Struggle for the Soul of APC – By Salihu Moh. Lukman

June 16, 2020
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It is very difficult and challenging to come to terms with unfolding development in APC. The disconcerting reality of becoming clobbered into another undemocratic political platform, which is intolerant to basic tenets of free and fair contests is hard to admit. We may be in denial on account of perverted loyalty. Anyone with small residue of conscience and integrity must have been jolted by what is going on. It doesn’t matter what our preferences are, every member must be concerned and worried about what is going on. It may be easy to pass judgement on leaders. We must however recognise that the failings or limitations of our leaders are equally ours as members of the party.

Without any attempt to qualify electoral experiences since 2019, every member and leader of APC should be troubled. Being troubled should have spurred us into some sober reflections with the objective of remedying the situation. Unfortunately, it would appear that we are more determined to reproduce all the obdurate painful experiences, every time we are faced with electoral contests. It was Rivers, Zamfara and Bayelsa. Now Edo and Ondo are basically on a roller costar with perhaps emerging with the same predictable outcome that consumed our electoral victories in Zamfara and Bayelsa States. Why should this be allowed to happen?

In the end, individuals will make their choices. The hard question that may discomfit us will be where do we stand on the question of justice? Are we on this roller costar simply because we have to pay the price for all the political infractions we inherited allegedly from Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP)? If this is the case, wouldn’t it have been better for Nigerians to live with those alleged PDP infractions? No need to aspire to any form of consensus on these matters. The first task is for individuals to make their choices. In making those choices, it is not about identifying with any of our leaders, but about the future of our party and with it our democracy.

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It is quite unfortunate that we found ourselves in this stagnant political water of brazen acts of imposition of candidates through some applications of crude technicalities under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the Party. Recalling his fascinating proclamation while announcing his intention to aspire for the office of National Chairman of APC on May 10, 2018, it is not reconcilable that the same Comrade Oshiomhole is today as the National Chairman of the party perpetrating the direct opposite of what he promised in 2018. Two points are worth lifting from Comrade Oshiomhole’s speech of May 10, 2018.

“… we will ensure that we identify and where necessary verify who is a member of APC. For us, the irreducible minimum for the party leadership is to have a credible membership register that cannot be altered at the whims and caprices of anyone. The register will be available to any member of the party who desires it. It is important to note that the idea of a credible membership record agrees with the vision of the founding fathers of the party which led the establishment of the APC Data Centre in Lagos.”

I challenge Comrade Oshiomhole to publish APC’s membership register for every state of the country. No one should push us into debate about modes of internal party elections without producing the register of voters. It is like getting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections without displaying voters register. It will be criminal, and it will undermine every known democratic principle.

The second point Comrade Oshiomhole made in 2018 was “…we shall put in place mechanism for conflict management. We know that in human interactions, there are bound to be conflicts arising from differences in opinion and perspectives. The responsibility of the party will be to engage in consensus building and conflict management. In particular, we will intervene in the lingering crises between Governors and members of the National Assembly in their respective states as a result of poor communication, conflict of interest, or just being victims of rumour mongering. When I am given the privilege to lead the party by being elected at the National Convention, we will proactively engage all the parties involved in such conflicts with a view to helping them to find common ground on the basis of justice, equity and fairness, and without bias.”

Where is the mechanism for conflict management in APC today after two year of Comrade Oshiomhole’s leadership? Can Comrade Oshiomhole mention just one instance where the party under his leadership is able to resolve any of the crises in the party? Or, can Comrade Oshiomhole just mention one case where the party was able to get members to build consensus? I have had reason in the past to appeal to Comrade Oshiomhole to apply his negotiation skills in leading the party. Unfortunately, he (Comrade Oshiomhole) dismissed my appeal called me names, which goes to show how intolerant he become, a confirmation perhaps that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

These two points, membership records and mechanism for conflict management are at the heart of all the challenges facing the APC today. They are challenges that define politics in Nigeria across all the republics since independence. Perhaps, inability of political parties to develop appropriate mechanisms for managing these challenges was the catalysing factor for the emergence of APC. The emergence of APC with potential to institute new paradigm of internal party contest was part of the reasons for its electoral successes of 2015. Sadly, soon after the 2015 victory, we appear to have relapse back to the old political culture of imposition and money politics.

Recalling in particular, under the PDP between 1999 and 2015, how Nigerians were robbed of the opportunity to have choices during elections, most Nigerians expected some decorum and civility in the internal management of electoral contests in APC. We can decide to celebrate ourselves and make all manner of public claims. Whatever argument, we may wish to make in defense of our indefensible reality, no matter how eloquently stated, we have betrayed our members, or if you want to put it mildly, we have departed from our founding philosophy. In fact, we have taken Nigerian politics to a level far below what it was before 2015, no thanks to Comrade Oshiomhole.

As a person that can claim to have close relations with Comrade Oshiomhole, my heart bleed as I try to come to terms with what is going on under Comrade Oshiomhole’s leadership. It is unfathomable that rather than deliver on his promises as outlined in his May 10, 2018 speech, he has descended to the same old abrasive politics of turning logic upside down just because he wants to demonstrate his power. It is with heavy heart that one recalls our years of struggle against General Sani Abacha’s Decree No. 4, which banned full-time trade union leaders from contesting Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) position.

Clearly targeted at preventing Comrade Oshiomhole from emerging as President of NLC, the struggle against Decree 4 between 1996 and 1998 when Gen. Abacha died became the rallying point for mobilising union leaders against military rule in Nigeria. Late Alh. Uba Ahmed, the Minister of Labour under Gen. Abacha must be turning in his grave given how today Comrade Oshiomhole is highhandedly managing the affairs of APC. If this is the end result of the struggle for democracy, why did we fight the military?

Ordinarily, coming from trade unions with functional democratic structures, governed by rules, it will be expected that Comrade Oshiomhole will seamlessly give leadership for the emergence of APC as a democratic party. Instead, we now have an APC with only the National Working Committee (NWC) functioning. Note that the NWC is only an administrative organ that is expected to implement decisions of National Executive Committee (NEC) and National Convention. Arguments bordering on powers vested on the NWC by the APC constitution are being canvassed. Some even go as far as arguing that Comrade Oshiomhole is the chief executive officer of the party.

Some journalist who are supposed to act as the conscience of citizens go as far as interpreting the powers of Comrade Oshiomhole as National Chairman to include the prerogative to send the name of any candidate to the INEC. Based on some of these perverted arguments views such as owners of the party outside membership of the party are being peddled. Anyone who question these erroneous positions get blackmailed. It is either we are doing it because of, or in support of, ambition for 2023. Interestingly, those championing this campaign of blackmail are known to have political ambitions, some of them since 2007. When has it become a crime for politicians to have ambition? Of what use is politics, if it will not to serve as a vehicle for the actualisation of political ambitions?

What should be debated is the content of our ambitions and what we want to use it for. To the extent that we are back in the trenches of undemocratic and brazen conduct of party leaders, we must rise to the challenge of engaging our leaders to rescue our party, APC, from the hands of leaders who are intolerant. That was the incentive, which guided the process leading to the emergence of APC. No one, no matter his/her position should take Nigerians for a ride. Whether in APC or out of APC, nobody should imagine that party members don’t matter.

It is clear that, APC leadership as currently constituted under the leadership of Comrade Oshiomhole is imprudent and cannot be entrusted with the task of leading the party. Comrade Oshiomhole’s NWC has hawked the soul of the party to political buccaneers whose narrow interest is just about unfairly winning elections. Party members must wake up and face the arduous task of reclaiming the leadership of the party. Such a task must be about ensuring the emergence of honest leadership for the party – a leadership that should be able to allow free application of provisions of the APC constitution.

For the avoidance of doubt, APC does not belong to anybody. It is a product of sacrifice by leaders and members of our old legacy parties. Nobody should contemplate leaving the party on account of the rascality going on in the party under Comrade Oshiomhole’s leadership. All members of the party and lovers of democracy in Nigeria must rise against what is going on in APC. It is a struggle for the soul of APC!

This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum

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