By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor & Omeiza Ajayi
THE membership revalidation and registration exercise of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, across the country is being assailed by knotty issues, controversies and crises.
Suspicion among leaders, battle for territorial control, alleged attempts to whittle down the influence of some founding pillars of the APC, and weed out disgruntled people from the party among other issues have made the exercise a war of sorts being fought on many fronts.
Currently, the exercise has been fraught with complaints and crisis in many states including Kwara, Delta, Rivers and Imo.
It was suspended in Delta on account of misgivings over the composition of the committee.
The APC secretary of the caretaker committee in Delta, Chidi Okonji, alleged that the chairman of the registration panel, Wilson Anyaegbu, was doing the bidding of a certain leader of the party in the state and that nominees for registration officers came from an Abuja-based politician.
According to him, party leaders, including the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo; NIMASA Director, Victor Ochei; founding leader, O’tega Emerhor and Great Ogboru, were schemed out.
Indeed, Keyamo, on February 10, alleged plans to hijack the exercise in Delta by an unnamed political leader.
He raised the alarm in a protest note to Yobe State Governor and Chairman of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni; Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege; Anyaegbu and other top party leaders.
In Kwara, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, called for cancellation of the registration over alleged non-observance of APC’s rules and guidelines.
Some youths are already in court to stop the exercise in Kwara and Rivers.
In Imo, two factions are at each other’s jugular over ownership of the exercise. The faction of the party loyal to Governor Hope Uzodimma said the exercise had started while the rival camp led by Dan Nwafor said nothing like that is on in the state.
Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum, and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, who recently left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the APC, cried out to Buni, last week, that the South-East zone was facing scarcity of registration materials.
Aside the flaming crises, two former national chairmen of the APC and some leaders faulted the necessity and legality of the exercise and they were countered by some leaders.
Thus, an exercise that should have united leaders of the party appears to be causing more division and hiatus as a pitch battle for the soul of the APC rage.
Otherwise, the issues of scarcity and hoarding of registration materials, denying some areas the materials, angst over composition of the registration committees, litigations against the exercise, claims and counter-claims among feuding leaders would not be up-welling.
A host of APC leaders seem to see the exercise as an election itself. They are in a rat race to get more of their supporters registered why denying their perceived opponents opportunity. The number of members each politician gets registered is expected to count during party primaries ahead of 2023 whether direct or indirect.
As seen in recent primaries of the party, those who controlled the party structure determined who emerged as delegates and candidates.
‘’In the past, only a few people controlled the party structures to the disadvantage of most members of the APC. We want to end that and give all members of the party equal footing,’’ a top leader of the party told Sunday Vanguard.
Why Akande, Tinubu, Oshiomhole kicked
Interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, who was also a governor of Osun State, described the exercise as a waste of time and resources, which, if not carefully controlled and expeditiously managed, might end up in contempt and disgrace.
Reacting to the registration/revalidation exercise in Ila Orangun, Osun State, 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.”
National Leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, shared Akande’s views during an interaction with journalists at his Ikoyi residence in Lagos after registering.
Noting that he had not heard that the party’s register submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at the time of APC registration had been invalidated, he said: “Since we have a foundation and that foundation is on which the structure up till the present 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.”
There is no revalidation in APC Constitution – Oshiomhole
Immediate past National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, also faulted the revalidation of the membership of the party by the Interim Caretaker Committee, saying it was contrary to the party’s constitution.
Oshiomhole told reporters after revalidating his membership of the party at Unit 1, ward 10, Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government of Edo State.
“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”, he said.
‘’There is nothing in the APC Constitution that says a member shall revalidate or renew his 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. 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.”
Fayemi, Odigie-Oyegun, others counter
However, Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; and former APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, disagreed with criticisms of the exercise.
Fayemi said there was nothing wrong with the exercise since it was being done in compliance with the party’s constitution, adding that the views expressed by Akande and Tinubu didn’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 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.
“We don’t want to de-register 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”.
On his part, Odigie-Oyegun dismissed THE insinuation that the registration/revalidation exercise was aimed at destroying the political base of any party member.
“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.”
The dust billowing from the exercise is raising a number of questions in the polity. Is there a provision for revalidation of membership in the constitution of the APC? What happens to members who could not revalidate their membership within the two weeks window provided for the exercise? Why are registration materials being hoarded? Why is the task being undertaking by the Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, whose six-month initial tenure was extended recently by another six months?
Won’t the scarcity of registration materials, requirement of voter’s card among others affect members who do not have the documents?
We want to return APC to members — Akpanudoedehe
Speaking on these issues, Secretary of the APC National Caretaker Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, told Sunday Vanguard that the exercise is in the best interest of APC because it would return ownership to members and make the party a disciplined one.
Asked what would happen to a member who did not revalidate his membership, he said: ‘’It’s at his liberty. That means he is no longer a member of the party. That means he is not interested in contesting for political positions on the platform of the party because membership is one of the requirements for you to vie for any office.
“The National Executive Committee, NEC, of the APC gave us the mandate to revalidate our membership register; it doesn’t matter whether we are right or wrong.
‘’In their wisdom, the NEC said, ‘go and do this’. If you don’t or not a law abiding person or feel you are bigger than the process, or there is something you know and we don’t know, you can stay out of it. “But the fact is that you must follow the rules and regulations. That means you are a sympathizer of the party, with my understanding.
“I am even shocked by the massive response. We were targeting the number of votes we got last time, but, as I’m talking to you now, we don’t have cards; we have to be rushing to print more cards.
‘’With due respect to what they did before, you can’t go to any ward and see your name in any register; it was stored in the cloud. Who does that?
“Now, by the time we finish, we will return the membership to the wards. It is a continuous thing. If you are not joining today, may be you will join tomorrow and they will issue you the card.
‘’We can remember when someone said, ‘don’t do it because of COVID-19’. That was a trap. We disagreed and said ‘thank you, we are going to finish this in six months and get out of here. We will not over stay our welcome’”.
Told that the caretaker committee had exceeded its six months without organising national convention and has been handed an extension of six months, he said: ‘’You are a living witness of what happened. We were in lock-down for many months.
“We are on the right path and doing what exactly they asked us to do. The response to the revalidation is truly tremendous and unimaginable.’’
Asked if the party is doing biometric and other modern captures, he said: “Yes, for sure. You have to put your fingerprints. By the time we come down, it’s going to be the property of APC – the computer, data centre, etc.
“It’s not going to be anywhere else. It is going to be here. We are going to print the kind of chip card like the INEC card. If you put your information everything will come out. When we finish we will send the cards to the wards for people to go and collect”.
On comments that the party hierarchy wants to use the exercise to work against initial pillars of the party and check their 2023 ambition, Akpanudoedehe said: ‘’No, I don’t think that’s the truth. If you are a popular person and they want you to stop you… have you not been seeing people coming from the PDP and other parties and becoming what they want to become in APC?
“That’s not the problem at all.
To become President in Nigeria a lot of interests must be taken into consideration.
We are trying to organise APC to be a disciplined party.
“We need members of the APC to own the party. We have to do it because President Buhari is not going to be on the ballot. We have to be sure that those who are members of this party are also voters.
“One of the requirements is voter’s card. You have to put your voter’s card number there. If you don’t vote on that day, we know our people have sold us out. We can calculate how many votes we can get in any state”.
On comments that membership revalidation is unconstitutional because there is no provision for it in APC Constitution, he quipped: “Let’s say it is not in the constitution, what power has the constitution given to the NEC?
“The NEC said we should go and do it and you say it is unconstitutional? NEC authorised it, what makes anyone feel it is not constitutional?
‘’Some said Tinubu said this, Akande and Oshiomhole said that. They know that the party is bigger than an individual. The President holds them in high esteem. He does not expect us to disrespect them. “Akande is an elder statesman. When he advises, whether right or wrong, you don’t expect me to start arguing with him.
‘’Tinubu is my personal friend; even though my loyalty has shifted to the President, you don’t expect me to forget my friendship with him and start abusing him.
“These are elder statesmen that we must respect. Even if every other person can abuse them, I won’t. Besides I came from ACN.
“If Oshiomhole talks, he is talking from the angle of anger, so we simply ignore it.
‘’We have internal mechanism of resolving grievances. We have been mandated to do the revalidation exercise, and until mandated otherwise, we will stick to our mandate.
“Their opinion or whatever they say will not derail what we are doing”.
On PDP leaders’ allegation that APC was doing the revalidation and registration to prepare a rigging template for 2023, he said: “When somebody is more technical and knowledgeable than you, what will you do? What does membership revalidation have to do with rigging techniques? Their argument does not hold water. It is senseless.
“Membership revalidation is, for example, Tambuwal and Saraki left with their structures, if other people are coming to our party in those states, how do we know? “What about those coming to the party with their members?
‘’In the wisdom of NEC, it says ‘we are giving waivers to everybody’. So if you join the party now, it is like you are foundation member of the APC”.
‘They are wrong’
Caretaker Chairman of the APC in Enugu State, Dr Ben Nwoye, also faulted Tinubu, Akande and Oshiomhole.
According to Nwoye, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in an interview, Akande was wrong to have publicly faulted the initiatives of one of his successors when he had channels of making his submissions to the party leadership.
He said; “On what our revered leader, Baba Akande, said, one of the guiding principles of leadership is that when you leave office, your successors running the same office, you are supposed to allow them the peace of mind of handling the affairs of the party within the confines of the constitution as they deem fit.
“This type of politics is normally not acceptable; you cannot stand up and begin to criticize what your successor does in office. “So, whatever informed the criticism of the methods on how this particular Caretaker Committee has decided to run the office, it is not expected that our elder, our leader, one of the founding fathers will go to the press to make his criticism.
“What he should do is to advise and where the advice is given and perhaps not taken, you will watch the outcome of the decision which you advised against.
“However, having said that, I beg to differ with Baba Akande on several fronts. One, it is in our Constitution that every so often, I believe it is six months, there shall be membership registration.
“However, the revalidation I believe is occasioned by the fact that successive leadership, perhaps, did not maintain accurate register of members.
“I am a founding member and I know that there were attempts by successive chairmen who promised that the registration would be electronically done and that everyone would receive a permanent card. They never did.
“The first registration was done in 2013 and, up to this moment, we are still going about with slips of paper.
“From July 31, 2013 when the party was formed till date, nobody has a permanent membership card.
“So, one can say it is also a failure of successive leadership that led to this revalidation.
“No member from 2013 to the present time has permanent membership card. It is a failure.
“People are carrying slips that may have been torn, the data system is not well maintained, some people are dead and some names omitted
Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, PGF, Salihu Mohammed Lukman, on his part, said the fact that the three men revalidated their membership indicated that all party leaders are in sync with the decision of the APC.
‘APC leaders not opposed to registration’
Speaking on the issue, Lukman said, notwithstanding that after making those strongly worded remarks, Akande and Oshiomhole revalidated their membership of the APC, media reports were reduced to negative conclusions suggesting, perhaps, that part of the foundation leadership of the APC, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is in disagreement with the leadership of the party, especially the Caretaker Committee on the decision to conduct the membership registration/revalidation exercise.
According to him, the disagreement among some leaders of the party is proof of the democratic credentials of the APC which allows for internal contestations.
“Is it really true that because leaders are in disagreement, crisis will set in? Is it even possible for leaders of any political party not to disagree? Is there any political party worthy of any potential electoral victory whose leaders are in complete agreement with every position the party approves? If all leaders are in agreement, why do we have internal contests in political parties? Why should we even be interested in internal democracy?” the DG of Progressive Governors Forum said.
“Once you eliminate internal disagreements among leaders of political parties, democracy will lose its appeal.
“Rather than contest, what we will end up having in politics is some notional faith in the sanctity of the party and its leadership. “Like all our religious shrines, all that we will be talking of as members of our respective parties is some claims about the purity of our leaders and our party even as we know that our only justification in joining the party is far from any imagined purity.
“Integral to our decisions to join the party is the expectations we all seem to have in terms of what being members should translate to.
“This is where most times leaders often distinguish themselves. While to ordinary members, the issue is about political permutations of who is going to emerge as candidate for election, for leaders, it is more about ensuring that the party is able to retain its electoral viability.
“Call it enlightened self-interest, every leader will be much more concerned about the capacity to win elections as the propelling factor for personal ambitions.
“As members of APC, we should be proud of our leaders and their ability to make open their positions about all the issues around the challenges facing the party.
“We should be inspired by their disciplined commitment to support the decisions of the party irrespective of their personal positions. “We should be proud of the illustrious leadership of Chief Akande, Asiwaju Tinubu and all our leaders in APC for demonstrating in very strong unequivocal terms that to remain united is not about denying what your personal preferences are with regard to choices open to the party in addressing challenges.
“Being united should be about accepting decisions that are not necessarily supportive of our personal preferences.
“Since the time of the APC merger negotiations between 2012 and 2013, there has never been time when all our leaders are in agreement.
“This is partly why there have always been internal contests within the party.
“Part of the challenge facing the party today is to ensure that internal contests in the party reflect the freedom of party leaders and members to express themselves within the limits of both the rules of the party and the country.
“It must be emphasized, therefore, in all the debate leading to the current membership registration/revalidation exercise of the APC, no one has disputed the current membership register of the APC.
“The emphasis has been that it should be updated to delete names of members who have left the party and register new members.
“In addition, the register should be domiciled in the National Secretariat of the party and not with individual leaders. “Having the membership register in the custody of individual leaders especially when such leaders are being speculated to have ambitions for electoral contests is problematic.
“With all leaders of the party, including Chief Akande and Asiwaju Tinubu, accepting to revalidate their membership, the message is that every party member should revalidate his/her membership.
“There is no better evidence today that all APC leaders are united other than the ongoing membership registration/revalidation exercise.”
Rules fair enough – Keyamo
Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, dismissed the fear that the APC membership registration and revalidation was targeted at diminishing the influence of some party leaders.
Keyamo told Sunday Vanguard that the rules set for the exercise appeared fair to all tendencies in the party but however conceded that in politics, uniform application of such rules could pose a serious challenge.
“In the last four, five days, I have been in Delta where I flagged off the exercise in the state as the Minister from Delta”, he said.
“I also received the state registration committees. So far, so good, the rules they have set for the purpose of conducting this exercise appear fair enough. The rules appear equitable enough.
“However, in most cases in politics, the application of the rules would be the problem.
“So, we are watching closely. We are watching the committees closely. So far, they have tried to engage all stakeholders; they have tried to get our opinion on every issue”.