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Saturday, 11 October 2014

APC to Rejig Timetable, Guidelines for Primaries

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo


The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it will review the guidelines for party primaries as well as readjust its timetable in preparation for the 2015 general elections.
THISDAY gathered that following disagreements among key stakeholders over the modalities for the primaries, the leadership of the opposition party met last night in Abuja to resolve some of the contentious issues and to see how to build confidence amongst the presidential aspirants.
The meeting, which took place behind closed doors at the Rivers governor's lodge in Asokoro, had in attendance the national leadership of the party, leading presidential aspirants, a national leader and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, and some of the governors of the party.
The party has also ruled out speculations that its presidential aspirants may be asked to pay up to N27 million for nomination forms.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY in Abuja yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the party might consider readjusting its timetable due to intervening factors like public holidays, which encroached into the initial plans.
Regarding fees for nomination forms, Muhammed said the party was yet to publish its guidelines, which include fees payable, adding that whatever guidelines approved by the party would be made public through a publication.
“Look, as far as I am concerned, the party is yet to publish its guidelines and the guidelines also include fees payable. I don’t believe that the party has finalised the fees as of today and so I don’t know where people get these figures from,” he said
Commenting on why the party's National Executive Council (NEC) chose the modified direct primaries, the APC spokesman said what the party wanted was a direct primary which would enable every card-carrying member to exercise his right to decide who represents the party during the elections.
He said part of the problems the party had been trying to solve is the issue of how to reduce the number of people that would participate in electing candidates during the primaries.
According to Muhammed, from its initial calculations, the party found out that the members who would have taken part in the presidential primary would reach an estimated 300,000.
However, he said the party's attention was drawn to a condition set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that presidential primaries and conventions must be held under one roof which make it difficult to get a venue that will accommodate the large number of members.
He said it was at this stage that the leadership of the party asked the national executive to go and review the modalities and to scale down the voting population to a manageable size.
“What we were trying to do is that relying on those delegates might probably not be representative enough and so we said let us enlarge it.
“Ideally, what the party wanted is a direct primary where delegates would be able to cast their votes. That was the most favoured option at the National Working Committee level. But the challenges of the direct primary was what led us to talk about modified direct primary.
“On the challenges of an open primary, the first is as of today, not everybody has the permanent card, what some have are temporary cards.
Then many people after our registration joined our party and they don't even have temporary slips, so how do you have a direct primary that will exclude those people? How do you have a direct primary when there is no way you can identify a particular member?
“Secondly, we looked at the logistics of holding primaries of 8,000 wards all over Nigeria and it was enormous in terms of cost and security implications. Finally, what will happen in other areas where there are security challenges? Can we honestly have direct primaries there?”, he queried.
Muhammed also reassured Nigerians that APC as a party would not endorse a presidential candidate before the primary, although he did not rule out individual or group endorsements by powerful leaders perceived as power brokers within the party.
“A lot of these things are decided before you go into the convention ground, but what is undemocratic is to have a sole candidate to the exclusion of others. For the party to proudly make a statement and say this is our sole candidate is undemocratic,” he said.
‪#‎ThisdayNews‬

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