A chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and immediate-past National Vice Chairman (North-west), Salihu Lukman, has said the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) has no power to determine the mode of primary election as it has done in the case of Edo State.
The party had settled for direct primary and ruled out zoning of the governorship seat in Edo State.
But reacting to the development through a statement released Sunday in Abuja, Lukman described the decision of the NWC to produce the Governorship candidate of APC for the Edo 2024 election based on direct primary as “a clear usurpation of the powers of the National Executive Committee (NEC), which is illegal.”
According to Lukman, 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.’
He said: “The recent decision by the APC National Working Committee (NWC) regarding the 2024 Edo election, whereby the NWC announced that the party’s candidate will emerge through direct primary may be informed by the strong desire of party leaders to manipulate the process. Already, there are media reports alleging that APC Stakeholders in Edo State have decided to limit the number of aspirants for the primary.
“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 win 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.
“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.”
The former Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) boss said many APC leaders, including President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Comrade Oshiomhole were in the frontline of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria, hence, “they must justify that by demonstrating that they truly led the struggle for democracy based a conviction to end dictatorship in all its ramification. 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.
“Beyond anything, the big test is the question of democratising the APC as a political party. Being the first time in this Forth Republic we are having elected leaders such as President Asiwaju Tinubu and Comrade Oshiomhole who were in the frontline of the struggle for democracy in the 1990s, they should justify that by ensuring that Nigerian political parties are truly democratic.
“Being leaders of APC, APC must emerge as a distinctly democratic party based on abiding respect for rule of law, which should be well reflected in a strong commitment to manage affairs of the party based on compliance with provisions of the APC. Anything short of this, will diminish the credentials of our leaders, including President Asiwaju Tinubu and Comrade Oshiomhole.”
The APC chieftain believed that the absence of competition in Nigerian democracy, “especially in our political parties is responsible for so many unpredictable political circumstances and is making political leaders both unsure and insecure. This has basically reduced Nigerian politics to a game of conquest. A major attribute is that political leaders are conquerors, while party members and ordinary citizens are the would-be conquered.
Arguably, while in other parties, including PDP, this is a well-established order, in APC, although highly contested, it is also increasingly becoming the norm.”
While condemning the case for direct primary in Edo State, Lukman said: “Issues of maintaining verifiable membership register is a condition precedent for the conduct of direct primary by any political party.
“Experiences under APC is that direct primary is being conducted without verifiable membership register, which empowers party leaders to simply write results in favour of aspirants they want to emerge as candidates for elections. Once that is the case, winning elections will hardly be about winning the votes of electorates. The same logic that is applied to produce candidates, which is manipulating results of primary will be used during the elections. Campaigns will be weakly committed to winning the support of the electorates.”