By Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA
Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has described the recent extension of the membership registration and revalidation exercise of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC as needless, saying the party leadership should instead convene meetings or relevant party organs.
Lukman in a statement on Monday said part of the expectation is that the 13-member Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee led by Gov. Mai Mala Buni, will take steps to begin to resolve challenges facing the APC, which was difficult to achieve under the dissolved National Working Committee NWC.
The exercise was initially slated to end by March 31, but the party leadership recently granted an extension by three weeks.
He said; “With initial tenure of six months, which was extended by another emergency NEC of December 8, 2020, to June 2021, the work of the Caretaker Committee is expected to end with a National Convention where another leadership should emerge to manage affairs of the party for another four years.
“All party members and leaders should prioritise ensuring that the Caretaker Committee is able to complete the task of organising a National Convention where new leaders of the party will be elected. The first test, therefore, is whether the challenges leading to the dissolution of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC are being resolved by the Caretaker Committee. To what extent, are the resolution of challenges facing the party conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals?
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“Conforming to democratic principles requires that initiatives being implemented by the Caretaker Committee are based on decisions taken by competent organs as provided in the constitution of the party. Progressive ideals would require painstaking approaches to guarantee the wider participation of leaders and members in the process of decision making. Both democratic principles and progressive ideals are not mutually exclusive and could be achieved by guaranteeing that meetings of organs are taking place as provided in the constitution of the party. The absence of meetings of organs partly contributed to most of the disaffections in the party during the tenure of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC.
“To what extent has the APC Caretaker Committee distinguished itself from the old characteristics of managing the affairs of the party without meetings of organs as provided in the party’s constitution? This is the fundamental operational question, which, however, considered, would have implication in terms of whether APC leaders are taking the necessary steps to rebuild the party based on any considered vision of progressive politics. Somehow, the reality is that in terms of convening meetings of organs of the party, for more than nine months, the Caretaker Committee has not convened any meeting of any organ of the APC apart from the emergency NEC meeting of December 8, 2020. Sadly, even the 13-member Caretaker Committee is hardly meeting.
“Part of the indication is that most decisions taken by the Caretaker Committee were done by the Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni and the Secretary, Sen. Akpan Udoedehe. The good thing is that the major challenge of ensuring that the party is able to have a verifiable membership register is being resolved. But without organs meeting, as provided in the constitution of the party, where progress reports are given, what is the guarantee that the old problem of having an inaccessible membership register will not be replicated. Already, given that the party’s membership registration/revalidation exercise was done based on the old analogue method without applying modern virtual technology, what is the guarantee that the process of leadership reformation in the party, from ward congresses up to the National Convention, will be done based on the new register? Will all members of the party be able to participate in the process of electing leaders of the party at all levels?
“The test of whether the process of candidates’ selection for election will accommodate broader participation of members of the party is the extent to which all members of the party participate in the election of leaders. Once the election of leaders of the party is handled by few delegates, it is almost logical that it will be few delegates that will elect standard-bearers of the party for elections.
“Given all the development in APC, especially against the background that most of the expectations around the Caretaker Committee are yet to be met, it will be important to review challenges facing the party and perhaps appeal to APC leaders to get the Caretaker Committee to urgently conclude the membership registration/verification exercise. The needless extension of the exercise only serves to strengthen suspicions that the Caretaker Committee is reluctant to organise a National Convention where new leadership of the party will be elected. Based on what has been done so far, the minimum requirement should be that records of members of the party are displayed in all wards and copies made available to Local Governments, States and National Secretariat.
“With membership records displayed, the timetable for Congresses and National Convention should be set. Under no circumstances should there be any contemplation of extending the tenure of the Caretaker Committee. In order to ensure that no extension is being considered, Committees for Congresses and National Convention should be established without any further delay. Similarly, the dates for Congresses and National Convention should be decided.
“Once that is done, negotiation and campaigns for the emergence of party leadership at all levels can commence. Negotiation and campaigns for leadership of the party have already started on a low scale. Many caucuses have emerged and some of the issues that will dictate the emergence of new party leaders would include the conventional approaches of zoning and relationship with power blocs in the party. Old affiliations such as membership of the merged parties that form the APC will come up. The negotiation will not be easy and if not carefully managed, especially against the background that the Caretaker Committee has not done much to broaden the process of membership participation in decision making within the party, there is a very high possibility that the party will be weakened in terms of conforming with basic democratic principles and progressive ideals.
“Perhaps, what APC leaders need to do to be able to develop some enabling environment for the emergence of leaders of the party, especially at the national level, leaders that can put the party on a good footing to begin to resolve challenges, is to identify people with good relationship across all the power blocs. APC must avoid situations where political touts are elected to the party’s leadership. APC should elect leaders that can inspire strong belief in members, and by extension Nigerians, that the party is working to resolve its challenges. Once political touts are the new leaders of the party, it simply means the weak capacity to resolve challenges facing the party. Instead, the challenges may become worse”, he added.