By Godwin Amunde
The Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, (PGF) – the umbrella body of Nigerian governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Salihu Lukman, has warned the Caretaker and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party not to repeat the mistakes made by the party’s immediate past national leadership.
He therefore urges the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led CECPC to quickly set in motion the process that will lead to the National Convention of the ruling party.
Lukman, who faulted the extension of the APC membership registration and revalidation exercise by three weeks, also expressed concerns that, like the Comrade Oshiomhole led APC National Working Committee (NWC), the Governor Buni team has also been sidelining statutory organs of the ruling party in decision making.
In a statement titled ‘APC’s Litmus Tests’ issued to newsmen on Monday in Abuja, the PGF DG also said the signals from the CECPC was disturbing and warned it not to shift the conduct of the gathering of the highest organ of the party, the national convention beyond June.
Part of the statement reads: “Part of the expectation is that the 13-member Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Working Committee appointed by the emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of June 25, 2020, led by His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, will take steps to begin to resolve challenges facing the APC, which was difficult to achieve under the dissolved NWC. With initial tenure of six months, which was extended by another emergency NEC of December 8, 2020 to June 2021, the work of the Caretaker Committee is expected to end with a National Convention where another leadership should emerge to manage affairs of the party for another four years.
“All party members and leaders should prioritise ensuring that the Caretaker Committee is able to complete the task of organising a National Convention where new leaders of the party will be elected. The first test therefore is whether the challenges leading to the dissolution of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC are being resolved by the Caretaker Committee. To what extent, are the resolutions of challenges facing the party conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals?
“Conforming to democratic principles require that initiatives being implemented by the Caretaker Committee are based on decisions taken by competent organs as provided in the constitution of the party. Progressive ideals would require painstaking approaches to guarantee wider participation of leaders and members in the process of decision making. Both democratic principles and progressive ideals are not mutually exclusive and could be achieved through guaranteeing that meetings of organs are taking place as provided in the constitution of the party. Absence of meetings of organs partly contributed to most of the disaffections in the party during the tenure of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC.
“Somehow, the reality is that in terms of convening meetings of organs of the party, for more than nine months, the Caretaker Committee has not convened any meeting of any organ of the APC apart from the emergency NEC meeting of December 8, 2020. Sadly, even the 13-member Caretaker Committee is hardly meeting.
“Part of the indication is that most decisions taken by the Caretaker Committee were done by the Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni and the Secretary, Sen. Akpan Udoedehe. The good thing is that the major challenge of ensuring that the party is able to have a verifiable membership register is being resolved. But without organs meeting as provided in the constitution of the party, where progress reports are given, what is the guarantee that the old problem of having inaccessible membership register will not be replicated?
“Given all the development in APC, especially against the background that most of the expectations around the Caretaker Committee are yet to be met, it will be important to review challenges facing the party and perhaps appeal to APC leaders to get the Caretaker Committee to urgently conclude the membership registration/verification exercise. The needless extension of the exercise only serves to strengthen suspicions that the Caretaker Committee is reluctant to organise a National Convention where new leadership of the party will be elected.
“APC must avoid situations where political touts are elected to the party’s leadership. APC should elect leaders that can inspire strong belief in members, and by extension Nigerians, that the party is working to resolve its challenges. Once political touts are the new leaders of the party, it simply means weak capacity to resolve challenges facing the party. Instead, the challenges may become worse.
“The fact that leaders of the party don’t convene meetings as required by the constitution of the APC means that there is the need to review relevant provisions of the party’s constitution to make meetings of organs more compelling. There is no reason why the party cannot have a calendar of meetings, which must be respected by all leaders, especially the NWC.
“A test of whether APC will be able to commence a new beginning based on respect for democratic principles and in line with progressive ideals depends a lot on combinations of factors leading to the emergence of the next leadership of the party. Every committed APC leader and member should recognise that as much as 2023 election is important, whether APC will be able to enjoy the confidence of Nigerians and therefore win the election is really about how broadly democratic the party is and the extent to which the vision of the party aggregates the expectations of Nigerians.
“The test of whether APC will be able to provide the needed political leadership to discourage the use of bullying to win the support of Nigerians depends a lot on the tolerance levels of leaders of the party in terms of winning the support of party members. Once leaders of the party also apply blackmail, arm-twisting or bullying to force their choices on the party, it will only be logical that the same approaches will dictate conducts of elected and appointed representatives produced by the party.
“Whether APC will be able to pass all its litmus tests will depend a lot on whether the Caretaker Committee is committed to finishing its assignment by June 2021. Even if it is able to complete the assignment, processes of internal negotiation to produce leaders of the party, the character and capacity of the new leadership, as well as the scope of membership participation during Congresses and National Convention, will be determining factors of whether the party is conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals.
“If democracy is about contestation, with all its problems, APC represent the hope for a democratic Nigeria. For that to become reality, APC must pass all its litmus tests. A strong pillar, which is the catalysing element for the party to be able to pass all its litmus tests is the liberal leadership of President Buhari, based on which he doesn’t interfere in the management of the party. The Caretaker Committee must not abuse the President’s confidence by delaying the National Convention of the party. No party in Nigeria has the liberal atmosphere provided in APC.”