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Nigeria Governors’ Chairman Fayemi, Kaduna Governor El-Rufai Defend Buhari’s Veto of Direct Primaries  

Nigeria Governors’ Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his Kaduna State counterpart, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, have both defended the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the

Nigeria Governors’ Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his Kaduna State counterpart, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, have both defended the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the direct primary clause in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021.

Also, the governors have rejected the public perception that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is fractured amid internal rivalries among the different power blocs ahead of its national convention in February 2022 and 2023 general elections.

They made these clarifications over the weekend in separate interviews on ARISE NEWS.

The two APC governors backed Buhari’s rejection of the bill against the position of the National Assembly.

Before Buhari declined assent to the bill, the federal lawmakers and the governors had lobbied the presidency over the bill.

While the lawmakers were in support of the direct primary, the governors were opposed to the clause in the bill.

Fayemi and el-Rufai argued that Buhari was an advocate of direct primary, through which he emerged as the presidential candidate of the APC in 2018.

Specifically, el-Rufai explained that the president “has always been an advocate of direct primary from our days in the Congress for Progressives Change through to our last primary in 2018 when he ran for the second term.

“Ideologically and personally, Buhari prefers direct primary to indirect primary because he believes direct primary is the one that gives party members greater participation in deciding who is their candidate rather than a few elected delegates that can be susceptible to corruption,” the Kaduna State governor explained.

He listed four conditions that could make a direct primary model effective across all states of the federation, pointing out that no state had been able to meet all the conditions for the seamless conduct of primaries.

The Kaduna State governor first cited the need for all political parties to have a credible membership register, which according to him, every stakeholder of a political party agreed that it “is the real membership register of the party.”

He also explained the need for every party member “to have a biometric card with a barcode so that it can be easily identified before he can vote in the primary. We need to produce cards similar to the permanent voters’ cards of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”

He equally highlighted a mechanism for counting votes in the direct primary as part of the four conditions for adopting the model, noting that every party member and stakeholder “must have confidence in such a system of vote-counting.”

The governor listed the imperatives of security in the conduct of direct primaries across the federation, placing emphasis on the need to prevent non-party members from coming into the venue to vote or prevent thugs from being imported to disrupt the voting process.

He said: “If we do not have these conditions, direct primary will be a disaster. We can adopt a direct primary mode if we have the infrastructure in place. But how many states in Nigeria have the infrastructure? Kaduna is the state in the federation that has the infrastructure to conduct direct primaries.”

He noted that the level of preparedness of the political parties for the direct primary “is probably questionable. As I said earlier, Kaduna is perhaps the only state that had one element of the four conditions that I pointed out.”

“The reason some politicians are calling for a direct primary is that they think they can do what happened in Lagos, Anambra or so and write the result. It is not because they think the direct primary is quite possible,” he said

 He urged Nigerians “to be very discerning, careful and understand the process of direct primary and the conditioned precedents as against the indirect primary and not make our moral judgment without understanding the dynamics of it.

“Here, in Kaduna State, we are neutral. We do direct primary. We can do indirect primary. We don’t have problems in our party. We have a united party. We also have some elements that enable us to do direct primary. I am not sure others have it.

“This is the part of the reasons President Buhari held on the side of caution that we should allow the parties to choose. But I know in his heart that President Buhari will prefer a direct primary. But he is not going to be contesting. He has no interest in the next election.

“He is in the position to be objective about this legislation. That is what he did. I think Nigerians should commend him for going against what he prefers in the interest of the country,” el-Rufai added.

Speaking further on the APC crisis, the Kaduna State governor pointed out that the ruling party, like any political party, “is an amalgam of the good, the bad and the ugly.”

He, also, pointed out that there “are people, who do not share the vision and outlook of President Buhari. There are some that are in this for what they can get. There are some that are in this for public service.

“It is the duty of every political party to manage these tendencies, suppress the base instincts and elevate the better instincts. We are going to that. The president was unhappy because we lost seven states we could have won under Adams Oshiomhole.

“This is because of all kinds of problems in the management of the party. “The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee is trying to sort these problems and unite the party. They have made some progress. They have brought some governors back to our party.

“They have also engaged in intensive reconciliation. The Abdullahi Adamu Committee is working on reconciliation after the congresses. We have 36 states. After the congresses, we have intra-party crises in five states.

“That is not significant. There are problems in Kano. There are problems in Kebbi. There are problems in Yobe? I have not heard of problems in Yobe. But there are problems in Zamfara. Really, I think we will sort out problems.”

Debunking the allegation that he would seek a joint presidential ticket with Fayemi, el-Rufai said he would not contest the 2023 presidential election on the ground that there was an understanding among the stakeholders that the presidency should be open to the south.

He said: “I am not ruling myself out because of that. I am saying that it is an understanding. I am a member of APC. Unless circumstances compel the APC of the South to come to us in the North and say we do not want it, then I can say it is now open for northerners.

“Until then, I think there is a moral problem in trying to ignore what is clearly an understanding. This kind of agreement is the currency of politics. So, it is not about ruling myself out or whatever. I have never offered myself for that office. But I have been suspected of it since 2007.”

He denied any plan to seek a joint ticket with Fayemi, noting that there “is nothing like that. It is mere speculation. There are many speculations like that in the public. I want to assure you that it is nothing.

“For me, Nigeria is at a critical juncture and we have many problems. I think Nigerians should look very closely and choose leaders that will address those problems no matter where they come from,” el-Rufai explained.

On his part, Fayemi also argued that the president was an advocate of direct primary, pointing out that he had been a product of direct and indirect primary modes.

He explained: “I have the honour of being the Chairman of the National Convention that produced Buhari as the candidate of our party in December 2014. Then, it was an indirect primary. It was a delegate primary. But in 2018 when he was seeking re-election, he emerged via a direct primary.”

On this ground, he contended that Buhari “is not an opponent of direct primary, neither is he the promoter of indirect primary. He outlined what he thought should be the approach, which as currently exists, resides with the political parties whether it is direct, indirect or consensus.”

Fayemi, who is also the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), warned against an assumption that direct primary “is a cure or solution to whatever maleficence we feel exists about our democratisation process. Direct primary is obviously more inclusive. It is theoretically more inclusive.

“What we have also seen in Nigeria in the last two years of what we call direct primary does not suggest a cure. Look at the figures. We just had an election in Anambra State. We saw what happened there at my own party. We could not even muster the number our candidate had in the direct primary during the governorship election. We could not muster a quarter of it in the real election.

“The direct primary so-called was the direct primary of its own members and not entire voters in the state. In the real election, however, we ended with a little above 40,000. Clearly, there is a mismatch that we need to address,” he said.

Fayemi assured Nigerians that the president would sign the electoral bill if the National Assembly addressed the area of concern and transmitted it to the presidency before it was too late while faulting claims that Buhari and governors were not comfortable with the electronic transmission of election result clause.

He said: “If you read his letter to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu only spoke about direct primary clause, meaning that if the clause is removed, I would not see any problem with the president signing a revised bill if transmitted on time.

“The president has the mind of his own. Governors may have their views just as the members of the National Assembly have their views. I think what is important is president Buhari’s commitment to the democratisation process.

“If the National Assembly does the right thing by addressing the issue the president has raised in his response, I believe he will sign it. But they should do it quickly so that there is no time lag,” he explained.

Speaking on internal rivalries in the APC, Fayemi said any thriving living organisation would ordinarily undergo contention, claiming that there “is nothing wrong in people having contention.

“If you see a political party without tendencies, it is a dead organisation. I do not see any problem with people holding views that are contrary to the mainstream view in the party or that represent a body of opinion about how they feel,” he said.

According to him, there are a lot of such views in the APC.

“We applaud that. We cherish that. There should not be a problem with that as long as the big picture is not affected”.

Both governor expressed optimism that the insecurity plaguing the country would soon be tackled.

For instance, expressing concern about issue, el-Rufai said it was becoming increasingly political, citing statements and utterances of some political leaders.

According to him, “one of the candidates for the 2019 elections said if Buhari was re-elected, banditry would get worse. Is that a prophecy? How did the candidate know what he was talking about? Is this rise in banditry fuelled by political consideration?”

He, therefore, said banditry “is a tipping point and it has to be crushed. We are going to see the end of it this year because we are not going into election with this level of insecurity.”

He said: “As a former general and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, we all know Buhari, his antecedents and how he invaded Chad when germdemes entered Borno State.

“Are some politicians fuelling this to discredit the president? Is this about 2023? Is it to say that APC failed to provide security so that it can be a campaign issue in 2023?

“I do not know. But there are many of us that analyse the utterances and statements of some political leaders around that time that we did not take quite seriously.

For Fayemi, the security challenges confronting Nigeria can be fixed within 17 months.

According to the second-term governor, insecurity is affecting the rating of the regime of the president.

Fayemi also noted that security chiefs in the country know what to do to end banditry and other security challenges in the country.

He explained that not ending the security challenges within 17 months may mean that some people are benefitting from the “war economy.”

He said: “If we can destroy that monster of insecurity, the opinion in the country will change dramatically. If we decide to go after these people without too much attachment to human rights and issues that may come up from the international communities. these people are not ghosts,” he said.

“We know where the bandits are, so we can neutralise them and then begin to have the opportunity. It may not be completely finished under this government, but you can do that part of it under this administration.”

Gboyega Akinsanmi