Seven governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met with the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, on Thursday to discuss the crises over primaries in some states.
The APC began the nomination of candidates with that of the presidency, with all its state chapters affirming President Muhammad Buhari as the APC flag bearer through direct primaries held in all the states.
After that came the governorship primaries, followed by the National Assembly primaries. These have been conducted in some states but are proving problematic in others.
All party candidates for national offices must be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by Monday, for which reason APC has scheduled its national convention for Saturday in Abuja. That of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party is holding Saturday and Sunday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The APC governors earlier Thursday met with President Buhari over the controversies surrounding the primaries in their states; but he reportedly directed them to meet withe the party’s national chairman, Mr Oshiomhole.
The seven governors present at the meeting with Mr Oshiomhole are Rochas Okorocha (Imo State), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo). The others are Simon Lalong (Plateau), Tanko Al-makura (Nasarawa), Abdul-aziz Yari (Zamfara) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun).
After the meeting at the party’s national secretariat, they spoke with a crowd of waiting journalists. Zamfara State Governor, Mr Yari, who is also the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, was the first to speak. He confirmed the meeting was called to address issues arising from the primary elections.
“Well, I think we just came to see our National Chairman on matters arising from primary elections held in some states and also to resolve so that we can come out stronger as one family so that we can secure victory in the 2019 general elections,” he said.
He said some of his colleagues have “one issue or the other” which was the reason why they were at the meeting.
“We have one issue or the other, ranging from the disqualification of some candidates and what have you, which we discussed as a family and to look at how we can boost the morale of the followers and other issues related.
“So, in resolving these, there is no other person than the National Chairman and the National Working Committee (NWC). So we sat down and discussed and steps are going to be taken so that we can understand the way forward.”
He said the chairman told them the party’s NWC will meet over the issues because the party will not have a candidate for the general election if primaries are not conducted successfully and candidates picked before Saturday, October 7.
He said they were aware time is no longer on their side and the governors were all working hard to ensure the issues are resolved so the party can hold its national convention as scheduled on Saturday.
“Chairman said they are going to have National Working Committee meeting and the same time we are concerned, if we are not having any candidate anywhere by the 7th, we automatically have no candidate to field for 2019.
“Time is our number one enemy, we are working harder, faster to ensure that we have these things done so that we can start coming to convention on Saturday.
Mr Yari said the governorship primary election was held in his state on Wednesday, “which is a little bit tough, but the outcome is not yet announced.”
“But we have not done the Senate yet, we have not done the Reps, we have not done the state assemblies. All of these must be concluded probably today and tomorrow and then we come for the National Convention on Saturday and by Sunday 12 a.m, that is the last day for the conduct of primaries by the parties in Nigeria. Anyone that does anything after that is null and void according to the Act of National Assembly.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the APC NWC on Wednesday cancelled the Zamfara governorship primaries Mr Yari made reference to amidst reports of violence and at least one death.
The Kebbi State Governor also spoke to journalists. He commended the primaries conducted so far in his state and expressed hopes the remaining will go well.
“They went very well. We had the presidential direct primary where over 700,000 party members across the state in 225 wards voted in support of President Muhammad Buhari’s candidature in 2019.
“We had very successful gubernatorial primaries, we have just completed the senatorial primaries where three serving senators have all been returned; Senator Muhammmed Adamu, Yahaya Abdullahi and….and we are ready for the next set of primaries, House of Reps and state House of Assembly and it will all go well.”
He also commended the efforts of the party leaders in other states, noting that “in situations like this, issues are inevitable.”
“We have done very well and many states have done very well. But it’s a human process and there will be issues in one or two places. It’s a dynamic process and I believe it would be resolved.”
Mr Bagudu said his state was prepared for Saturday’s convention, as the members of the APC in the state have arranged to leave for Abuja on Friday for the event.
“Oh, we are ready. By tomorrow we will all be on our way because we are quite excited to be involved in the last last legal act of making President Muhammad Buhari the 2019 flag bearer of the APC, which we have always said in Kebbi is a well-deserved recognition and election in our party because of his record of performance in the last three and half years.”
In Imo State, there is a huge crisis over the governorship primary. The governor, Mr Okorocha, admitted they “have some challenges and the governors are here to resolve them.
“As you are aware, we are going through the process of party primaries and you know the party primaries come with a lot of issues and challenges, especially in our democratic structures.
“APC has some few challenges in some states so we have come here to smoothen the rough edges and see how we can rebuild unity in our party and how to ensure that aggrieved persons are in sync with the party even after the primaries.
“So that is what brought us here and majorly the states where there are issues, we have come here to look at the practical things to do. But of course, you know that our party believes in free and fair processes, justice and equity and we are making sure we keep to that by giving everybody a chance to vote and be voted for. That is why we introduced the issue of direct primaries in most states to help everyone exercise their power of franchise.
“So we are here meeting with the chairman and we have been able to resolve most of the areas where we have some few challenges.
Mr Okorocha described the issue in his state as a new dimension of crime.
The chairman of the state governorship primary committee, Ahmed Gulak, disappeared on the day the election was to be conducted, following which the party at the national level postponed the primaries, he said.
“What happened in Imo State has introduced a new dimension to fraud in the electoral process, which we call the Gulakin (apparently, a play on Mr Gulak’s name) of internal democracy. So its rather something you can laugh at, its not anything to be associated with because the gentleman absconded, leaving his hotel room and disappeared, rushing to Abuja to announce results when the election was supposed to take place the following day.
“That is what happened; and he left behind all his members plus secretary who now decided to stay back and do the rest of their duties. But as it is, Mr Chairman felt that, that process since the chairman is not aware, they are looking at whether accepting the results or starting a new process of a new election. Whichever it is, for Imo State, we are fine as long as there is justice, fairness and equity.”
Speaking on the possibility of a new process, he said the state has no problem with whatever decision Mr Oshiomhole takes.
“If the chairman orders a new process, we have no problem at all and I don’t think the candidates will have any problem with that. Any time, any day, we are on ground we are waiting.”
He said the reconciliation process has started and he believed the party would solve its crisis as quickly as possible before the main election.
“What is important, the prime factor is that despite our individual grudges and differences, We still believe in the man President Muhamadu Buhari, and that has become a uniting force that any time you think, and you are angry and you remember him, you come back to the fold.
“That is the secret of our party and that is why we believe we would remain together till President Muhammad Buhari emerges the president, the second time.”
Ogun State’s Mr Amosun also spoke in the same manner. In his state, APC has produced two governorship candidates but the panel sent to the state from Abuja to conduct the primary announced a candidate different from the one produced by loyalists of the governor.
“You know as politicians this is our season. It happens every four years like this, everybody will be maneuvering themselves to get the party’s ticket .I think that is what is just happening,” Mr Amosun said.