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Membership revalidation, blow or impetus for APC godfathers

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John Odigie-Oyegun


Would the membership revalidation exercise, which began yesterday at various units, wards, local government and state levels of the All Progressives Congress (APC) usher in a new beginning for party faithful or create impetus for the emergence of new owners? The unique selling proposal of the membership registration, which endeared it to the National Executive Committee (NEC) members, revolved around democratising the running of the party and sorting out some encumbrances that dogged its formation.

Although some foundation members of the amalgam, including Tom Ikimi and Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, among others were displaced from the party in the buildup to its final regularization by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC’s cohesion continued to expose fissures. Members of the legacy political parties that fused into the mega platform continued to grumble among themselves. The main bone of contention was the alleged domineering influence of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) bloc and appropriation of the booties of victory.

The intrigues that stopped the first APC national chairman Chief John Odigie Oyegun short of getting a second term in office were traced to the overbearing schemes of the ACN leaders, who were also said to have used same Oyegun to sabotage Chief Ikimi’s chances in 2014.

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Having introduced another former Edo State governor, in the person of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to supplant Oyegun, the ACN bloc continued to dictate the tune and pace of the party’s internal politics. Oshiomhole’s first steps in office included the introduction of the direct method instead of the indirect or delegate system of selecting the party’s candidates for electoral contests.

Oshiomhole’s decision to push through the direct methodology in the Osun State governorship primary exacerbate complaints within the APC, with critics accusing the national chairman of acting the script of a powerful former Lagos State governor to favour one of the aspirants. Immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yussuf Lason pointed out that the absence of a regular and updated members register raised plausible credibility questions for direct primary.

Shoving the complaints aside, some aspirants, including Lasun, opted out of the primary while the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, angrily defected to the African Democratic Party (ADP), where he contested the 2018 governorship poll.
Patching up glitches

IN the main, the bid to pass over the ownership of APC to members stoked the idea of undertaking a foolproof registration of party faithful. Although the exercise would commence on February 2, through 16, 2021, the process for the membership registration, update and revalidation kicked off yesterday with the empanelling of State Registration Committees (SRCs) for the exercise.

Going by the timetable released by the National Membership Registration Committee (NMRC), the exercise would be driven by seven-man committee put in place for each state, which will be inaugurated tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27, 2021. While the train-the-trainers workshop for the exercise would commence shortly thereafter at the National Secretariat, distribution of registration materials, electronic gadgets and consumables to all designated registration centers nationwide will be undertaken from Thursday January 28 to Monday February 1, 2021.

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The NMRC also indicated that the Phase II of the registration, update and revalidation would take place from February 21 through 26, for the consideration of all appeals and complaints arising from the exercise. Thereafter, the committee stated, the display of membership register at all party wards/local government offices and forwarding of all completed forms to the National Secretariat would be done from February 27, to March 1, 2021

The NMRC, under the leadership of Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello, is expected to submit the final reports for consideration of the party’s Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) around March 2, and 8.

It is believed that the revalidation of the APC membership register would mark a significant step towards curtailing the influence of godfathers in the polity. The godfathers, most of whom must have occupied public offices, including the Presidency and state executives usually decide election winners and losers.

Blessed with easy access to big money, the godfathers have been known to influence political decisions, by pulling the strings behind the scenes, deploying bullish and arm-twisting tactics to foist their godsons into public offices against the wishes of party faithful.

Altering powerbases
MOST APC bigwigs claim that incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who in his inaugural address as President declared, “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”, still recognise the godfather role played by Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu in his eventual emergence as the party’s presidential candidate in Lagos in December 2014.

Similar clout was also brought to bear on the selection of the party’s national chairmen, when Chief Oyegun and Comrade Oshiomhole at different times were sponsored. This feat was reckoned as evidence of Tinubu’s role as a power fulcrum of the party, but also brought him at loggerheads with a key caucus of the party, particularly governors angling for the 2023 presidency.

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For instance, the crises that rocked APC state chapters, including Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Kwara, Edo, Adamawa, Kano, Zamfara, Imo, Kaduna, Bauchi, Taraba, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers, were linked to the jostling for relevance. Also, by party chieftains were said to be exerting their energies to resist the overbearing influence of godfathers keen on imposing their preferred candidates on the party come 2023.

Based on those observed influences, the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), emerged after the sacking of Oshiomhole’s National Working Committee (NWC) in June 25, 2020. The CECPC, headed by Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, was charged with the responsibilities of stabilising the party and creating an inclusive political environment, where every member is not only given a fair chance, but also where the rules are unambiguous and not skewed to favour any individual, group, or interest.

Upon mounting the saddle, Buni deployed his experience as the party’s former national scribe and refused to be stampeded into a hurried national convention. The Yobe State governor left no one in doubt that he was upbeat about the success of his mandate.

Speaking of the revalidation exercise, Buni explained that it is a precursor to the conduct of APC congresses at all levels. He added that unlike in the 2018 exercise that threw up parallel congresses, it would be a fair and transparent process of electing officials for the various organs of the party that will culminate in the national convention expected to hold before the end of this year.

He justified the exercise, noting that the last membership registration took place 2014, adding, “The CECPC is working to create a member-centered party structure; one that guarantees the full participation of all members and accords privileges to strengthened members’ trust, beliefs and engagements in all party activities.

“The party had in the last seven years received millions of politicians who left other political parties and joined the APC but were not registered. Similarly millions of youth who attained the age of 18 years and above have joined the party within this period could not be registered.  Again, others who had left the party still have their names in the register.

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“The registration and revalidation exercise therefore provides the opportunity for both new and old members to register and update their membership in the party, and for the party to expunge names of those who had left so as to have a clean and up to date membership register.

“I am confident that at the end of the exercise, every member of the party would have the privilege of getting registered as an APC member, and to have a sense of belonging as a member of the party. I am very sure that our figures in the register would surge into quadruples or even more, to further prove that APC is indeed Nigeria’s largest and leading political party.”

But, what Buni could not disclose was that within his inner caucus of state governors, there are a number of stalwarts that are eager to occupy the position of new godfathers or at least, constitute a power cabal, for the dispensation of favours.

From the literature released about the registration, there were no guarantees that corporate or group registration would not take place, especially given that some governorship and senatorial aspirants have begun exploring ways to shore up a membership haul that could guarantee victory during direct primary.

For instance, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, who chairs the Committee on Sensitization and Mobilization, is aspiring to contest the presidential ticket of the party. The governor however allayed the fears in some quarters that eligible Nigerians who are desirous to join the governing party would not be allowed unfettered access.

“Our business is to grow our party not to limit people. People make the party; party does not make people. The more the merrier, we shouldn’t get intimidated by the quality and calibre of prospective members, because we feel that they will deprive us of some certain positions.

“That is left in the hands of God. But, what is important is the success of the party at all elections and once we achieve that there will always be room for someone.”

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Bello had, at a meeting with the Acting Chairmen of 36 states chapters, listed the benefits inherent in the exercise, stressing: “Nobody should intimidate anyone. Allow other political parties who want to join us to come and join the APC. You can see the gale of decamping from the other political parties, it means APC is the party to go. We are going to ensure that everybody is carried along irrespective of your background, class, religious or creed difference. You don’t have to be afraid or scared of who is coming as Committee to State to conduct registration.

“If you are a politician that price yourself high, you should belong to the grassroots. Politics is local. You should have followership at the grassroots. What we’re starting with now is the basis – let people come into APC. People make the party. The party doesn’t make people.

“You can not claim to be strong or be in power or in authority today if your membership or base is not big and robust enough. As a leader, the number of people you are able to convince to join our political party either from a different political party or even those who do not have interest in politics before, the much were you able to make them to join APC, that’s your strength. Don’t bother about what happened thereafter.”

Boost or blow for internal democracy
MEMBERSHIP reconfiguration might have been packaged as an open sesame for internal democracy, but with the vaulting ambition of some founding fathers, it could backfire. The first test of the efficacy of making every member an equal founder and joiner would be seen during the state congresses and national convention.

Would zoning of offices precede the exercise? After offices are zoned, would every member be free to contest and run his/her campaign without undue pressures to step aside? How affordable would the statement of intent and nomination forms be?

Director General of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, dismissed all apprehensions. He contended that a credible and verifiable membership register remains the foundation for internal democracy within the party. 

In his book on the subject entitled: “APC and Progressive Politics in Nigeria,” Lukman identified absence of internal democracy as the source of almost all internal conflicts. He enjoined party chieftains to eschew bitterness and acrimonious relationship ahead of the 2023 general elections, just as he urged the party leadership to ensure that a leadership succession arrangement at all levels are planned and criteria for leadership recruitment are set. 

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Positive indices
APC leaders continue to point to recent developments in the party as positive indices, that the party was on the right track towards warding off the much-anticipated implosion.

Some of the positive moves are the return of former members, including the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, former national chairman of the PDP, Senator Barnabas Gemade Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr Danladi Kifasi, Sen. Isa Hamma Misau, Alhaji Salisu Takai, Ebonyi state governor, Dave Umahi to the APC alongside scores of National Assembly members to the party from across the country has been attributed to the ongoing reform in the party.

Celebrating the entrance as early harvests, the Buni committee is already referring to the moves to review the APC Constitution, the resolution of the ownership tussle surrounding the building that houses the national Secretariat, settlement of the Party’s financial obligations, the electoral successes in Ondo governorship poll, the National Assembly bye-election victories in Lagos, Plateau and Nasarawa States as part of the inroads so far recorded to reposition the party.

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