Edo APC Primary: Inadvisability of indirect primary amidst COVID-19 pandemic/ Dr. Pius Odubu

There is no denying the fact that the Coronavirus disease which reared its ugly heads from the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019, hence its code name COVID-19 has affected mostly all areas of public and private life all over the world, including Edo State. No doubt, the outbreak of the disease has a significant impact on our democracies. Elections are not an exception.  As presently been gathered, State authorities across the world are either delaying or re-scheduling the initially planned elections or considering alternative voting processes and procedures to protect voters and election commissioners from spreading the virus at the polling stations. In some countries that are noted to have sophisticatedly developed in electoral practices, postal voting, and remote voting among other methods have being adopted.

It is against the foregoing backdrop that well-meaning and progressive minded Edolites are now worried over the method of voting that has been adopted for the conduct of the All Progressive Congress (APC) primary in Edo State in view of the gubernatorial election scheduled to be hold on 19 September, 2020.

Expressing his views on the impossibility of conducting an indirect primary in Edo State, Felix Osemwengie Isere wrote on the online platform of Edo Peoples Forum thus: “The direct primary option is the best for Edo State at this critical period for the following reasons:

COVID 19 Pandemic: It is a known fact that the world is currently undergoing a health challenging time occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic which has left hundreds dead. There is an important need to ensure that all precautionary measures by the WHO and governments are adhered to, especially on the area of Social Distance. In a direct primary, it will be very easy to observe all precautionary measures, unlike the indirect mode”.

He recalled that in 2016 that the Edo State Chapter of the APC adopted the indirect mode of primary to choose its flag bearer and about 4000 delegates participated in the said governorship primary election, and noted that the figure did not include observers, journalists, officials and committee members. He explained that delegated are added together with the aforementioned persons that it would be realized that they may have been close to 5000 people at the stadium that day, warning that it would be risky and unwise at this critical time to gather such numbers of persons in one place, not even in the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium.

Isere on the other hand deduced that in a direct primary, the crowd of voters can be managed and elections can be conducted at all unit levels. He wondered, “In Edo State, I do not know if there is any unit that has more than 200 active party members and with proper social distancing, the risk of spread is reduced. Direct primary will help to unavoidably reduce the number of persons who will gather at a unit unlike the delegate system. If the wife of the governor Mrs. Bectsy Obaseki just this week can organize a conference where 400 female aides of the governor participated according to their report, why can't we conduct a direct primary that involves not more than 300 persons gathering in a community?

He added that, it is also very risky to bring delegates who are in all part of Nigeria together in one venue. One person who is infected with the virus can infect others. It is also logical to note that about 97% of our local communities in Edo are still very free from this virus, but the indirect primary can easily be a catalyst to spreading it as delegates from communities who have been infected by the virus during the primary can go back and spread it, and this will be very disastrous for us”.

As gathered by this writer, the Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), in a position paper stated that the global spread of COVID-19 has profoundly impacted on the delivery of public services and routine events that are integral to inclusive societies. Electoral processes are one such event.

The leadership of the organization went on to posit that “The opportunity for a society to confirm officials in elected office or remove them, within a constitutionally defined timeframe, is a pillar of democratic values and standards. The process of doing this is a communal one, and communal events intrinsically bring people together—a process that is contrary to the informed advice for limiting the transmission of a virus, such as the one that causes COVID-19”.

It added that decisions must be made to ensure democratic institutions function as they ordinarily would do, during extraordinary times, such as the outbreak of a global health pandemic. This Technical Paper offers an initial overview of key points for electoral administrators, governments and civil society organizations on administering elections amid the continued spread of COVID-19.

Analyzed from the perspective of the foregoing view, there is no denying the fact that Direct primary voting method would best suit the APC Primary election in Edo that is scheduled for June 22, 2020.