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by Oki Samson and Abayomi Oyelami

President Buhari (right) being welcome in a warm handshake by APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (2nd left), APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (m) and Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN looks on.

Since 1999 at the dawn of the new democratic process in Nigeria, most political parties have produced their flagbearers at various levels of political office in primary elections, conducted by the delegate system.

Primary elections which are internal preliminary elections held within political parties are democratic mechanisms to select contestants at general elections and are imperative in cases where there are more than one contestant jostling to represent a political party at elections.

Recently, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is modifying its position by pushing the primary election directly into the hands of every bona fide member of the political party rather than from the former delegate system. The new system is aimed at testing the popularity of the candidates in the grassroots rather than with just a couple of delegates and is thus seen as a more democratic system. The old system is said to be fraught with corruption, nepotism, and prejudice.

The direct primaries which was initially tested in the state of Osun to produce Gbenga Oyetola, the Chief of Staff to incumbent governor of the state, Ogbeni Raufu Aregbesola seemed to have enjoyed the goodwill of the hierarchy of the ruling party structure in the nation. At a stakeholders’ meeting held recently at the Lagos State Secretariat of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of APC said the party is committed to the tenets of democracy and would continue to promote democratic values. ‘We are committed to our party. We see direct primary as President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption and internal democracy revolution. We are going to embrace that to ensure that the party is brought back to its owners; that is the people and not a few. We have embraced democracy and for you to benefit from it, you have to be a member of our party in the first place.’

He said that with the direct primary system the party is adopting, it is members that would determine candidates and was important that new and existing members have their membership cards as they would be able to elect their candidates in the primaries and added that prospective members would be issued membership cards after registration. ‘What we are doing with the direct primary is to give power to the people. But for you to choose your candidates in the primaries, you need to have your membership cards. All those of you just joining us, it is important you register to be our members officially. If you don’t have our cards, we can’t call you our members. We want to appeal to all our members to obtain the membership registration and embrace the direct primary that has just been introduced and adopted by our party’.

Against widespread opinion that the Lion of Bourdillon as Bola Tinubu is fondly called ‘always roared out the names of candidates of the party’, he was unequivocal as he restated his neutrality in the primaries. ‘I only have one vote in my ward and my vote is not different from that of other leaders. There is nothing like you are going to meet Asiwaju; I am not going to endorse anybody.

Some APC State Governors at the party NEC Meeting recently.

Everybody should go to the field and determine his or her popularity by votes. We will do primaries and whoever wins will be the party’s candidate.’ He added that people without membership cards and permanent voters’ cards would not be allowed to contest in primaries or represent the party in any capacity and warned party members and aspirants against violence in the upcoming primaries as any aspirant engaged in violence would be disqualified.

The party chieftain encouraged council chairmen and party leaders to mobilise members to collect their PVCs as that would help APC in 2019. He said the party would embark on aggressive registration of new members in the chapter. He urged party members to work in unison, be committed to the greater interest of the party and work for its progress. He expressed confidence that APC would win the upcoming Osun election, saying the people were for the party.

Diverging Views in Lagos APC Over Direct Primaries
The decision to go the direct primaries way has not gone without its opposition. It has received as much criticisms as its support especially in Lagos. While a lot of people have lauded the move, some party members believe it is counterproductive and was to thwart the second term bid of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. A group known as Ambode Till 2023 (Itesiwaju Eko) said based on the overall endorsements received by Ambode so far, it was unfair that the governor would be asked to go through primaries, especially given the fact that no politician in the APC and the opposition had signified interest in contesting against him.

Convener of the group, Olamide Otun-Elewe, said: ‘We are not comfortable with the directive by Tinubu on direct primaries. Our expectation at the stakeholders’ meeting was that our leader, Tinubu, would declare support for the governor and ask all of us to go and work for him. But subjecting Governor Ambode to direct primaries despite his sterling performance and massive endorsements, to us, is unfair. They claim Ambode is setting up political structures and treating party elders with disdain but they have not come up with a single evidence to back up their claim.’

Reacting to the development, a Lagos-based journalist said: ‘I am not an Akinwunmi Ambode person, and that is public knowledge. But it will be utterly unfair for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to force him to a primary when the practice has always been that governors of the party are given the right of first refusal across the nation. The choice of direct primary is clearly designed to humiliate him, because even governors who failed to win their second term election didn’t have to struggle for their tickets in the party. I cannot comprehend the logic behind it except that it is a grossly dishonest choice, informed by sheer political greed.


The same Tinubu who allegedly asked some prospective aspirants to a particular senatorial seat in the state to back off because the present occupant deserves the right of first refusal? And a few weeks to the primary, a Lagos governor does not know his fate? Now, the leader will hide under the facade of following party decision to teach the governor some lessons, because, like it or not, it is who they allow to vote that would vote and the outcome is inevitably guided. Watch out for the guidelines soon. You will be stunned.’

Alhaji Tunde Balogun, the Chairman of APC in the state debunked the idea describing it as ‘a very wrong perception’. He added: ‘That is a very wrong perception. It is a very wrong interpretation of the situation. Those claiming it is targeted at anyone got it very wrong. The direct primary is not targeted against any aspirant. Direct primary is a constitutional thing. It is one of the options for primaries in our constitution. You can either go for direct or indirect primaries. I don’t know who is misinterpreting it to mean it was suggested so as to get at anybody. Lagosians should ignore anyone spreading that rumour. It is not targeted at anyone.’

A chieftain of the party in the state, Kamal Bayewu, remarked that it was erroneous for anyone to think Governor Ambode was being targeted with the decision of the party leadership to settle for direct primary. Chief Babatunde Alabi, another chieftain claimed that it will be hypocritical for Tinubu to single out Ambode for automatic ticket while asking other aspirants to go for direct primary and added that Governor Ambode would emerge victorious when a direct primary is conducted.

Meanwhile, the Governor Ambode had urged members of the party to embrace the direct primary option and work for the party’s victory in the coming elections at the state and federal levels.

At the same event, it would be recalled that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had asserted that the APC in the state was not divided and that whoever was involved in acts to divide it would fail.

Plaudits for APC on the Direct Primaries
There is indication that the National Secretariat of the party believes that the Direct Primaries idea would easily take power to the people adding that the idea was to erase the possibility of strong men in the party camping delegates ahead of primaries. ‘The idea of direct primaries has already been ratified at the NWC level. The working committee will soon present it to NEC for ratification. It is a better idea than the delegates system where Governors and power brokers will only camp close to half of the delegates or entice them with money.


In this case, all card carrying member of the party will participate and you cannot possibly buy up all members, this will make the party more popular because by the time people participate in selecting the candidate, they would also come out to vote in the main election’ a source said.

The use of indirect primaries through delegates allow governors to have direct control over the nomination process as many of the delegates are people that they have influence over. The use of indirect primary, it is claimed, allows the use of money to influence selected delegates to vote for the aspirant with the highest offer.
On the other hand, the direct primary allows all party members to choose the party’s candidate for any position. This will make the party more popular because by the time people participate in selecting the candidate, they would also come out to vote in the main election. The party would take time out to explain the policy to party leaders.

Mr Ifeanyi Nwoga, former Attorney-General of Enugu state who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu says the direct primaries introduced by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to select candidates for the 2019 general election will enhance Nigeria’s democracy and will instil sense of ownership in members of the party. ’This is an ingenious concept that APC has come up with in Nigeria’s politics. It gives the electorate the right to participate in the selection of their designated flag bearers. I fully subscribe to it. It will also bring about a corrupt-free process in the democratic process.’

The governorship aspirant said that as a state appointee he was compelled to be a card-carrying member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He explained that after his appointment, ‘it began to dawn on me that I have not made enough impact. I also felt I do not have the space to explore my desire in PDP. I am in politics not to say things I do not believe in but to say the things I can really do for the people. I joined politics and I am seeking my party’s ticket to offer service to my deprived people.’

Another party leader hailed the process. ‘I never believed a day would come that the Jagaban himself would embrace this kind of process for electing candidates for general elections within a party he presides over as National leader. We need not deceive ourselves that if you are not in the good book of some leaders, you can’t emerge as candidate through the delegate system. This is indeed a jolt from the blues. It goes to show that candidates that are not popular within their locality should forget it. You can’t use a party leader’s name or endorsement anymore to emerge candidate. If you are also an incumbent who have abandoned your people since you got elected and you are now coming back to seek for their votes for re-election, you are your own. Every politics is indeed local now.


This is a great opportunity for young people to get cracking. Join the party, make yourself relevant from your ward to your local government and put yourself forward for election. It’s no more a group of people from your locality called delegates that will determine your fate according to the dictate of a godfather at Alausa or Bourdillon. Now, every member of the party has been empowered to choose their own leaders by voting for their own candidate. The endorsement you need is that of your local people not any godfather. Indeed, not that the direct primary does not have it’s own shortcomings, especially as it concerns rowdiness, violence and material inducement of party members to get their votes. But, others can say, but the inducement has always been there but only for selected delegates who are getting richer at the expense of party members. Now there is a fair and equal level playing ground for everybody to vote and be voted for.’

Making progress with the take-off of Direct Primaries
The direct primaries system is gaining momentum with the party hierarchy as the National Working Committee (NWC) had recently ratified the system and it is set to present a memorandum to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party for final approval. The stance of the party leadership is said to be underpinned by the fact that the option for direct primaries as a means to nominating candidates is included in the APC Constitution. Article 20 Section 3 of the APC constitution which stipulates the guideline for the nomination of candidates for political offices, states that nomination of candidates for “local government council/Area Council Chairman, state House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, Governor and President shall be through direct or indirect primary election to be conducted at the appropriate level.”

The party had until the coming of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) used the indirect method in which party executives and office holders cum former office holders are used to select delegates. The position of the party has also received the blessing of the President as he is in support of it and it is a part of the national chairman’s process to democratise the party. ‘’You can see how it worked in Osun and also in Bauchi South senatorial zone.

A source close to the party is claimed to have said: ‘The idea of direct primaries has been ratified by the NWC and I am aware a memo is already being drafted to be presented to the NEC which would hold later in the month. Once it is approved, it will become a policy of the APC. It has already been ratified at the NWC level. The working committee will soon present it to NEC for ratification. It is a better idea than the delegates system where governors and power brokers will only camp close to half of the delegates or entice them with money. In this case, all card carrying members of the party will participate and you cannot possibly buy up all members.’ The source added that the party would also work out how the direct primaries system would affect the presidential primaries.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) in its meeting has decided that the direct primary system will be used for the presidential primary, while each state executive can deliberate on which option suit them best. This is in line with the directive of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which has given all political parties in the country till September 15 to submit proposals on how they will select candidates for the general election.

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