By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Events in APC require constant vigilance by all committed party members and leaders. Without doubt, the days ahead, leading to the March 26, 2022 National Convention, will define both the survival, the democratic orientation and the quality of leaders of the party. Whether APC will produce both party leaders and candidates for the 2023 elections who can justify the trust invested in them, depends a lot on how all the current leadership challenges facing the party is resolved. Beyond electing new leaders and setting the stage for the 2023 electoral contests, how APC navigate through attempts by some of its leaders, including His Excellency Mai Mala Buni and his collaborators, to block the Convention from either holding as scheduled or electing new leaders who support and respect decisions taken by broad section of leaders and members of the party will be the main test.
Since Monday, March 7, 2022, when His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello and the other ten members of the 13-member APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) announced their resolve to ensure that the March 26 APC National Convention hold, there have been deliberate attempts to question the legitimacy of decisions taken by the APC. Media reports are deliberately planted to suggest so-called confusion in the party. Some party leaders and members have declared opposition to His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello and the CECPC and are mobilising Nigerians to only recognise His Excellency Mai Mala as the only person who should preside over the affairs of the party. While some can disclose their identity in declaring their opposition, some timid leaders who are not so courageous, do so using surrogates.
Perhaps, it is important to recall that the decision to setup the CECPC with His Excellency Mai Mala as Chairman was taken by the APC NEC of June 25, 2020. With the initial tenure of six months, the NEC of December 8, 2022, extended it expectedly another six months. From six months, it became one year, and as it turned out to be, it is now endless, with the risk of eventually terminating the political life of the party. All these happened because both President Muhammadu Buhari, other party leaders and members trusted that His Excellency Mai Mala will provide honest leadership and implement every decision taken, leading to the emergence of new leaders for the APC. Had His Excellency Mai Mala lived up to the trust invested in his leadership of the party, at the minimum APC Convention would have been history and there wouldn’t have been any debate questioning the legitimacy of any serving Chairman of the party.
The fact that His Excellency Mai Mala has consciously and deliberately led APC to the present embarrassing situation, is most unfortunate. One would have expected that both His Excellency Mai Mala, his associates of surrogate supporters and timid leaders will be more concerned about what should be done to resolve all the leadership challenges facing the APC. In fact, anyone who love His Excellency Mai Mala should be more worried in protecting his honor as a political leader by ensuring that he doesn’t become a letdown who stand opposed to majority decisions of party leaders and members. Ideally, if His Excellency Mai Mala share the vision of all the founding leaders of the party of making the APC truly democratic and progressive, it will be expected that he will be willing to make every personal sacrifice to demonstrate his support for the decisions of the party. That was the legacy demonstrated by Chief Bisi Akande, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Chief Tony Momoh of blessed memory and many founding leaders of the APC.
Remarkably, that was also the legacy left by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. With all our grievances against Comrade Oshiomhole’s leadership, APC members and leaders must acknowledge that once the mood in the party tilted against his leadership, he accepted the decision of the party and made the personal sacrifice to recognise the leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala. Faced with similar rising opposition to his leadership, His Excellency Mai Mala and his associates of surrogate supporters and timid leaders are now using all manner of campaigns in the media to undermine the capacity and effectiveness of the party to initiate processes of leadership change. Although no words have been heard directly from His Excellency Mai Mala, many so-called close associates, including Sen. James John Akpanuduedehe have declared their opposition to decisions and actions taken by the APC since Monday, March 7 when His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello and all the other ten members of the CECPC resolved to provide collective leadership to organise the March 26 APC National Convention.
Painfully, APC has found itself in a situation whereby people who are once trusted with leadership are now using surrogate supporters to undermine decisions taken by, if not destroy, the party. Those of them who are leaders are timid and lacks the courage to speak openly. Instead of speaking openly, they prefer to sponsor others to do the dirty jobs for them. Part of the most important lessons which the party must learn out of all the unfolding reality are two. The first is that every trust invested in any leader must be qualified. Specific to the leadership of the party, every leader must be accountable to organs of the party. What happened to APC under the leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala was that the decision to dissolve all the organs of the party at all levels created the unfortunate gap, which was exploited by His Excellency Mai Mala and his associates to derail the process of rebuilding the party. Related to that was also the fact that members of the CECPC were not able to assert themselves early enough to ensure that both His Excellency Mai Mala and Sen. James John Akpanuduedehe are accountable to the CECPC. Combination of all these made it possible for His Excellency Mai Mala to imagine that he has the power of prerogative over decisions taken in consultation with party leaders, including President Buhari.
The second lesson borders on issues of political leadership recruitment. The assumption that what is required to endorse, sponsor or nominate any person to emerge as a leader is being innocuous. Although, being innocuous may not have been the reason why His Excellency Mai Mala was chosen as the Chairman of the APC CECPC, it may have also been a strong consideration. Certainly, his experience as the National Secretary of the APC between 2014 and 2019 would have been the most important recommendation. In addition, his good relationship with all party leaders and President Buhari must have been the most important recommendation. Combinations of all of these must have convinced all those who nominated him that APC will be safe in his hands. No one would have ever thought that this is where his leadership will take the party to. With His Excellency Mai Mala, if anything, being innocuous is proved to be much more dangerous.
This highlight the need for thorough background checks before people are invested with leadership responsibilities. The whole essence of screening is supposed to facilitate processes of background checks. Unfortunately, this has been reduced to some lousy checks of educational qualifications of aspirants for political offices, often reduced to verifying certificates obtained. This shoddy approach to leadership screening is responsible for why there are many people occupying leadership positions who are not qualified to hold those positions expect with reference to so-called educational qualification. Experiences in managing responsibilities in previous assignments should be the reference point in terms of how much trust can be invested in any person. Perhaps, had a thorough background check been done on His Excellency Mai Mala before emerging as National Secretary of APC in 2014, the party may have been saved from its current travail long ago.
Be that as it may, however, one would have expected a humble Mai Mala to have made some efforts to measure up to the challenge of providing selfless leadership to the party. Instead, what keeps coming out is that His Excellency Mai Mala together with his associates of surrogate supporters and timid timid leaders turned the party into their personal estate. From Anambra to Ekiti, Osun and all the bye-elections whereby the party presented candidates for elections, there are endless allegations of extortion of money directly from aspirants. Similarly, there are already allegations of deals with some Presidential aspirants, including someone who is yet to join the party. Part of the deal also alleged that His Excellency Mai Mala is negotiating to emerge as a running mate to the so-called would-be candidates. Other allegations, include attempt to arm-twist first term Governors with offers of automatic tickets for second term. Innocent Senators and members of the House of Representatives are also being offered automatic tickets for 2023 electoral contests.
Through all these dishonest methods, His Excellency Mai Mala was able to recruit the audacious surrogates and timid party leaders working to undermine decisions to hold the APC March 26 National Convention. As part of the plot, they are now circulating a letter from INEC, signed by Rose Oriaran-Anthony, Secretary to the Commission, in which the legality of both the March 26 APC National Convention and the March 17 APC National Executive Committee (NEC) are being questioned. From all available information, the APC CECPC led by His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello has effectively already responded to this letter from INEC through which they are able to affirm both the sanctity and legality of both the March 17 and 26 APC NEC and National Convention respectively. Both INEC, and by extension, all Nigerians must be reminded that both the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act recognises the authority of all the relevant organs of the party to manage its affairs. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court judgement with respect to Ondo State election, which further affirmed the authority of the APC CECPC to manage and direct the affairs of the party.
Therefore, INEC and all Nigerians committed to the democratic development of the country must not play into the self-serving scheming of His Excellency Mai Mala and his associates of surrogate supporters and timid leaders working to undermine decisions taken by the APC. All APC leaders and members must rise to the challenge of bringing His Excellency Mai Mala, his surrogate supporters and associated timid leaders to account for the bad name they are giving the APC today. His Excellency Mai Mala and Sen James John Akpanuduedehe should explain why they failed to initiate implementation of decisions to hold the APC National Convention. Related to this, they should explain why they failed to bring to the notice of leaders of the party the Court injunction served on the party since November 18, 2021 restraining the party from organising the National Convention.
There are known collaborators of His Excellency Mai Mala who have colluded with him to ensure that all attempts to organise the APC National Convention are blocked. Three Governors who are known and must also be called upon to account for their roles in undermining decisions to organise the APC National Convention are His Excellency Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, His Excellency Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and His Excellency Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State. There are other party leaders, including Sen Uzo Kalu who have actively supported His Excellency Mai Mala to undermine the decision to organise the National Convention of the party. The March 17, 2022 APC NEC should initiate processes of disciplinary hearing in line with provisions of the APC Constitution to sanction all these leaders if found guilty.
Every step must be taken to ensure that APC emerge stronger, and no future leader of the party can attempt to undermine the decisions of the party. Unlike other parties, especially the PDP, who allowed individual leaders of their parties to undermine collective decisions, APC is working to strengthen its structures to ensure that internal democracy translate to collective leadership. All past National Chairmen of the party, notably, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Comrade Adams Oshiohmole have demonstrated capacity to make personal sacrifices to support the vision of the party to emerge as a distinctively democratic and progressive party. His Excellency Mai Mala and all his surrogate supporters and timid leaders must therefore be called to order if APC is to return to its founding vision. May Allah (SWT) guide the March 17 APC NEC to initiate all actions that will guarantee a successful March 26 APC National Convention. Amin!