Some APC states have adopted direct while others went for indirect primaries to pick the governorship candidate of each state. Many have wondered if the issue was not treated properly and conclusively in the constitution of the party.
Rivers: Why We Adopted Indirect Primaries— top leaders
Amidst criticisms from splinter group of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, especially those from the camp of Senator Magnus Abe, member representing Rivers South East at the National Assembly, who is also a gubernatorial aspirant of APC in the 2019 general elections in the State. Some APC stakeholders and party stalwarts have explained what informed their decision.
First to speak to our Correspondent on that matter was Senator, representing Rivers East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Andrew Uchendu.
According to him, since the inception of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, as a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and now in APC, the norm has always been indirect primaries, which he said is election by delegates. Therefore there is no reason to alter the process.
Senator Uchendu also identified the precarious security situation in Rivers State as reason for the choice of indirect primary to select candidates for the 2019 general elections in the State. “With the security situation in Rivers State where the party has been denied venues for programmes, it will be difficult or even unsafe to gather as much as one million party members at a place for direct primaries. So the best bet is indirect primaries and that was what the State Executive Committee (SEC) has adopted during their meeting,” Uchendu explained.
As for lawmaker representing Port Harcourt Constituency 1(PHALGA)at the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Victoria Nyeche, it will be easier to manage about 300 delegates through indirect primaries, than to manage the entire party faithful in direct primaries.
Hon Nyeche also said the indirect primaries will be cost effective as compared to direct primaries. She dismissed insinuations that some members will be disenfranchised through indirect primaries. According to her, “is like PHALGA 1 Constituents complaining that they are not speaking ,when they have elected me to speak for them at the Rivers State House of Assembly as a legislator. Again this has been the pattern since 1999 and it has been working, so you don’t change a winning team,” she emphasized.
The State lawmaker added that the decision of the State Executive Committee (SEC)members, comprising the ward, local government and state is enough to produce acceptable flag –bearers for APC in Rivers State for the 2019 general elections.
For the former Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly in the 7th Assembly, Hon Chidi Lloyd, in view of the problem of inadequate data to ascertain the accurate members of APC in the State , the best option is indirect primaries, which he said dated back to the Bible. “To avoid people importing strangers from outside the state with long buses by our detractors in the name of primaries, the wisest thing to do is indirect primaries and that is what we have adopted today by voting for indirect primaries. Indirect primary election is simply representative democracy,” Lloyd said.
…. Delta: Utomi loses out, Ovie Omo-Agege smiles
In Delta State, it was a direct confrontation between Patrick Utomi group and Omo Agege camp. The Jones Erue -led APC in Delta State said it opted to use indirect primaries for the selection of the various candidates that would fly the party’s flag during the 2019 general elections.
A major reason behind the adoption of the indirect primaries option is for the party to avoid a repeat of ugly experiences encountered during past congresses held by the party in the state. The fear that there could not be adequate security for members and voters during the exercise thereby exposing them to high level of insecurity is another reason. Third and top reason is the inconsistency in data-base of members registration considered would hinder most of the voters from exercising their franchise.
All these and more were revealed in Asaba, weekend, during the State Working Committee (SWC) meeting that was attended by the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the APC, the ward chairmen and secretaries as well as other stakeholder of the party.
They deliberated and made a decision following a letter from the APC national office to the chairman, requesting that the SEC members decide on the mode of the primary elections for the party in the state.
The letter which was read by the state’s assistant secretary, Ese Agiri, was a product of the 6th regular NEC meeting of the party, directed chairmen of the political party to choose the mode of primaries according to the peculiarities and needs of their different states. They were expected to choose either direct, indirect or consensus primaries for the various political positions apart from that of the president which had already been chosen as ‘direct’ by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Throwing light, the state chairman, Erue, stated: “Let me state here, that for the benefit of most of you who were not here during our congresses. Our congresses in Orchid Hotel, Asaba, were like a war zone”.
He mentioned some important and prominent APC stalwarts that lost their lives in the course of the congresses and added: “Even the state chairman today, risked being killed. It was the help of the DSS that saved his life. It was really war. It was not like party congresses”, he bemoaned.
He talked of the on-coming primaries and noted that the party was supposed to be more in peace and unity as invitation had been extended for more membership.
“Today, I want to let you know that the mode of primaries here, whether you called it indirect, today is what we called direct because the people who are going to be delegates to that election are elected representatives. They are not appointed”, he declared.
He appealed to the members thus, “In trying to choose the mode of primaries we want to use, we must take into cognizance the difficulties we would face as a party so that we don’t drift into a further disunity and confusion in our party”.
The attendees in the meeting in turns spoke in favour of indirect primaries except Pat Utomi who was a lone voice. Utomi, a professor of economics and guber aspirant, preferred direct primaries for some reasons.
“There are many people outside this house who prefer direct primaries. There might be those who prefer something else. Until we can get everybody to speak and fashion something that works for everybody, then we are not ready for progress”, lamented Utomi.
“My position is that we ought to find out from the broad group of people …Whatever you chose to call it, I prefer direct primaries”, he stated.
Ovie Omo-Agege, senator representing Delta Central, countered Utomi’s claim of the party not reaching to others (members). “Consultation has been on-going since that NEC meeting (where issues of unity and consultation were discussed). Just like Prof said that there are a lot of people who believe in direct primaries, those are the people Prof has consulted. There are a lot of people that I have consulted. There are a lot of people consulted by everyone seated here, indeed by every member of the SEC”, Agege disclosed.
Agege opined, “Having consulted, we are supposed to come in here today and collect the result of that consultation. And thereafter, take a decision as decided by the majority of members of the SEC. So, while there are people here who we have consulted even today (Sept 7), but to the extent that they are not members of the SEC they would not even sign”.
Utomi asked, “How do we measure consultation given the scope and breathe of our party? If you can prove scientifically that we have had consultation, then, we can accept that what we do going from here is justified but if you cannot, then I argue as a student of social sciences that this is ultra vires on the rule of law.”
Utomi’s argument however could not stand as his opinion was silenced by the majority votes of the members following a motion moved for indirect primaries, by Alims Aguda, a one-time lawmaker representing Ethiope Federal Constituency in the National Assembly. The motion was seconded by Cletus Elugbe, chairman, Ukwani Local Government Area (APC).
The APC state chair, Erue who presided over the meeting, put it to voice vote and the ‘ayes’ had it, affirming the party’s acceptance of indirect primaries. There was however no opposing voice to answer ‘nay’ because Utomi had already walked out of the meeting after arguing against indirect primaries.