The immediate-past National Vice Chairman, Northwest, of the All Progressives Congress, Salihu Moh. Lukman, has described as ultra vires, the decision of the party’s National Working Committee to determine the mode of voting for the Edo State APC Governorship Primary Election.
APC’s NWC had adopted the direct method of primary, but Lukman in a cautionary statement on Sunday in Abuja said the decision by the NWC “may have been informed by the strong desire of party leaders to manipulate the process”.
He said, “Already, there are media reports alleging that APC Stakeholders in Edo State have decided to limit the number of aspirants for the primary.
“These are troublesome realities. Troublesome because the decision of the NWC to organise direct primary contradicts provisions of Article 13.4(iv) of the APC constitution, which only empowers the NWC to ‘propose electoral guidelines and regulations governing the conduct of elections to Party offices at all levels, and procedure for selecting Party candidates for elective offices …to the National Executive Committee.’
“The decision of the NWC to produce the Governorship candidate of APC for the Edo 2024 election based on direct primary is a clear usurpation of the powers of the National Executive Committee NEC, which is illegal.
“Combinations of illegality, clear disposition by APC leaders to manipulate the process of producing candidates could only mean that APC leaders are weakly committed to winning the support of electorates. Once that is the case, it makes APC leaders more disposed to acts of rigging and manipulating electoral results with the attendant consequences of producing elected representatives on the platform of the party who are anything but representative or responsive to the interest of citizens. As loyal APC members, we will continue to appeal to our leaders to moderate their conduct and return to the founding vision of APC.”
According to him, the founding vision of APC is for all members of the party to participate in producing the candidates of the party through a process which guarantees the existence of verifiable membership register.
“As it is, APC has no verifiable membership register anywhere. If it exists, like the case of INEC voters register, it should be displayed publicly long before the conduct of the primary for verification”, he demanded.
He said many APC leaders, including President Bola Tinubu and former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who were in the frontline of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria, must now justify that by demonstrating that they truly led the struggle for democracy based on a conviction to end dictatorship in all its ramifications.
“They must not imagine that because they were in the frontline in the struggle for democracy in 1990s, that gives them the license to permit, or even promote practices that undermine democratic values”, he stated.
According to him, Nigerian political parties are required to be open through meetings of their structures, as provided by their constitutions.
He said with meetings not taking place, individual leaders take decisions, which directly affect members with grave consequences on the electoral prospects of the party.
“To mitigate these consequences, party leaders then pushed themselves to the overdrive electoral mode of rigging elections. Once that is the case, politics is no longer about developing strong relationship with citizens. This is completely unacceptable”, he declared.
Lukman noted that instances of clear manipulations using direct primary are evident at state and federal levels.
“For instance, in 2019, through direct primary, Lagos State APC declared Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu winner of the election with 970, 851 votes. Then incumbent Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode was reported to have scored 72,901. During the 2019 Governorship election, Mr. Sanwo-Olu polled 739,445 votes to defeat Jimi Agbaje of the PDP, who polled 206,141 votes. Why did more than 200,000 APC members who voted Mr. Sanwo-Olu during the direct primary failed to come out to vote for him during the general elections?
“The vulnerability of direct primary to manipulative intrigues of political leaders was further confirmed during the Anambra 2021 Governorship election. The APC candidate in the election, Sen. Andy Ubah, during the APC primary election was said to have emerged with 230,201 votes but only got 43,285 votes during the election. Some measure of honesty is required from all leaders to address problems of internal democracy within political parties in Nigeria. No doubt, Nigerian democracy needs to be deepened to broaden the participation of party members in the process of selecting party candidates. But given the way some APC leaders are desperately and aggressively campaigning for direct primary, with all the current ambiguities, makes it suspect”, he stated.