Ahead of the presidential primaries of All Progressives Congress scheduled for December 2, the rumblings of discontent that emerged after the release of the timetable and guidelines for the party’s primaries are widening into bigger disagreements, THISDAY has learnt. Consequently, the national leadership of the party is under pressure to reconsider both the timings and method for the choice of its candidates for next year’s general elections.
Meanwhile, the two leading presidential aspirants in APC, former military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, have commenced intensive scrambling to get the endorsement of the South-west governors. South-west has the highest number of APC governors, with five of the six states in the zone governed by the party. The competition for the zone’s governors is also said to be generating tension in the party.
APC had on August 21 at a National Executive Committee meeting in Abuja approved the modified direct primaries for the selection of its presidential candidate and other candidates for next year’s general elections. The party also proposed October as the date for the start of processes for the selection of its presidential candidate. APC national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said under the modified direct primaries system, about 300,000 members would vote to determine the party’s presidential candidate. But no sooner had the voting pattern been adopted than it stirred controversy in the party following angry reactions from the camps of some aspirants.
THISDAY gathered at the weekend that Buhari’s loyalists had formally registered their objection to the adoption of the modified direct primaries, saying it is conflict-prone and time-consuming. This was as a group supporting Atiku faulted the timetable for the party’s primaries, which was released last week. The group argued that the December 2 date for the presidential primary does not augur well for the party’s success at the poll.
A reliable source in APC told THISDAY that concerns were mounting in the party that the timetable for the primaries might have unwittingly conceded the rival Peoples Democratic Party undue advantage at the presidential poll, as it does not give APC ample time to campaign for the election coming up in February.
It was learnt that party leaders met all night on Thursday to consider petitions submitted by Buhari and Atiku’s loyalists, but they were unable to reach agreement on the issues.
A source in APC said, “The party’s timetable has fixed the party’s presidential primary for December 2, thereby giving only a window of about two months for the APC candidate to campaign for the February 14 poll.”
Some leaders of the party are said to have commenced intensive lobbying to have the date of the presidential primary rescheduled to October, as had earlier been suggested.
A party chieftain and close associate of Atiku, who was privy to the NEC meeting where the decision to hold the presidential primary on December 2 was taken, said that it came as a surprise to some of the NEC members.
The source, who did not want to be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said, “It came as a surprise to some of us when a strong case was made for the fixing of the date for the presidential primary on December 2. We did not see anything wrong at that time. But in retrospect, it is becoming obvious that that decision may compromise the chances of the party beating the ruling PDP in the 2015 presidential poll.”
He disclosed that the timetable was generating controversy in the party, as members were questioning the rationale behind the new schedule.
However, when contacted, Mohammed said the party’s national executive had taken a lot of things into consideration before arriving at the guidelines and timetable.
“Every suggestion will be looked into. But you see, it is always easy to criticise proposals without knowing what has really gone into it before being adopted as resolutions,” he said.
But an APC NEC member said, “It is curious because except there are fifth columnists in the APC leadership who have sold out to create advantage for the Peoples Democratic Party in the forthcoming presidential election, the new schedule will definitely short-change the party’s candidates, especially its presidential flag bearer who needs ample time to reach out to the voters.
“In previous elections, candidates had over four months to do their campaigns. How come that this time the APC leadership has deliberately set out to further constrict the time available for its candidate to reach out to all Nigerians to canvass for their votes?”
According to the APC timetable, the expression of interest forms for all offices will go on sale from October 6. Those interested in seeking the party’s nomination to stand in the presidential, governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly elections are expected to pick their forms between October 6 and 19.
The sale of nomination forms to presidential aspirants will commence on October 20 and end on November 6, while screening of presidential aspirants is slated to take place between November 10 and 13, and November 14 and 15 will be for appeals. The party’s national convention, where the presidential candidate will be picked, holds on December 2.
The sale of nomination forms to those interested in the governorship race is to take place between October 20 and November 9. Screening of aspirants will hold as from November 10 to 12, while appeals are slated to take place between November 13 and 14. The governorship primaries are slated for November 15, while appeals emanating from the primaries will be entertained from November 18 to 22.
The APC timetable was an apparent attempt to preempt what PDP was going to do. But the opposition party seems to be facing an ostensible backlash from members.
APC is torn between those calling for a review of the timetable for the primaries and others saying it should abandon the modified direct primaries in favour of a consensus arrangement.
Someone from the Buhari camp, who preferred anonymity, said they had examined the APC constitution, especially Article 20, and the Electoral Act 2010, and “came to the inevitable conclusion that it is better to adopt consensus in electing our candidates for House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, governor and presidential candidates and where it fails, to adopt direct primary.
“It is on record that more than 80 per cent of the ward, local government area and state congresses, which produced the current executives of our great party, were conducted through consensual arrangement. And more than 95 per cent of the current National Executive Committee was elected via consensus.”
He stressed, “In spite of the high points raised, we must remember that not all that glitters are gold. Consensus is also democratic, it is recognised by the Electoral Act in Section 5.87(6), but it is not as glamorous as direct primary.
“The crucial question is, does it serve the overall interest of the party if we get bogged down settling dispute, which may arise from the direct primary?
“We must at all times bear in mind that we are being hunted and that those who boasted to rule Nigeria for 60 years uninterrupted are still hell bent on scuttling the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians for genuine ideological regime change.”
But reacting to the concerns about the modified direct primaries, Mohammed said, “Things must be in line with the party’s constitution and it is not even proper to threaten to take the party to court without exploring due process of internal party mechanism for laying such complaints. Anyone who does that is doing so without recourse to the party’s constitution.”
He said the leadership of the party was only trying to ensure that the activities of the party were in line with the electoral law.
PDP had on September 18 adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole candidate for the forthcoming presidential election. The Buhari group says they want the APC presidential candidate to also be chosen by common consent, but this does not seem to go down well with many of the stakeholders.
In the meantime, neither Buhari nor Atiku is said to be succeeding in the quest to enlist the support of the APC governors in the South-west. The governors are believed to be watching the political preferences of the party’s national leader and former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu. Tinubu is also the leader of the party in the South-west. He is playing his cards close to his chest in relation to the presidential nomination.
A senior APC member told THISDAY, “The internal crisis in the APC, especially in the South-west zone, is very intense. In many of the states, there are factions and groups – one faction loyal to the governor and the other faction loyal to other individuals who contest leadership with the governors.
“Now, you have a situation whereby some of these forces who are against the governors are stronger politically and are desperately looking for allies to strengthen them the more.
“It is not impossible that some younger elements among the presidential aspirants might latch on the crack and further balkanise the party.”
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