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APC and direct primaries

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Hurriedly cobbled together into a coalition to wrest power from the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the centre in the run up to the critical 2015 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) appeared to have rapidly exhausted its historic possibilities with its realization of its primary aim of becoming the country’s new ruling party.  The legacy parties that coalesced to constitute the APC apparently never had a common conception either of the progressive ideology that was supposed to weld them together or the philosophy of change that was promised to be the driving force of both its style and substance in government and which elicited such high expectations among Nigerians.

Thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal asceticism and aversion to corruption (mind you, I am not saying he is a saint) the degree of venality and sheer pecuniary banditry in public life has been substantially reduced under the APC while there is a more serious commitment of resources to ameliorating the plight of a large number of the poor and vulnerable, infrastructure renewal and expansion as well as addressing the country’s severe security challenges.

Yet, there is no discernible, deliberately and carefully fashioned as well as systematically and methodically implemented plan by the APC to achieve fundamental value re-orientation or sustainable behavioural change both at the individual and institutional levels. If there is, it has certainly not been effectively communicated to the public. The party also has to take more meaningful steps towards removing the structural and constitutional impediments to the practice of true federalism in the country. This is the minimum condition necessary for actualizing any concrete change that goes beyond the superficial exchange of PDP faces for those of the APC in public office.

As the legal term of its first national and state executives was coming to an end, the APC approached a historic juncture. It could either choose a new, refreshing, revitalizing and rejuvenating path or opt to mummify itself in the seal of operational inefficiency, organizational incoherence and inefficacy as well as ideological insipidity exemplified by the erstwhile Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Executive of the party. Interestingly, a not insignificant number of members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) preferred the latter option.

The real Buhari suddenly showed up at this critical time. Casting aside his taciturnly and seemingly disdainful disposition to party politics, PMB asserted his leadership of the party and insisted that the constitution both of the party and the country must be adhered to and intra party elections held to party executive offices at all levels. That principled stand nailed the coffin of the tenure elongation lobby. It steered the APC away from the ultimately self-immolating path it seemed bent on charting.

It certainly would have been disastrous for the APC to have entered the electoral fray next year in a complacent and somnolent state of mind numbing itself to the seething discontent eating deep into its sinews. The intra-party congresses and conventions enabled these grievances and dissensions come to the fore rather than being dangerously hidden and repressed with future negative and more damaging consequences.

Again, the defeat of the tenure elongation agenda and the attendant holding of the APC congresses and national convention facilitated the speedy exit from the party of disgruntled elements who believed that their interests could not be actualized within the APC. This is surely not illegitimate since politics is most times about the pursuit of private interest dressed in seductive altruistic garbs.

Yes, there has also been a flurry of defections to the APC mostly from the PDP.  Many of those moving to the ruling party are seeking refuge in the new perceived ‘Noah’s Ark’ from the haunting flood of indictments and relentless prosecutions by the anti-corruption agencies particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).  This indeed poses a grave moral dilemma for the APC. Many wonder how the party can credibly claim to be fighting corruption and yet gladly, even enthusiastically, welcome persons indicted for alleged corruption into its fold. It is clearly unrealistic to expect the APC to reject members seeking to join the party especially those with a strong electoral base.

It appears that those persons who see membership of the APC as granting them immunity from prosecution and possible punishment for corruption have apparently not learnt the appropriate lessons from the fate of ex-governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame currently serving jail terms for corruption. The austere and inscrutable General from Daura is unlikely to bat an eyelid or lift a finger if they are found guilty of corrupt practices despite their migration to the ruling party.

Within a very short while of his emergence as National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s invigorating and rejuvenating influence is being felt both within and beyond the APC. The party is gradually being stirred awake from its organizational stupor. Both ministers and national legislators of the party are being made to realize that they hold their positions by virtue of the fact that they belong to a political party or were appointed by someone who won election on the platform of a party.

The party is gradually becoming, once again the centre of gravity around which both the members of the executive and legislature belonging to it revolve. And Oshiomhole is obviously learning very fast the art of diplomatically asserting the supremacy of the party without necessarily resorting to the confrontational or hectoring tactics of the latent radical trade unionist in him.

One of the most momentous decisions taken by the Oshiomhole-led National Executive of the APC so far is to utilize the method of direct primaries in picking candidates for elective offices at all levels with the exception of states where the majority of stakeholders opt for consensus or indirect primaries as permitted by the constitution of the party. This is indeed a revolutionary step to enthrone card carrying members of the party as the true sovereigns and owners of the party.

If Oshiomhole and his NWC were actuated by a desire for concentration of power at the centre or opportunities to utilize his position as a means of accumulation, then the consensus or indirect delegates system would have been the preferred option for the NWC.  Empowering every party member to have a say in the emergence of candidates for elective offices decentralizes power within the party, re-federalizes the party structure and minimizes although not totally eliminating the influence of money in the candidate selection process.

Of course, there is understandable resistance to this radical change from some quarters within the party who want the retention of the status quo. Oshiomhole has the responsibility of persuading and convincing the vast majority of party members that the direct primary method is in the best interest of the party. It is the best way of ensuring inclusiveness in the intra-party elections and limiting the possibility or efficacy of protest votes in general elections.

Luckily, PMB has shown the way by not objecting to direct primaries in choosing the party’s presidential candidate. All levels of the party should certainly follow the president’s example. Osun State has already blazed the trail in showing that direct primaries are indeed feasible and practicable. The fear of insecurity can certainly not be an excuse. Otherwise, a persuasive case can also be made not to hold the 2019 general elections, which are even more all encompassing than intra-party elections, for security reasons.

Those who claim that they do not have a reliable data base of party members have a point for exemption from direct primaries given the shortness of time. But this is an indication of leadership ineptness, which does not do the image of a self-proclaimed modernizing party of change like the APC any good.

There are many factors that stand the APC governorship candidate in Osun in good stead for the September 22 governorship election. With a B. Sc degree in Insurance and an MBA from the University of Lagos, Alhaji Isiaka Oyetola is certainly knowledgeable in financial and economic management, which is crucial in a post-Aregbesola era. As Chief of Staff in the Aregbesola administration for over seven years, his office was critical in the conceptualization and implementation process of infrastructure projects and social welfare programmes, which makes him well placed to sustain and improve on the legacy of Aregbesola in this regard.

Given his natural reticence, restraint and mature temperament, Oyetola is reputed to be a consummate negotiator with the capacity to maintain harmonious labour-government relations. Again, Oyetola has over 30 years experience in the private sector having run a solid and successful business before being appointed to public office. Not given to oratory or loquacity, the APC candidate is a restrained and competent technocrat in the mould of a Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) or Akinwumi Ambode, both highly accomplished successors of the visionary Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos.

All these factors pale into insignificance, however, beside the fact that Oyetola emerged through direct primaries garnering the support of no less than 127, 000 party members who already have a stake in the governorship election and will surely feel motivated to ensure their party’s triumph in the general election by participating enthusiastically in the exercise.

 

Culled from The Nation

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