get some non- NWC members to pass a vote of no confidence on the NWC, but the plot failed after President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the leader of the party, backed Oshiomhole’s direct primaries mode and other reforms embarked upon by the party leadership. Oshiomhole insisted on direct primaries to ensure that the party is returned to the people after the former NWC, led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, handed over the party to governors.
That action polarized the party in almost all the states where the governors battled members of the National Assembly or the governors moved against their god fathers. Oshiomhole inherited a divided party but he promised to take up the challenge which he has done so far.
As a matter of fact, Senator Shehu Sani pointed out, in an interview, that Oshiomhole inherited a time bomb as a party and could explode at any time. And as predicted, members started defecting shortly after Oshiomhole assumed office in June 2018. Party leaders, such as Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, left the party. And if not for the frantic efforts made by Oshiomhole on assumption of office to persuade aggrieved party members to remain in the party while he looked into their complaints, Saraki would have left with about 30 APC senators.
Due to what the party experienced in the hands of some of these politicians, Oshiomhole vowed to ensure that his NWC will use the primaries of the APC to correct the wrongs of the past. While inaugurating members of the National Assembly Primaries Committee, the party Chair had said: “With what has happened to us recently, people used our platform to rise to certain positions such as the Senate presidency and, due to their personal ambition, they betrayed the party. That will never happen again.
We will now ensure that we don’t give out tickets to bread and butter politicians or politicians who are not loyal to the party but only loyal to their personal ambitions. Nobody will get APC ticket by accident any more, we will ensure that whoever is given our ticket merited it and must have worked for it and he or she is prepared for the job ahead”.
And after victories in both the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, which have made the South-West a complete enclave of the APC, Oshiomhole vowed to ensure that the party is rebranded in a manner that it will again be embraced by all Nigerians. The direct primary mode was tested in Bauchi senatorial bye election and it worked. It was successful also in Osun,. Consequently, Buhari and Oshiomhole believed it was the way to go.
The APC then conducted direct primaries in 20 states and the FCT to choose its candidates for the 2019 polls while indirect primaries were conducted in 18 states. Understandably, some of the governors were not comfortable with the decision to adopt the direct primaries mode. But Oshiomhole pushed, stressing the need to allow the people vote candidates of their choice. The governors preferred indirect primaries to enable them put candidates of their choice but Oshiomhole insisted that that system is making the party far from the people.
Besides, he needed to protect the National Assembly members who are at war with their governors. What actually played out in the just concluded APC primaries was that while Oshiomhole made efforts to protect the APC-led Federal Government under Buhari from the Saraki-led Senate and Dogara-led House of Representatives by ensuring that majority of the APC senators who are popular in their areas are returned, the governors wanted to protect their personal interests.
The situation led to the rancorous primaries held in Imo, Ogun and Zamfara states. It was difficult in states where governors are completing their second term but nursing ambitions to go to the Senate. It is even more complicated when governors are deposing sitting senators which is not in tandem with the promise made by Oshiomhole to protect the senators who stood behind the party in the battle with Saraki. Oshiomhole held several meetings with the concerned governors to allow senators return, fearing that refusing them ticket will give the Senate President more leverage to continue to frustrate the laudable programmes of the Buhari administration.
However, despite the shortcomings in some states, the direct primary mode can be said to have succeeded to a large extent. For the first time, majority of the members of the party came out in large numbers to nominate those who will represent them. The exercise has received accolades across the nation irrespective of the few skirmishes witnessed in some states. Some mischief makers have continued to organize protests in order to create the impression that the primaries were not successful. But such plots have continued to fail because majority of party faithful have continued to embrace the ongoing reforms piloted by Oshiomhole in the APC.
The situation is similar to how the war against corruption embarked upon by the Buhari administration is fighting back. Oshiomhole came up with several reforms which include handing over the party to the masses. This became evident during the primaries, leading to a situation where political leaders, governors lost hold of the political machinery in their states. Serving Ministers were disqualified from contesting in the primaries due to one reason or the other. For most people it is strange but those who know Oshiomhole with the way he killed the politics of god fatherism in Edo State, while he was governor, know that he pursues his aims and objectives ruthlessly without fear or favour.
The National Chairman had always stressed the need for political leaders in the APC to operate an all-inclusive party rather than that of isolation. His reforms has pitched him against some powerful people and they are fighting back.
Mischief makers have continued to blackmail him but their plots will always hit the rock. However, Oshiomhole has remained resilient, dogged and never to be intimidated. Despite what his adversaries are saying, direct primaries have taught leaders of the party the need to be closer to the grassroot and, according to Oshiomhole, who predicted victory for the APC come 2019, “the journey for 2019 has just begun and, while the opposition PDP is busy dishing out false information to the public and raising false alarm, we have started mobilizing our members across the nation for the 2019 elections”.
He added: “If you look at the way our people came out during the party primaries to vote for candidates of their choice, in a very democratic manner that is strange to PDP, you will know that 2019 is over for the PDP. I am very satisfied with the primaries but as you know nothing is perfect in life but I will say we achieved substantial success and this is the first time we as a party is adopting this mode of primaries.
It looked difficult initially but at the end it came out well. Some persons may not be happy but many are satisfied with the outcome. We will take this to the next step and deliver all our candidates including our President, Muhammadu Buhari and we will ensure we maintain our majority in the National Assembly”.