In this report, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH delves into the controversy surrounding the ongoing registration and validation exercise conducted by the governing APC which was extended recently.
When photographs of Lt. Gen. Oyeabo Azubike Ihejirika (rtd), former Chief of Army Staff and a Southeasterner, with Yobe State governor and chairman of the All Progressives Congress Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, surfaced on the pages of newspapers, keen observers were cautious in arriving at the conclusion that the former army chief had joined the governing party. His background as one who hails from a geopolitical zone where the party has little presence forbade even the most informed pundits to interpret that it was so.
The conviction that the former top military brass was perfecting his membership of APC was made doubly sure after reading the photo captions in some of the national dailies. Besides, the defection of Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, a serving governor, from the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the ruling APC also came to mind. It was there and then that analysts juggled with the likelihood of APC rapidly gaining acceptance in the South East geopolitical zone.
About nine months ago, there were clear indications that the party was tottering towards the precipice. Following unresolved internal wrangling, disaffection, maladministration, high handedness and the plethora of litigations among other things, the APC was dangling loosely on the verge of disintegration. It continued like that until the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided to dissolve the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC), a decision that was greeted with mixed reactions.
Party faithful were divided over the dissolution and the constitution of a caretaker committee under the leadership of Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni.
But nine months into the administration of the Buni committee, the question yawning for answers on the lips of close watchers is: has the party rescued itself from the imminent threat of collapse, disintegration and dissolution? Keen observers of the goings-on in the party may not hesitate to answer in the affirmative. Buni’s declaration of true and genuine reconciliation among members was indeed the expected panacea to commence the arduous task of wriggling the party out of the woods. The sincerity or otherwise of that statement was to decide and determine the fate and recovery of the party.
There is a congruence of opinion within the party that the APC national secretariat is alive just as those at the state chapters, even as life has been injected into the party. The thinking that the return of many prominent politicians who had earlier left the party is an indicator of true reconciliation going on within the party, thereby attracting both old and new members to its fold.
The reconciliation of the Zamfara State factions is a case in point. But when the Buni-led caretaker committee entered into the laboratory of the disputation, not a few party members agreed that it was a game changer. They said the committee succeeded in bringing the feuding party big wigs together within its 9-month-old tenure.
Now, the return of prominent politicians to the APC, including former PDP chairman Chief Barnabas Gemade; two former Speakers of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole and Yakubu Dogara, among others; as well as putting an end to the internal scuffle in the state chapters like Rivers, Cross River and Bayelsa in the South-South are also said to be testaments to the growing fortunes of the party in the South-South.
After the reconciliation came the membership registration and revalidation exercise. Just like the emergence of the Caretaker/Extraordinary convention committee, the membership registration exercise was also received with mixed feelings. While to many the exercise was an opportunity to be a fully and officially recognized member of the party, the other school of thought opined that it was uncalled for and a waste of scarce resources.
Buni, the caretaker committee chairman, argued however that the registration and revalidation exercise which is in accordance to article 9 (4) of the party constitution was important, necessary and imperative to establish the numerical strength of the party, expunge names of those who had left the party, include new entrants, including defectors and youths who, after attaining 18 years of age, had joined the party. The chairman explained that the new register would assist the party for planning purposes.
The reasons given by Buni seemed to have convinced those skeptical about the exercise. Prominent stakeholders, including founding members who initially questioned legality of the exercise actively participated and mobilized their supporters to register and revalidate their membership with the party.
The initial three weeks scheduled for the registration and revalidation exercise became grossly inadequate owing to the swelling membership of the party. The need to extend the exercise became obvious, necessary and incontestable. The registration exercise also came with its unique challenges. There were those who felt threatened by the coming of influential politicians from the PDP to the party fold and subsequently attempted to lock them out by deliberately creating obstacles to prevent the new entrants from being registered.
Attempts to hijack the exercise were reported in many states all in the attempt to take control of the party leadership. The party’s decisive measures to check such excesses, including extension of time became necessary to ensure no party member was disenfranchised, locked out or denied registration as a member.
Historical perspective of membership registration and revalidation exercise of political parties in Nigeria showed that the exercise had always been marred by selfishness and extermination of members to take charge of the party affairs at ward, local government, state and national levels. An instance was the case of PDP where the then sitting Vice President Atiku Abubakar was denied registration in his home state of Adamawa when the influential ‘link man’, Prof. Jibrin Aminu, was in charge of the affairs of the party. The party had to register Atiku at the presidential villa in Abuja instead of his ward as provided by the party’s constitution.
Learning from history, the steps taken by APC to avoid the pitfalls in PDP appears a good decision towards perfecting the exercise. The APC membership registration and revalidation which commenced in February this year was extended twice based on what the party described as popular demand arising from both foreseen and unforeseen reasons.
Secretary of the party’s caretaker committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, advanced reasons for the extension when he said, the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (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.”
Similarly, the submission and demand made by the Governor Abubakar Sani Bello-led National Registration and Revalidation committee for extension of time, which was backed by the Forum of APC state chairmen and other stakeholders, justified the extension.
Alhaji Abba Dalori, chairman APC Borno State and chairman Forum of APC state chairmen, said the party recorded huge turnout of both new and old members for the registration exercise which snowballed the numerical strength of the party. These calls, he noted, made it necessary for the party to extend the registration period for a successful conclusion of the exercise to pave way for a very successful election victory.
Some party faithful believe that the massive defections into the APC as witnessed in the registration and revalidation exercise could be translated to mean a vote of confidence passed on the party by Nigerians. With the extension of the time frame for the registration exercise, the party is hoping that over 80 per cent of the party members would be captured to prepare the party to face any election with a strong and united army of electorate.
APC has in the last nine months substantially healed itself through mass reconciliation, repositioned itself through the membership registration and revalidation exercise, and passed a vote of confidence on itself. Political analysts say it would be safe to say the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee has also justified the confidence the party reposed on it.