Adedayo Akinwale of This Day writes on intrigues and permutations generated by the recent extension of the ongoing registration and revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress ahead of the 2023 national elections.
Despite the fierce opposition to the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise by the All Progressives Congress (APC) by mostly party chieftains loyal to the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, the exercise commenced on schedule on February 9, 2020, with a flag-off in Daura, Katsina State by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by the Governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni, had sought tenure extension last December from the National Executive Committee (NEC), to conduct the exercise.
Though the conduct of registration and revalidation exercise was not part of the mandate of the committee, the request was granted by the NEC and its tenure which was supposed to end last December was extended.
The tenure extension which was totally supported by the APC governors is believed to be part of the strategy to ensure that the governors tighten their grip on the party structure and to whittle down the influence of the National Leader of the party.
This, political analysts, say will help the governors to decide who gets what in the party and also protect their interest as the 2023 national elections beckon. The seeming inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to take charge of the party and has given so much latitude to the APC governors to have a firm control of the party.
The Caretaker committee came into being on June 25, 2020 following the sack of Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) and was given six months to conduct National Convention for the party and also reconcile aggrieved party members.
Few months into its existence, the Caretaker Committee has been able to steady the once troubled ship of the party and also reconciled party chieftains and even factionalised state chapters. The Buni-committee recently reconciled former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa.
The supremacy battle between the duo in Zamfara State resulted in one of the most devastating losses suffered by the APC in the 2019 national elections. The ruling party lost all the elective positions in the state to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And even after that fatal blow, the fight between Yari and Marafa and their various supporters continued unabated, before it was finally put to rest.
APC Membership Drive
The ongoing membership drive of the party didn’t commence without opposition. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) bloc, one of the parties in merger that formed the APC suspects that there is more to the membership drive than meets the eye. The ACN bloc within the APC is controlled by Tinubu, who reasons that the primary objective of the membership drive is aimed at reducing his influence in the party.
Justifying the revalidation and registration exercise, Buni insists that it is a constitutional provision and a strategic measure by the committee to give existing and new members a sense of belonging.
A statement by his Director-General, Press and Media Affairs, Mr. Mamman Mohammed, explains that the registration and revalidation exercise will assist the party to generate a valid, accurate and up-to-date data on party membership to enhance and support its planning process.
He argued that since the initial exercise in 2014, the party has not registered new members nor updated the personal information of existing members as provided in its constitution.
Buni added: “The registration exercise gives our new members a sense of belonging and the existing members will update their information while those who left the party will have their names removed from the party register.”
ACN Bloc Knocks Exercise
Following the commencement of the exercise, a former Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, described the exercise as an indefensible aberration leading to certain ugly perceptions. Akande’s comment was the first time Tinubu’s camp came out forcefully to condemn the exercise.
The party chieftain who revalidated his membership in his hometown, Ila Orangun, Osun state, also declared the National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Committee led by Buni as an abnormality.
The former Osun state governor warned that the next national elections that would elect a successor to President Buhari was going to be the most important test of the ongoing APC membership registration and whatever structure was being envisaged to be imposed on it.
Akande stated, “The first is that, in normal circumstances, a Caretaker Executive Committee for a political party is an abnormality. If not carefully controlled and expeditiously managed, most aberrant authorities end up in contempt and disgrace.” He noted 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.
Akande added, “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 one billion Naira of 2014 value that the original register cost when APC had no money of its own.”
Tinubu Faults Exercise
After revalidating his membership, Tinubu said he hasn’t heard of a situation where the party’s register submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the time of APC registration has been invalidated.
He stated, “Since we have a foundation and that foundation supports the structure of the party up till the present and it was built at the time of the registration of this party, I will not fault Baba Akande’s position; I will not, but endorse it,” he said after being registered.
“What we are doing now is a matter of addition and subtraction, free entry and free exit. You have joined a particular party; you have decided to leave that party. You have equal opportunity for new members to join and update the existing register of the party.”
Oshiomhole’s Breaks Silence
The immediate past National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, faulted the exercise, saying it was contrary to the party’s constitution.
Oshiomhole, shortly after revalidating his membership of the party at Unit 1, Ward 10, Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government of Edo State, said there is nowhere in the party’s constitution that says a member must revalidate its membership.
He stated, “APC is governed by a constitution and not by man, the constitution only provides for registration and I registered as a member of the APC in 2014 under the Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande.
“There is nothing in the APC constitution that says a member shall revalidate or renew its membership. Once you register when you joined the party and you have not decamped, you are a member. So, revalidation is strange to our constitution. I have only done this because I want peace to reign but in doing this, we have to be careful not to create constitutional breach.”
Oshiomhole pointed out that between 2015 and now, people have exited the party and others have joined while some have died, adding that it makes sense to review the register so that those who have decamped to APC will be registered while those who have left would be deleted.
He added, “If you ask me, as a foundation member, who has never decamped, to revalidate my membership, it is double registration because there is nothing like revalidation in our constitution. By asking me to revalidate my membership, it means I was not a member when I never left the party. I think the correct language should be either reviewing or updating because it makes sense to review voters’ register due to the new members that have joined or those that have exited.”
The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, after revalidating his membership at Ogilolo Ward 11 Unit 09, Ekiti State, disagreed with Tinubu, Akande and Oshiomhole, saying the exercise was backed by Article 9 of the party’s constitution. He was of the view that the reason for the exercise was for the party to know all its members and not deregister them.
Fayemi said, “The APC Constitution in Article 9 stipulates that our register must be updated every six months. So, Baba Akande never said we should not register or revalidate our membership. He only tasked the leadership on the way it should be done to earn credibility.
“We don’t want to deregister anybody, let members revalidate their membership, and those who are non-members but interested should also feel free to join us, that is what the exercise is all about.”
Issues Arising From Membership Drive
Nevertheless, despite several assurances by the leadership of the party that the exercise would not be hijacked, recent events in some state chapters of the party revealed that the membership drive is now being used to settle old scores and to ease some members out of the ruling party.
In some states, the entry of some individuals into the APC has further polarised the party. It appears another round of reconciliation is in the offing after the exercise might have ended considering the crisis it has created.
The Disharmony in Kwara APC
Things are no longer at ease in the Kwara State Chapter of the APC. The calm political waters of the party is troubled.
At the moment, there is no peace in sight. While the exercise was peaceful in Kastina, it was a free-for-all in Kwara state when supporters of rival APC factions clashed at a meeting called ahead of the exercise. The violence erupted at the Banquet Hall of Government House.
The APC registration and revalidation Committee called the meeting to ensure a smooth registration exercise amid the protracted crisis in the APC Kwara State which worsened after the removal of Mr. Bashir Bolarinwa as the party chairman.
Bolarinwa was recently removed by the caretaker committee of the party and replaced with Abdullahi Samari.
The development was a fallout of an enduring supremacy battle between Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and a group of party leaders led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
Though the national leadership of the party asked North-central leaders of the party to intervene, the political waters of the APC in the state remains unsettled. When it became glaring that the exercise was not in his favour and may have reduced his significance in the state chapter of the party, Mohammed recently called for the cancellation of the exercise.
Oyetola’s Delight in Omisore’s Defection and Aregbesola’s Concerns
The ongoing exercise has again resonated the supremacy battle between a former Osun State governor who is now Minister of Internal Affairs, Rauf Argbesola and his successor, Gboyega Oyetola.
Following the recent defection of a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Iyiola Omisore, from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to the APC, Aregbesola raised concerns about the admission of new members into the ruling party, after the revalidation of his APC membership at Ifofin, Ward 8, Ilesa East Local Government Area, Ilesa, Osun State.
It appears that the defection of Omisore to APC was not supported by many leaders of the ruling party, which may have influenced the statement made by Aregbesola.
He stated, “This registration affords us the opportunity to deepen internal democracy in our party. Our members now have a say in whoever becomes a flag bearer either at the party level or in government.
“Though the Constitution allows everyone to register as a member of any political party, even if they are suspects, murderers, character assassinators etc, but those who constitute the majority of the party membership must represent the core values of the party. What distinguishes us in APC are the values we hold. We value social democracy, to a large extent liberal democracy and progressivism.”
“There must be a clear distinction between jolly good fellows and fair-weather friends who will still leave our party when they sense a better opportunity elsewhere. In associating with individuals, who you are, your character and world view must come to play.
“More importantly, we must honour the memory of our father, Chief Bola Ige and what he stood for which includes compassion, commitment to the good of the majority and ideas that will bring good life, happiness, progress and security for the people,” he said.
In spite of the concerns raised by Aregbesola, Oyetola described Omisore’s defection as a historic feat that has seen the party landing a big fish.
He said, “Indeed, this is a historic moment for the APC nationally and especially in the State of Osun. When he decided to support us at the gubernatorial election re-run in 2018, to many, it was like a shot out of blue. However, what a lot of people didn’t know was that Otunba Omisore and I have had an enduring relationship of almost three decades.
“So, the choice of who to support at the re-run wasn’t a chore because he knew who and what he was investing his trust in. With this defection, our long-standing courtship has now been consummated and we are certain that it will yield rewarding political fruits in Osun.
“His supporters have followed him into the party and what we have now is a fusion of the two parties. So, this is indeed historic.”
Benue APC Crisis Lingers
Initially, there were several unresolved issues in some local government chapters of the party in Benue State. The lingering crisis in these local government chapters have continually defied logic and reconciliation. Some of the affected local government areas include, Gboko, Ushongo, Guma and Konshisha.
However, the lingering crisis assumed another dimension when the party’s caretaker chairman in Gboko South Local Government Area ward, Tersoo Ahu, was killed recently.
Ahu was killed by some hoodlums when he went to assess preparations towards the registration exercise.
A party source, who also witnessed the incident but pleaded anonymity said, “While the training was ongoing at a hotel at GRA, Gboko, a group of people stormed the venue and demanded to know how the adhoc staff were selected. The development led to a heated argument and a confrontation that degenerated into a free for all which invariably resulted in the death of the ward chairman.”
Another party source, who does not want his name in print also said that the future is not so bright for the party if issues including arbitrary and unconstitutional suspension of members, and scheming out some foundation members are allowed to continue.
The source alleged that some leaders are running the party like a cult group while members are expected to follow sheepishly.
Confirming the incident, the state APC Caretaker Publicity Secretary, James Orgunga, said, “Yes, the Gboko South ward council chairman, Tersoo Ahu, was killed. They were around for the training for the forthcoming registration and then, some people just came and hacked him (Ahu) down and he died, that is the information I have for now.”
Delta APC Crisis and Party Leadership Intervention
The Delta State Chapter of APC has been embroiled in a leadership crisis with different factions arising from the camps of the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, the Minister of State, Labour, Mr. Festus Keyamo and Chief Great Ogboru.
So, when the exercise commenced in the state, Keyamo raised the alarm raised that the state Chairman of the party, Mr. Jones Erue, was plotting to influence the exercise.
The alarm raised by Keyamo in a letter addressed to the party forced the Governor of Niger State and the Chairman of the Membership Revalidation and Registration Committee, Abubakar Bello, to have a closed door meeting with aggrieved party chieftains from Delta state over the ongoing registration exercise.
The meeting was attended by Keyamo, Ogboru, former governorship aspirant, Chief Otega Emerhor, former House of Representatives member, Halim Agoda and the State Chairman of the party, Prophet Jones Erue.
Bello, while briefing journalists after the meeting said they were able to agree on a workable method to move the party forward.
He added, “Well, I think we had a wonderful meeting. It is not unusual in a political process to have differences in opinions and what have you. So, Delta State is a very important state for us in the South-south and we have been able to agree on a workable method to move the party forward.
“So, I hope that going forward we won’t have to come here. They should be able to resolve their issues back home. So, I believe APC in Delta State is now intact and I also believe APC in Delta state will grow bigger.”
APC Extends Exercise
The initial hiccups did little or nothing as the ruling party extended the exercise by three weeks.
The National Secretary of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe, gave reasons for the extension. He said the party was responding to the demands across the states for an extension to allow all prospective members.
Akpanudoedehe noted that biases in some sections might have been used to rubbish the good works of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, but the strong, impressive response of the public in the ongoing registration exercise has spoken the true mind of Nigerians and has put paid to the false narratives of party’s critics, cynics and the opposition.
The secretary noted that the party had received a nationwide acknowledgement of the increasing popularity of the APC, and most especially in states that are being governed by the opposition party.
He said, “In response to the demands across the states for an extension to allow accommodation of all prospective members, the party has therefore extended the nationwide membership registration exercise by a period of three weeks.”
PDP Mocks APC
The PDP said the Akande outburst has further confirmed revelations that the so-called APC membership revalidation and registration is a huge scam designed to allot fictitious figures and inflate the APC membership register.
The PDP spokesperson, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated the party’s position. He said Nigerians are already aware that the purpose of the APC membership revalidation exercise is to produce inflated membership figures to assist the APC to allocate fictitious votes to itself in the 2023 elections; a scheme that is dead on arrival.
According to him, Moreover, no Nigerian would want to join a party of fraudsters, manipulators, political bandits and liars, which has ruined our country and expended its goodwill on the altar of violence, deception and insensitivity to the needs of the people.
On the extension of exercise, the main opposition party said the three weeks extension would not change the public rejection that greeted the exercise and the APC as a party.
The PDP further mocked the APC for “becoming stuck with its exercise following serious confusion and violent disagreements in their fold after their plot to announce humongous fictitious figures and presenting a heavily padded membership register was busted.”
“Our party is already aware of the confusion in the APC after a genuine report from the field indicated a huge reduction in APC membership profile, given that more than half of its members across the federation refused to revalidate their membership while most regular Nigerians who they approached, responded with vehement apathy.”
Fresh Political Realignment by Ex-CPC Chairmen
With less than two years to the expiration of the administration of President Buhari, political realignment ahead of 2023 elections has already commenced.
One of such alignments was the recent meeting of the defunct chairmen of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the legacy parties that coalesced to form the ruling party.
The ex-CPC chairmen at their recent meeting held in Abuja announced the formation of a new political association, the New Nigeria Movement (NNM). They hinged their decision on the ruling party’s deviation from its foundational plans.
APC Convention and the Battle for the Chairmanship Position
At the moment, it is still unclear if the caretaker committee will conduct the national convention of the party by June or will seek further extension from NEC. There is nothing at the moment to show that the convention will hold as scheduled. The only activity going on in the party presently is the membership drive.
Despite the uncertainty, party chieftains have already started jostling for the Chairmanship position of the party. Although those interested in the position have not made their decision known, the poster of the former Governor of Nasarawa state, Tanko Al-Makura, for the position has flooded the nation’s capital.
Former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff and former Zamfara State governor, Yari are believed to be interested in vying for the position to. If the ruling party finally zones the chairmanship position of the party to the north, then the presidency will be zoned to the south.
Source: This Day