Thursday, 1st June 2023

Trouble ahead as APC reviews membership nationwide

By Godwin Ofulue (Assistant News Editor), Seye Olumide (Lagos), Momoh Jimoh (Abuja), Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt) Ayodele Afolabi (Ado Ekiti) and Odun Edward (Ilorin) and Michael Egbejule (Benin City)
10 February 2021   |   3:54 am
When the pioneer national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, dismissed the party’s ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise as an unnecessary waste of resources...

It’s against party constitution, says Oshiomhole
• Osoba calls for an emergency caucus meeting
• Fayemi, Oyegun, Adebayo defend the exercise
• Akande spoke our mind, says Lagos party chief, others disagree
• Kwara youths allege exclusion, manipulation of the process
• Rivers members divided along factional lines

When the pioneer national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, dismissed the party’s ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise as an unnecessary waste of resources, many had thought he was just a lone voice in the wilderness, crying wolf.

But more party stalwarts, yesterday, raised Akande’s solitary observation to an alarm status, warning that the party faces a blowout if issues concerning the exercise were not quickly addressed.

Immediate past national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday, said the revalidation called by the Interim Caretaker Committee was contrary to the party’s constitution.

Oshiomhole said this while fielding questions from journalists, shortly after revalidating his membership at Unit 1, ward 10, Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State.

“APC is governed by a constitution, not by man. The constitution only provides for registration and I registered as a member of the APC in 2014 under the then Interim national chairman Chief Bisi Akande,” he said.

“There is nothing in the APC constitution that says a member shall revalidate or renew his or her membership. Once you registered when you joined the party and you have not decamped, you are a member. So, revalidation is strange to our constitution.”

He said he agreed to participate in the exercise because he wanted peace to reign in the party. “But, in doing this, we have to be careful not to create constitutional breach,” Oshiomhole warned.

Oshiomhole, however, noted that, since 2015, many people had exited the party; others had joined the party, while some had died. He added that, although it was reasonable to document new membership and delete old ones through periodic reviews, it would be wrong to ask a foundation member like himself to revalidate his membership. “That would be double registration because there is nothing like revalidation in our constitution.”

The former Edo State Governor, whose turbulent tenure as APC chairman ended amid protracted intra-party squabbles with his successor political son, Governor Godwin Obaseki, said the APC had been updating its register from time to time and noted that many APC governors became members following register updates that enabled them to contest the governorship election under the APC.

“So, what this means is that I have come here to do another registration. But I insist that my registration never expired within the provision of the APC constitution.

“History didn’t just begin today. If we did not have a valid register, how did we conduct the congress in 2015 in which 16 million registered APC members voted to nominate President Muhammadu Buhari before the general election?”

Oshiomhole recalled that he was the one that presented APC membership card to Buhari at one of the party’s National Executive Council meeting in Abuja.

“I am a founding governor of APC; I am not a creation of APC. Some of those who have become rowdy here and there came to join the APC, but we formed the APC,” he boasted.

Akande, who was also a former governor of Osun State, had, in reaction to the registration/revalidation exercise in Ila Orangun, Osun State, described it as a waste of time and resources, which if not carefully controlled and expeditiously managed, might end up in contempt and disgrace.

He argued that the exercise, which shares similar features with census, should not be repeated in less than a decade, especially as voters are not re-registered at every election.

He pointed out that it was an aberration for the party to carry out the exercise less than a decade after the first one was conducted.

He said: “I see the present APC membership registration within less than a decade after the original register as an indefensible aberration leading to certain ugly perceptions.

“The first major perception is that APC, already having a well-computerised register for an average of 100 leaders of similar ideological orientation per each of the more than 120,000 polling units across Nigeria, might be lacking comprehension and matrix of the modern-day technology.

“The APC leadership might be wasteful and unappreciative of the proper use of money in a kind of scanty economy in which Nigeria now finds itself.”

The concerns were expressed, just as Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, ex-governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba and Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, among other party chiefs declared, yesterday, that there was nothing wrong with the exercise.

FAYEMI said there was nothing wrong with the exercise since it was being done in compliance with the party’s constitution.

The governor stated this in his Isan Ekiti country home on Tuesday while registering at Ogilolo Ward 11, Unit 09.

He said the views espoused by the former Osun State Governor and ex-Caretaker Chairman of the Party, Chief Bisi Akande and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu don’t portray the exercise as unconstitutional and illegal.

“Baba Bisi Akande is my father, I hope you know that and he is somebody I have the greatest respect for but I also read the constitution of the party. What the constitution says I believe in Article 9 is that the party register must be updated in every six months. So, if this is being done in compliance with the constitution of the party, I really don’t see anything wrong in it.

“Don’t forget that Baba Akande didn’t say we should not register, as a matter of fact, he revalidated his membership in Ila-Orogun.”
Speaking while taking part in the registration exercise in Ogun State yesterday, Osoba said though it was a good development aimed at repositioning the party, he would advise the party’s interim committee to urgently call for the national caucus of the APC.

“What I mean by national caucus is all the stakeholders that were involved in the founding of the party, who are still members till date should be invited if possible at the Presidential Villa where we can speak the truth and confront one another with the facts of what is going on in this party.  
“I want to emphasise again that it is necessary that a national caucus meeting be called now to discuss the soul of the APC.”
Adebayo, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, said, “I will definitely go and do my own registration/revalidation over the weekend due to work exigency right now. I am in support of the exercise and I believe it will reposition and make the party stronger.”
Ex-national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, dismissed insinuation that the registration/revalidation exercise by the party was aimed at destroying the political base of any party member.

Odigie-Oyegun said: “I cannot understand the logic behind such thinking or fear. I also cannot comprehend reason some people started raising dangerous alarm about the exercise when it had already started. The exercise was on the front burner for over three months and it was postponed twice or more. These people did not raise an eyebrow then until it started. Honestly I cannot understand why.”
He explained that some people, including founding members, had left while others joined, hence the need to update the register.
Odigie-Oyegun also dismissed the fear that the exercise could disintegrate the party.
“How is that possible,” he asked.

BUT the lawmaker representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, Mr. James Faleke, expressed his support for Akande’s position. Faleke had earlier written to the national caretaker committee to cancel the exercise.

His latest opposition came just as another senior leader of the party in Lagos State, also told The Guardian yesterday that Akande spoke the mind of Lagos State chapter.
The source, however, said it would amount to “foolishness” if the Lagos chapter alone boycotted the exercise.
“The truth is, whether we participate or not, they will go ahead and do what they wanted to do. We are however watching the entire scenario and how it will end,” he said.

Mr. Kolawole Taiwo, the lawmaker representing Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos State, said observations by Akande as a leader and founding member of APC should be taken seriously.

He alleged that the exercise was a gang-up against the likes of Tinubu, who had invested fortunes in the formation of the APC.

He said: “Like Chief Akande, I hope and fear the ongoing exercise does not have a negative effect, not just on our party but the country.”
The lawmaker wondered why the leadership of the APC was proposing an idea that would make someone who had started with the party, spent his fortunes and ensured it gets to where it is today to be on equal status with a fresh member, saying, “this is baffling to some of us.”
Taiwo said he was worried that some APC members started acting funny when the time came to keep an agreement that brought the party into existence and power.

“Nobody should try to sink the boat when it is their turn to pay back. As for Tinubu, whom everybody assumed is the target of this development, he is well prepared and we his loyalists are also prepared. I can now see the reasons ruling parties are always having a problem because some people want to hold tight to power when they are due to exit.”
The lawmaker re-emphasised the need for caution and to place Nigeria above every other personal interest in the ongoing exercise, warning that doing otherwise could spell doom.

KWARA State youth members of the party have gone to court, with a prayer seeking to halt the exercise.

Twenty youths, under the aegis of the Concerned APC Youth Stakeholders, took the action to restrain the Chairman of the party’s registration exercise, Senator John Danboi, and state Chairman of the party, Abdulahi Samari, from going ahead with the revalidation project.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin on Monday, the spokesman for the group, John Adegboyega, said that the exercise would lead to chaos and could threaten the security of the state.
In a suit, UACG/cv/20/2021, filed in an Upper Area Court, in the Ganmo judicial division, the group alleged that the exercise was planned by only “Fagbemi tendency”, excluding three other “tendencies” that make up the party.
According to the plaintiff, four tendencies make up the party in the sate, namely: Lai Mohammed Tendency, Akogun Tendency, Fagbemi Tendency and Gbemisola Saraki Tendency.
The group also claimed that on February 3, 2021, the defendants, with the assistance of suspected hoodlums, prevented the plaintiff and their supporters from entering the venue of the meeting of the APC stakeholders meeting in Ilorin.

“The plaintiff avers further that if the re-registration exercise proceeds as planned by the defendants most of the members of the association will be disenfranchised, including the plaintiff, which will amount to a violation of their fundamental human rights to freedom of association”.
The APC youth group, which alleged that members were being intimidated and harassed by security operatives, alleged that Kwara Central senatorial youth leader, Issa Abubakar Alfulani, was reportedly suspended by the party through an unsigned letter.

The state Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC, Alhaji Abdullahi Samari, said the party has set up a standing committee to ensure prompt resolutions of any development anywhere in the state.

“Once again, the party urges everyone to be peaceful and orderly. Security agencies will be on the ground to maintain law and order. No genuine party member is expected to engage in any violent act.”

BUT for the factional leader of the Lagos APC, Mr. Fouad Oki, the exercise would transform the APC from a party owned by an individual and make it property of the people.
An octogenarian member of the Governor Advisory Council (GAC) in Lagos, Bashorun Olorunfunmi, said the exercise was necessary.

Other Southwest party faithful, who expressed support for the exercise were Oyo State chapter Chairman of APC, Chief Akin Oke; erstwhile National Vice Chairman of APC for the South-west, Pastor Bankole Oluwajana; and the Ekiti State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ade Ajayi.

In a telephone conversation with The Guardian, Oke said the exercise had the support of all party members.

The Guardian survey in Rivers State showed APC members were divided along factional lines. Two camps, the Chibuike Amaechi and Magnus Abe’s factions expressed opposing views on the exercise.

Acting Caretaker Committee Chairman loyal to Abe, Golden Ben-Chioma, told The Guardian that no membership registration would take place in Rivers because, according to him, there is a standing court order restraining the party (APC) from going on with the exercise.
Ben-Chioma said: “Court order, which we obtained, restrained the party from carrying out any revalidation till February 20, 2021. So based on this, there will be no registration in Rivers State, if anyone tries it, it will be an attempt in futility, the other camp don’t know what is happening, they are just following like sheep.”

Another Abe loyalist, Emmanuel Deeyah, also dismissed the exercise on the claim that it was in contravention of a persisting court order. He added some persons had obtained a court order to stop the exercise.
But an Amaechi loyalist, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze, while supporting the exercise disclosed that documents for the exercise had been moved to the state. He added that 23 local government areas of the state had received materials for the registration.
Eze said: “Everything is set, some of our people have already paid for those who cannot pay for the passport, the registration should have started by February 2, 2021; but it was shifted to February 9, 2021.
“Anyone talking about court order is not saying the reality because we got a court order in Abuja to proceed with the registration exercise before the one they got in Port-Harcourt, so we have no reason not to hold the registration.”

EMERITUS Professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan, Prof. John Ayoade, said the fact that the party asked members to revalidate implies problems exists in the party.

He said: “There must be an internal problem, otherwise why do members need to revalidate?  I also think that the APC does not have enough things to think about and they are wasting the time of members.”

Asked if the exercise could be targeted at some members, Ayoade said: “It could be targeted against certain people. I don’t know whether APC can reject people from registering in the party, because if they could admit those who left the party for other parties and still came back, then what greater anti-party activities would make you reject somebody.  I’m not sure re-validation is going to reject people but it is just that we are not sure of what they want to do with themselves.”

However, Dr. Gbade Ojo, Head of Political Science Department, University of Ilorin and former Chief of Staff to the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi, described the exercise as a good step in the right direction. He said it might help the party in its strategic plans long before elections in 2023.

Also, a former majority leader of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Kehinde Subair, said just as Akande was free to express his opinion, his own view was that the exercise was in order.