• Buni’s Revalidation Overpowers Opposition
When in June 2020, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) was created it was intended as an interim administration body.
According to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which established it, CECPC was to oversee the running of the party in the absence of the crisis ridden National Working Committee (NWC). The interim management body, led by incumbent Yobe State governor and immediate past National Secretary of the party, Mai-Mala Buni, was also expected to plan and organize a national convention to elect new members of the NWC.
It should be noted that the internal crisis that informed the dissolution of the NWC trailed the attempt to convoke the NEC meeting. Victor Giadom, serving as the acting national chairman, after the Court of Appeal upheld Oshiomhole’s suspension, summoned the NEC meeting. However, most of the NWC members decried what they called procedural breaches, stressing that not only was the NEC meeting wrongly convened, Giadom was also not competent to summon it.
But, speaking as the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed support for the meeting, even as he declared: “The law is on the side of Victor Giadom as Acting National Chairman.” At the meeting also, the President was said to have recommended dissolution of the NWC and the NEC endorsed that stance as a veritable way to stave off further crisis and put the party on the path of sanity and stability.
The NEC went ahead to set up a Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), which had Buni as chairman. Other members of the committee included Governor Abubakar Bello, Akpan Udoedehe (Secretary); Senator Ken Nnamani, Stella Okorete, James Lalu, Abubakar Yusuf, Akinyemi Olaide, David Leon, Abba Ari, Tahir Mamman and Ismail Ahmed.
Shortly after the committee was sworn in by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN; Buni noted that the meeting was a continuation of the last NEC, stressing, “So, we are in no way in any aberration regarding the party constitution.”
As the CECPC swung into action, two crucial governorship polls, namely in Edo and Ondo states, obviated its schedule as greater attention was devoted to streamlining issues surrounding the nomination processes, particularly settling rifts and grievances by aspirants and interest groups.
By the time the elections were won and lost, the original six months allocated to the committee to organise a national convention elapsed and there was therefore need for tenure elongation. Amid the politics of the constitutionality of extending the timeline of the interim management body, the committee through its Secretary, Udoedehe, summoned another NEC.
As was expected, the NEC meeting not only ratified the application for extension of time, but also agreed with its plan to raise a credible database, namely authentic membership register to serve as basis of its plan of action during the convention and subsequent considerations concerning the party structure, its strength and reward mechanisms.
But, while some party stalwarts accused the CECPC of harbouring a hidden agenda, including possible elimination of some members, the membership revalidation exercise took off effectively from February 12, 2021 at various wards across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Feelers From States
As the registration exercise progresses, mixed voices have continued to guage the feelings of members. While the exercise ran into some tense and worrisome moments in some states, especially Delta and Kwara, some party chieftains, including the pioneer interim national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and immediate past chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, declared that the exercise was sheer waste of time and had no place in the party’s constitution.
But, while the chieftains registered their observations, there was no instance of any abstention as members continued to make themselves available for the accreditation and revalidation. From Abia State, a foremost member of opposition and party chieftain, High Chief Ikechi Emenike, said the membership registration and revalidation exercise would ensure genuine reconciliation in the party.
Emenike spoke to journalists shortly after renewing his membership at his Okpuala Umukabia country home in Umuahia North LGA, yesterday, by Ambassador Bala Mohammed Mairiga-led Revalidation Team for Abia.
He regretted that APC’s poor performance in previous elections, stressing that the internal contradictions and parochial interests undermined the party’s expected victory.
Apart from enrolling many new members, Emenike said the revalidation exercise recommended by the CECPC comes as the best way to unite and reconcile members, who were divided by quest for party offices and 2019 governorship ticket in the state.
Recalling how APC won the presidential poll only to lose the governorship in Abia State, Emenike, said the most popular candidate was not nominated due to various schemes that worked against the party.
It would be recalled that litigations amid allegations of manipulation and use of strange delegates trailed the conduct of Abia State APC governorship primary, which threw up Dr. Uche Ogah as standard-bearer.
He stated: “This exercise now affords Abia APC an opportunity for a fresh start after suffering political misfortunes due to internal contradictions and other conniving factors against the party.
“We Abians should use this ongoing membership re-validation and re-registration exercise opportunity to demonstrate our acceptance of APC and firm support to the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Let us put aside our differences and work for the interest of APC. With our large numerical membership, the party would be able to change the falsèhood that the party is not popular in Abia.”
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the Re-validation Team, Mairiga, explained that their assignment in the state was to register new members and re-validate existing ones, even as he expressed optimism that with the expected mass turn out for the exercise, APC would thereafter be in position to wrestle power from the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state come 2023.
Mairiga said that it is only with massive membership registration that the party would rise above its present status as an opposition party in Abia, adding that his team would also visit all Abia APC chieftains in the state to solicit their support for massive mobilization and registration of members in the state.
While pleading with party chieftains to sink their differences and embrace reconciliation, Mairiga said: “I urge party stakeholders to come together at a round table and iron out their differences. I also implore Chief Emenike to dispose positively to this reconciliation.
“Stakeholders in Abia APC should sink their differences, come together, reconcile and re-unite to ensure they form a formidable force that can attract more people into the party instead of dis-integrating it.
“I also urge party stakeholders to come together at a round table and iron out their differences with one another I implore Chief Emenike to dispose positively to this reconciliation.”
He declared that sabotaging the party will not help Abia people at state and national levels, indicating that after the exercise, there will be a national convention.
“With the caliber of party senior chieftains like Emenike and other stalwarts in Abia APC, the party should have no reason to play second fiddle in the state,” he noted.
In Anambra, a frontline governorship hopeful, Sir Azuka Okwuosa, praised the Buni committee for embarking on the exercise, stressing that membership revalidation and re-registration would usher in internal democracy, which has eluded Nigerian political parties for a longtime.
Speaking to journalists shortly after regularizing his membership at Ekwusigo Local Government Area of the state, the governorship aspirant expressed delight that at the end of the exercise APC would truly belong to the people.
Okwuosa noted that the challenges facing Nigeria democracy were made worse by the way political parties were run, stressing that election rigging became the order of the day as the governing National Party of Nigeria (NPN) sold political impunity.
“It is the duty of the ruling party to show the path in a democracy. When NPN rigged out Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), politicians of that era began to work out ways to rig and control the party machinery.
“As someone who has been involved in political party organization, I know that imposition that begets rigging and creates all electoral hazards for the electoral umpire. You can only understand the import of what APC is doing if you look back at our party system in the past 21 years. I commend Governor Buni and his colleagues in the interim management committee,” Okwuosa stated.
He contended that the exercise aligns with plans by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use electronic voting during the forthcoming Anambra State governorship poll, stressing: “In a way you could say that APC is equipping its members for electronic voting, because what this means is that by updating the membership register, the party is rekindling public confidence and ownership of the democratic processes.
“Although the party has not decided whether the governorship primary would be by direct or indirect method, but whichever way it goes, the choice of the people would reign supreme. Whoever is not comfortable with the membership registration should see the long-term benefits to internal party democracy.”
But, while Okwuosa was upbeat about the benefits of the revalidation exercise, the party’s caretaker chairman in the state, Chief Basil Ejidike, said about N200million was needed to effectively carry out and conclude the exercise in the state.
Ejidike told journalists in the state that despite the N40million from Governors David Umahi of Ebonyi State and Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, the party still needed much to execute the exercise in the state, adding that the party would hold a stakeholders meeting to strategize on how to raise more funds for the registration. He maintained that the registration and revalidation is critical to Anambra State, perhaps on account of the November 6 governorship election.
His words: “For the party to have successful and seamless registration and revalidation exercise in Anambra State, the party needs N180 and N200million to effectively conduct its registration and revalidation. We still need more money from our stakeholders to meet our target of moblising people for registration.
“To show our commitment, the state chapter has distributed N50, 000 to each of the 326 wards and N100, 000 to each of the 21 local government of the state. Out of the N40 million received from the two governors, we have distributed the fund to wards, units and committee level for the registration.”
THE exercise was disrupted in Delta State, where the Deputy President Senate, Ovie A. Omo-Agege and Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo SAN, flexed political muscles over who presides over the process. The CECPC had to put the process on hold in Delta.