The congresses would be the first of such gathering of party faithful across the country since the July 25, 2020, when the National Working Committee (NWC), led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was sacked and subsequently replaced with the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni.
The decision to embark on the congress, which would lead to the national convention, is a constitutional requirement put a proper party management structure in place. The Buni committee, it should be recalled, was accused of clandestine plots to remain in office till next year.
Although the date for the convention has not been decided or made public, the start of the congresses suggests that the committee is yielding to pressure to quit the stage.
Despite the fact that several APC state chapters like those of Nasarawa have opted to adopt the consensus method of selecting their officials, controversy about membership register in several other state chapters may prove a daunting challenge for the smooth conduct of the ward congresses.
ONE other area of concern as the ruling party begins the processes of putting back democratic leadership structures in place is the aspiration of many notable chieftains for the position of national chairman.
Although the party has not pronounced on zoning of the slot, Senators Tanko Al-Makura, Sani Mohammed Musa, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and Mohammed Bima Enagi from the north central geopolitical zone appear to be outstanding. This is just as former governors of Borno and Zamfara States, Ali Modu Sheriff and Alhaji Abdulazeez Yari, as well as Sunny Sylvester Moniedafe, have indicated interest to contest the exalted seat of the party.
A party chieftain, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, wondered why the Buni committee embarked on membership registration and revalidation exercise if it was not part of the ploy to checkmate the influence of some notable party leaders.
After the exercise, CECPC under Buni claimed that no fewer than 40million Nigerians registered as members of the party. Some party faithful said membership revalidation could turn out to be APC’s albatross, particularly going by recent developments in the party.
It would be recalled that the CECPC had to bend backward to accommodate extended registration in Kwara, Ogun, Rivers, Imo, Adamawa and Cross River States, following allegation of exclusion and segregation among party leaders in those states.
The allegation of exclusion is already taking its toll on the party in Kwara State, where supporters of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed are enmeshed in supremacy battles over the control of APC structure ahead of the 2023 poll.
For now, many loyalists of the Information Minister, who operate from a parallel secretariat in Ilorin, had been suspended from the party at the instance of the state chairman, Mr Abdullahi Samari Abubakar. Abubakar is on the side of the state governor.
Those affected include, Joseph Tsado, Bamidele Ogunbayo, Issa Fulani, Imam Abdulkadir, Morufu Olaniyi Yusuf, Saludeen Lukman, Kerebu Fatai, Bola Ajani, Nurudeen Fasasi, Salman Shehu Babatunde and Abdullateef Ahmed Kolawole.
In Imo State, a similar scenario played out in a stiff power-play between Governor Hope Uzodinma and his predecessor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. That schism is also threatening the foundation of APC in the state.
Okorocha had taken his case to the CECPC and described the party membership revalidation and registration exercise in Imo State as a sham. He disclosed that his parley with the Buni committee was aimed at ensuring that the chairman of the state chapter of the party, Mr Daniel Nwafor, is allowed to discharge his duties in accordance with court pronouncement.
Okorocha stated: “We are here because of what is happening in Imo State. Primarily, things are not going right in the state as it affects the party. We are concerned about the upcoming congresses. Certain things need to be put in place before congress, as it affects registration and others.
“There has been an issue about the elected exco of the party in the state. The elected exco have not been allowed to function. We are here to bring the party’s attention to it. And we know that our party is a law-abiding party. A party of rule of law!
“We have come to ask the party to obey the court judgment that established the right exco in the state which has not been upturned by any court. That court judgment said Daniel Nwafor exco is the authentic and elected members of the exco. And the judge rules that not even the NEC of the APC can dissolve it. And the judgment has been there up to the court of appeal.”
The former governor, who is also the Senator representing Imo West, said there has not been any other court judgement, whether High, Appellate or concurrent to show any other executive as authentic other the exco led by him.
Okorocha contended that without Nwafor, the congresses will be illegal, adding: “We have come to remind the party as a law-abiding party to please obey the court judgment. And ensure that the court judgment on the party stands.”
“We have come a long way in building this party. I was one of the founding fathers of the party. I brought in APGA with CPC and ACN to form what is known today as APC. I was the one who gave the name APC.
“How can you have a congress coming without having the leaders like Senator Ararume and the chairman of the party not registered yet? We have five Hon members in the party and they are here.
“If the five members here are not registered, what are we talking about? We are here to advise the party to do the needful. And obey the court judgment so that the world will not see our party as a party that doesn’t obey court judgment or respect court judgment.”
He contended that, “as far as we are a concerned, there is nothing like that taking place. There is no registration. And once there is nothing like that, we have not seen that in the field. People want to register.”
The former governor maintained that there is an elected exco in Imo State supported by at Court of Appeal judgment that is supposed to be in charge of the delegation to conduct the congresses. He said that explains why many people have not registered, remarking that there is no registration going on in Imo state as far as he was concerned.
“So we have come to ask the party to correct this and recognize the people so elected and backed up by the court, to allow them to go and do their work. Imo is naturally APC.
“We won as APC, when PDP was in government at the federal. So, what is difficult for the party when it is in power at the federal level? The point we are making is that the right thing should be done in the state.
“That the governor of Imo State is sitting there today was as a result of the Supreme Court pronouncement. If it was not pronounced, we would not have had a governor today. So, APC that benefited from court judgment should also be seen to be respecting court judgment.
“I don’t think they will say no to that. And what is done in Imo State today is illegal. For as long as they didn’t respect court judgment, I don’t think APC will want to engage in illegal acts, because it won’t speak well of them as a party. “
THE ruling party has also been factionalized in Zamfara State, following former Governor Abdullaziz Yari’s decision to endorse CECPC’s decision to hand over the control of the party structure to Governor Bello Matawalle, who recently joined the party.
Yari emphasized that he is not disturbed about speculations that some serving or former governors in the North West geo-political zone may be involved in a scheme to truncate his chairmanship aspiration to ensure that one of them becomes either President or Vice President in 2023.
“Somebody told me that some of my colleagues and former colleagues are interested in the number one and number two slots so, if the (National Chairmanship) seat goes to the North West, nothing will get to them, so they ganged up to neutralize Yari.
“If God decides that it should be, it is going to be. People can manouvre and do all sorts of calculations but they will not prevail. All I know is this: I have the capacity to lead this party and they know what I can do.”
The Guardian reliably learnt that the congresses could be jeopardized owing to the alleged refusal by unit officials of the states registration committees to release the membership register in their custody due to non-payment of their salaries and allowances.
Amidst allegations that the Buni-led committee has failed to deliver on its mandate, members of the Progressive Leaders Network (PLN) led by Prince Michael Nsan felt otherwise.
PLN expressed optimism that Buni-led caretaker committee will deliver the best ever congresses and National Convention of the party in the months ahead and thus lay a formidable foundation for the party’s Presidential primary next year and resounding victory in the 2023 Presidential election.
The group argued that the Buni led committee deserve a pat in the back for bringing to an end at least three competing and disorderly factions that were engaged in bitter and unrelenting infighting in the party.
The group made reference to the loss of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state to the opposition peoples democratic party (PDP) as an instance of the reverses suffered by the party due to infighting.
His words: “APC was a shadow of its former self, a lifetime away from its dynamic and progressive credentials that propelled it to a historic victory in the 2015 Presidential election. Such season of recriminations had ebbed its life, weakened its structures and disillusioned its army of followers.
“The Buni-led exco threw its proverbial heart in the ring, rolled up its sleeves and in less than nine months had ended the reign of lawless factions in the party. Today, the APC is once again, one united happy family of progressive democrats who are not only consolidating on the grand vision and legacy of its Founding Fathers and Mothers but are building on the sterling governance foundation laid by President Buhari and is working hard towards decisive victory in the 2023 general elections.
A chieftain of the party, Mr Osita Okechukwu, said the party congresses would take place irrespective of the challenges on ground. Okechukwu, who is also the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), expressed hope the exercise will be seamless in most states, adding, “Yes, the national convention will hold before the end of the year. The problem was logistics, as Mr President has maintained that he cannot use Federal Governor’s fund meant for fiscal infrastructure to fund APC.