BY OLUSESAN LAOYE
Nigeria’s ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, is again steeped in fresh controversies over the membership registration drive, which had begun since November last year. The exercise seems to have deepened the ethnic and national divide in the party as the south is being pitched against the north.
While some members are not comfortable with it, especially, those in the Southern parts of Nigeria, majority of their counterparts in the Northern parts believed there was nothing wrong with it. The new member was seen by some members as an after-thought and orchestrated to elongate the tenure of the caretaker National Exco and frustrate the move for new elected executive committee of the party.
The irony of the present membership registration exercise was that those in the South, particularly the South West, who engineered a similar action, was alleged to be planning to swell numbers of the people in the party, prior to the 2015 general elections.
It would be recalled that in the Southwest of the APC had embarked on membership drive to determine those who were with them as a ploy to show that they have more members than other political parties as a measure of their strength. However, it is the region in that party that is crying ful when the shoe is on the other leg.
Their argument was that the North intends to use the new registration of members to prove that they have more members than the south and to be in more advantageous position to produce the president than the South when the elections come.
Since the initiative was brought by the interim caretaker chairman of the party who is also the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, it has created many more problems as some of the members equivocally declared war, insisting that it was meant in bad faith. The crisis over the registration of members also led to a serious litigation by those who were opposed to it.
The aggrieved members did not agree with Governor Buni that the inability of the party to put in place of a workable structure for continuous membership register update made the exercise necessary, and that the new membership drive was responsible for some of the conflicts that caused the losses of the party in some states. Governors Buni argued that the initiative was to update and standardize membership.
The caretaker committee Chairman declared that since the merger of political parties that formed the APC, the party has never had a comprehensive membership and register, adding that what the party has on ground now does not reflect the new changes of defections and entry of new members.
It was also argued that the registration was to ensure unity and to help the party win elections and to work out sustainable structures towards the next convention of the party. But already a group in the party headed by a former leader of the party in Abia state Mr. Kalu Agu argued that Buni’s committee lacked the power to initiate the new membership drive.
The group went to an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who ordered the stoppage of the exercise.
It is not only members in the South that were against the registration. Senator Kabiru Marafa, an APC chieftain in Zamfara State, warned Governor Buni, to stop the registration, saying, the exercise was bound to further destroy the party with inaccuracies that may emanate from it.
Also Ibrahim Haske, who is the National President of all former APC elected LG chairmen kicked against the registration, saying, it was fashioned out to extend the tenure of Buni Committee, which ought to have ended in 2020 December.
According to him, the exercise was a script of the cabals in APC to completely grab the party and conduct a kangaroo convention that would favour them to have surrogates who, they would be able to control.
But the Governor’s Forum APC Director of General Salihu Moh’d Lukman had said that those who opposed the new membership drive of the party should be regarded as the enemies of the APC, adding that it was not a ploy to have surrogate leadership that would emerge at the convention.
The National Deputy Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena said the new membership drive would help reposition the party because the names of those who had left the party were still found in the registers in their wards.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the APC membership registration drive committee, who is also the Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sanni Bello has said that the success of the exercise would determine the success of the party in 2023.
He called on all APC governors to encourage members to come out for registration and they should also do their best to mobilize for more and new members to register. The Kano State of governor Ganduje has said that the registration would make the APC the strongest and the leading party in Nigeria
He argued that at the end of the exercise, “APC would be a force to reckon with, and have more members than the other political parties.”