Anambra, C'River North Elections : Why APC Should Re-think Its Direct Primary Regime

Chairman of APC National Caretaker Committee,Mai Mala Buni 

By Inyali Peter 

The much anticipated November six, 2021 Anambra State gubernatorial election finally came to an end on Tuesday with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announcing candidate of the All Progressives Grand Aliance (APGA), Prof. Charles Soludo as winner. 

Soludo, a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor according to INEC pulled a total of 112,229 votes to emerge winner. The People's Democratic Party, PDP candidate came second with 53,807 while that of the All Progressives Congress, APC came distance third with 43,285 votes. 

While the victory of APGA is not completely too surprising to many, being that the state has been controlled by the party in the past sixteen years, several signs before this year's election  put the APC candidate, Sen. Andy Uba in a position that people expected him to perform better than he did. 

Apart from the high profile defections of politicians from other political parties to the APC, Uba was reported to score a whopping 230,201 votes in the APC Direct primaries to emerge candidate of the party for the election. Ordinarily, this should represent sure votes in the main election and should give him a conformable win but the reality after the final results were announced didn't reflect it. 

A candidate that purportedly scored over 200, 000 votes in just party primaries could not pull up to 50,000 votes to even come second in the main election. His 43,285 votes scored in the main election is not even up to one third of the total votes he scored in the primaries. That's, if the main election votes are placed against the votes from the primaries, it will show that 186,916 people who voted him in the primaries disappeared in the main election. 

This leaves one with several rhetorical questions; what happened to the 186,916? Did they boycott the election? Were they all sick? Did they lose interest in the main election after the primaries? Did they vote against their party's candidate, afterwards? 

Even if the votes of the top three parties, APGA (112,229), PDP (53,807) and APC (43,285) are put together, the figure will be 209,321 which is clearly still not up to the total votes Uba, the APC candidate scored in the primaries, yet he came third in the main election. 

Primary elections in any election in Nigeria is not open for everybody. Whether direct or indirect, participants are only members of the political party. So, if APC had more members who participated in the primaries than the main election, then there's a major problem with the mode of the primaries. 

Besides, the Anambra governorship election is not the first time APC have had candidates with huge figures from primaries only to end up with less votes in the main election. 

In the December fifth, 2020 Cross River North Senatorial District by-election, the APC candidate , Joe Agi, a Senior Advocate of NIGERIA, purportedly scored 113, 229 votes to emerge winner of the Direct Primaries but could only manage 19,165 in the main election. 

Like in Anambra, the disparity in the figures in main election and primary in the Cross River by-election shows that 94,064 APC members who purportedly voted Agi in the primary did not vote him in the main election. 

The question again is why? 

Also, the 113,229 votes he allegedly scored in the primary was more than the number of registered APC members in the five local governments that comprised Cross River North. 

The question again is, is party primaries not just for party members? Or if Agi could mobilize even non-party members to vote him in the primary, why couldn't he do same in the main election? 

There are several other instances that APC Direct primary results has produced ridiculous figures only to score less than one third of the votes in the main question. 

This perhaps leaves one with one simple conclusion, APC Direct Primaries introduced by the Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee does not represent the true and honest Democratic process of choosing candidates. 

During its formation in 2013, APC promised change, including ensuring internal democracy in the selection of candidates for all elections. The party exemplified this during its first Presidential primary that produced President Muhammadu Buhari. The process was largely free and fair, leading all the aspirants who participated in the primary to concede defeat. 

The mode of primary adopted by the party then was the Indirect primary where delegates are voted for the purpose during Congresses. This of course, contributed in endearing it to Nigerians. However, nowadays, the story is not the same.

Till date, APC as a major party don't have accurate register of party members. No membership card almost nine years after formation. What every member of the party including the President uses for identification is a member slip. 

Without proper membership records or e-biometric of members, APC may continue to struggle to match figures from its Direct Primary with the reality in the main elections as seen in Anambra and Cross River North By-election. 

To forestall going into further elections with false hope of popularity occasioned by the humongous figures from primaries, the party needs to bid farewell to Direct Primary and reinstate indirect primary that'll allow an honest and democratic process of choosing candidates for elections.

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