By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA — Amid suspicions among power blocs in it’s fold, a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, will hold this week to give a final template for producing the party’s candidates in the 2019 general elections.
In the face of growing suspicions among power blocs, the venue of the national convention to pick the presidential candidate has again emerged as an issue with two powerful blocs contending between Abuja and Lagos.
Also in dispute among party leaders is the resurgence of the mode of selection with governors and other powerful interests moving with a vengeance against the increasing chorus of direct primaries as increasingly championed by the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Contacted on the debates in the party at the weekend, party spokesman, Mr. Yekini Nabena, said all options are open and that crucial decisions would be taken at the NEC meeting scheduled to hold in Abuja on Wednesday.
There were, however, claims that the visit of British Prime Minister, Mrs. Theresa May, may cause the NEC meeting to be postponed to Thursday.
Venue of convention at issue
Party sources told Vanguard that some interests aligned to the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are insisting that Lagos, which hosted the 2014 convention that produced Buhari as candidate, should again play the same role.
Others were, however, said not to be too comfortable with the idea and were pushing vociferously for the convention to be held in Abuja.
Besides centrality and security conditions, especially for the President, who is the frontline candidate, a number of the anti-Lagos campaigners were apparently not unwary of the last-minute permutations Asiwaju played to fence out Atiku and lock up the ticket for Buhari in 2014.
Despite the popularity of Buhari at the grassroots, the Atiku agents had done a proper homework after “seeing” the delegates and getting commitments before they got to Lagos.
“Tinubu and Amosun (Ibikunle Amosun) helped Buhari reverse the trend by visiting the delegates again and reversing the goodwill that Atiku had left behind.
“Tinubu was able to do this because his people were able to camp the delegates in hotels and Atiku was not able to access them,” a source privy to the developments that happened in 2014 said.
With no significant threat to Buhari ahead of 2019, some of his associates are insisting that Abuja should host the convention.
However, associates of the former Lagos governor are said to be demanding that Lagos should host the convention, a demand that is yet to find appeal among Buhari aficionados, who do not see any reason for it.
‘Why 2014 convention held in Lagos’
A northern governor played down the move for the convention to be held in Lagos, saying the decision for Lagos to host it in 2014 was based on compelling reasons.
“You know in 2014, the PDP was in control of Abuja and it was feared at that time that holding the convention in Abuja could have given the PDP the opportunity to sabotage the convention, but that is not the situation now.
‘’So, I don’t see any reason to move the convention to Lagos except it is for some other political reasons to show Buhari as being pan-Nigeria,’’ he said.
In 2014, Buhari contested against Atiku, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso, and Governor Rochas Okorocha.
However, this year, the competition is coming from lesser-known political entities among whom are Adamu Garba II, Chief Executive Officer of IPI Solutions, one of the country’s leading software solution providers; Dr. SKC Ogbonnia, Chairman of Texas Energy Corporation; Chief Udo Udeogaranya, a seasoned politician, and Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, a lawyer and Second Republic political youth leader.
Direct, indirect primary
Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, however, told Vanguard that the party was yet to pick a substantive venue for the exercise. According to him, “by the time we have our NEC meeting, the issue of venue would have been sorted out.”
He added that for now, there was no formal proposal by the party hierarchy as to where to hold the convention.
Another point of contention that is expected to be resolved is the increasing controversy over the mode of adopting candidates for the party.
Whereas the APC constitution provides for a direct or indirect primary, the party had until this year used only the indirect method which allows the use of delegates.
However, the use of the direct primary in Osun State and the support given to it by Comrade Oshiomhole has given impetus to the option which would allow all members of the party vote for the candidate.
However, governors and some key stakeholders, including members of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, are seriously contending with Oshiomhole over the issue.
“Many of the governors and NWC members are not in support of it because of what they stand to gain,” a source in the leadership of the party who is supporting the proposal said.
The governors, it was alleged, prefer the indirect method in which they can influence the emergence of delegates who vote as they are directed or directly influenced to do.
The NWC members who are against the use of direct primary, it was alleged, are worried that it could also cut off opportunities for them to make deals with governors and others during the money-spinning delegates elections.
Meanwhile, ahead of the meeting, some NEC members are said to be canvassing positions on the method of voting during the forthcoming congresses and presidential primary elections.
While it was gathered that the party leadership is leaving the issue open-ended, some NEC members are said to be mobilizing others to ensure that the party sticks to one method, either direct or indirect primaries, rather than having a situation whereby the two methods would be used whenever it seems convenient for the party.
In the letter written to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, the party had proposed to elect its Presidential candidate through direct or indirect primaries, while it maintained silence as to the mode of picking other categories of candidates for elective offices.
Meanwhile, the party said it would soon lodge a formal protest with INEC over what it called the leakage of its correspondences with the electoral umpire.