Once beaten, twice shy. This time-honoured counsel is meant for those who learn from history. But as Edmund Burke (1729-1797) stated, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Or as George Santayana (1863-1952) put it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Barely four months to the November 16, 2019, governorship poll in Kogi and Bayelsa States, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is about ignoring to learn from history, especially from its electoral outing in the 2019 general election.
As the ruling party, it’s expected to sweep the polls at the national and sub-national levels. That wasn’t to be. Though it won the February 23 presidential election, the party lost grounds in six states of Adamawa, Edo, Imo, Ondo, Oyo and Plateau, and gained a foothold in Gombe, Kwara and Sokoto.
Many fractured state chapters produced more than one candidate for each position on offer, and the electorate hardly recognized the candidates cleared by the courts or the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the polls.
Four months after, the courts are yet to dispose of some of the pre-election cases filed by aggrieved aspirants, who felt cheated out of the contests by party stalwarts.
Going forward, the watching public had expected the APC to be guided by lessons learnt from its botched primaries in the states, but the auguries look to repeat themselves in Kogi, and perhaps in Bayelsa as well.
Why? The National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC has approved “indirect primaries” for the choice of the party’s candidate in Kogi, according to the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu.
He said the approval was at a meeting of the NWC, “where a formal request from the Kogi executive and stakeholders in preference for the indirect primary was considered and deliberated on.”
By last Thursday, July 11, another camp of “37 aspirants” joined the fray, endorsing the “indirect primaries” that they claimed has given victories to the APC in Kogi since 2015.
Those opposed to indirect primaries first laid their complaints in mid June 2019. The “20 aspirants” told the press in Lokoja that, “direct primaries remain the most transparent and credible process of electing popular candidates for the party,” adding, “we believe that indirect primaries will not be free and fair.”
On behalf of the aspirants, Senator Alex Kadiri (Kogi East), said: “We cannot afford to see our lovely state going down the drain by (because of) some selfish politicians. We have unanimously rejected any process other than direct primaries in electing those that will represent the party in the governorship election in 2019.”
Then in Abuja on Thursday, July 11, “22 aspirants,” led by Comrade Mohammed Ali, read to the press a letter they addressed to the National Executive Committee (NEC) and NWC of the APC.
Their grouse? The decision to adopt the indirect primaries was taken “without adequate consultation with the party’s critical stakeholders, especially the governorship aspirants… and other contending groups in the party’s polarized structure.”
Alleging that adopting indirect primary “amounts to giving the state governor, Yahaya Bello, undue advantage,” the aspirants warned that the method is “fraught with severe implications,” one of which is APC’s possible loss of the November poll.
But to the 37 “aspirants” in the APC quagmire in Kogi, the indirect primary “is the most suitable” because of time and the huge resources needed to conduct direct primaries.
At the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja, the aspirants’ spokesperson, Comrade Edima Amade, said to conduct direct primaries for over 500,000 members “will take time, money and logistics to produce a clean and uncontested membership register between now and August 29, 2019.”
“And if that impossible feat is achieved, the party simply cannot organize trouble-free direct primaries for at least half a million people, as anybody can obtain the party card from anywhere and not cause a legal crisis,” he said.
Their worry is that alleged card-carrying members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were the ones parading as APC aspirants, whereas they reportedly worked for the PDP “up to the last round of the 2019 general elections.”
Comrade Amade said it’s clear to the people in Kogi that, “the real aim of the 20 (22) aspirants “is to destabilize the party, from within, as it goes into the 2019 governorship election.”
While both camps are at it, the scheming is unambiguous. Each side is playing for or against the second term bid of Governor Bello, whose “opponents” fear he could scheme the primary process to advance his ambition.
Yet, the dilemma for the APC is the opposing aspirants’ seeming relish to threaten the “electoral debacle” that the party suffered in Zamfara and Rivers in the 2019 polls.
Recall that based on its failure to conduct “valid primaries,” the courts barred the party from fielding candidates in the states in the February-March 2019 elections.
And when, on the eve of the polls, a High Court cleared the APC in Zamfara to present candidates, and the party pulled a stunner by winning all seats, the appellate courts vitiated the victories due to non-conduct of “acceptable primaries.”
So, the “aggrieved” aspirants’ warning to the APC not to attempt traveling the Zamfara and Rivers road by “indirect primaries” in Kogi should galvanize the party into a quick intervention it promised the “protesters” last Monday.
As Mallam Issa-Onilu said: “The NWC will look at the merit of the petitions, in line with the party’s constitution, and come out with a position in due course,” thanking the “aggrieved APC stakeholders for their trust in the NWC to do the right thing.”
Of course, “doing the right thing” is the only way to guaranteeing that Kogi remains in the APC column! The party’s gubernatorial and state assembly shock defeats in Adamawa, Bauchi, Imo and Oyo, and its entire “forfeiture” of Zamfara and Rivers to the PDP should be a constant reminder of its struggle with internal democracy.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.