It has been one argument after another since the National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Adam Oshiomole, announced in Abuja on Monday that the National Working Committee has decided to use the Direct Primary system, or Option A4, in the conduction of the July 19th Gubernatorial primaries in Osun State.
Oshiomole himself explained what this system would imply when he said
“Under this arrangement, all card-carrying members of the party in the state will be involved in the process of selecting the party’s candidate,”
Primary elections which involve a party choosing its candidate for a general election can either be Closed (partisan) or Open (non-partisan). It can also be Direct or Indirect. Closed in the sense of only party members are allowed to decide who the party fields. Open in the sense that non-party members are also allowed to vote. For Direct, it means all party members are allowed to vote while Indirect means only delegates representing units of these party members vote.
The APC constitution does not allow for an open primary hence only its members can vote. But it leaves the option open between Direct and Indirect Primaries.
While the present Governor Rauf Aregbesola was chosen via a direct primary, the party changed to the indirect primary while former National Chairman Odigie Oyegun was in power. Oyegun is said to have claimed that it was too late for him to change the system to what it used to be. Oshiomoe’s decision to return to Direct Primaries, is, however, facing formidable opposition.
A day after the announcement, 12 Aspirants came together to hold a Press Conference, warning the National leadership to change its decision on how the primaries will be conducted if it does not want to lose the state to the opposition. These Aspirants were not alone. With them were legislators, Cabinet members, Local Government party Chairmen, Special Advisers, 25 local government Chairmen and Counsellors, women and youth leaders. The Youths had earlier petitioned the NWC of the APC on the same subject, making the same demands.
The congregation of opposition to the idea of Option A4 said they were against the idea as the APC does not have a proper membership database up to the units in the State and hence it will be difficult to know who actually is a member. It claims that the APC membership registration has not been updated since 2014.
This, in their argument, would make the process open to rigging and imposition.
Oshiomole however argues the exact opposite, saying the move towards Direct Primaries will kill money politics and Godfatherism as well as strengthen democracy in the State.
Not New, till zoning happened
While Osun West Senatorial leader, Chief Yinusa Akintola Amobi, spoke at the Press Conference called by the 12 Aspirants, the group did not stop at demanding a delegate system of voting, it also mentioned that the only way the party can win the election is to zone the ticket to Osun West. The Youths who petitioned the NWC made the same demand.
It is commonly said that for close to 3 decades of the creation of Osun State its Governors have mostly been from Osun Central and Osun East Senatorial district. In a politically tensed and regionally conscious clime, many termed this marginalisation.
The late Senator Isiaka Adeleke was the first Governor of the State in 1991. Although his leadership was truncated 22 months in by military intervention, he was from Osun West. Of the 245 months, there have been civilian Governors in Osun, a person from Osun West had been Governor for 22 months. This means a lot to a growing number of people.
Earlier in May, one of the 12 Aspirants, Engineer Adelere Adeyemi Oriolowo, echoed this sentiment when he said that fairness, justice, and equity demands that the next Governor of the State comes from Osun West Senatorial District.
Aside the call for zoning and concerns over records, Direct Primaries as a practice is not only enshrined as an option in the APC Constitution but is older than the party and Nigeria in terms of its practice.
Its origin goes back as late as over 100 years but it is usually documented as a reform which came about as part of the progressive movement and actually did have its documented origin in the fight against corruption and godfatherism.
Richard Hofstadter in “The Age of Reforms” documented the origin of direct primaries saying,
“Until the advent of the direct primary, political parties usually chose their candidates in closed-door meetings or at political conventions. As a result of this process, a few influential people were often able to manipulate the party’s choice of candidates. Progressives believed that this process led to political corruption and kept elections from being truly democratic. With a direct primary system, the voters chose for themselves who would represent their political party in the regular election.”
Here, there, all depends
While those in favour of Direct Primary cite its closeness to the democratic principle of inclusiveness and reduction of the influence of money bags and godfathers as points for their choice, those who oppose the idea cite the lack of verifiable data regarding members and hence the huge window for rigging as reason for their choice.
As it is fact that the last APC membership registration in Osun was 3 years ago, it is also fact that losers in primaries have constantly made the delegate list a source of complaint, claiming that party leadership smuggled in names which should not be there.
Politicians are however not talking soft or debating this mildly, as expected.