APC’s Avoidable Distraction By Buni Caretaker Committee

NOT being a legal mind, I am in no position to pronounce meaningfully on the validity of the poser raised by erstwhile National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as regards the legality of the party’s ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise though his argument sounds logical. Explaining that he only participated in the exercise in the interest of peace in the party, Oshiomhole declared after revalidating his membership at his ward in Edo state that “There is nothing in the APC constitution that says a member shall revalidate his membership. Once you registered when you joined the party and you have not decamped, you are a member. So, revalidation is strange to our constitution”.

Oshiomhole made a distinction between revalidation of membership as directed by the National Caretaker committee and update or review of the register as provided for in the party’s constitution. While stressing that it makes eminent sense to periodically update the membership register due to the new members that have joined and those that had exited the party, Oshiomhole noted that the APC had been doing that from time to time pointing out that “most of the governors under the party today became members following membership register update, hence they were able to contest governorship elections under the party”.

The APC constitution provides for an update of the membership register every six months. What does this mean? It certainly cannot be that every member goes back to their wards to revalidate their membership every six months. The logistical implications would be daunting. Rather, entry and registration of new members is supposed to be a routine exercise at the ward level just as names of former members are supposed to be struck off the register as soon as they quit the party. Updated membership registers will then be forwarded periodically, every six months, from the ward to the Local Government Area, State, and National executives of the party.

There is absolutely no complication as to how to become a member of the party. Article 9 subsection ii of the APC constitution states: “Application for membership shall be made to and cleared by the Ward Executives of the party in the Ward of the Local Government Area where the person was born, resides, works or originates. On-line registration shall also be acceptable provided that it is cleared by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Party”. Subsection iv of Article 9 provides that “Upon enrolment, every member shall pay the prescribed fees and shall be issued a Membership Card and a Dues Card”.

The ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise of the APC is not a carefully conceptualized, planned and organized event. Rather, it is a function of the arbitrary, abrupt and legally questionable dissolution of the immediate past National Working Committee by ambitious elements determined to take over the party structure with future elections in mind. Thus, the party finds itself saddled with an unanticipated and unplanned National Convention scheduled for June. It is obviously the intra-party politics of the forthcoming convention that has informed the membership registration and revalidation exercise at a time that is most incongruous and inappropriate.

Since the commencement of the exercise, for example, elective office holders of the APC at all levels have been trooping to their wards to revalidate their membership. These are not normal times in Nigeria. Kidnappings, banditry, rape, communal and ethnic clashes, herdsmen criminality and other assorted forms of violence destroy lives on a daily basis across the country. The National Executive of the ruling party or its elective and appointive public office holders should not at this time be preoccupied with membership registration/revalidation exercise or planning an unscheduled National Convention in June, which will inevitably be distracting for governance across the country as intra-party factions and tendencies in various states scheme and battle for the control of party structures. Rather, all hands should be on deck to ensure adequate response by government, through efficient policies and focused governance, to the grave existential challenges of the moment.

Commenting on the membership registration and revalidation exercise, the former interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, said: “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 that the APC leadership might be wasteful of the proper use of money in a kind of economy in which Nigeria now finds itself”. Chief Akande’s words can best be appreciated against the background of the industry, organization and indeed substantial resources that went into the first membership registration exercise of the APC in 2014. A news report widely published in the media on February 5, 2014, stated, “The All Progressives Congress (APC) has deployed personnel and materials to all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja for the take off of its membership registration which begins today. Special Assistant to the interim national secretary of the party, Abdullahi Gashua, stated that the exercise will take place in all INEC designated polling units in the country, adding that the party has sent a chairman and secretary to each state and the FCT except Anambra to oversee the exercise. He added that depending on the peculiarities of some places and other considerations, a more suitable place will be provided for people as an alternative to the designated polling units”.

The report continued, “Gashua said that the exercise had already taken place in Anambra state before the election that took place in the state some months ago. He therefore said Anambra has been exempted from the current exercise as a result of the registration for the last election. He said the party is targeting as many members as possible not the 12 million earlier targeted for congresses and conventions as stated by the party before. The APC membership registration exercise will end on February 10th, 2014”.

The APC membership registration exercise in 2014 was no fluke. It was an elaborate and meticulously planned and managed exercise. Indeed, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was at the time reeling from intra-party crises caused by its carrying out the kind of membership registration and revalidation exercise that the APC is currently undertaking, was sufficiently disturbed by the success of the APC exercise. Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor of Vanguard newspaper, in a feature article titled “APC’s membership registration: Is PDP unsettled?” published on February 10, 2014, quoted the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, thus: “The APC is sadly and currently using every foul means at its disposal to build a particular membership figure, running into tens of millions, which it intends to use as a justification to fault, dispute, reject and subsequently take to violence when it loses the 2015 general elections”, Metuh told newsmen on Friday.

According to Aziken’s report, “Metuh also noted other alleged infringements of the APC in its ongoing membership registration exercise, including allegations of the use of structures of the INEC, deliberate misinformation of the citizenry of the purposes of the registration and compulsion of unwilling persons in states controlled by the APC to partake in the registration exercise. Traders and okada riders according to critics of the APC have been compelled to register for the APC. But beyond hearsay, no evidence of such compulsions has been produced”.

Continuing his report, Aziken wrote: “Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the interim national publicity secretary of the APC, however, quipped back in a telephone interview with Vanguard yesterday saying the PDP was clearly intimidated by the turnout for the registration by APC members. On Metuh’s allegation that the APC was deceiving the citizenry by using INEC polling centres as a way of luring unwary people to register with the party, Lai Mohammed said: “What we are witnessing today has never been seen in the history of Nigeria and we were very proactive and very creative in deciding to use INEC polling centres for the venues of our registration. Don’t forget that our party is made up of some parts of the PDP, the ANPP, CPC and ACN and if we had used any other venue apart from the polling booths it would have led to confusion. If you say ward, would it be the former ANPP ward, the former CPC ward or the former ACN ward? Secondly, we recognized that all politics is local and at the end of the day everybody reports at his polling booth. So why don’t you get registered in your polling booth?”

Although he raised questions about the internal democracy credentials of the legacy parties including the ACN in his report, Aziken noted that “The accusation and counter accusations nonetheless, the attempt by the APC in opening up registration is an innovation that even reformists in the PDP had in the past attempted to do but were shot down”.

It is unfortunate that ambitious elements in the APC are prepared to discredit and destroy the credibility of the 2014 membership registration exercise, which is an impressive, historic and commendable foundational legacy of the party and a testimony to organizational efficiency all for self-serving purposes. Is the ongoing party membership registration and revalidation exercise of the APC the wisest and best use of time, energy and money given the industry and considerable resources that went into the foundational registration exercise and the attempt to ensure a level playing ground in that exercise for all the legacy parties? That is the core of Chief Bisi Akande’s question and the answer, in my view, is an emphatic no. This exercise is an avoidable distraction particularly given the more urgent priorities of the moment

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