By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Progressive Governors Forum
Since the reported decision to commence the process of membership registration/verification by the APC National Caretaker Committee, there have been media reports threatening legal actions to block the Caretaker Committee from organising the process. Some of the threats even go as far as claiming that the only mandate given to the Caretaker Committee led by His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni is to organise a National Convention in December 2020. In other words, the mandate does not cover membership registration, and should the Caretaker Committee go ahead with the planned membership registration, notice of court action is being presented. According to them, the Caretaker Committee has up to December 2020 ‘to do the needful or be chased out’.
Ideally, the brewing debate in APC around membership registration should be healthy. If anyone doubts that APC is a party that accommodate internal debate and contestation, this is another evidence. But this is one contestation that can only survive if party members shy away from engaging these leaders. We will engage this debate with the objective of ensuring that the overarching consideration is the development of our party and our democracy. The debate must go beyond schemes to subordinate the party under the control or manipulation of anybody.
Therefore, one will expect any leader of the party with any claim of being a progressive or even democratic politician to welcome the need to have membership registration/verification ahead of the APC National Convention. In fact, even after membership registration/verification, before we can satisfy that there are legal delegates for any National Convention, APC would require Ward, Local Government and State Congresses. These Congresses need to hold ahead of the National Convention to affirm that the delegates to attend the National Convention have the authority of party members. With such reality, the debate should be about how to conduct both the membership registration and congresses in ways that assist in resolving the lingering leadership crisis in the party.
Sadly however, it would appear that it is the old challenge of ensuring that the party remained with crisis-prone approaches based on some tight-fisted control of party structures by some leaders. This means, the design is not about laying strong foundation for the party based on which the rules of the party are the reference point but instead ensuring that the party is controlled by some designated leaders whose only objective is to manipulate the process of candidate selection for elections. These so-called leaders advocating for APC to have National Convention without going through the process of membership registration/verification simply want to plant their surrogates as the new leaders of the party. To achieve that, false arguments are being presented that the National Convention of the party doesn’t require membership registration.
There is no need to worry about any litigation on this matter. All committed APC members should be ready for this stage of the struggle. As committed party members, we should be able to combine the political battle for the democratic development of our party based on ensuring the institution of best practice standards as the operative framework for our party with skillful legal engagement. Nobody should be allowed to use any bullying tactics to force us back to the old undemocratic ways of manipulating critical processes of leadership selection in our party by undermining or corrupting our membership records. Without credible and verifiable membership, there is practically no party organ, there can only be illegitimate leaders and therefore illegal delegates to any National Convention. As party members, we should be able to summon the confidence to prove this in any court of law.
While it is important to appreciate the need to ensure that the provisions of our party’s constitution are respected by everyone, especially the Caretaker Committee, which has the difficult responsibility of resolving our leadership challenges, it is important that the right thing is done to lay solid democratic foundation for our party. How can any organ of the party claim any legitimacy when the membership of the party is suspect? If the membership of the party is suspect, the legitimacy of delegates who will attend the National Convention will be also suspect. This is because, for instance, Article 9.4 of the APC constitution specifically provide that A register of members shall be compiled and maintained at the Ward level and be transmitted to the Secretariat of the party at Local Government Area, which shall transmit a copy to the National Secretariat. Provided that the party shall update its membership records every six months and remit updated copies to appropriate Secretariats. Thereafter, it shall be the responsibility of a member to ensure that his or her name is duly entered in the Ward Register.
When was the last time anybody was registered as APC member in any part of the country? When was the last time any Ward in the country transmitted to any Local Government Secretariat and/or Local Government transmitted any copy to National Secretariat? Yet, our party’s constitution provide that membership records should be updated every six months. How can any leader even attempt to raise questions about why we should have membership registration/verification? In this age of banditry, it will appear that some of our so-called leaders are as skillful in politics as the criminal bandits ravaging our communities – towns and villages. We must appeal to these so-called leaders to come back to their senses. For anybody to claim our party’s membership, not even emerge as a leader, the legal standing of such a person must be beyond suspect.
Noting that part of the rights and privileges of members as provided in Article 9.3 of the party’s constitution include the ‘right to vote and be voted for into any of the elective positions’, it is clear that our party leaders who want to manipulate the process want to push the National Caretaker Committee into organising a Convention with perhaps rented delegates. In which case, the new leadership of the party to emerge out of such a process can only be surrogate leaders whose mission may simply be to ‘crown’ candidates for future elections. This has been the bane of our democracy and it is responsible for why internal democracy has eluded virtually all our parties in the country resulting in most of the avoidable leadership crisis.
Acknowledging all the efforts of the Caretaker Committee since June 2020 when it was setup by the Emergency National Executive Committee (NEC), those leaders who are now campaigning for National Convention without membership registration may just be taking advantages of the seeming respite in the party, which may convey the wrong impression of inactivity. This wrong impression is being created to suggest that members of the Caretaker Committee have ulterior motives other than resolving the challenges of the party. This is a very unfair and wayward allegation.
The Caretaker Committee is certainly competent and will be able to overcome all these distractive allegations aimed at bullying them to simply organise a National Convention that can at best produce surrogate leaders with hardly any verifiable membership register. However, may be as part of its efforts to restore sanity and shame those trying to stampede it into organising a National Convention that is at best a smokescreen for the emergence of surrogate leaders, the Caretaker Committee should consider bringing forward the scheduled party’s NEC meeting where, among others, it can present its progress report. Once NEC is able consider its report and take the necessary decisions, our political merchants of crisis would need to find new handle for their dastardly campaigns.
Be that as it may, as a party, our best route to addressing all our leadership challenges has to find its bearing with reference to ensuring that we are able to produce a credible and verifiable membership register that is the foundation for the emergence of leaders at all levels. This is so fundamental and is in fact what should distinguish our party from all the other parties in the country. Any leader who is not comfortable means that such a leader doesn’t have respect for members and is unwilling to subordinate himself or herself to members. If a leader is unwilling to subordinate himself or herself to party members, why should anyone risk investing any superior elective political power to such a person?
This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum