The All Progressives Congress (APC) will commence the process of picking its candidates for various elective offices in next year’s general elections by October, using modified direct primaries, the party revealed yesterday.
This formed one of the major decisions taken at the inaugural meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in Abuja.
The party also called on President Goodluck Jonathan to lift the state of emergency in Adamawa State to enable residents to exercise their civic rights in the October 11 governorship by-election.
National Publicity Secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who briefed reporters on the outcome of the meeting, also accused the president and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of violating electoral guidelines.
Apart from the national officers of the party, five governors and former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, attended the meeting. Also present was former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Mohammed said: “This is the inaugural meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party since it was elected. This is because immediately after the national convention, we had to battle with the election in Ekiti, we had to contend with the impeachment threat in Adamawa and Nasarawa and we had to face the election in Osun.
“Of course, this is not to say that we have not been meeting informally.
“In today’s meeting, we discussed the forthcoming elections in Adamawa, Niger and the local government elections in Delta State. We also discussed the guidelines for the primaries of the party.
“We had the governor of Osun (Rauf Aregbesola) who came not only to thank the party for its support, but also warned that the party must be prepared for the monstrosity and viciousness of the opposition political party in subsequent elections.
“The party discussed guidelines on primaries and principally, the party has decided that the primaries will start as early as October. We would want to ensure the participation of a large section of our people and so, we have opted for what we call a modified direct primary.
“INEC says that you either do a direct or indirect primary and we have opted for the direct. In other words, we have opted for a method that will ensure the participation of the largest number of our members.
“We call it modified because we are also aware of certain constraints of getting all our 20 million members or thereabout to queue for election, especially in areas where we have security challenges, like Yobe, Adamawa and Borno. We are working out a formula that will still enable the largest members of our party to participate.
“But I want to say that we are not settling for delegate elections. We want to get people from the grassroots to be involved in our primaries because we want to show the world that we are different and that our party and our primaries would not only be grassroots inspired, it will be transparent and free.
“Don’t forget that we are going to have more than one primary election. Everybody seems to be focussing on the presidential primary. There will also be primary for members of state Houses of Assembly, National Assembly and for the governorship election. We are going to have separate primaries staggered over a period of time.
“The party did not discuss anything about zoning”.
He added: “The highlight of the discussion with regard to the elections in Adamawa is that the party is very worried and concerned about the neutrality of certain public officials.
“I think that one thing the party insisted on is that with the state of emergency in Adamawa state today, for an election to be free and fair, the party will insist that the curfew imposed on the state be lifted temporarily during the elections.
“I don’t want to be misquoted, I don’t want to be misunderstood. We are not saying that they should lift the state of emergency. We are saying that the curfew must be suspended for the period of the election.
“In the northern part of Adamawa for example, by 6.00pm, the curfew is on. We are not confident that under such a condition, you can have a free and fair election. So, we are asking the Federal Government to lift temporarily for the period of the election, the curfew in all parts of Adamawa State”.
The APC spokesman also reacted to the recent defection of the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Malam Nuhu Ribadu, to the PDP, saying that the party was unperturbed and had since moved on.
“You see, the beauty of politics is the freedom of association. No party would want to lose any of its members. But we believe that the APC is such a strong brand with a strong followership in Adamawa and all over Nigeria that the defection of one person will not adversely affect our fortune and we have moved on since his defection”, he said.
Mr. Mohammed said the party was convinced that the PDP had already chosen its presidential candidate for the elections, stressing that the clamour for President Jonathan to come out and declare for the election was a gimmick.
He said: “I think that the PDP has already come out with its candidate. I think we must be fooling ourselves if we consider all these orchestrated drama about asking Jonathan to come and run.
“But one thing we are saying is that Mr. President and the PDP are violating the electoral guidelines with impunity, with nobody to stop them. I can assure you that we in the APC are not threatened by the emergence of any candidate.
“The only thing that threatens us is the absence of a level playing field. If a free and fair election is conducted in Nigeria today, we are very confident that we are going to defeat PDP. But we will insist that a level-playing field is procured”.
Speaking on the renewed move by members of the Nasarawa state House of Assembly to impeach Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Mohammed said: “I think that the constitution of the country is very clear on this issue.
“You cannot try a person twice for the same offence and the members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly should know that they are a product of a constitution and that it is the same constitution that they invoked in trying to impeach the governor.
“So, they can’t go outside that constitution again to impeach him. What they can do in law is very simple. They should find a new set of allegations, if there are any, follow the same procedure. Most importantly, they have no liberty to ask a vacation judge to go and set up a panel.
“They must go back to the same Chief Judge to empanel the impeachment committee. I think that they should understand that Nigerians are tired of this era of impunity because what they want to embark upon is just impunity.
“They are saying that they are going to resubmit the same set of allegations which has been dismissed and they are going to take advantage of the vacation and ask a vacation judge to come and set up a panel; that will be blatantly illegal. For us, it is nothing but noise”.
On the conduct of public officers, he said: “Honestly, we are concerned about the neutrality of certain public officials in the last couple of months. Institutions which ought to be neutral have today taken partisan roles in elections.
“We are very concerned that institutions which ought to be for the entire country have in recent times behave as if they are for a particular political party. We would in a few days elaborate on this because we are going to come out with a very powerful statement especially on the role of security agencies.
“We are encouraged by the statement of the INEC chairman yesterday that hooded security personnel are not needed for any election. It is a sign of transparency for a security man who is coming to enforce laws to be transparent and the citizens have the right to know who he is, and the organisation he represents and to also see his face.
“Jega was quoted as saying that some INEC officials were arrested by some overzealous security officials. The story of Osun election has not been told completely because the kind of monstrosity and viciousness the PDP embarked upon is better imagined”.