President Muhammadu Buhari recently made an intervention in the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the multiple litigations trailing the party primaries. The President advised the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party not to take punitive actions against aggrieved members who are in court seeking redress for perceived injustice arising from the primary elections. He has also advised the aggrieved members to work with the reconciliation committees empanelled for the six geo-political zones by the APC.

The leadership of the APC had invoked Article 20, Subsection 10 of its constitution which stipulates that filing an action in a court of law against the party or any of its officers on any matter relating to the discharge of the duties of the party without first exhausting all avenues for redress provided for in the APC constitution is anti-party activity. The NWC had vowed to sanction members engaged in litigation against the party. APC stated that taking the party to court was against the constitution of the party and attracts disciplinary actions against such members for anti-party activities. We recall that the primary elections of the APC created a lot of ripples across Nigeria.

They were most problematic in Imo, Rivers, Lagos, Zamfara, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Oyo, Ogun and Cross River states. Many aspirants to political offices in several states were aggrieved because the party failed to provide a level playing field for all contestants during the disputed primary elections. As the President rightly observed, the NWC’s decision of the party to punish aggrieved members for exercising their fundamental rights could hurt the party’s interest on the long run.

This counsel is instructive and presents a ray of hope that Oshiomhole, the big masquerade in the arena charging at everyone, still has a guide with a tethering rope around his waist. Oshiomhole had, for a long time, ran the ruling party like a dictator who gave no damn as to the consequences of his actions.

This presidential intervention sounds good, but it is rather belated because the crisis triggered by the party primaries had already done a lot of damage to the ruling party. Many of the aggrieved members have either quit the party or are on the verge of leaving. At best, this intervention could make the President look good in the eyes of those aggrieved party members. Many of them were be all contestants during the disputed primary elections. As the President rightly observed, the NWC’s decision of the party to punish aggrieved members for exercising their fundamental rights could hurt the party’s interest on the long run.

This counsel is instructive and presents a ray of hope that Oshiomhole, the big masquerade in the arena charging at everyone, still has a guide with a tethering rope around his waist. Oshiomhole had, for a long time, ran the ruling party like a dictator who gave no damn as to the consequences of his actions.

This presidential intervention sounds good, but it is rather belated because the crisis triggered by the party primaries had already done a lot of damage to the ruling party. Many of the aggrieved members have either quit the party or are on the verge of leaving. At best, this intervention could make the President look good in the eyes of those aggrieved party members.

Many of them were be ginning to believe that the party and its leadership had become authoritarian and undemocratic because of a presumed presidential support. Rather than having a uniform application of the methods and rules of engagement, the party resorted to arbitrariness and created the impression it was working towards pre-determined results in many of these states. One wonders why it took the President this long to realise the damage the controversial primaries could do to his party and democracy in Nigeria.

While we admit that a primary election is an internal affair of a political party, ensuring that the candidates emerge through a transparent democratic process is crucial because primaries are the foundation of the main election. Why, for goodness sake, did the APC choose to adopt a haphazard approach instead of applying a uniform standard in the conduct of the primaries? The party first announced that all its candidates would emerge through direct primaries and when some state governors protested against it, the party introduced the indirect and consensus methods While the adoption of three different methods in the primaries might portray the APC as democratic, the fact remains that whatever method that was eventually used in any state became the prerogative of Oshiomhole. In many of the states, governors preferred the indirect method which conferred on them the advantage of having their loyalists as delegates in the primaries. In the states where the direct primary method was deployed, there were no clear guidelines for the conduct of the election.

Worse still is the fact that different methods were imposed on some states that had the misfortune of conducting their primary election more than once. The entire exercise was so chaotic that it was only natural that many party faithful would be aggrieved and seek redress in the courts and to deny them that fundamental right by threatening them to withdraw the suits or face sanction was provocative. Like President Buhari rightly said, the court should always be the last resort for the dissatisfied and for the party to outlaw the court process is unacceptable to every sane mind. As an African proverb goes, you cannot beat a child and tell him not to cry.

The actions and inactions of political parties and their leaders must always be in conformity with the tenets of democracy. We dare say that the APC primaries were full of irregularities and largely undemocratic and the ripples it has generated are logical consequences. We want to advise that party leaders and elders like the President should not look away when the party begins to derail only to wake up when the damage had already been done.

A New Telegraph Editorial




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