The National body of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is in confusion over which mode of primaries to adopt for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had last week Friday, May 15, had announced that all campaigns, party primaries, accreditation of journalists ahead of the September 19 and October 10 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States will done online to reflect the realities accompanying the Coronavirus pandemic.
Festus Okoye, Head of Information and Voter Education at the commission, said that even though the dates of the election cannot be changed because of its constitutional provision, measures will be taken by INEC to ensure that all guidelines set by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control is adhered to during the election period.
He said, “We have two elections coming up this year that is the one in Edo slated for September 19, 2020 and the one in Ondo which has been fixed for October 10, 2020.
Meanwhile, the governing All Progressives Congress is in a dilemma over which mode of primaries to adopt for the forthcoming governorship polls in Edo and Ondo states, the Punch reports.
Findings by our correspondent, in Abuja, on Sunday, indicated that APC stalwarts especially in the two affected states had yet to agree on the issue.
The Edo State Chairman of the APC, Anselem Ojezua, told our correspondent over the phone that based on a decision of the party’s National Executive Committee, state chapters were at liberty to choose what mode best suited their peculiarities before forwarding same to the National Working Committee.
Ojezua said, “The decision as to what mode will be deployed is a decision that will be taken at the state level. Whatever the state decides is what the National Working Committee will do.
“This was a decision that was taken by the National Executive Committee which is an organ that is superior to the NWC, that was decided in 2018 before the general elections that was what obtained at that time and that was what obtained with Kogi and Bayelsa, so Edo and Ondo will follow the same pattern except the NEC meets to decide otherwise.”
However, a faction of the party led by Col. David Imuse disagrees. Imuse who spoke in a separate interview said, “I will direct you to the national headquarters of our party. It is the NWC that will decide. The state has nothing to do with the governorship primaries.”
It was learnt that those routing for a candidate who enjoys the support of the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, in Edo State are pushing for direct primaries, while those sympathetic to the governor prefer indirect primaries, a mode in which delegates decide.
A similar scenario is playing out in Ondo State where members of the APC Unity Forum, a group of party members opposed to Governor Rotimi Akerodolu, are said to also be pushing for direct primaries.
The group has named Olusola Oke as its consensus candidate, a decision which is still being challenged by other leaders of the group such as Senator Ajayi Borroffice.
It was also gathered that part of the gentleman agreement entered into with most of the party’s governors to spare Oshiomhole during the last attempt to remove him from office was in exchange for his support for the incumbents to fly the party flag in the forthcoming elections.
National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu is said to be neutral especially with regards to Ondo where some of the aspirants have been dropping his name to sell their candidacy.
A member of the APC National Working Committee who pleaded for anonymity so as not to preempt the decision of the NWC said, “As you know, all politics is local. In the two states, we have eminently qualified party members who feel the incumbents have not lived up to expectations and they want a change, as a democratic party we can’t deny them the right to aspire. The direct primaries will give every loyal party member a voice.”
However, another NWC member who also pleaded anonymity because of this week’s meeting said, “The truth is that direct primary is impossible at this time. One, there is this issue of social distancing because of COVID-19. Then the bigger issue, no matter what official sources tells you, we don’t have a verifiable register. The last time the register was attended to be in 2018 at the convention that brought in Oshiomhole.
“Since then, it has not been updated. In the register handed to this NWC, people like Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki with their supporters were still party members. Even the Ize Iyamu Oshiomhole is supporting for governor now, his name was not captured at that time.
“It is only when you have a verifiable register that you can have a direct primary where every member of the party will line up in every local government of the state concerned and vote for a candidate of their choice.
“This will be very cumbersome without a register. But when you say indirect, you have delegates who are known party members and you can easily observe social distancing if you have a place like a stadium as venue.
“If we want to do what is legal, it will be the indirect method where you have delegates. The whole delegates cannot be more than 600 to 700 because you are talking about all the elected members of the National and State Assembly who are members of the party, the party exco in the local and state government, appointed commissioners and special advisers are all delegates.”
When asked when the time-table for Edo primaries will be made public, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu said, “You will be getting a statement in a few days’ time.” In response to another question as to what mode of primaries the party had chosen, he said, “We are working on all of that.”
Also, the APC National Vice Chairman (South South), Hilliard Eta, appealed for patience, adding that the party remains a responsive party that “Will do the right thing. We will meet soon to take a decision.”