Salihu Moh. Lukman
One challenge we continue to face in APC is when things become worse after winning an outcome. That was the experience we had after dissolving the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC), only to find ourselves stuck with a Caretaker Committee that was unwilling to organise a National Convention, which was its clear mandate. Similarly, after winning the campaign to get the Caretaker Committee to organise a National Convention, which produced the current NWC led by Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, in no time the party was returned to the old mode of business as usual whereby statutory organs of the party were frozen. No meetings of party organs were taking place and the NWC became practically an observer whereby the National Chairman and National Secretary usurped the powers of all organs of the party.
The height of it was when the National Chairman attempted to impose Sen. Ahmed Lawan as the 2023 Presidential Candidate of the party. Progressive Governors and many members of the NWC had to rise to the occasion and check the excesses of the National Chairman, which produced President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the candidate of the party for the 2023 elections. The rest, as is often said, is now history. However, we continue to move from one unhealthy situation to another during both the 2023 electioneering campaigns and the process of negotiations to produce leaders of the National Assembly after the elections. It was as if the party under the leadership of Sen. Adamu is either contesting the authority of President Asiwaju Tinubu or at the least working across purposes.
With all organs of the party frozen, it was very upsetting for many party members, which was partly why the campaign for Sen. Adamu and Sen. Omisoro’s resignations was popular. One could only imagine how frustrating it was for President Asiwaju Tinubu to have to cohabit with a party leadership that was covertly subversive at the beginning of his administration. It will be very understandable if President Asiwaju Tinubu therefore will move to bring in a strong loyalist such as Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as the next National Chairman having experienced first-hand what a disloyal party National Chairman can do to undermine a government produced by the party.
As loyal party members, it is however very crucial that we strongly appeal to President Asiwaju Tinubu that it will be injurious to the party and all governments produced by the party to produce Dr Ganduje as the next National Chairman of APC without clearing his name of the corruption charges against him. This is very crucial because it will protect the person of Dr Ganduje, confirm his uprightness, and therefore shield the party from all the negative campaigns against him. We must appeal to President Asiwaju Tinubu not to create a situation that will promote any public insinuation that his government will shield anyone being accused of corruption charges, no matter how close the person may be to him. Rather than seeking to nominate Dr Ganduje to emerge as the next National Chairman of APC, President Asiwaju Tinubu will end up only doing more damage to the person of Dr Ganduje and the party and his administration if Dr Ganduje is to emerge as National Chairman of APC without clearing the corruption charges against his person.
The second issue is whether as the leader of the party, President Asiwaju Tinubu is committed to restoring constitutional order within the APC. Restoring constitutional order would require some demonstration of commitment to give life to the statutory organs of the APC so that the debate about replacing the National Chairman and all existing vacancies, including that of the National Secretary will be done within the structures of the party. The inability to revive statutory organs of the party will suggest that the process of replacing existing vacancies will be manipulated to suit some narrow interests within the party even if it means violating provisions of the APC constitution. If for whatever reason President Asiwaju Tinubu allow this to happen, it will simply mean that he doesn’t share the commitment to restore constitutional order in APC, and to that extent therefore his commitment to return APC to its founding vision of becoming a progressive party is weak. This will be most unfortunate and will contradict the historical essence of all the struggles President Asiwaju Tinubu has successfully waged on his journey to the Nigerian presidency.
It is quite disconcerting to imagine a situation whereby President Asiwaju Tinubu does not share the commitment to restore constitutional order in APC or his leadership of the party will take actions that will make him vulnerable to the accusation of not following due process and subverting provisions of the APC constitution. Unfortunately, here we are having to contend with such a possibility. As things are, the NWC is not only an onlooker but a far-distant observer. The power blocs that are being credited with the speculated emergence of Dr Ganduje as the next National Chairman, including the Presidency, are not even considering any meeting with the NWC or even the Acting National Chairman. Yet, the NWC has the convening authority for any meeting that can produce the next National Chairman. Sadly, many members of the NWC, for whatever reasons seem to be timid and take everything that comes their way as given and therefore right.
The vision of producing a progressive party cannot be produced with reticent leadership. As NWC members, we need to appreciate that part of our responsibility is to ensure that all our elected representatives are guided to produce outcomes based on the provisions of our manifesto and all our campaign promises. This is a function of the knowledge and skills of individual members. We must challenge ourselves to rise to the occasion by demonstrating the required capacity and competence. A situation whereby we sit in our ‘comfort zones’ and expect our elected representative to come calling and recognise our powers to provide leadership to the party only suggests a gap in competence.
Part of what must be urgently addressed in the Nigerian context is the unfortunate reality whereby the party is a dumping ground for people whose role is not more than that of serving as surrogates to elected representatives. This has been the PDP model of party building, which has destroyed the PDP. Sadly, as APC, since 2013, we have been unable to produce a different model of party building. This takes us to the third issue, which we must address allowed to fill the vacant position of National Chairman. So long as we uncritically respond to the debate around proposed candidates based on the desire to massage leaders of the party, including President Asiwaju Tinubu, it will simply mean abdicating our responsibility of guiding our leaders to take the right decisions in the best interest of the party and the country.
As a party, envisioned to be progressive, we must encourage debates. When issues are raised, members and leaders of the party must not use their disagreement with the issues being raised to seek to gag everybody, especially when the issue being raised borders on objections to proposals from party leaders, including President Asiwaju Tinubu. When the party is confronted with proposals with the potential to subvert provisions of the APC constitution, members must be encouraged to engage in the issues. Rather than seeking to gag party members and leaders with dissenting voices based on so-called arguments about positions of the party organs even when individuals making such arguments have been absent from meetings and therefore highly ignorant about the position of organs of the party, party leaders and members, no matter their positions, should be humble and honest to admit when they are presenting their positions. We must not hide under our official designations to claim to be speaking for organs of the party on any issue, except when mandated to do so.
The situation we faced today in APC presents us with the opportunity to restore constitutional order in APC. Once we don’t use the opportunity properly and restore the sanctity of the APC constitution, we would be laying the foundation for worse things to happen under a new National Chairman. As NWC members we must be seen to be active in the debate of the way forward. A situation whereby President Asiwaju Tinubu and Progressive Governors are alleged to have decided on Dr Ganduje as the next National Chairman of APC without consulting other power blocs in the party and without meeting any of the organs of the party, including the NWC, is very risky and potentially damaging to President Asiwaju Tinubu and the party. If this is associated with a President who comes from a military background, it will be understandable. But to be associated with President Asiwaju Tinubu whose background is outrightly civilian having led the struggle for democracy in Nigeria for almost four decades, it will be highly unimaginable.
We must therefore appeal to all those sponsoring this campaign to nominate Dr Ganduje for the position of APC National Chairman, especially His Excellency, Hope Uzodinma, Chairman, of Progressive Governors Forum to come to order and allow due process within the party to take its rightful course in the selection process of who become the next APC National Chairman. Nobody, including the PGF, should be allowed to seek to entrench arbitrariness and injustice in the determination of who emerges as the next National Chairman of APC. We must remind everyone, including President Asiwaju Tinubu that so far, the agreed zoning formula in APC seed the position of National Chairman of the party to North Central. Therefore, the relevant section of the APC constitution concerning filling vacancies should be respected. Anything short of that will amount to illegality and will constitute an act of injustice against members of the party from North Central. A party envisioned to be progressive must not be associated with that especially if one of our objectives now is to return the APC to its founding vision of emerging as a progressive party.
* Salihu Moh. Lukman, All Progressives Congress, North-West Zonal Office, Kaduna