Barring any unforeseen circumstances, President Muhammadu Buhari will this week in Jos, Plateau State, officially kick off the All Progressives Congress membership validation. But this one exercise will either make or mar the ruling party as the country journeys towards 2023, writes Chuks Okocha
Last week, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) took it upon itself to train officials that would superintend the revalidation of its members. It was like a cat and mouse game before the party’s stakeholders agreed to the process. This is because of the suspicion that certain interests were out to hijack the process at the expense of the others.
The revalidation exercise is very important in many ways as it gives strength to any group that has more members in the nomination of candidates for the main election. Depending on the procedures to be adopted – direct or indirect primary elections. The group within the party that has more members will certainly have an advantage in subsequent party elections.
This is like the training that precedes a game of football. All the players will ensure that the training goes well to enable them win the match. In this circumstance, it is the duty of stakeholders that they have more members, who are registered to the advantage of their course.
All this is targeted towards the general election due in 2023. The stakes are high, undoubtedly. For governors and other members of the party with presidential ambitions, it is in their political interest that they get more of their members to register in this all-important exercise beginning this week.
However, the noise around the revalidation membership exercise would be loudest in the south, because of the belief that the presidential ticket of the APC has been zoned to the region. The battle for supremacy, therefore, is to ensure that the more members in kitty will serve a purpose during the various primary exercises. Starting from the Southwest, the revalidation exercise is expected to be a keen exercise.
The reason for this is not far fetched. There are at least three members said to be nursing a presidential ambition. The former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu is one.
Also, in constant mention is the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is equally the chairman of the governors’ forum. Then, of course, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is deemed to be in the race. These three are expected to use their strengths to ensure that more of their supporters revalidate their membership of the party.
Starting from Ekiti State, both Fayemi and Tinubu will fight it out. In anticipation of this exercise, the stage has already been set for crisis. This is because the party in the state is already polarised in the state. The foot soldiers are already set for battle. Senator Femi Ojudu and the governor’s team are already in an epic battle.
To ensure fairness, the National Caretaker Committee headed by the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, was alleged to have ensured that the seven-man committees were fairly constituted.
In Lagos State, which is home state of Tinubu, the seven-man committee is allegedly balanced to all interests. Though the governor is carried along, some other stakeholders were said not to have shown considerable interest in the exercise for obvious reasons.
Thus, there is some kind of disquiet in the Lagos State chapter of the APC over the forthcoming membership registration exercise in the state, which may foretell a bad omen for the party.
In Lagos, the exercise is coming amidst lingering internal crisis with a group led by a former vice-chairman of the party, Fouad Oki, challenging the leadership of the state APC. The Oki-led group has vowed to also effect leadership change in Lagos APC and weaken Tinubu’s hold on Lagos APC.
He recently granted an interview, saying he was ready to deliver an all-inclusive and credible register to the party in the state, noting that the existing register was fake, and could not stand the test of time.
He also commenced a local government sensitization tour to educate prospective members on the forthcoming membership registration. THISDAY learnt that Oki’s activities had already begun to unsettle the APC leadership in the state.
With the membership registration approaching, there is anxiety and tension over plan by the Oki-led group to conduct a parallel exercise, which many fear could further polarise the party and complicate matters.
This development, it was gathered, triggered moves by some party chieftains to cause a postponement of the membership registration exercise in view of the unresolved crises in the party.
Oki told journalists, penultimate week, that the proposed membership registration would enable party supporters, who were not sure of where their loyalty lied to join the party.
He also vowed to effect a change in the political leadership of the state beginning with having a credible register different from the one used by the Tunde Balogun-led APC.
The party chieftain is also one of the backers of Mr. AbdulAzeez Adediran, a governorship aspirant and founder of the ‘Lagos4Lagos Movement’, which has also challenged Tinubu’s leadership in the state.
A party member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “The membership registration is already generating tension in the party, because of the threat of a parallel exercise. This is why some stakeholders are already calling for a postponement, because of the crisis it may generate with many issues unresolved.
“Don’t forget a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos, James Faleke, has called for the postponement citing COVID-19 but there is really more to it,” he explained.
Also, speaking with reporters, one of the party elders and member of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the highest decision making organ of APC, Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, said there was no cause for alarm over the threat of parallel congresses.
According to him, the factional members “are only chasing shadows,” adding that what was happening within the party was a competition, which is part of democracy and ultimately, the majority would win.
“I look around here in Ikorodu division; I don’t know who their members are. When the time comes, we would know whoever has the larger members,” he said.
In Ogun State, the home state of Vice President Osinbajo, he has to contend with three other principal stakeholders and they are Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Governor Dapo Abiodun and former governor Olusegun Osoba. Like in Ekiti and Lagos States, membership of the seven-man committees in the two states, were not badly constituted, party sources claimed.
But in other states of the Southwest like Osun and Ondo States, where there’s not much at stake among the governors than a passive interest, the governors decide who will get an upper hand. But in Osun State, Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who is said to be a relation of Tinubu, pundits believe might sway the revalidation exercise in Tinubu’s advantage Ditto in Oyo and Ondo States.
However, there are speculations that the Southwest governors of APC could swing their support for Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State. This is depending on the body language of the President, who might be disposed to a Christian successor.
In the Southeast, where there are presidential contenders in the persons of Senators Rochas Okorocha, Orji Uzor Kalu, Minister Ogbonnaya Onu and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, the revalidation exercise would be battle royale.
Each of the stakeholders will fight to ensure that they have an upper hand in their home states. In Imo State for example, Okorocha and Governor Hope Uzodinma might take their battle for political supremacy a step further.
The exercise will settle once and for all, who will control the members preparatory to a congress that would follow thereafter. Will Uzodinma allow Okorocha have an upper hand? This is yet to be seen. But, if that happens, then, Okorocha should bid farewell to his presidential ambition or focus on his mega party to actualise his presidential interest.
Whatever happens will dictate whether the former governor will continue to be a member of the party that he has predicted its collapse sometime ago. Will the revalidation hasten the process of the collapse of the ruling party? Only time will tell.
In Abia, Senator Kalu might likely have a field day. He is sure to carry the day. He is the leader of the APC in the state. But that might not be the case in Ebonyi State, where it is being said that Governor Umahi has either a presidential ambition or vice presidential intention as the case may be.
Whatever is the case, the governor has to contend with Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology. Before Umahi’s defection from the PDP to APC, Onu had held sway as the leader of the party.
The big question now is, will the two chieftains unite and subsume their ambitions to building the party in Ebonyi State or they’ll allow ambition to tear the party apart? Again, the events of the next few months will decide.
In Anambra and Enugu States, the party has no governor, but there is a member of the Federal Executive Council. In Enugu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu will have to settle their lingering supremacy battle.
Anambra State is the traditional state of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), but the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige and Chief Arthur Eze, are members of the APC.
Both will settle their quest for supremacy with the exercise. This has become necessary in view of the forthcoming governorship election in the state. Ngige and Eze supporting two different aspirants to emerge as the governorship candidate.
The more members they have, the better for the number of delegates for the primary election. In the Southeast, because of the peculiar nature of their politics, the noise from the battle for supremacy would be quite loud.
Then comes the South-south. Here, two states stand out: Rivers and Akwa Ibom States. This is basically because of the cult of personalities involved, who would like to undo each other. In the Rivers State, there is the feud between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and his erstwhile friend, Senator Maginus Abe. They will finally use the opportunity of the exercise to settle their rivalry.
Already, court cases have commenced, both for and against. It would certainly be an interesting battle for both. It might turn out like Anambra and Imo States.
Then comes the Akwa Ibom State, which will reenact the battle of supremacy between Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta and Akpan Udouhehehe, National Secretary of the APC caretaker committee.
Recall that the caretaker scribe had an epic battle with Akpabio, when he was a minister of state in the FCT and all that led to his being dropped as a minister. Perhaps, history has a way of repeating itself. Both of them were in the PDP before and fate has brought them together to APC. So, who would have an upper hand in the exercise?
This exercise, interesting as it may be, would help decide many long political feuds. Again, time will tell.
Cross River State, indeed would hold no political attraction. It might go down as one of the most peaceful states during the revalidation of membership exercise. Senators John Enoh and a former senate leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba could put their differences back and build APC in the state.
In Delta, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo Agege and his associates in the state like the former speaker of the House of Assembly, Victor Ochei would try to build the party. The ball is in the court of Omo Agege to build or spoil the party, more so due to his governorship aspiration. The odds are in his favour to have an upper hand in the state, as the governorship election seems to favour his Delta central. All the three senatorial zones have all taken a shot at the governorship of the state. It is going to be much easier and peaceful as not many members of the APC are contending the seat with him.
Up north, there might not be much attraction and noise making as nothing big as the presidency is at stake. This is because of the said gentlemanly agreement to allow the south produce the next presidential candidate of the party.
The APC governors of the states in the north are in control. Though the exercise has thrown up the former chairmen of Buhari’s erstwhile party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The moribund group could suddenly wake up to seek to exert influence.
But not much has been heard of them after their initial meeting n Abuja. However, what might throw up the only challenge in the north is the jostle for a presidential running mate, which might be conceded to the north once the presidency goes to the south.
On the whole, the revalidation exercise for the APC is such that would stress the party, because it means a lot to many stakeholders with aspirations in 2023. It could be the tsunami that might decimate the party.
However, if the APC survives the heat from the exercise, then, it would outlive President Buhari, contrary to predictions that the party would go into oblivion after the Buhari administration. That fate, however, is in the belly of time.
Pix: Buhari in Katsina for APC’s registration.jpg, Amaechi,