The Peoples Democratic Party, is set on a collision course with the All Progressives Congress, APC over the latter’s ongoing membership registration exercise. The ruling party which has yet to conduct a hitch free registration exercise of its own has accused the opposition party of deceit in the ongoing exercise. Is the ruling party crying wolf?
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The last time the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, attempted a compilation of its membership register in 2005, it turned out to be an orchestrated fiasco. At that time, members including foundation members like the then vice-president, Atiku Abubakar who were out of favour with President Olusegun Obasanjo were deregistered from the party.
Then, when Atiku arrived at the registration centre in his Jada ward in Adamawa State, the chairman of the ward told him that the register was missing and elected to register the vice-president on a notebook! Atiku sensing that it was a farce as the notebook would not be incorporated into the genuine register rejected it and returned to Abuja.
The embarrassment of Atiku being denied registration in the full view of the national media in his ward became such an embarrassment for the then national chairman of the party, Col. Ahmadu Ali who had to send a member of the National Working Committee, NWC to register Atiku in the Presidential Villa.
But the import was not lost on Atiku as the registration in Abuja was void, given the party regulations that only the ward chairmen could register a party member.
That particular exercise threw up the phrase linkmen in the nation’s political lexicon. Linkmen like Senator Jibril Aminu were made anchors of the registration exercise in states like Adamawa and Edo States where the PDP state executives were seen to be out of the direct control of the president.
At the end of that controversial exercise, the PDP did not announce it’s new membership strength, but what was generally known was that the party’s membership shrank on account of the deliberate refusal to register many party men who were either connected to Atiku or were for one reason or the other not favoured by the powers at that time.
Given that deliberate effort in frustrating out its members, it was as such remarkable that the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh last Friday chose to address the press on what he claimed was a deliberate attempt by the new opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC to mislead the public on its capacities and content using the ongoing party membership registration exercise.
“The APC is sadly and currently using every foul means at its disposal to build a particular membership figure, running into tens of millions, which it intends to use as a justification to fault, dispute, reject and subsequently take to violence when it loses the 2015 general elections,” Metuh told newsmen last Friday.
Metuh also noted other alleged infringements of the APC in its ongoing membership registration exercise, including allegations of the use of structures of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, deliberate misinformation of the citizenry of the purposes of the registration and compulsion on unwilling persons in states controlled by the APC to partake in the registration exercise.
Traders and okada riders according to critics of the APC have been compelled to register for the APC. But beyond hearsay, no concrete evidence of such compulsions have been produced.
In Ebonyi State, two registration officials of the party Donatus Omenyi and Moses Anyior were said to have been kidnapped at the weekend in their respective houses at Nwekeisioffia and Umuezekoha communities in Ezza North council area by their abductors around 2 am.
True, the APC registration exercise has not been without incidence. As the party’s whip in the House of Representatives, Rep. Samson Osagie told Vanguard last weekend that “there is no area where human beings are involved where there would be no crisis, but there is nothing out of proportion in my constituency.”
Osagie’s assertion of relative success, if true in his constituency has, however, been rejected in some circles within and outside the party. There were claims that the membership cards allocated to some registration points were shortchanged by as much as 40 percent by party chieftains apparently aiming to get a head start on rivals within the party.
In Rivers State, one person was reportedly shot dead and in some other cases, violence marred the membership registration exercise. The APC was quick to blame the PDP for orchestrating the violence in Rivers and in other places especially where the PDP is in control.
But the thrust of the PDP allegation as asserted by Metuh last Friday was of a deliberate attempt by the APC to claim a membership strength with which it would use to claim superiority in votes in next year’s series of elections.
At the onset, the APC was apparently aiming for 15 million members, but as the registration process commenced and with it the rush, party officials aimed higher, pushing the projection to 25 million.
It was as such not surprising that the PDP cried out as it claimed that the opposition party was preparing grounds to launch a protest after, in the words of Metuh, the APC would have lost the election.
“This fraudulent membership figure, meant to create an un-existing mass followership is to be maniacally presented, projected and defended by the APC, using its well known unethically hypodermic propaganda tools as an anticipated real voter strength, below which it will carry out its threat to unleash mayhem on the nation as contained in its allegory of ” the monkey, the baboon and blood.”
Alahji Lai Mohammed, the interim national publicity secretary of the APC, however, quipped back in a telephone interview with Vanguard yesterday saying the PDP was clearly intimidated by the turnout for the registration by APC members.
“Honestly, clearly the PDP is intimidated by the turnout for this our registration and even we in the APC we underestimated the popular acceptance of our party by the people of Nigeria. We set out to register 15 million but as of today we have been inundated with demands that we had to extend the registration by two more days.”
On Metuh’s allegation that the APC was deceiving the citizenry by using INEC polling centres as a way of luring unwary people to register with the party, he said:
”What we are witnessing today has never been seen in the history of Nigeria and we were very proactive and very creative in deciding to use INEC polling centers for the venues for our registration.”
“Don’t forget that our party is made up of some parts of the PDP, the ANPP, CPC and ACN and if we had used any other venue apart from the polling booths it would have led to confusion. If you say ward would it be the former ANPP ward, the former CPC ward or the former ACN ward?”
“Secondly, we recognized that all politics is local and at the end of the day everybody reports at his polling booth. So why don’t you get registered in your polling booth?”
Further dismissing the assertions of the PDP, the opposition spokesman said:
“What bothers one is the paranoia that has ceased the PDP and they have become so paranoid that they have become so incoherent and they are getting very silly and infantile. I have not seen anywhere in the world where you are going to preempt how many people we are going to register. Even if we declare 50 million voters, does that translate into 50 million INEC votes?”
The accusations and counter accusations nonetheless, the attempt by the APC in opening up registration is an innovation that even reformists in the PDP had in the past attempted to do but were shot down.
Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo, as chairman of the PDP in 2010 made a bold attempt to open up the membership through an online registration exercise, but the powerful governors in the party frustrated him. Nwodo it was learnt, had told President Goodluck Jonathan that the only way he could take the party away from the iron grip of the governors was by opening registration through an online register in which every member would make his own pay for the running of the party, but the governors firmly resisted him. It was simple logic for the governors to continue sponsoring the party and by that way dictating the tune for the party, Nwodo had reportedly preached to the president.
Apparently taken in by the suggestion, the president flagged off the online registration exercise when he was registered, but the PDP governors quickly moved to frustrate it and the exercise turned out to become an abandoned project.
It was as such no surprise that the governors moved with vengeance against Nwodo and saw to his unceremonious exit at the end of 2010.
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur also parroted the idea of online registration but the governors never gave him space and it was no surprise that for all the 21 months he spent in office he never had a respite.
Though the APC has opened up its registration to all and sundry, suggestions that the party has been removed from the firm grip of its own godfathers remains debatable. The national chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande and the five former PDP governors who all opposed online registration in the PDP and in the past have been associated with imposition of candidates, have been put on the spot where they have to show that party members count in the selection of candidates for elections.
The former ACN had won notoriety to itself in the past when its national chairman, Chief Akande asserted in an interview that imposition of candidates was its culture. Now, Chief Akande has to show that the other leaf.