By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja; ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor; Augustine Okezie, Katsina
The All Progressives Congress (APC) membership drive/revalidation got underway on Saturday with President Muhammadu Buhari assuring party members that endorsement of aspirants at the local or state level would no longer come from Abuja.
He said it was time to return the APC to the people at the grassroots.
Buhari spoke in his hometown of Daura, Katsina State after completing his party membership revalidation exercise.
His admonition notwithstanding, some party leaders, factions and groups remain locked in intrigues to gain the upper hand during the registration/revalidation.
“No more crowning from Abuja downward. Let the people know this and appreciate it that they are in charge of their constituencies and they are in charge of the party,” the President said.
His audience included APC Caretaker Committee members, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, 10 governors, former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani and party stalwarts.
He added: “Without any incentive, they must come out and defend the party at any level so that we, you and the party will feel secure and comfortable because the old time of putting hands in the pocket is over because the money is no longer available.
Buhari and his entourage later moved to his personal residence in Daura for further interaction.
He tasked APC leaders to encourage more participation and ownership of the party at the grassroots.
A continuous sense of ownership by members, he said, will strengthen the party structure, guarantee better prospects in elections and insure its future.
His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted him as telling his guests: “I want to thank you for coming all the way for the flag-off of our party’s registration exercise. Your coming is important to further boost the morale of party members and draw new members.
“Thank you for choosing a bottom-up process of registration at our ward, local government, state and national level, including the FCT.
“Our party style and structure should no longer be Abuja downwards, but from the ward level upwards, so that people can defend the party and its policies even at every level.
“The question of putting hands in pocket to get people to participate is no longer there since we don’t have the money to share.’’
He described the company of the Senate President and the governors who accompanied him to his constituency for the exercise as a morale booster.
The President also thanked the Caretaker committee chairman of the party, Mai Mala Buni, for shouldering the responsibilities of the APC. He described him as the most suitable person for the leadership position, having been Secretary of the party for such a long time before becoming the Yobe State governor.
According to him, the Yobe State governor knows the details of the party more than him by virtue of his long service as party secretary, and thanked him “for contacting all stakeholders and discussing with them our problems.”
In his remarks, Governor Buni said the exercise was in line with the directive given to them by President Buhari.
He said his committee started with “reconciling some aggrieved members of our party across the country and then we started the process of this registration by printing of materials to ensure that the materials are being distributed across the country.”
Continuing, he said: “We set up a mobilization committee under the chairmanship of the governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and also a National Registration Committee under His Excellency, the governor of Niger State, and both committees have been functioning effectively and living up to expectations.”
Intrigues trail membership registration
Some APC leaders, groups and factions of the party in several states are leaving nothing to chance to gain the upper hand during the registration/revalidation exercise.
Party sources alleged yesterday that such individuals, groups and factions had perfected plans to influence the processes to their own advantage.
In some states, foundation members of the party are raising concerns over alleged plans by new entrants to hijack the APC structures through the registration and revalidation exercise.
In others, crises are brewing over the nomination of some persons as members of the committees for the exercise.
But sources in the Buni-led committee said the party leadership had taken all factors and indications into consideration and was ready to handle every situation as the exercise progresses.
“It is too early to start expressing worries over some of the things you raised. I can tell you that all of us in the caretaker committee are seasoned politicians and we are following all the leads,” one of the sources contacted yesterday said.
The source added: “What is more? We have taken all these possibilities into consideration and we are well prepared to handle all eventualities.
“I may not need to tell you that we know how these things work. We are determined to change the way things are done and we understand we will need to be on our toes all through the exercise and even long after if we’re to achieve our plan to hand over a better party.”
The Nation also gathered that the Buni-committee got the assurances of APC governors that the exercise would not be hijacked for personal or sectional gains.
Despite the assurances, however, some governors and their supporters are worried that the party leadership may, by some of its actions, be placing some party chieftains opposed to them at an advantage.
“The announcement of some people as members of committees for the exercise is brewing suspicion in Edo, Anambra and Oyo states,” a source said.
“Alleged claims by some aggrieved party chieftains in Lagos, Ogun and Zamfara that they have arrangements with the national registration committee to ensure their supporters get registered irrespective of what happens in their states are also raising concerns,” the source added.
Concerns were also raised by some National Assembly members over the composition of the committees sent to their respective states to oversee the exercise.
Not a few of those who spoke to The Nation expressed fears that the Buni committee may be up to some games in a number of states.
According to some of our sources, the intrigues surrounding the composition of the committees in some state are not good for the party.
Close aides of one of the presiding officers of the National Assembly told our correspondent that the changes to which the committee membership in his state was subjected to had raised concerns.
His words: “The committee in our state has been doctored once or twice. This is not good. But we are on red alert too.
‘We fear something is about to happen but we will not be caught unawares. Ours is not a state where anybody can come and play games.”
The return of loyalists of former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, to the APC last week has been generating discussions across the state amidst fear that loyalists of Governor Dapo Abiodun, who are at the helm of affairs in the party, may prevent Amosun’s people from getting registered.
On the other hand, supporters of the former governor have been openly boasting that no power can stop them from being registered as APC members.
Party sources said the APC leadership will not stop anyone from being registered.
“We will allow everybody to be part of the exercise. We will not stop anybody.
“But we are worried that some people are boasting that their leader already has an arrangement to ensure all their members, real and imagined, get registered.
“We will not close our eyes to any form of sharp practice from any quarter. That is for sure,” our source, an aide of Governor Abiodun, said.
There were concerns in Rivers State last week that the exercise might be troubled in the state, owing to the factionalization of the party.
The Nation learnt that there were fears that the state caretaker committee may be hindered by a number of court judgments from carrying out the revalidation and registration exercise across the state this week.
But Isaac Ogbobula, Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the party in Rivers State, was quoted as saying “there is no litigation stopping us from going on with the exercise.
“We have a judgment of court protecting us and directing us to go on with the exercise. There is a judgment to that effect, so there’s nothing stopping us from going on with the exercise.”
He said the issue of revalidation of membership is not a state matter or activity and the national leadership is fully in charge.
He said: “It is the national leadership that is carrying out the exercise. They appoint the people in charge and decide what is to be done.”
According to him, the judgment was from an Abuja High Court and not a mere order but a full judgment.
In Anambra State, some groups within the party have rejected the composition of the registration committee on the grounds that it is poised to favour a particular group ahead of others.
Some leaders of the party are said to be reaching out to the Buni-led committee to address the fears of its members.
Some APC youths under the umbrella of APC Young Progressives Forum last week publicly rejected the seven-man committee inaugurated for the registration and revalidation exercise.
Comrade Cando Pascal, Coordinator of the group, said they had no confidence in the committee especially as some of the names nominated to supervise the exercise in the state by the National Working Committee of the party would not be fair to party members.
Specifically, the group opposed the nomination of Maria Olabisi Idaomi as the Secretary of the Committee.
It said: “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 re-validation exercise does not mean well for the party.
“She was the leader of the team that came to Anambra State in 2019 and conducted the worst primary in our state.
“The registration exercise is not 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 and bring an independent and unbiased one.”
But a member of the caretaker committee in the state said the APC in Anambra was ready for the exercise without any fear.
The source said: “I don’t think it is true that we have worries. For the forthcoming registration exercise, I can assure you that the process is on course and we are good to go.
“We will attract more members into our fold. It is the opposition that is scared, not APC.”
The situation in Kwara State is that of uncertainty. The Nation gathered that the feud over the alleged removal of Hon. Bashr Omolaja Bolarinwa as chairman of the caretaker committee of the party and his purported replacement with his erstwhile deputy, Abdulai Samari, is at the root of the anxiety within the party.
Yesterday, leaders of a group within the party, The Patriots, speaking after a meeting in Ilorin, the state capital, said APC members across the state would not participate in any exercise under the ‘strange leadership of Samari.”
The group’s spokesperson, Hon. Jelili Rafiu, said: “The national leadership of the party is playing games with authentic chieftains of the APC in Kwara in its bid to favour a group of joiners.
“It is good this is happening at a time like this. We will see how the exercise will go. It is time to take our party back and we will do anything to get that done.
‘The governor and his cohorts are new comers in our party. Now they want to use the exercise to push the owners of the party out. Let us see the people they can call to come and register,” he said.
Also, Concerned All Progressives Congress Youth Stakeholders has threatened to disrupt the exercise if what it called the illegal removal of Hon. Bashr Omolaja Bolarinwa as chairman of the caretaker committee of the party was not reversed with immediate effect.
Spokesperson for the group, Ahmed Ishowo, who was flanked by other youth leaders from Kwara South, Olawale Adegboye; Kwara North, Adamu Abdullahi, and hundreds of youths across the three senatorial districts of the state, stated that, the alleged removal of Bolarinwa was a move to return the state to the dark days of political impostor.”
“We want the national caretaker committee of APC to know that the forthcoming membership registration will not take place in Kwara State until they rescind its decision over the illegal removal of Hon Bolarinwa as the state caretaker chairman of APC”.
The youths also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the issue before the state is set on fire.
In Edo state, the APC leadership rejected the appointment of a chieftain of the party, Senator Domingo Obende, as the Chairman of Niger State registration committee of the party.
The Chairman of the state Caretaker Committee of the party, Col. David Imuse (rtd) in a petition to the national secretariat of the party, urged the leadership to reverse Obende’s appointment because he had ceased to be a member of the party in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of the state since June last year.
Imuse alleged that Obende’s appointment was causing a lot of ripples in Edo State.
He said: “For anti-party activities which were clearly aimed at bringing the APC into hatred and disunity amongst members and disorganization of the APC party structure in ward 2 in favour of the PDP, Obende was duly suspended from the party by the executive members of his ward in 2020.
“We are not aware that Mr. Obende’s suspension has been lifted, and that is obviously because he refused to purge himself of his gross involvement in anti-party activities, especially his continuous encouragement of factionalization of the APC in ward 2 of Akoko Edo Local Government Area of Edo State.
‘Rather, Senator Obende got all his supporters in his Akoko-Edo LGA to decamp to PDP in 2020.
“The fact is Obende has since ceased to be a member of APC. Most of our party leaders and faithful in Edo State are threatening to jeopardise the forthcoming registration exercise and exit the party en mass if disloyalty is now the hallmark of recognition in the APC.
‘It is in the interest of our party that Domingo Obende’s appointment be reversed.”
Also, the state’s APC National Assembly caucus demanded the immediate removal of Obende as Chairman, APC Registration Committee for Niger State.
The call was contained in a statement signed by the leaders of the caucus representing the Edo North Senatorial District, Francis Alimekhena, Hon Peter Akpatason, Hon. Johnson Eguakhide and Hon. Julius Ihonvbere.
The federal lawmakers noted that Obande is not a member of the APC as he had been suspended by his ward for his anti-party activities before “he decamped to the PDP”.
But Obende while responding to the development and the allegations against him, said: “In November 2020, I was the one who paid one year rent for the APC secretariat in Akoko-Edo, my local government.
‘First and foremost, nobody saw me in any meeting or rally organised by the PDP. The keys to my house in Igarra are with me and whenever I go home, I enter my house.
“I didn’t see anybody come to share money in my house.”
Source: The Nation