- APC membership registration exercise: Still a cat and mouse game
The All Progressives Congress (APC) membership revalidation exercise has slipped into crises and rancour in some state chapters of the party. In this report, New Telegraph correspondents x-ray the tussle among the different power blocs and chieftains at the state level ahead of the 2023 general election
When President Muhammadu Buhari kicked off the membership registration and revalidation exercise of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), lastweek, inhishometown, Daura in Katsina State, he must have envisaged that the exercise would be seamless in almost every of its state chapters and produce a credible party register for the ruling party. Accompaniedbytenstategovernors of the party and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal, the President, who is the leader of the ruling party, charged current and potential members of the APCtoparticipateandownedtheparty at the grassroots. “No more crowning from Abuja downward.
Let the people know this andappreciateitthattheyareincharge of their constituencies and they are in charge of the party,” President Buhari said. His admonition, notwithstanding, the first week of the revalidation exercise has largely produced divisions, crises and brawl in a number of state chapters including APC governed states, thereby bringing to the fore the necessity or otherwise of the exercise ahead of the next rounds of election. Of course, the high stake is understandable.
The revalidation exercise precedes the real game of politicking. The process gives an advantage to any caucus that has more members in the nomination of candidates before and during the main election depending on the procedures to be adopted – direct or indirect primary elections.
Thus, it is in their best political interest to have their loyal members register in the exercise. Explaining, earlier, the rationale behind the exercise, APC’s Chairman Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, said fresh membership register for the party will nip recurring conflict among the ranks of the party in the bud.
According to him, “Since the 2014 post-merger membership registration and the inconclusive registration updates of 2017, our party has not been able to produce a comprehensive membership register,”
“In our interactions with stakeholders across the country, the need to update and standardise our membership registration has become a recurring decimal. In all cases, our membership register does not currently reflect these changes.
This laxity and the challenging consequences have brought into focus the imperative for our party to immediately embark on this exercise,” he said.
Formed in February 2013 from a merger of Nigeria’s four largest opposition parties-the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP – a faction of then ruling People’s Democratic Party. Upon its radical and popular status, the party defeated the then ruling party in the 2015 general elections with Buhari as its presidential flag bearer.
It did double on the PDP in 2019 with Buhari returning for a second term after a keenly contested poll.
Akande’s flak on exercise
The pioneerInterimNationalChairmanof the APC, Chief BisiAkande, upset the apple cart last Wednesday when he described the decision of the Mala Buni-led National Caretaker Committee to embark on a fresh membership registration as an aberration.
Akande made this assertion while receiving in audience members of the Governor Abubakar Bello-led APC Membership Registration/Revalidation team at his country home in Ila, Orangun, in Osun State. Akande said, “No population census isrepeatedwithin less than a decade and votersarenotre-registered at every election.
“Withinthiscontext, I seethepresent APC membership registration within less than a decade after the original register as an indefensible aberration leading to certain ugly perceptions.”
According to the former Governor of Osun State, “The first major perception is that APC, already having a wellcomputerizedregisterforanaverage100 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 andunappreciativeof theproperuseof 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 opined.
Buni fires back
In apparent response to concerns raised by Akande, Mala Buni, the Chairman Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the APC, said the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise was in line with the dictates of the party’s constitution.
In a statement titled, “Gov. Buni restates commitment to reconciliation and membership registration,” the Yobe state Governor explained that the exercise was a constitutional provision which was part of the strategic measures taken by his committee to give existing and new members a sense of belonging. He said, “Since the initial exercise in 2014, the party has not registered new members nor updated the personal information of our existing members as provided for by the constitution.
“The registration exercise gives our new members a sense of belonging and the existing members will update their information while those who left the party will have their names removed from the party register.”
The crisis rocking the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not start with the ongoing registration and revalidation of membership.
The crisis is quite heated that it has consumed the party’s pioneer Caretaker Chairman, Hon. Bashir Omolaja Bolarinwa (BOB), whose removal in the power play in the state was said to have been sanctioned by the National Caretaker Committee of the ruling party.
Bolarinwa was replaced by his erstwhile deputy, Alhaji Abdullahi Sanmari. While BOB is loyal to the Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the new Caretaker Chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Sanmari, is an ardent supporter of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. It has therefore been a battle of the Titans for the soul of the partyin the state byLaiMohammed’s camp and that of Governor Abdul- Rahman AbdulRazaq.
Of course, political analysts opine that the development is not unconnected to the 2023 elections and the Governor’s second term bid, though the Governor is yet to throw his hat into the ring.
Fast forward to the free-for-all that occurred at the revalidation exercise last week, stakeholders in the chapter said to have met at the banquet hall of the GovernmentHouseinIlorin, theKwaracapital, to chart the way forward for the party.
The meeting, which was said to have been convened by the John Adonoi-led national revalidation/registration membership committee, however, ended in chaos as members of both factions engaged in a free-for-all. In a viral video, people, suspected to be membersof thedifferentfactionswereseen throwing chairs and various objects at one another, forcingthemeetingtoendabruptly.
It was also gathered that clash started aftersupporters of GovernorAbdulRazaq stopped Bolarinwa and his supporters from entering the Banquet Hall for the meeting.
Subsequent viral video showed some supporters of Bolarinwa with injuries while the vehicle of one of them was said to have been damaged.
All eyes appear to be on the APC in the Centreof Excellencestatefollowingamyriad of conspiracy theories that had trailed the state chapter especially as it concerns the grip of the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on the party in the state.
In one breath, it is implied that Tinubu, who is the national leader of the party, is a target and that the ongoing exercise was deliberately designed to whittle down his influence in the party ahead of the 2023 card; in another, it was posited that there areinternalmovestoendhisdominancein the state and this has the support of some strong individuals in the south-west.
The drivers of some of these conjectures averred that the national leader sits on the party’s register and structure in the stateandthatwaswhyaformersittinggovernor was denied a second term. Whilst some of these assumptions against Tinubu and the influence he wields are not freshinthemselves, thebodylanguageof some of thealliesof theformergovernorappearsto begivingteethtosomeof theseinferencesand theradicalchangesintroducedbytheBuni-led CaretakerCommittee.
Few days to the kick-off of the exercise, one of Tinubu’s ally and lawmaker representing Ikeja federal constituency, Hon. James Faleke, wrote to the national leadership of the party to fault the timing of its nationwide membership registration/ revalidation exercise.
Faleke stated that such an exercise should not have been scheduled to hold at a time when Nigeria is recording a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and safety protocols have been issued and are being enforced, adding that the exercise might be counterproductive for the APC if the party goes ahead with the process.
“We are the ruling party and we must be in the forefront of promoting the welfare of our people, pushing this exercise forward will rather add to our popularity rather than reducing it. We can afford to do this because we presently don’t have any particular election to deal with.”
Aside from this, the speed at which a groupled byled bya former vice-chairman of the party, Fouad Oki, is challenging the leadershipof theinterimchairman, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, is perhaps another move to weaken Tinubu’s hold on Lagos APC.
ButdousingtensionaboutTinubuoranyonebeingthetargetof theexercise, theCommittee Chairman of the APC Membership Registration in Lagos State, Dr. Mohammed Bashir, said the party takes the state chapter very seriously and it has no reason to fail becauseof therolethestate playedinthe merger of the party.
Addressing stakeholders at the party’s secretariat, he said the seven-man team would ensure that everyone who is genuinely interested in joining the party is welcomed and given a membership card, while old members would be revalidated.
“This is not the period for egoism or interest clash but the period to mobilise members for our great party. This is the period to show that you have the interest of the APC at heart. This is not an election, it is a registration of membersanditshouldnotbeseen as a do-or-die affair.”
With the formal registration andrevalidationscheduledtocommence tomorrow, February 9, it is left to be seen how the Tinubu camp and those opposedtoitwillfareattheendof theexercise.
For stakeholders of the Ogun State chapter of the APC, development around registration andmembershiprevalidation exercise is a major cause for concern.
Although the exercise is yet to kick-off in the state, but Governor Dapo Abiodun had last Tuesday met with party leaders in the state and members of the registration committee from the National Working Committee (NWC).
TherearethreegroupsintheStateAPC, but the governor Abiodun’s group is currently in control of the party’s structure whichproducedtheparty’scaretakercommittee, led by Yemi Sanusi.
The other groups in the party is that of former governors Olusegun Osoba and Ibikunle Amosun. There are speculations thatmembersof somegroupsintheparty would be excluded from the exercise.
Loyalists of Osoba had accused the party’s Caretaker Committee of allegedly tampering with the harmonised committee list of the party in the State ahead of the exercise. The Osoba group in a protest letter, dated Monday, January 11 and jointly signed by 40 leaders, accused the Sanusi-led caretaker committee of “unjustly upturning the collective decision of the majority”.
Addressing the concerns, Governor Abiodun assured that no member of the party in the State will be exempted from participating in the registration and membership revalidation exercise.
The Governor who spoke through his Senior Special Adviser on Political Matters, Tunji Egbetokunalsoassuredallmembers of the party of fairness and equity, saying that the exercise would soon commence across the state.
Abiodun said there was no iota of truth in the rumour making the rounds that some party members would be exempted from the exercise, insisting
“Nobodywill be disallowedto participate in the exercise that is about to start. “We have been expecting the registrationforawhile now, therewasatime itwas postponed, I will tell you that even if it had happenedthen, wewerereadyandnowwe are very ready.
“How can anyone say they have been marginalised when the exercise has not even started? They are just speculating. I am not sure anybody will want to marginalise anyone not to register, it is good for us to have a large number of members of our party.
Why would we marginalise anybody? Because it is this that will translateintothevictorywewillbehavingcome 2023. You don’t know who will be with you, you don’t know who will not, why will you start from now to marginalise anybody, it is only speculation”, he said.
The Chairman of the Registration Exercise committee in the State, Hon. Ademorin Kuye, said the committee was fully ready for the exercise. “We have just finished the training of ourlocalgovernmentagentsfortheparty and from what we have seen and from their responses and question, we can feel the eagerness to go work for the party, we canfeeltheirsenseof loyaltyandcommitment to this project”, he said.
Kuye said, “Those who are yet to get their voter’s card can also register as members of the party as the electoral body has promised to commence the continuousvoters’registrationexercise”.
“The party is open to all; this is one party wewanttobuild intoamerger party, having the status of ANCin South Africa.
For now, it is still the biggest party in Nigeria and we want it to be bigger than it is presently and that is why we are opening doorsfortheyoungmenandwomenwho have come of age now to join us. “Iamcallingonalltheyoungmenwho werepartof thestruggletohaveachange in the country to come into the party now and try to effect that change constitutionally,” Kuye submitted.
Regardless of the assurances and denials, theOgunAPCrevalidationandregistration exercise is on tenterhooks. What and how the outcome will be is surely in the belly of time.
In Rivers State, the festering crisis within the party is expected to deepen further withtheongoing registration and revalidation exercise of the ruling party. As it stands, there are two known faction fightingtocontrolthesoulof theparty, the ChibukeAmaechi, Ministerof Transport faction and the Senator Magnus Abe faction.
But there is a new emerging faction in the state. This new faction is controlled by Dakuku Peterside, former director-general, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) because of his interest in becoming the next governor of the state in 2023.
Peterside is still loyal to Amaechi but it is believed in many quarters in the state that the former Rivers governor might prefer another candidateaheadof him. Asaresult, theformer MD of NIMASA is said to be building his
support base in preparation for the general elections. Many observers believed that the party’s registration and revalidation exercise would not resolve the endemic crisis in Rivers APC.
The crisis in the party began in 2015, when the two factions emerged following Abe’s interest to fly the party’s flag in the 2015 and 2019 elections, which Amaechi opposed.
Another hotbed in the ruling APC registration and revalidation exercise that many political watchers are expecting fireworks in Imo State.
For many political analysts, thisexercisemaybethefinalnail to end the crisis in the state chapter of the party. The state is already embattled over moves by Governor Hope Uzodinma of the state desire to install his cronies in the party hierarchy.
But his intentions are being challenged with the seemingly strong foundation laid in the party by Senator Rochas Okorocha, former governor of the state.
Apart from Governor Uzodinma and Okorocha, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume has emerged as a third force in APC in the state. Withhis grassroots influence in the state, the fearinUzodinmaandOkorochacampisthat Araraumehasthefinancialpowertocontrol the partyin the state.
The probable fearinthe campof UzodinmaandOkorochainformed thereasonwhytheformergovernorinsisted in2018thathewouldneverallowAraraume toflytheflagof thepartyduringthe2019general election.
And the reason why APC hierarchy in the state has blatantly insisted that Chukwuma Francis Ibezim would represent Imo North Senatorial District despite allegation of certificate before the court. As expected, the Supreme Court on Friday, February 5, ruled that Ibezim is the candidateof thepartyfortheDecember5senatorial by-election.
Since the defection of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State from the Peoples DemocraticParty(PDP) totheAllProgressives Congress (APC), the party in the state has been facing crisis.
Though the national body of the ruling party had handed the partystructureto Umahiandhesucceeded in installing some of his foot soldiers that moved with him to APC in the state executives but other chieftains dislodged by the governor’s defection are not happy with the party.
Some of them like Ogbonnaya Onu, minister of science and technology and Egwu Chima, a former commissioner for information and state orientation in the state would be using the registration and revalidation exercise to reclaim the structure of the party from the governor.
Already some APC groups in the state under the aegis of 2019 APC House of Assembly Aspirants and APC Stakeholders Forum, havepetitionedGovernorMaiMala Buni of Yobe State and chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, tosuspendthe ongoing registration and revalidation exercise in the state.
The group in the petition on Thursday, February 4, also rejected the appointment of non members of the party, as registrationcommitteemembers, coordinatorsand supervisors in the Onicha Local Government Area.
“Excellency Mr Chairman, we write on behalf of theconcernedOld/OriginalMembers, Concerned Stakeholders, LGA and Ward Executives of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Onicha LGA to call on you to directfortheimmediatepostponementof the Membership Registration/Revalidation Exercise in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
“Thatwerejecttheappointment of NON-APCMEMBERSasRegistration Committee Members/Coordinator/ Supervisors in Onicha LGA, her Wardsand Pooling Units.
That using people who are not officially registered APC members for the Membership Registration/ Revalidation Exercise of the party in OnichaLGAwillamounttonullity.
“That on no account should the leadership of our dear party the APC allow Non Card Carrying Members of the Party to be saddled with theresponsibilityof eitherrevalidating the membership of old members or registering new members as any action or duty assigned to and/or performed by them remains a void act and an illegality, which may hurt or affect the future fortunes of the party both in Onicha LGA and Ebonyi State in general.
Anambra State is another interesting ground for APC astheregistrationand revalidationexercisecontinuesacrossthecountry as the state prepares for governorship election in November. There are many power blocs that are interested in control the party structureinthestate.
Forinstance, peoplelike ChrisNgige, Ministerof LabourandEmployment, GeorgeMoghalu, managingdirectorof the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), SenatorAndy Uba, Maxwell Okoye, PresidentMuhammadu Buhari’sSoutheast PresidentialCommitteeDirectoronPolitical matters, andTonyNwoyeareallpower blocs that are interested in the governorship race. As expected, some groups within the party in the state have rejected the composition of the registration committee on the groundsthatitispoisedtofavouraparticular group ahead of others. APC youths in thestateundertheumbrellaof APCYoung ProgressivesForumhave publicly rejected theseven-man committee inauguratedfor the registration and revalidation exercise.
CandoPascal, coordinatorof thegroup, saidtheyhadno confidencein thecommittee especially as some of the names nominated to supervise the exercise in the state bytheNationalWorking Committeeof the party would not be fair to party members. Specifically, thegroupopposedthenomination of Maria Olabisi Idaomi as the secretary of the committee. “It is on record that she supervised the worst primary in the history of APC in Anambra State in 2019. Anyone bringing her to Anambra State to come and supervise party registration and revalidation exercise does not mean well for the party. She was the leader of the team that came to Anambra Statein2019andconductedtheworst primary in our state. “Theregistrationexerciseisnot a problem. The bigger problems we are facing and we are going to face are the process leading to the registration and the outcome. We call on the leadership of the party to change this committee andbring anindependentandunbiasedone.”
As the leader of the party in Ondo State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu was the first to revalidate his membership in the party last week. The exercise was done alongside his wife, Betty Anyanwu- Akeredolu at the governor’s hometown of Owo, headquarters of Owo Local Government Area of the state last Thursday. With the revalidation done at his Ijebu 2 ward 5, polling unit 6, Akeredolu urged members and leaders of the party to bring more members into the APC, adding that only quality people must be attracted to the party. HealsodeclaredthattheAPChascome to stay in Ondo State, stressing that it is the only partythat’s popularamong thepeople of the state. The Governor said, “I know some of us have registeredbefore, I have registeredbefore too and that’s why I can contest under the party. “We are here to revalidate our membership. If you haven’t registered before, do it afresh. Bring your passport size photograph. We are here for revalidation and registration. Earlier at a stakeholders’ meeting of the party, where the party’s membership registration and revalidation committee meet with leaders of the party in the state, Akeredolu had urged members and leaders of the party not to beg anyone to join the party. According Akeredolu who spoke on Monday in Akure, the state capital, only those who will be financially committed to the party should be allowed to register as members. While receiving members of the Murphy Lawal-led committee that will oversee the exercise from the National Secretariat of the party, Akeredolu emphasized that being a financial member of the party gives one a sense of belonging. Akeredolu who expressed optimism that the exercise will be hitch-free, advised the party’s leadership to see to the workability of online registration for members during the next exercise. “I pray that we do this one better. Maybe after thisphysicalregistration, we cannow register online.There’s no basis to register people who will not be committed to the party through financial contributions.If youcannotpay duesintotheparty don’tjoin our party. If you’re a financial member of the party, you’ll have the same rights with those who pay their dues. “I want to beg all of us, let us be concerned about quality and not quantity. Lure people who can contribute meaningfully into the party and go after people with APC’sinterest. Atimewillcomewhenyou’ll not be able to run the party if you refuse to paymembershipdues. Don’t force people to join you, let them join the party willingly.” Speaking at the meeting, the Secretary of the Committee, Taiwo Olatubosun disclosed that all the materials needed for the exercise had been received and intact. Onhispart, theCaretakerChairmanof the partyin the state, Ade Adetimehin who statedthattheexercisewillfurtherstrength theparty, disclosed thattheexerciseisgoing on smoothly across the state. “The exercise is going on smoothly. The seven-mancommitteearrivedinOndoState on Sunday. Ever since then, they have hit the ground running. They held a stakeholders’ meeting as well as training of the trainers. They’ve completed the assignment.”
In Delta State, the registration and revalidation exercise is yet to commence, no thanks to the festering supremacy battle between the supporters of the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, supported by the state Chairman of the party, Prophet Jones Ode Erue and 2019 governorship candidate of the party in the state, Chief Great Ogboru.
Ogboruhascontestedthepositionunder different political platforms, including the defunct Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and Labour Party, before defecting to APC, but failed.
Themeeting thattookplace lastWednesday for the leadership and stakeholders to brainstorm on the way forward towards the registration and revalidation exercise, reportedly ended in a fiasco.
A supporter of Ogboru, Hon Patrick Nwandiame, wasmanhandledattheparty secretariat in Asaba, allegedly, by loyalists of Omo-Agege.
Althoug, the Publicity Secretary (Caretaker) in the state, Sylvester Imonina, said the meeting was devoid of any scintilla of acrimony and described the report as “a hotchpotch of lie”, adding that, “APC in the state is bedeviled by a handful of disgruntled elements who do not mean well for the party.”
Imonina noted further that, “The party is aware that certain person (referring to Ogboru’s faction) whose stock in trade is ‘if it is not me, nothing good must come out of Delta APC’ is the brain behind this latest media war to paint black, the person of the Deputy President of the Senate and theStateChairman. Godwillnotallowhim and his co-travellers to succeed because their intentions for the party is evil.”
While Imonina called on the national leadership, party faithful and members of the public to consign crisis news in the partyintothedustbintoputtheenemiesof thepartyinthestatetoshame, Omo-Agege is seriously wooing decamping PDP members to register under APC even as AniochaSouthand fiveother councilareas have been enmeshed in leadership crisis.
• Reports by Wale Elegbede, Anayo Ezugwu, Olufemi Adediran (Ogun), Stephen Olufemi Oni (Kwara), Dominic Adewole (Delta), Adewale Momoh (Akure)