It’s beginning to look like the the ongoing membership revalidation exercise by the All Progressives Congress might turn out a misadventure, writes Chuks Okocha
The All Progressives Congress (APC) membership registration is enmeshed in crises in many states of the federation – starting from Osun, Delta, Kwara, Rivers and Imo States among others that are yet to manifest the inherent crisis. Many party chieftains have queried the rationale for the exercise, describing it as a civilian coup to hijack the party by President Muhammadu Buhari’s men against Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his team.
Many others have equally described the revalidation exercise as the road to self-destruct by the party. They likened the exercise to the crisis that would befall the APC and eventually weakens the party to the extent that the centre would no longer hold thereafter.
The exercise has polarised the party in camps. Those opposing it like the Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande and Adams Oshiomhole are against Buhari and the Caretaker Committee, headed by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala-Buni, who initiated it.
But one thing is certain, after the revalidation exercise, the interest of new members would be protected and this would lead to elections from the wards to the national level, where new leadership would be enthroned. In this, there would be winners and losers, naturally.
However, many see the exercise as a means to whittle down the influence of Tinubu on the ground that the committee members that were dispatched to coordinate the exercise in Lagos were nominated without Tinubu’s input despite the central role the former Lagos State governor was believed to have played in making the party what it is today.
Former governor of Imo State, Roachas Okorocha, who is now a senator, had prophesied that the only chord holding the APC from disintegration was President Buhari. He contended that the moment Buhari’s tenure as President ends, crisis of unimaginable consequences would envelope the party. But, surprisingly, the crisis is already manifesting while his tenure is still valid courtesy the revalidation exercise.
Take for instance, as part of the engulfing crisis, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State has faulted the views of the three leaders of the ruling APC on the exercise. Fayemi disagreed with the views of Akande, Tinubu, and Oshiomhole.
After revalidating his membership at Ogilolo Ward 11 unit 09, Ekiti State, Fayemi disagreed that the exercise was unconstitutional or illegal.
The governor, who is also the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), added that the reason for the exercise was for the party to know all its members and not deregister them.
“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,” he said.
But Tinubu, alongside his friend, Akande, and Oshiomhole had faulted the registration exercise, describing it as an aberration.
Akande, last week, questioned the decision of the party leadership to call for a re-validation of membership register less than ten years after the party was initially formed in 2014. He noted that if not properly managed handpicking the leadership of any political party might spell danger for such a party.
He maintained that calling for an update of the membership register less than ten years after the formation of the party was an aberration that should not be taken lightly by the leaders.
Tinubu, on his part, said he endorsed Akande’s position on the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise and described it as a waste, urging the party leadership to embark on true reconciliation.
But, defending the exercise, one of the founding members of APC and a close ally of the President, Osita Okechukwu, who is the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria said, “My little understanding of political party’s administration for over forty years in liberal democracy posits that revalidation of membership and continuous registration of members are both valid exercise.
“It is neither unconstitutional nor undemocratic for Section 9(4) of APC’s Constitution made provision for update of membership. Valid in the sense that the leadership may at any point of time find credible reasons to revalidate its membership, like in this instance.
“Methinks His Excellency, Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary and Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has valid reasons to embark on revalidation and registration of members of our great party.”
The VON Boss asked that, with the unprecedented move in and move out – jumbo-jumbo and topsy-turvy – that became the metaphor of party politics Nigeriana, “is it not pragmatic to know the exact membership database of the great party?
“For the avoidance of doubt, is revalidation and registration not more beneficial to Comrade Oshiomhole, given the scatter-scatter in Edo State politics in the last one year?
“I am one of those interested in accurate membership data for effective electoral planning. In some wards, you have more than 1,000 registered members and when election comes and after voting, our party scored less than 300 votes, is it not good to close this kind of gap? It is my candid view that this is one of the valid reasons for revalidation and registration,” he stated.
To the theatre of crisis so far, in Delta State, the scribe, Sanusi Musa, resigned without giving reasons for his action. In a WhatsApp post, Musa said: “I have found myself in a position that I did not envisage and I don’t think I am able to discharge my duties for personal reasons.”
The APC secretary of the state caretaker committee, 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. He alleged that nominees for registration officers came from an Abuja-based politician.
He said party leaders, including the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo; NIMASA Director, Victor Ochei; founding leader, O’tega Emerhor and Great Ogboru, among others, were schemed out.
“As we speak now, the exercise has not started in any part of Delta State, because the committee chairman is hoarding materials,” he said.
Keyamo also said the exercise in Delta might lead to chaos if not well handled and has asked the committee managing it to ensure a balance of all delicate interests. Keyamo alleged plans to hijack the exercise in the state by an unnamed political leader.
He raised the alarm in a protest note, dated February 10, to Buni, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, Anyaegbu and other top party leaders.
He said there should be no discrimination in the distribution of registration materials in the state, stating that as a minister, he was not asking for any undue advantage during the registration.
In response to the crisis in Delta, the party has suspended the exercise. The state’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Sylvester Imonina, announced the suspension in a statement on Thursday in Asaba.
“The Delta APC Chapter hereby formally announce to teeming party faithful that following pockets of complaints, the National Caretaker Committee of the party has deemed it necessary to suspend membership registration/revalidation exercise in the state.
“Though the party is aware that members of the public and party faithful were in high spirit and were looking forward to taking APC to a higher level by mobilising all and sundry who believe in the party for the exercise, unfortunately, the expectation of party faithful had been put on hold for no fault of theirs. In fact, the suspension of the exercise came when it was least expected.”
In Imo State, Dan Nwafor, a factional chairman, insisted that his faction was not in a hurry to commence the exercise and should conduct the exercise.
He said they were waiting for the court to decide which faction was the authentic in the Southeast state.
In Kwara State, caretaker executive committee members loyal to the suspended state chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa, described the exercise as a sham. The Vice-Chairman of the caretaker committee, Chief Sunday Odebiyi, told reporters in Ilorin, the state capital, that the executive members were not carried along.
“Assuming that without conceding that the chairman, Hon. Bolairnwa is suspended, are we all also suspended? Is the majority members of the executive committee here present also suspended? So, why did the Senator Danboyi-led team sidestep all of us?
“If this is bad, what is happening on the field is worse. The guidelines of the registration are being severely raped across all the 1,872 units without exception,” he said.
Odebiyi alleged that registration materials were being hoarded.
The exercise in Osun suffered a setback over the logistics challenge. At polling units in the state yesterday, no registration was conducted in places like Odi-Olowo via Union Baptist Church, Fagbewesa, Ogo-Oluwa, Alekuwodo, YTD School and Okini. Some officials said materials were not yet supplied. Only a few units had registration materials.
Osun State of House Assembly Speaker, Timothy Owoeye registered in Ilesha; former Osun State Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Chief Sunday Akere registered in Igbajo; Special Adviser to Osun Governor on Civic Engagement Olatunbosun Oyintiloye registered at Ibokun and Osun APC Caretaker Chairman Prince Gboyega Famodun registered at Igbajo.
The Osun APC Caretaker Publicity Secretary, Mr. Wole Adunola, explained that, “We supposed to start the registration yesterday but due to logistical challenges, we are unable to start yesterday”.
The Chairman, Registration and Revalidation Committee for Anambra State, Bello Tukur, said recently that his committee would not tolerate inflation of figures or any form of manipulation during the process.
He warned those planning to inflate figures in the register or induce members of the committee, to have a rethink or have themselves to blame.
Tukur said: “There’s no room for any form of manipulation. This exercise excludes those tendencies. If someone thinks he can inflate any figure and get it into the register, he is making a serious mistake.”
In Gombe, former governor Danjuma Goje said there was no need querying the legality of the exercise.
“I don’t want to go into any legal argument on this matter, because there is no need for it. As you can see the exercise is going on smoothly and that is all that matters. I want to advise all our party members to make sure they come out and register and keep their card very well, because it is your weapon to realise your political ambition,” he said.
Immediate past Governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura validated his membership of the party yesterday at Gayam ward, Lafia. Al-Makura, who represents Nasarawa South senatorial district at the National Assembly, expressed satisfaction with the exercise in the state.
“This is one of the most fundamental activities of any political party, the exercise, where the party will enumerate details about its membership. To me, it is the beginning of success in the party administration,” he said.
Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi said the Southeast required more forms for the registration and revalidation as more people in the zone were yearning to join the party. He spoke after visiting Buni, at the Party’s national secretariat in Abuja. Umahi said he visited the party secretariat to make case for more registration materials for the Southeast.
From the look of things, the exercise is less controversial in states where the helmsmen are part of the President’s team, but problematic in areas like the Southwest due to the inherent presidential interests of the stakeholders.
But political party analysts believe that while Tinubu’s influence in the party might have been reduced when compared to what was obtainable in 2014 during the pre-merger talks, the ruling party would be making a huge mistake thinking the former Lagos state governor and by extension the ACN bloc could be pushed out of the party without a fight.
Thus, if the brewing crisis is not managed, and the party allows Tinubu’s camp to pull out, it might be the beginning of the end for the APC in the Southwest.
Above all, analysts see the exercise from two angles. It will either make the APC to become stronger or destroy it, because of the crisis that might crop up as a result. But how the party intends to survive the self-inflicted crisis that’s already brewing is yet to be seen.