APC In Turmoil …Abe Dares Amaechi In Rivers …Delegates, Gov Battle Buhari, Oshiomhole

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Senator Magnus Abe

Senator Magnus Abe says only direct primaries could guarantee a level-playing field for the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Rivers State amid the lingering conflict between his camp and that loyal to Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi in the state.
The Ojukaye Flag-Amachree chaired faction of the Rivers APC, loyal to Amaechi, had, three days ago, adopted indirect primaries to determine Rivers APC 2019 flag-bearers, but Abe, speaking in Port Harcourt, yesterday, countered that decision as unworkable.
The senator, the first aspirant to declare for the 2019 Rivers APC governorship ticket, said, “Rivers is one of those states where we can’t have indirect primaries because the entire structure in the state is embroiled in legal controversies.
“We have more than four, five court cases; so if you want to use indirect primaries, which particular delegates list are you going to use, based on which congress? All these issues are in legal tussles, so you can’t at this stage pick one above the other.
“So for safety and legal comfort of those to contest the election in Rivers, we just have to use direct primaries. Whatever objection anybody may have with direct primaries, be it lack of proper data base, security or whatever it is, these are all defects curable in our system”.
Meanwhile, delegates who emerged through the congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the ward and local governments levels earlier this year have joined their state party executives and governors to reject the direct primary option proposed by the National Working Committee of the party.
Investigations revealed that delegates, who bought forms and contested elections before they emerged as party officials at all levels, had vowed to work against the interest of the governors if they embraced the direct primary option.
A leader of the APC in one of the South-West states, who is also a delegate, told one of our correspondents that it would be unfair to deny ward and local government officers of the party the opportunity to “reap from their investments” during the general elections.
He said, “There are lots of advantages in being a delegate. At least, you are assured that you will make enough money to defray the expenses you incurred in the course of your election.
“Where do they expect this to happen now with the direct primary option? The aspirant will expect you as ward leader to share the money given to you among all your members. That does not make sense at all.”
A source, who was a delegate in the last governorship election primary in Ondo State last year, alleged that two leading aspirants of the APC gave out N200,000 each to every delegate while three others spent N150,000 each to settle each of the delegates.
He said, “The implication of this is that a very smart delegate could pocket about N700,000 without much stress. It would be impossible to make such money in a direct primary arrangement.”
Another delegate in the last Ekiti governorship election also confirmed to one of our correspondents that each leading aspirant, who contested the APC primary, also spent between N150,000 and N200,000 to bribe each of the delegates.
He said, “That is why we are on the same page with the governors to fight the senators who are pushing for direct primary in order to secure automatic tickets from President Muhammadu Buhari and our National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.”
The party’s National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, had, in a statement in April, said ward chairmanship aspirants would pay N10,000 each to obtain the nomination form and that aspirants for other ward offices would pay N2,000.
Local government chairmanship aspirants were expected to pay N25,000 for the nomination form while aspirants for other local government offices would purchase the form for N10,000.
State chairmanship aspirants were to pay N100,000 while the form for other state offices went for N30,000.
According to the guidelines, all females and physically challenged aspirants shall pay 50 per cent of the prescribed fees.
Speaking on the issue, the Chairman, Ondo State chapter of the APC, Mr. Ade Adetimehin, said, the decision of the National Executive Committee of the party in Abuja, actually authorised states to use indirect primaries.
He said, “At the NEC meeting, held penultimate Thursday, the resolution was that the election of the President would be by direct primary while other candidates of the party would be picked through the indirect option.
“There was, however, a caveat that each state could still determine the method that suits them. However from the opinion poll there, the majority settled for the indirect primary.
“No one is afraid of the direct primary. The problem is that there is no correct data across the country for the APC members. If we leave it open, many people will just show up at the primary venue and claim to be members.
“What the NWC wants to do is to cause confusion in all the states. We don’t have security to man the 203 wards in Ondo State. People will just invade the primary venues with fake membership cards and they will destroy the entire process if we try to stop them.”
A delegate from the Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State, who pleaded not to be named, said direct primary would be cumbersome to handle.
“If the party decides to adopt direct primaries, it would be too difficult to control the crowd for security reasons. The process could even be infiltrated by members of the opposition,” the delegate stated.
Another Edo delegate, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the issue, told newsmen that direct primary was not only expensive to manage but also time-consuming.
He said, “If the primaries are done directly, aspirants will spend more money because people are hungry. So, the highest bidder would have the day.”
As of Saturday, the states that had adopted the direct primary option, as proposed by the NWC of the party, are Abia, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Kano, Kwara, Lagos and Niger.
Those that had embraced the indirect option are Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states.
However, another faction of the party in Rivers State has opted for the direct primary approach to elect delegates, thereby further deepening the already polarised party in the state.
Further investigations revealed that Ebonyi, Kebbi, Ogun, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Osun and Taraba states had yet to take a decision on the issue.
Meanwhile, some of the affected senators have refused to be specific on their chances of getting their dream tickets.
Those who declined to be specific on the matter include Senator Shehu Sani, (Kadunal Central) Lanre Tejuoso (Ogun Central) and Ajayi Borofice (Ondo North).
When contacted on the telephone, Borofice said he didn’t want to talk about the issue at all.
Tejuoso avoided the questions posed to him by one of our correspondents.
He listened to questions bordering on his fate in 2019 and asked that the questions be sent to him through WhatsApp.
He promised to respond to them in writing, saying he did not want to be misquoted.
When he was called again last Friday night, Tejuoso said he could not speak on the matter “for now” until the pending issues had been resolved.
Similarly, Sani refused to be specific on his political future.
He said, “I don’t want to comment on that. I have already made enough statements on my support for direct primary. I don’t want to be specific. In the coming days, we will take a position on that. But now, what I can say it that I want direct primary.”
Speaking to one of our correspondents, a senator from a state in the North-East, who spoke on condition of anonymity, pointed out that the governors would determine the fate of the lawmakers.
According to him, some of the lawmakers made a mistake by engaging their governors in political battles, noting that the governors were the state leaders and financiers of the parties.
The senator said, “If you are a well-grounded politician, why should you worry about whether the primary is direct or indirect? That means you must have a good relationship, rapport and acceptability of the electorate or delegates.
“However, he who pays the piper calls the tune. The governors are the ones who fund the party. In the APC, they are the leaders of the party in the states. If they are the state leaders, they should be in a position to decide which is more appropriate for the primary.
“Some of the senators, who made the mistake of fighting their governors, don’t have the reason to do that. Every state has three senators but every state has only one governor. There are some governors who are the ones going after senators’ seats. Even with that, they can settle the issue amicably.”
Also, Senator Kabiru Marafa, who hailed the decision by the APC NEC, said the choice of direct method for the presidential primary was a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the state executives elected by the congresses supervised by the governors.
He said, “The NEC’s decision passed a vote of no confidence in the congresses conducted by the former National Working Committee and the leadership of the APC.
“The fact that they were specific on the presidential primary, that it should be conducted through the direct method, tells you that they don’t have confidence in the congresses conducted in the states.”
According to Marafa, (Zamfara) lawmakers, who opposed governors on the conduct of the APC congresses, have been vindicated by the NEC’s decision.
He noted that the leadership of the party, particularly the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; and national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, pushed for direct primary to protect President Muhammadu Buhari’s candidacy.
He said, “The intelligence of Adams Oshiomhole and his commitment to the President came to the fore yesterday.
“If indirect primary is done and issues later come up – as a lot of the congresses (that produced the executives who will serve as delegates) are being challenged in court.
“If the courts nullify these congresses and these executives are the ones who elected the presidential candidate, then the candidate has a problem. So, they want to protect the (candidacy of the) President and I am very happy about that.”
Senator Adesoji Akanbi (Oyo Central), however, said that the leaders of the APC in Oyo State were to meet yesterday to adopt either of the two primary options.
“We are having a meeting on Sunday to decide which mode – whether direct or indirect,” the senator said.