The latest extension of the All Progressives Congress (APC) membership registration and revalidation exercise for a second time is attracting controversies among stakeholders in the ruling party, especially with uncertainties around the pending national convention. ANAYO EZUGWU reports
When the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced the membership registration and revalidation exercise across the country, the idea was to recruit more members and unite the party ahead of the 2023 general elections. But rather than unite the party as expected, the exercise seems to be dividing members of the party across the states. The second extension of the membership registration and revalidation exercise by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee is attracting reactions from many quarters.
As a result, the committee seems to be struggling to convince the party faithful that the extension is in their interest. Some top shots and power brokers in the party are said to be uncomfortable with the development. But party officials say it is geared towards providing an opportunity for more Nigerians to register with the party.
There are allegations that some chieftains and leaders of the APC had tactically threatened the success of the exercise by allegedly hoarding materials and hijacking the process in some states in order to gain political capital. Politicians with 2023 ambition were said to be manipulating the exercise to their own advantage ahead of the next general polls, a move that has met stiff resistance with the extension of the exercise by the committee. Another school of thought is of the opinion that the party is using the extension to delay its forthcoming convention in June. They believed that the ruling party is waiting to see where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would zone its chairmanship.
The Buni-led committee was inaugurated on June 25, 2020, following the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC). The inauguration, however, gave hope to the party as it was mandated to reconcile all aggrieved members, embark on a membership drive and organise a national convention within six months. The committee’s timeline was, however, extended by the National Executive Committee (NEC) on December 8, 2020, by another six months, to enable it to accomplish its mandate. The party had, on February 22, 2021, extended the nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise to March 31, 2021. The first phase of the exercise was earlier scheduled to end on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
The latest extension came on April 1, when the Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party said it was pressured by members to extend the ongoing membership registration and revalidation for another 3 weeks. The secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe in a statement said the state APC chairmen and some youths had demanded the extension of the exercise. “The All Progressives Congress (APC) Membership Registration/ Revalidation and Update Exercise were scheduled to terminate on March 31st, 2021.
“The audit of the reports received from the National Membership Registration, Revalidation and Update Committee; the States’ Registration Committees; and that of our Situa-tion Room indicate as follows: Most states for varied reasons started late, and require additional time to conclude the exercise. As such, an avalanche of applications from critical stakeholders (including all States Caretaker Chairmen) seeks for an extension of time to capture Nigerians who are still desirous of joining the fold of the progressives.
“The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), under the leadership of Hon. Mai Mala Buni had done everything possible to keep to the earlier timeline. Consequently, the CECPC has approved the recommendation of the National Committee for the Membership Registration, Revalidation and Update to extend the duration of the exercise for three weeks. We have seen a tremendous turnout of Nigerians and the mass increase in the party strength in the last few months. And it is only proper that we allow the exercise to progress to the best of conclusion.” Despite the justification of the Buni-led caretaker committee, the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Lukman, has said that the extension was not in the best interest of the party.
He said the committee is afraid of organizing the national convention. Lukman said the development indicated that the party was being denied wider participation of its members in the decision-making process as was the case before the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led NEC in June last year.
He warned against tenure extension for the Buni-led committee. He called on the party to set up committees for the conduct of congresses and national convention without any further delay. He advised that the national convention of the party be conducted in June this year in line with the mandate of the caretaker panel.
“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 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. “Part of the indication is that most decisions taken by the caretaker committee were done by the chairman, Buni, and the Secretary, Senator James Akpanudoedehe.
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 inaccessible membership registers 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 is handled by a few delegates, it is almost logical that it will be a few delegates that will elect standardbearers of the party for elections,” he said. With the allegation of extending the tenure of the Buni-led committee, the Forum of APC State Chairmen has said that their appeal for the extension of the registration exercise has nothing to with the tenure of the committee. Chairman of the forum, Ali Buka-Dalori insisted that their resolve to call for an extension of the ongoing membership registra-tion, revalidation, and update exercise should not be mistaken for the endorsement of tenure elongation for the committee. Buka- Dalori described a report in some section of the media on the issue as not only fake but that which only exists in the imaginations of the authors and their sponsors.
“Our meeting deliberated on and unanimously agreed on the need for an extension of the ongoing membership registration, revalidation and update exercise and we are happy the CECPC promptly acceded to our pleas by granting a three-week extension to accommodate states requiring additional time to conclude the exercise and capture millions of Nigerians who are still desirous of joining the APC. “At no time during the meeting or in our briefing to media organisations after the meeting was anything related to tenure elongation deliberated on or mentioned.
The CECPC under the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni has truly surpassed its mandate to reposition and bring unity to the APC and we will continue to support all its efforts to ensure the completion of all the tasks assigned to the CECPC by the Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and further entrench the APC as a truly progressive political platform.” Apart from the reactions trailing the current extension of the exercise, party fateful like the pioneer Interim National Chairman of the party Chief Bisi Akande, had condemned the exercise from the onset. He had described the decision of the Buni-led committee to embark on a fresh membership registration as an aberration.
“No population census is repeated within less than a decade and voters are not re-registered at every election. Within this context, 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-computerized register for an average of 100 leaders of similar ideological orientation per each of the 120,000 polling units across Nigeria might be lacking comprehension and matrix of modern-day technology.
“The second major perception is that 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. These seeming ugly perceptions put into abeyance the applause of the national election successes that the original APC register enjoyed since its completion on 15th February 2014 and the over one billion Naira of 2014’s value than the original register cost when APC had no money of its own,” he said.
With many members of the party across the country still disenfranchised, many political watchers believe that the ruling party may still extend the exercise at the expiration of the latest period. How much this will overlap on the forthcoming convention is what is left to be seen.