APC crisis deepens as NEC approves direct primary

APC crisis deepens as NEC approves direct primary

The National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has adopted direct primary for the Edo State governorship election, two members of the NWC told this newspaper, a move that has been condemned by the state chapter of the party.

The NWC at its Thursday meeting, however, reached no decision on the method of primary for Ondo State.

The Edo State APC primary has been slated for June 22 while that of Ondo State is to hold on July 20.

In a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, the APC spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, confirmed that the party’s NWC reached the agreement on Thursday at the party secretariat in Abuja.

“It is true, we’ve adopted a direct primary method for Edo governorship primary,” he said but declined further comment on the new development.

However, two sources within the NWC, who asked not to be named as they were not authorised to speak on the matter, told PREMIUM TIMES that the party adopted the direct primary for Edo State and granted a waiver to a controversial aspirant, Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

One of the sources said the argument for the direct primary at Thursdays NWC meeting was hinged on the fact that the method has been tried in the state before and it would possibly prevent an uproar from members of the APC in Edo State.

“The principle is what has been done before, it is easy to repeat it. The last primary that was done in Edo was direct, so it easier to go by what the people are used to over there instead of starting something afresh with its challenges.

“It is easier to learn from what you have done in a particular place and improve on it,” the source, who was among the NWC members in attendance at the meeting, explained.

When asked on the possibility of the state branch of the APC making a case for indirect primary system, he nullified this possibility as “the state (branch of APC) does not have the constitutional right to decide the method of primary for governorship ticket.”

Direct primaries involve the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates while indirect primaries, on the other hand, involve the use of delegates.

Another source, who spoke to this reporter, said the waiver granted to one of the intending aspirants for the party’s governorship ticket, Mr Ize-Iyamu, “is not a new thing”.

“Granting waiver to aspirants has been done on several occasions. In the last election, I can confirm to you that over 50 people were given waivers. Even in the last Kogi elections, people were given waivers.

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“The principle behind waiver is that anybody coming in to add value to the party either in terms of electoral votes or resources to deploy. Anybody that would make significant impacts would be given such opportunity to strengthen the party,” he said.

Mr Ize-Iyamu is believed to be the favourite candidate of the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who is in a power tussle with the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, for the control of the party in the South-south state.

The intending governorship aspirant, Mr Ize-Iyamu, was a two-time governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Edo State. He defected to the APC in November, shortly before the crisis in the state branch of the party went overboard.

Obaseki reacts

The Edo State governor’s spokesperson, Crusoe Osagie, in his reaction to the APC NWC resolution said the body does not have the constitutional right to decide the method of party primary in the state’s governorship race.

He added that the direct primary is “unhealthy for the state at this time of coronavirus pandemic”.

“Whatever they decide in the said meeting cannot stand the test of legality. The NEC is the one that is responsible for picking the kind of primary that is used to determine the candidate of a party in a governorship election.

The Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, is consulting stakeholders on other measures to halt Covid-19
The Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki

“The last time NEC met, they decided that a state should determine the kind of primaries to adopt while the national level will ratify. As we speak, that decision still holds as it played out in the last Kogi and Bayelsa governorship election,” Mr Osagie said in a phone interview with this newspaper on Friday afternoon.

However, section 13.4 of the party’s constitution which contains the responsibilities of NWC, stipulates that the body can “propose to the NEC, party electoral regulations, to govern the conduct of elections to all party offices at every level and to govern the procedure for selecting party candidates for elective offices, subject to the of the constitution.”

Essentially, according to the party’s constitution, it is the NEC that can determine what type of primaries to be held to choose candidates.

Many of the NWC members are members of the NEC, same as state governors and other top elected public officials from the party. The Edo State power tussle is thus expected to proceed to the NEC of the party, although the date of the NEC meeting is yet to be fixed.