APC: A Party At War With Itself

As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prepares for the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the states continue to grapple with internal crisis over the modes adopted to choose its standard-bearers. STEPHEN GBADAMOSI examines the development.

THE last is yet to be heard about the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states. Last week, the national chairman of the party, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, insisted that there was no going back on its decision to hold direct primary in determining its candidate for the governorship election in Edo State. A factional chairman of the party in the state, Mr Anselm Ojezua, had faulted the decision, describing it as unconstitutional. But what is more worrisome about the development, according to political watchers, is the decision of the same APC national leadership to use a different mode of determining the standard-bearer in the also forthcoming Ondo State governorship election. APC in Ondo will use indirect primary to determine its candidate. While the APC slated the Edo primary for June 22, that of Ondo is billed for July 20.

A prominent member of the party in Lagos State, who did not want his name in print, noted that the development was about the interest of the gladiators in the party put above its (the party’s) collective interest.

“Why would the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party adopt two different measures for the same situation? We are holding governorship election primary in Edo within a space of a month from that of Ondo. Why should there be direct primary in one state and indirect primary in the other? It is not a question of what is good for the party; it is about what some people stand to gain from the situation. And I dare say that that is neither good for the party nor for deepening democratic culture in the country,” he said.

Apart from Ojezua, some other stakeholders have also faulted the Oshiomhole-led NWC over the adoption of direct primary method for the Edo governorship primary, especially at this period when the country as well as the entire world is battling to contain COVID-19 and prevent its direct transmission through large gatherings.

Part of the argument being canvassed is that some powerful forces are bent on rocking the boat in Edo State, oblivious whether or not the current governor, Godwin Obaseki, has performed creditably in his first term in office. Perhaps, this was the reason the embattled governor recently said; “It doesn’t matter whether it is direct or indirect primary. I will win, because I know what we have done in Edo State.”

The crisis in the Edo APC also caught the attention of a columnist. Writing in his column, On The Lord’s Day in Sunday Tribune, Bola Bolawole, a former editor of The Punch, who mused about the danger the development portends for the country’s democracy, put it thus: “Our ‘too sabi’ is legendary; our disunity and in-fighting a curse! The same blood of infamy appears also to run in the veins of our Bini cousins. Witness Obaseki run from pillar to post – from the Jagaban in Lagos to Buhari in Abuja! We watched as the Edo politicians washed their dirty linen in public. After ridiculing and messing up one another, and, in the process, mutually politically destroying one another; they now seek outside help to bear rule over their own people!

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“Tell me, whose interest will such leaders serve if not the Caliphate’s?” This is the point being made by most political commentators. The fight-to-the-finish mentality playing on in the APC over the coming governorship elections is aimed at helping no other interest than of the so-called godfathers.

It will be recalled that while speaking with journalists at the party’s secretariat in Abuja after the NWC meeting with some governors of the party, Mr Oshiomhole had insisted that his decision to conduct direct primary in Edo State was backed by the party’s constitution, adding that there had not been any letter submitted by Mr Obaseki to protest the APC NWC decision.

“Obaseki is not here, but issues of primaries are well spelt out in our constitution and we are following it as strictly as possible. So, there is nothing to worry about at all. You are speculating (on Obaseki’s rejection of direct primaries), I don’t have any letter or document to that effect. These are very formal matters. Stop spreading (speculations?),” he had said.

However, those who are sympathetic to the cause of Governor Obaseki claim that Mr Oshiomhole is being clever by half. He is said to be insisting on the direct primary mode as a way to get at the governor with which he had been having a running battle for months over the control of the party’s structure in the state. It was even learnt that one of the governors at the NWC meeting called for indirect mode of party primaries. But it was learnt that the governor was rebuffed.

Another angle from which other stakeholders of the party are looking at the unfolding development is the possibility of the APC loosing the little goodwill it has left in the wake of the current imbroglio.

A chieftain of the party in Ondo State told Sunday Tribune that “our party has no reason to protect (Rotimi) Akeredolu in Ondo and ridicule Obaseki in Edo State. Do you change a winning team? Both governors, to my own mind, have performed very well in their first terms. And so, they deserve second terms if they so wish. Whatever is then sauce for the goose should also be sauce for the gander.

“It doesn’t make any sense to, as a result of ego of some powerful people in the party, jettison the larger interest of the party. And the so-called godfathers should remember that those in the opposition are waiting in the wings. We may just be preparing ground for them to upstage us.”

The APC chieftain who asked not to be named also described the discrepancy in mode of primary as a disservice to the democratic movement of the nation, adding that “it is shameful that it is the APC, with progressive foundation, that used to preach deepening of democracy, that is now killing internal democracy and by extension, the nation’s democratic journey just because of the interest of few individuals.”

Another chieftain of the party noted that what was happening to the Edo State chapter was an already prepared script being acted.

“On Tuesday, May 19, our national chairman, preempting the decision of Edo State chapter of the APC to conduct indirect primaries, wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) informing of a decision of the APC to conduct direct primaries in Edo State.

“On Thursday May 21, two days later, our national chairman called an NWC meeting where the decision of the direct primaries was taken. The question is why was INEC officially informed about a decision that was yet to be taken?” the party chieftain queried, adding that if, indeed, the constitution of the party gives room for both direct and indirect modes of primary, nothing should inform using a mode for a state and another mode for another state.

With the optimism of Governor Obaseki to clinch the ticket of the party and the seeming relentless stance of his traducers in the national headquarters of the APC, there are certainly interesting days ahead of the primaries and the two states’ governorship elections.

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