Controversy over shadow poll in Kogi APC

Kogi APCThe Kogi State All Progressives Congress (APC) is preparing for its governorship primary to pick its flag bearer for the November 16 poll. MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE examines the argument for and against the use of direct or indirect primary.

THE Kogi State governorship election will hold on November 16. The major parties are putting finishing touches to their preparations for the race. Like other parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is saddled with the task of ensuring that the candidate that gets its ticket would be capable of winning the election.

Stakeholders in the party are working round the clock to ensure that the exercise is hitch-free. The APC national leadership recently announced that it will adopt indirect primary to select its flag bearer. But, the pronouncement causing some ripples within the party. The decision to subject the primary to indirect procedure had created division among the aspirants.

Sources say the national leadership is under pressure from the Presidency to reverse the indirect primary already announced for the contest scheduled to hold on August 29. At a meeting on the Kogi primary presided over by the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the party resolved to avoid anything that would jeopardise its chances of winning the election.

The APC constitution allows for direct or indirect primary. But, 20 of the aspirants eying the APC ticket have protested against the use of indirect primary, saying that it may not ensure fairness and transparency. The essence of exercise, they argued, is to give a fair chance to all stakeholders to decide those who will represent them.

There have been arguments for and against direct and indirect primary. Direct primary, which gives room for greater and wider participation of party members, is believed to be the best way to ensure participatory democracy. This is because it allows all card-carrying members to take part in the selection process. This, one of the stakeholders said, will give all members a sense of belonging.

A chieftain, John Otaru, said everybody is routing for direct primary because it will engender responsible and accountable leadership. He said the indirect primary is costly and could be hijacked by moneybags. Those with deep pockets will put whatever they can muster to ensure victory for their preferred aspirant.

He said: “Indirect primary is very costly and selective. The governor normally hijacks the process. In that case, the highest bidder often carries the day. Moneybags could afford to spend anything to corner the votes of the delegates. Since the indirect primary involves the use of delegates, most of them could be influenced and their price fully settled by those who can afford it. They could even be camped in luxury hotels or isolated areas for the best treatment before the election.

“So, for a sitting governor to throw himself into the race for such a contest, be rest assured that with the enormous resources at his disposal, he will influence the outcome of the primary in his favour. The state’s resources will be ploughed into the process, just to ensure that he emerges during the primary.

“The direct primary also has its shortcomings. For instance, the list is endlessly long. People could be recruited from outside the party to participate in the exercise, in view of the large number often expected to participate. To guard against such occurrence, the party must have a comprehensive list of card-carrying members.

“If the party can restrict its list to very watchful and vigilant eyes, by making sure that non-members do not take part in the exercise. Outsiders who are not members can easily be fished out when the committee responsible for the primary is centrally controlled.”

The chieftain maintained that the best way aspirants can test their popularity is to go through direct primary. He said it is only candidates who are not popular that usually wants short cuts, because they can pay the price that is being demanded from them.

He added: “That is why those of us in Edo State, for instance, are clamouring for direct primary. If the governor thinks that he is popular, let him go for it. We are aware that the governor is the one in-charge of the party executive, the party’s State Working Committee (SWC) when it comes to choosing those to attend the congress.”

Stakeholders say if members of the executive that usually constitute the greater part of the delegates could must over 50 per cent of those who will participate, it is obvious that such a governor will carry the day. A stakeholder who does not want his name in print said: “In Kogi, for instance, the governor, we learnt, has been settling party chieftains who will be part of the delegates. He understands very well what he wants and has designed the pattern to follow that would make him realize his plans.

“But the bottom line is that it is practically impossible to induce every card-carrying member of the party when direct primary is used. But, from past experience, you can lodge all the delegates involved in indirect primary in choice place and start inducing them prior to the exercise.

“In Kogi, the man is really taking care of the politicians and if they go through indirect primary, it will favour the governor. The governor has everything within his control. Those clamouring for indirect primary are doing that in the interest of some persons who have vested interest in his emergence.”

The National Chairman of United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the direct primary is the less costly in picking party candidates. He added that the large crowd associated with the use of direct primary has no place in indirect primary.

He said: “The direct primary, as a matter of fact, is more participatory and democratic. But, at the same time, because every card-carrying member is a delegate, we will be contending with a large crowd. This will eventually overwhelm the committee that will be sent there to conduct the primary. What you will get at the end of the day will be a whole lot of confusion and protest.

“Every state where the APC used direct primary during the last general elections ended on a sour note. I can tell you that none went smoothly and I saw it coming. But when you have party candidates, in the normal way things should be, definitely protests and other bickering will be eliminated.

“It is defined that those who take part in the indirect primary must be a financial member, so this is much organised and streamlined, because you know those who will participate in the primary. You will be able to know how many registered members you have per ward.

“But when you have direct primary, the process is fraught with confusion; you will find some complications. They will even look for non-members in order to up the number.

“Looking at both processes, the indirect is better, because members are delegates at the ward level; from there they will pick those that will participate at local government level and the same thing will happen at the state level. It is easy for you to know those you are dealing with and may be three thousand delegates or so. The register will be cleared on those who are delegates. But, if you make it direct, you will be dealing with over one hundred thousand people.

“This is difficult to monitor and some persons can just sit somewhere and write whatever they like as the outcome of the primary. So, my recommendation is indirect primary for the forthcoming Kogi State governorship election.”

Southwest APC chieftain Ayo Afolabi said it would be wrong to stand against the decision of the party at the highest level. He said the party at the state level should ensure that the right thing is done. He said: “I will not want to dispute the position of the party’s national leadership on the emergence of candidates for the election.

“As a matter of fact, the decision we took as National Executive Committee of the APC laid the foundation on how the primary should be conducted. The decision was that if you will do indirect primary, that is the use of delegates, every stakeholder involved in the election must as a matter of policy be a signatory to the agreement that stipulate the indirect primary, otherwise you will do direct primary.

“So, it has to be the decision of Kogi people to look at the constitution and agreement reached on mode of primary to be adopted. Let the state decide on what will give them the best results during the election. They should do what will make APC win the election.”

Lagos APC chieftain, Olorunfunmi Basorun, said the party’s position is very clear on the Kogi primary. He said party discipline must be followed and that Kogi APC could appeal to the NWC, if they want to deviate from the party’s position.

His words: “Members of the Kogi State APC can appeal to the NWC and, in its wisdom, if they decide to go the other way, it will be the decision of the party. But, I must say that once the NWC has ruled, it is the final. No matter the position you hold as a party member, you cannot be bigger than the NWC of the party.

“They have to follow the party position, except they are no longer in the party. As long as you are in the party you must follow the procedure put in place by the party. I want to warn them that they should not allow what happened to Zamfara to happen in Kogi State. They should all get united and let the APC retain governorship of the state. That is my appeal to the good people of the state.

“We must learn from mistakes of the past and follow due process that will continue to project and promote the party on its lofty heights.”

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