By Tonnie Iredia
Nigeria’s Electoral Act refers to two forms of party primaries – Direct or Indirect. For the Direct mode, all members of a political party are given a chance to vote for the party’s flag bearer in a coming election. In the case of the Indirect mode, a party is to first identify a list of delegates who will then vote to select the party’s flagbearer.
Other modes such as consensus or automatic ticket are not legally recognized although they are in vogue in several parties especially the smaller ones that are run by a clique. For this reason, most political parties utilize only the two recognized modes which different interest groups have been fighting to determine for the coming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
But why can’t a party attain uniformity in its processes and procedures by sticking to one method of organizing activities like party primaries? The All Progressives Congress APC, for example, has as a matter of policy, left the choice of which mode to be used for its party primaries to the convenience of its state branches.
In Edo state where primaries are holding this month and where party factionalization has been quite visible, APC members have expectedly failed to follow a unity of direction as to the preferred mode. Whereas the state branch of the party relying on existing convention of delegated powers on the subject has chosen the indirect mode, the party’s National Working Committee NWC which is mandated to supervise the contest says it will organize direct primaries.
Last week, the respected national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu agreed with the position of the NWC on the grounds that it is only through direct primaries that many party members would have the benefit of participating in the activities of the party. While Tinubu’s position has its strong point, we are also aware as analysts of political activities in Nigeria that the chosen system for party primaries or any election is never the deciding factor.
The current debate about mode is essentially to enable gladiators manipulate the contest, after all in the political history of Nigeria, party primaries have always taken the form of local government elections where results are written before the contest takes place at all.
Those who dispute our conclusion should find out why the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River and Benue states won every seat in their recent local government elections. To drive home the point, let us recall that in 2017, when the current Benue governor belonged to the APC, his party at the time won ALL the chairmanship and councillorship seats, the same way his new party the PDP has just done in the same state in 3 years.
In virtually every state, there is usually a state “independent” election commission which makes rules and regulations spending millions of public funds procuring voting materials but which in the end announces for the ruling party more votes than voters in addition to huge margin of votes in polling stations where voting did not even take place.
Therefore, it is ludicrous to describe opposition candidates that withdrew from the race as unpopular or to see those who cried foul during the contest as bad sportsmen. It is even childish to blame the method of voting because irrespective of the mode employed, anyone in control of the process normally announces premeditated scores as election results.
This seems to explain why it was necessary for the leadership of the APC to quickly take control of the coming Edo state primaries. It did so not because the state executive of the party was on sabbatical, but because the NWC needed to discountenance the convention which gives the state branch the right to choose its preferred mode. The rationale was to place the NWC in a privileged position to manipulate the contest in favour of its preferred candidate
Interestingly, it is public knowledge that the leadership of the NWC belongs to one of the factions of the party in Edo State. A few months ago, when APC members in the state were busy suspending each other, the NWC rejected the suspension of the national chairman by his local executive but accepted the suspension of the state chairman by another faction before setting up a panel to investigate the crisis in the state. People neither knew what influenced the NWC decision nor what purpose an investigation was to achieve after decisions had been made.
On this premise, it is shocking that the APC as a major political party did not stop its current national chairman from supervising the primaries when his interest in the subject is not hidden. The principle of natural justice that arbiters follow everywhere is not limited to legally trained minds. Every lay man ought to know that a case resolved by an interested party cannot engender fairness and peace irrespective of countless assurances of neutrality. In the Edo case at hand, the discernible booby traps the contending sides are setting for each other and which are surprisingly not refuted are not hard to see.
A good example is the issue of communication with the electoral body. A party chieftain alleged a few days back that at least two days before the NWC ever met to discuss Edo primaries, the national chairman had formally conveyed to INEC, details of direct primaries to be held in Edo on June 22 notwithstanding that the said details were yet to be discussed and agreed upon by the NWC. If this is true, is the NWC of the ruling party a properly constituted party organ or a group of friends with a secret agenda?
Another party leader was even reported to have gone dramatic revealing what he called a joker. He says when the name of the leader of the team to handle the clearance of the aspirants is made known, the whole nation would be left dumb-founded over the disqualification of the incumbent governor which had been sealed long ago. Who is this APC chieftain known for such hatchet job?
As that contraption subsists with the determination of the legally recognized faction of the state branch of the party to make arrangements for indirect primaries, who is right or wrong is no longer important. What the public easily perceives is that the APC is once again, as it has done since 2017, moving towards self-destruction.
We saw the party in same quagmire before in Rivers state and we saw how it ended, again it reared its head in Zamfara and we also saw how it grossly dismembered the party in that state. Last Thursday, the immediate past APC governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari himself a victim of factionalization talking from experience made a passionate appeal to his Edo compatriots to place the interest of the party above their individual egos and allow for peace and progress.
If members of the party’s National Executive Committee NEC on whose behalf the NWC operates have chosen to remain victims of selective hearing, then APC may soon be twice beaten, thrice shy.