Warming up for direct primary in race for Osun governor

Osun

The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Working Committee (NWC) yesterday approved the recommendation of the Osun State Working Committee, led by Gboyega Famodun, for the adoption of direct primary for its governorship shadow election. Group Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the arguments for direct and indirect primary by opposing forces in the party.

The coast is clear for the adoption of direct primary for the election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Osun State. According to the guidelines by the National Working Committee (NWC), aspirants and party members were enjoined to brace for the option, which it said, was constitutional and adopted in the best interest of the party.

In the last few weeks, the chapter has been polarised by forces rooting for a direct primary, and those clamouring for an indirect primary. The third force is favourably disposed to a consensus. In this group are old political war horses and experienced politicians who have been on the turf since the First Republic. Although they are still largely perceived as the esteemed moral voice, their preference lacks the backing of the APC Constitution and the Electoral Act. Besides, they are in the minority.

The core options of direct primary and indirect primary have their foundations in the APC constitution. According to the constitution, the nomination of a candidate for governor “shall be through direct or indirect primary election.” But, the law is silent on which of the options is superior. The constitution does not prescribe the condition that may warrant the choice or rejection of either of the options. Therefore, the onus is on the party to adopt an option.

How the adoption is to be done is not outlined by the constitution. The implication is that the agitations for direct and indirect primaries are legal. Also, the two options have their advantages and disadvantages. How the direct or indirect primary is managed has implications for the chapter, ahead of the governorship poll.

The direct model

The idea is the legacy of the American progressive democratic model. Under the direct system, registered party members choose party candidates through secret ballot in a manner similar to a general election. Since it is perceived to be more transparent, the corruption which often mars the delegate system is reduced. There will be no room for ‘delegate camping.’ There is the likelihood of increased participation and aspirants may develop confidence in the wider elective process. Also, the fear that a large number of aspirants is seeking for votes is reduced.

According to experts, direct primary offers opportunity for the candidate to test his popularity, ahead of the main poll. It gives party members an equal chance of electing their candidates. Voter’s turnout is huge. The model provides the chance for a test of stamina in the preliminary election.  To get votes, the aspirants must be up and doing. They must enlarge their networks and be ready to consult widely and mobilise for victory.

However, the crowd is huge and management of the crowd will require skill and strategy. Emphasis may now be placed on quantity instead of quality of participation. Many voters may not be informed and therefore, lacks the competence to make informed choices. Therefore the “mass voters” need education and enlightenment. Since a lot of mobilisation has to be done, it may be too tasking for aspirants who lack the resources for intra-party campaigns and logistics. The voting hour may be elongated, thereby creating stress for the Direct Primary Committee.

In some states, the delegate system were rancorous. The exercise was marred by unruly behaviour of delegates. This challenge can be aggravated by the direct method due to the high population of participants. The choice of venue must be considered. Will the direct primary participants assemble in a venue like the delegate system or the direct election will be conducted in layers at the wards or local governments?

Oshiomhole said: “All card-carrying members of the party will be involved in the process of selecting the party’s candidate.”

This means that the screening or accreditation of voters will have to be done at the wards, using the party membership register. This also means that the register must not be tampered with to ensure the credibility of the process. If a party member has lost his membership card, there should be an opportunity for him to obtain new ones before the exercise. Also, defectors whose names have not appeared on the register must make haste to register.

Since its inception in 2014, the APC has always adopted the indirect primary for the choice of its governorship flag bearers in many states. But, Osun may have blazed the trail of adopting the direct model when the process was adopted in selecting Governor Rauf Aregbesola as candidate for a second term in 2014.

The indirect option

Unlike the direct primary, voters in the indirect primary are elected or selected delegates from the wards and local governments, and statutory delegates, including governors, elected party officers, legislators, members of Board of Trustees (BoT) and other party elders. Many have criticised the delegate system as a fraudulent method, which confers an advantage onthe highest bidder among the aspirants. However, since the direct system has not been widely tested, there is anxiety among party members who believe that it may spell doom for the chapter.

The responsibility for organising the shadow poll is not vested in the State Executive Committee and State Working Committee of the party. The power to make “rules and regulations for the nomination of candidates through primary elections” is vested in the NWC, subject to the approval of the National Working Committee (NWC). Although the State Executive Committee and State Working Committee can issue some pseudo-guidelines on governorship nominations, they do not take precedent over the NWC’s position.

Party sources disclosed that, since the consensus of opinion favours the direct system, the State Working Committee, led by Gboyega Famodun, the chairman of the party, proposed it to the NWC. The recommendation was backed by an overwhelming evidence of popular preference.

However, the provision for direct and indirect primary is not made in isolation of other criteria for nomination. According to the APC Constitution, “all such rules, regulations and guidelines shall take into consideration and uphold the principles of federal character, gender balance, geo-political spread and rotation of offices, to as much as possible, ensure balance within the constituency covered.”

In Osun APC, those rooting for direct primary appear to be more vociferous, unlike the supporters of the pre-existing delegate system. Although some aggrieved chieftains have written to the NWC, urging it to retain the delegate system, they were disowned by party officers across the local governments.

The best process

 Famodun, who advocated for the shift of emphasis from the indirect to the direct system, gave five reasons for its viability, potency and superiority. He said the State Working Committee recommended it to the NWC because it gives party members a wider opportunity for participation in the shadow poll, unlike the delegate system. Besides, he said a direct primary would signify popular participation by ensuring the “largest participation” of party members from the 30 local governments. In Famodun’s view, “a direct primary promotes democracy, reduces the intimidation of delegates, bribery and other electoral malfeasance and prevents monetisation of the process.”

He added: “The direct primary system will also address the fear of imposition of any person as candidate of the party, as being alleged in some quarters, and it helps in mobilising members and popularising the party in the state.”

Party officers at the grassroots are in the same frame of mind with Famodun. The Secretary of the Forum of Local Government Party Chairmen, Rufus Oyegbile, said a popular governorship candidate can only be elected at the direct primary.

He warned against the adoption of the delegate system, saying it could be disastrous.

Denying a report linking the forum with the clamour for an indirect primary, he said: “We are not subjectively and objectively against the implementation of the constitutional provision of direct primary for the nomination of our flag bearer in the forthcoming September 22 governorship election.”

In its letter to the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the forum maintained that a hitch-free direct primary is the answer. It said the direct system will throw up a generally acceptable, popular and presentable flag bearer, while preventing “the selective wish of few financially-induced persons, who are major determinants of previous primary election.”

According to the forum, the direct method of election will allow the over 300,000 registered APC members in Osun to participate in the nomination of the flag bearer. It will foster internal democracy, give members a sense of belonging and prevent the hijack of the process by money bags.

The forum said: “The new initiative, when implemented, will be a moral boosting episode to all members that they are also major stakeholders in the dynamic APC project, where over 300,000 persons as against the selective method of just 5,000 statutory delegates. It will further strengthen internal democracy, mobilise all our members to participate at the primary and this will energise them in preparation for the main election.

“The claim of popularity by a section of the aspirants among the delegates should have made them more joyous as their popularity will soar higher among party members. Alas, their sinister motive to forcefully coerce the delegate structure, have been uncovered.

“That is the only reason they are vehemently rejecting the popular demand of our members for direct participation in the nomination of the governorship candidate, which will entail collective collaboration.

“Precautionary measures guiding our noble stance arise from the primary concluded in some states lately where it is of public knowledge that money through financial inducement was a key determinant of who eventually flew the party’s flag. The delegates, as discovered elsewhere and presently on-going in our state, have launched a negotiation platform with aspirants, in exchanging votes for money.

“We must discourage and discontinue such fraudulent template. One of the decimating and limiting factor of the PDP that nailed them to the cross of opposition today is the rain of dolarisation of all their elective processes. We are not PDP. We are APC, the party that stands for positive change. We must strive and work hard to show transparency indeed and in conduct.”

Eyes are on the Direct Primary Committee headed by Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Chairman and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari. He has the responsibility for presiding over a transparent and credible exercise that will be applauded by 17 aspirants on Thursday. Anti-direct primary aspirants have two options. It is ether they fall in line with the party’s directive or opt out of the contest.

More guidelines are expected from the panel on the modalities for a successful primary. (The Nation)

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