Hurdles before ruling party

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has fixed its elective national convention for June. Although a definite date for the convention is yet to be announced as well as the processes leading to it, there are still contending issues to be addressed, if the party intends to conduct a hitch free convention. TONY AKOWE reports.


When promoters of three major political parties in  came together in 2014 to form a mega party, they apparently did not think of the crisis that later befall the All Progressives Congress (APC) today.

Many have argued that the promoters were too pre-occupied with wresting power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) instead of putting in place measures that will herald a true national and ideological party. They ignored early warning signs of a possible crisis in future when each section of the party was allowed to dominate the leadership of the party in different states. For example, in Kaduna, the old Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), led by Nasir el-Rufai, dominated the leadership of the party, relegating the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to the background. El-Rufai was acting Assistant National Secretary during the formative years of the APC and every other group did not matter in the scheme of things. It created crisis in the party that nobody think would longer for long. This was the situation in many state chapters. Even, the faction of the PDP that joined the party along the line had its own fair share as was the case in Kwara, where the Saraki group dominated things until he returned to the PDP. This was the same situation that played out when the party decided to change its leadership in 2018 as the various groups within the party failed to reconcile their differences, leading to the emergence of factional leadership in many of the states.

Where the party had a sitting governor, it was the governor’s group against the others. The only consensus then was in the choice of the National Chairman as none of the governors wanted to confront the President. Although some of them wanted Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to continue as national chairman, they were quick to turn their back against him when the President showed signs that he would prefer Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Oyegun had held on, waiting for the governors to decide what should happen, but as soon as he saw the hand writing, he called a press conference and announced that he was backing out of the chairmanship race. One after the other, the other contenders backed, out leaving Oshiomhole as the sole candidate.

Other positions were not different. Various interests emerged, threatening to tear the part apart, and threatening the success of the elective convention. But, along the line, reasons prevailed and many aspirants backed down one after the other. For some of the candidates, their governors never wanted them to return to the National Working Committee and that was the case of Osita Izunaso. Openly at the convention ground at the Eagle Square, Abuja, Izunaso’s supporters and those of former Imo State Governor, now Senator Rochas Okorocha engaged themselves. But, at the end, Okorocha’s group prevailed and Izunaso left the APC. The outcome of the convention, no doubt, affected the party primaries for the various offices as the various groups and factions took their fight back home. The party lost a number of elective seats as a result, including the governorship seat in Zamfara as the failure to conduct a successful primary cost them all the seats they won in that state. Today, Zamfara is a PDP state courtesy of the decision of the former governor, Abdulaziz Yari not to allow the NWC conduct a primary the way they wanted. Although the factions of the party in Zamfara are believed to have settled their differences, there is no guarantee that they will not return to the trenches ahead of the congresses expected to produce the leadership of the party in the state.

The APC has announced that it intends to hold its national convention by June to elect members of the National Working Committee (NWC) to pilot the affairs of the party. With squabbles in some chapters and unresolved crisis in a few others, the question is whether the crisis that is rocking the party will not be carried over to the convention. Interestingly, the party has said it intends to resolve all disagreements before the convention and possibly state, local government and ward congresses. It also said that the decision to embark on membership registration and revalidation is meant to prepare grounds for the congresses and national convention, dismissing concerns that the move was targeted at disenfranchising some individuals and weakening their political bases.

The party said: “As a Caretaker Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee, our mandate is clearly to lay a solid foundation for our party to rebuild itself. Part of it, which was unambiguously defined by the NEC resolutions of June 25, 2020, was to broker internal reconciliation and reconstitute our leadership. This was further affirmed by the NEC of December 8, 2020, and strengthened to cover the provision of credible and verifiable membership register for the party.

Accordingly, we will expedite the internal processes of reconciliation and harmoniously resolve all pending leadership disagreements in the party before our National Convention. Already, the process of membership registration/revalidation has commenced. Everything is being done to ensure that our party membership will be updated regularly, and membership registration will be a continuous exercise. Nobody will be disenfranchised.

“We, therefore, appeal to all our members and leaders at all levels to cooperate with the members of the registration/revalidation teams that will work all over the country to conduct the exercise. Our party’s membership registration/revalidation will be followed by activities for the party’s leadership reconstitution at all levels, from Ward, Local Government, States to National. Ahead of all that, the Caretaker Committee will release a detailed timetable for all activities very soon.

“Ahead of the Congresses and National Convention, competent party leaders will be invited to serve in Committees to ensure that the mandate of NEC is achieved before June 30, 2021. Our congresses and National Convention will be democratic and transparent. Our goal, in line with our founding vision, is to return our party to the membership.

“As a party, we want to assure all our members that our commitment to lead the process of political change in Nigeria is unwavering. Our ability to constantly strengthen the structures of our party is part of our change credentials. Other important requirements, which will include the review of our rules and other operational requirements, which are needed to make our party and our elected representatives more accountable to Nigerians will be considered and all the necessary steps required will be taken. A democracy is as strong as the political parties it produces. We are rebuilding our party, APC, to strengthen our democracy”.

However, now every leader of the party believes that the revalidation exercise is necessary. One of those who believe there is no need for that is the former Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande. Although he took part in the exercise and revalidated his membership, he said that it was unnecessary and a waste of resources. While faulting the exercise, he said: “No population census is repeated within less than a decade and that voters are not re-registered at every election. Within this context, 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 120000 polling units across Nigeria, might be lacking comprehension and matrix of the modern-day technology.

“The second major perception is that 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. These seeming ugly perceptions put into abeyance the applause of the two national election successes that the original APC register enjoyed since its completion on 15th February 2014 and the over N1billion of 2014’s value that the original register cost when APC had no money of its own.”

Akande is not alone in this. Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance and member representing Ikeja Constituency of Lagos state, James Abiodun Faleke is not impressed with the timing of the exercise. In an open letter to the Caretaker committee, he said even though the exercise was commendable, it was coming at the wrong time in view of the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said: “I felt the decision to revalidate and conduct new registration of members is a laudable and commendable one. Because as we move towards another general elections in 2023, the need to update our membership register could not have come at a more opportune period. However, laudable as the Registration plan may be, what about the TIMING of the exercise? With due respect sir, it is my considered opinion that the timing is not appropriate at this time, especially given that the renewed surge in the spread of Covid as it is being reported on daily basis by the Presidential Task Force. Some states are already over stretched in oxygen supplies and care. Our Government has for some time given directives to the Religious bodies to reduce congressional attendance at both Churches and Mosques. So, many states have cancelled social gatherings. While others are compelling the use of face masks to reduce the rate of infection and fatalities.

“So, why must we go into an exercise that will certainly draw large crowds across the various states? The exercise is meant to register millions of our members across the federation and I forsee two scenarios: it’s either we have our members coming out in multitude to register or most deciding not to come out at all for fear of being infected. The two options are not good enough for us as a party”.

Former Deputy National Chairman, North, Senator Lawal Shuabu explained that the  “membership registration is the most valuable asset of a political party, the exercise is for the survival of the party. We have not been able to separate those members who left and those who are with us and those that joined us, it would be difficult. For example, Senator Bukola Saraki left with hundreds of our members. Many members left our party in villages. By the time this new register comes out that will be the authentic, reliable and verifiable membership”.

Although the registration and revalidation is expected to shore up the membership strength of the party, it is also believe that it is an avenue for new entrants into the party to get their supporters fully integrated into the APC. But, some members of the party especially at the grassroot level are not comfortable and believe that things may be compounded for them ahead of the next election. But, the Caretaker committee must be able to look beyond the revalidation and registration exercise if they hope to conduct a credible national convention that will produce the leaders the party is looking for. At the moment, there are contending forces working underground to hijack the party.

Unless the caretaker committee is able to resolve the zoning of positions in the party, their efforts at repositioning the party may end up in the trash can. While the clamour for a return of power to the South persists, there are those who are asking for the Presidency to remain in the North. Since the party has consistently told the world that it believes in the principle of fair representation, it is left to be seen the formula they intend to adopt. Many of those angling for the position of national chairman at the moment are from North. The zone that produced the National Chairman will go a long way in determining which part of the country will produce the President in 2023.

There is no doubt that the APC constitution is part of the problems facing the party. The document leaves so much loopholes for manipulation. For example, the constitution gives so much powers to the national chairman, making him practically a Chief Executive, while silently leaving the machineries of the party at the state level at the mercies of the governors. There is no gainsaying the fact that the crisis that swept Oshiomhole away as national chairman was caused by his refusal to allow the governors to dictate to the party. The ability of the party to resolve this and give leadership to party members will determine how successful the national convention will be.

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