A lot of intrigues and conflicts are manifesting in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in a manner that threatens the party in the build up to the 2023 general election.
Although the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party had in June 2020 dissolved the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) which was believed to be the source of crisis in the party, all is still not well with the political association.
While the Yobe State Governor, Mai-Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee believes it has achieved significant reconciliation in the party, there appears to be suspicion across all strata of APC.
The suspicion which hitherto hovered around the zoning of the 2023 Presidential slot by the party is now worsened by the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise which is seen as move to strip off certain leaders of the control of party’s structures.
APC does not entrench zoning in its Constitution but conventions and traditions suggested that power should shift to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari completes his eight years in 2023.
However, this expectation is getting unclear as party leaders even from Buhari’s geopolitical zone have continued to dismiss that there was agreement for power shift, particularly to the Southwest, where the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu is said to have positioned himself to take a shot at the Presidency.
For instance, an APC chieftain from the same North-West geopolitical zone with Buhari, Ahmed Yerima who has already declared his ambition to contest for the 2023 presidential election on the platform of the APC), insisted that there was no agreement to zone the party’s presidential ticket to any zone during the pre-merger for APC in 2014.
The former Zamfara governor said: “I don’t think there is anything like agreement. You can ask Mr. President, he led the group, Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) was there, I was part of it. There was no meeting I didn’t attend or any meeting that I attended that there is such agreement. Agreement can’t be verbal; it has to be written. In any case, any agreement that is contrary to laws of this country is not an agreement.”
According to Yerima, “The Constitution is very clear; the Constitution of the political parties, the Electoral Act. We are in a democracy and democracy is governed by processes and procedures and bye–laws. So the Constitution of Nigeria doesn’t recognise anything called zoning and likewise check APC Constitution. If there is that agreement why didn’t we put it in the Constitution?
“So, nobody will just come and say that there is an agreement, take your Constitution and amend it, put that agreement if there is; then nobody will come from another side and work against the Constitution”.
With the permutations over the zoning still on, the membership registration has created another fresh battle ground for actors on the APC stage to exhibit their support or antagonism, which is shaking the party’s foundations.
The exercise has presented a clear picture of the hitherto surreptitious divides in the APC with each side taking a differing position on the registration and the motive behind it.
While Buni and his lieutenants, particularly the Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Bello as well as that of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello who are anchormen of the registration see it as a potent weapon to prosecute the 2023 political war, Tinubu and his men think otherwise.
A Tinubu ally, Bisi Akande who was the Interim National Chairman of APC in a long address after revalidating his membership still disapproved of the exercise.
He 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.
“The first major perception is that APC, already having a well-computerised register for an average of 100 leaders of similar ideological orientation per each of the more than 120,000 polling units across Nigeria, might be lacking comprehension and matrix of the modern-day technology.”
Tinubu took the same position after reavalidatng his membership when he said: “Since we have a foundation and that foundation is on which the structure up till the present was built at the time of the registration of this party, I will not fault Baba Akande’s position; I will not but endorse it,” he said.
Similarly, Oshiomhole viewed the exercise as an aberration of the party’s constitution as: “There is nothing in the APC constitution that says a member shall revalidate or renew its 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”.
Pundits warn that if not well managed, the current intrigues and conflicts exercabated by the membership registration and revalidation would lead to implosion in the party before the 2023 general election.
National Secretary of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Peter Ameh said that many chieftains and leaders of the party were stomaching their anger which would explode during primary election, which may lead to the desertion of the party.
Lamenting the ongoing registration, he said: “If you listen to what they were saying, it is about revalidation. You have been a member of the party consistently from the date the party was formed, so I don’t see reason why you have to come and revalidate.
“What you need to do is to have a platform for continuous membership registration in the sense that those who cross 18 years who want to belong to your party will come and register.
“Those who have decamped to another party will be removed from the register and also those who have died. But if you are asking those who have given all their service to the party or collectively formed the party to come and revalidate when they have never left, it sounds somehow”.
A political commentator and youth activist, John Gberndyer affirmed that APC is shooting itself in the leg; hence, instead of resolving its lingering crisis, the party has introduced the controversial membership revalidation which will further threaten the already diminishing unity of the party.
According to him: “APC is heading for the rocks the way its internal crisis is being poorly managed and another battle ground has been prepared via the current revalidation and registration that is more or less a ploy to infiltrate the camp of certain leaders with an ambition in 2023”.