SKC Ogbonnia, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Party (APC), has threatened to sue over its mode of primaries for elections.
Mr Ogbonnia is one of the politicians who frowned at the APC’s resolution to adopt direct primaries.
Controversy has continued to trail the resolution of the latest APC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in which direct primaries for elections in the party was deliberated on and adopted.
Direct primaries involves the participation of all party members in the selection of party candidates.
Indirect primaries, on the other hand, involves delegates, who many believe are influenced by state governors. Party leaders at local levels, political appointees as well as elected officials are assigned to elect party candidates in indirect primaries.
Mr Ogbonnia told PREMIUM TIMES that he has written to the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, asking it to void direct primaries.
He also said the party has two days to respond, after which he might take the matter to court.
He explained that he had written the said letter because the APC (and the press) have failed to ‘display’ other opponents of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The press could have echoed the opponents of Buhari to make this thing somehow competitive but each time the press wants to write, they act like no other person exists.
“Our democracy is not going to develop if we are only promoting the incumbent.
“If the press were really promoting everybody, it would have been competitive – where Buhari’s people will be bringing out all the money they’ve been piling but right now, they’re not spending any money whatsoever on the primaries because the press has determined that there is no competition.
“I sent a letter to Oshiomhole to see if they can void the direct primaries because I believe at the indirect primaries, we’ll be able to speak. Buhari will speak and I will speak and the nation will listen to two of us.
“I’m waiting for a response. They have two days to respond to me and if they don’t respond, I may go to court. The direct primary is more democratic but if you do direct primaries for the presidential race, it’s not free and fair,” he said.
In the letter, Mr Ogbonnia demanded that future NEC meetings before presidential primary should involve all presidential aspirants or their representatives.
He frowned at Mr Oshiomhole for “not extending” invitations to the two other presidential hopefuls for the last NEC meeting, besides Mr Buhari.
He also appealed to the party to reduce the nomination fees to the barest minimum so that individuals, particularly the youth and women, who aspire to run for office can afford the fees.
The presidential aspirant, who believes that the N45 million cost of nomination form was “targeted at him”, however, vowed to pick up his form and contest against the president.
“Even though I can afford to pay the 45 million, where I have problem is, can other people afford it? Can other people really pay?
“I know for a fact that the N45 million is targeted against me but I’m going to pay. This is no longer democracy because it’s not free and fair.
“We want to understand if that is a level playing ground before we know the type of resources to put into the campaign,” he explained.
He also faulted the party’s timetable for primaries as be argued that there was not enough time for candidates to mobilise themselves for campaign.
“If you want to talk about direct primaries, will you talk about it just ten days to the election day? For 36 states? 774 local governments? It’s mind-boggling.
“How can you announce for primaries yesterday and say the closing date is Monday? I know how many weeks Buhari had to look for money to borrow in 2014 and now they’re giving people only three days to come up with the money.
“To make matters worse, you’re giving them only one week to campaign across the country. This is no longer democracy, its impunity.”
Reacting, the spokesperson of the APC chairman, Simon Ebegbulem, defended the choice of direct primaries.
He said there had been complaints overtime on how governors and others influence indirect primaries.
He questioned the ‘status’ of Mr Ogbonnia, stating that “it is only when an aspirant gets his/her (nomination, interest) forms that he is seen as an aspirant”.
“It’s not true, in fact this is the first time I am hearing that because majority of party members are seeking for these direct primaries because they feel that it can only throw up a popular candidate, not favourable candidate and that is the spirit of that direct primary. The party believes direct primaries will help eliminate all these unnecessary complaints.
“Indirect primary, which is delegate system which has been used in the past, if you observe, the governor will sit down with some leaders, they set the delegates, they give them money and say you vote for this person and that is it. This is what people have been complaining about, that they have been marginalised.
“So the party is trying to liberalise those things to give opportunity to everybody to remove the party from the hands of godfathers,” he said.
He added that those kicking against it are those “who feel that they are in control of the party and want to continue to hold the party in various states.”
On the exorbitant cost of forms he said the high cost of organising direct primaries was a prime reason.
“These direct primaries are cost (intensive) and you don’t expect people to fund it. It’s the party that is going to fund it and it’s very expensive. So the plan is whatever money they are going to get from there (the forms), they will use it. We don’t want to rely on individuals to fund it.”